Our Parking Problem

11 Jun

Today, the City Council votes on agenda Items 14 and 15, to vacate California between 16th & 17th streets to make room for more parking [UPDATE: The City Council voted in in support of these items 7-0]. A recent article in the Omaha World Herald suggests First National Bank has been purchasing property in Downtown to turn into employee parking lots.Image

This is surprising considering the City just completed a parking study in November 2011 that found “Downtown Omaha has enough public parking to meet today’s needs, and the needs for the next 20 years.” Depending on the time of day, based on observations for the study, only between 46% and 53% of public parking is occupied.

Building more surface parking is problematic for several reasons:

  • It contradicts the goal of increasing density and connectivity, as outlined in the transportation and environmental elements of the city master plan.
  • It is a poor use of tax dollars. In his book, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” Donald C. Shoup estimated that the value of the free-parking subsidy to cars in the U.S. was at least $127 billion in 2002, and possibly much more. In 2002, the total subsidy for off-street parking was between $135 billion and $386 billion. Drivers park free for 99 percent of automobile trips in the U.S. For each dollar motorists spend directly on their car somebody bears more than 50¢ in parking costs. This does not include indirect and non-market costs, such as the additional storm water management costs, heat island effects, and other environmental costs that result when open space is paved for parking.

Cities that attempt to use parking as an economic development strategy actually undermine their own cause….Recent research shows cities that focus on auto access experience a decline in economic activity and lack of vibrancy, suggesting a policy of prioritizing cars often fails as an economic development tool for urban areas.

Plentiful parking can also lead to higher emissions, greater congestion and, depreciated land use.

We encourage First National Bank and other companies to use the spaces already available or better yet, invest in other modes of transportation to give employees more options and improve the transportation infrastructure for everyone. First National Bank and its owners have been leaders in the past in making our city a more attractive and desirable place to live and work, building more surface parking runs in opposition to these efforts.

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