Comment of the Day: How About a Neighborhood Parking Pool?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ABOUT A NEIGHBORHOOD PARKING POOL? Drawing of Parking Garage“If businesses want to lessen their on-site parking requirements (once you get inside the Loop, they ALL do), my vote is that we should let them pool parking. Organizations could be set up that are similar to a MUDs but that build and maintain central parking garages instead of utilities. Businesses in the GD (Garage District) have their parking requirements taken care of by the central parking garage — they just need to confirm that there’s capacity through a letter of availability. This would allow for the car-less density that we’re after Inside the Loop; it would make it a lot easier to develop there, but it would also prevent parking from being a problem.” [ZAW, commenting on Coltivare’s Patio Wrap Draws Attention from the City] Illustration: Lulu

26 Comment

  • I was really hoping, based on the title, that this was about parking garages over ground-level neighborhood pools. I think that would be a cool and viable option, no?

  • I agree. But that Garage District tax should include some money for ongoing security monitoring — e.g. cameras, maybe funds for a guard. There’s a liability issue here to be resolved: who gets sued when someone gets shanked in the pooled garage?

  • There’s already sort-of a provision for this in the current parking ordinance. An area can set up a parking management district to pool parking across a number of businesses and uses. I think the Menil campus put a plan together under these rules. Problem is that the process is very cumbersome, and it’s very difficult to get a diverse group of businesses together to make it happen (especially since most developments are time-phased in a way that it’s not really feasible).
    In the CBD there are no parking minimums, and the market has responded by providing paid off-street parking. However, when we require each development to provide its own parking, the result is a vast oversupply of spaces. The average Houston parking space, even in high-density neighborhoods, probably goes un-occupied for 18 or more hours per day. This over-supply of free parking removes any incentive for the market to provide parking. After all, it’s difficult to compete with free.
    Solution: (1) eliminate parking minimums. (2) enforce on-street parking laws. (3) allow the market to determine the optimum quantity and price of parking spaces. Either on-premise or independent parking facilities.

  • We already have this in private form…Washington avenue has several pay lots during premium times and other times they are free.

    There needs to be enough demand for someone to want to do this.

    Maybe we can demo some bungalows and put up a parking lot? LOL

  • Liability is of course one issue, but I think the numbers is bigger issue. Buying land building a parking garage cost several million dollars, not to mention annual taxes and maintenance. Are a handful of restaurants in a couple of block radius enough business to support the business model? I believe not. It has to be extremely dense like Downtown or Rice Village, and even in Rice Village I don’t think the garage is a profit center, it is just a convenience (cost of doing business) and is heavily subsidized by the landlord.

  • Great idea! Now go find a lot big enough to build a centrally located parking garage in property starved locations like Montrose, the Heights or Rice Village. Oh, and make sure that the land is cheap enough to make it economically feasible while at the same time attracting no interest from the usual apartment, town home, strip mall developers.
    (walks away from computer . . . comes storming back)
    Then, convince all the lazy SUV driving Houstonians from the burbs that they should park in this magic garage instead of blocking someone’s driveway on a residential street that is a mere 500 feet closer to where they want to go than the magic garage (don’t even tell me that these people will be deterred by a residential parking sticker restriction).
    (stares out window while heavy breathing gradually slows to a long exhale)
    Or maybe people in Houston could learn a little parking manners and walk an extra block or two instead of parking illegally or blocking someone’s driveway. Maybe people living a block from a commercial corridor could understand that all the parking lots in the world will not stop people from parking in front of their house and parking illegally if that gets them 8 inches closer to where they want to go, and the only solution to the issue is to buy a house far enough away from the commercial corridor or just enjoy the fact that you can walk to Coltivare and down as many brilliant cocktails as you want and waddle home without having to retain Mr. Flood to represent you.
    (marvels at run on sentence and strikes “enter” key smugly before returning to real life pushing papers for the Man)

  • That was a good comment by ZAW. It works really nice with the Carrabas / Mia’s parking garage in upper Kirby though both of those are owned by the same people so it isn’t really a pool. But that’s a good example of two neighborhood-ish businesses that share a nice parking garage so patrons can enjoy the restaurants without imposing on neighborhood parking.

  • I believe it is called ‘The Mix in Midtown’ uses this exact same principle. 24 Hour Fitness, Dolce Delights, Hollys, Piola, High Fashion Home and one more share the garage attached to most of them.

  • Appreciate the remark, ZAW. As for Old School’s comment, it was tl;dr. I know that in Museum Park, I’d love to see this approach taken. As the neighborhood continues to increase in density, it’d be nice to have a few strategically located garages (with underground parking) in the neighborhood to get you to all of the museums and restaurants.

  • Houston needs more on-street parking, period. Be real city. Thoroughfares should have on-street parking, as should side streets. Price it as appropriate for demand. More parking, plus more buffer for sidewalks.

    Common public parking structures are needed, but will be too expensive except in really high-value areas. A few strategically placed off-street surface lots will need to do in many areas. Businesses supporting these facilities would not need to adhere to on-site requirements, and in return get to devote more of their land to revenue-generating uses.

    People who can’t fathom the idea of not parking on the same site as your destination (and yes, I know there’s lots of such folk in Houston) can just find another area to shop and dine in. There will be more than enough customers to replace them if the area provides high-quality businesses and environment (see: CityCentre, Sugar Land Town Square, etc.).

  • comment of the year, Old School
    pushing papers for the Man, lol!

  • Completely agree with Old School and Commonsense. This idea is one of those idiot ideas you get in Business School where you sort roll your eyes and say, yeah in what universe will this actually pay for itself and make any long term financial sense.

  • I used to work for a company near a large mall. The company lost it’s parking garage and arranged for the mall to provide parking for the employees. Unfortunately the parking was not connected to the building. Some employees had to park several blocks away and had no covered walkway to get to to work. We actually lost some employees because of this. We eventually had to hire shuttles to drive people back and forth to the parking lots. Parking lots that are not connected to the buildings they serve will cause you to lose some of your employees. It’s considered an amenity.

    This can work downtown though because of the tunnels. I used to park several blocks from my office. When the weather was bad I’d take the tunnels. The lower level employees had to park in the garages with no tunnel access.

  • Guess what? This is Houston. People like to drive their cars in Houston. This isn’t Boston. This isn’t Paris. The best solution is what we already have, create de facto zoning by having minimum (and I mean minimum, COH parking requirements are a joke) parking requirements which keeps most commercial uses out of residential areas. Being able to walk home drunk from a night over at Coltivare is not selling me on lifting parking restrictions.

  • Living in a residential neighborhood near a commercial district and not expecting cars parked in front of your house is like living next to a railroad line and having expectations of peace and quiet all night and day. You don’t own the street in front of your house.

    Just eliminate parking minimums period. Let businesses decide how many spaces they want to provide for their patron’s convenience. If anything create surface parking maximums per lot size to encourage parking garages and density.

    As far as the residential parking problem, are on-street parking spaces marked on your street? Delineating spaces clearly by painting curbs and clearly marking the boundaries of each space on the asphalt provides standards that must be adhered to.

  • Sounds great in practice. In reality, free rider and out-of-district problems (see: signs threatening towing between CityCentre and T&C if you cross Queensbury) doom this to fail.

  • I (for the first time) agree with Shannon. I saw this in architecture school all the time…..”eliminate parking and make people walk” said people that lived across campus and drove to class! Unfortunately Houston is not accustomed to this….look at Rive Village, there is a garage and (im guilty of this) people drive around the block over and over until you find parking next to the establishment you are visiting.

  • @Thomas,
    I agree except for one thing: it’s hard to paint curbs that don’t exist.
    The areas with the most complaints about on-street parking are those w/o curbs and gutters like the Heights and the Washington corridor.

    “Lazy SUV driving Houstonians from the burbs” ignore resident-only parking restrictions at their peril. Cars parked in violation of these restrictions are zealously and mercilessly towed.

  • ED: people,don’t want to joust over street parking in Rice Village. They do it because the management at the Village Arcade is a bunch of parking nazis. They’ll tow you if you park there and try to walk to another store in Rice Village.
    It’s the same everywhere. City Centre for example is in a medieval parking war with it’s neighbors. Park at one place, walk across the street, they’ll tow you. I think a lot of commenters here are missing this. Houstonians don’t think street parking is some God given right. Most of us are just looking for a secure, free place to park where we know there’s not a tow truck lying in wait.

  • @ZAW:: “Most of us are just looking for a secure, free place to park …”
    There’s the central issue. All “free” parking is being paid for by someone. The question is, who will pay? We don’t want to feed meters because that reminds us that we are ultimately paying. We’d rather obfuscate it and have the city pay (with our tax dollars) or have businesses pay (and pass the cost along to us, the consumers). But there is no free lunch.

  • You sounded like Ronald Reagan there, Memebag. That’s the argument he made on “free” public education.
    There are a lot of people who moan about the subsidies for cars, but they’re missing the point. Housing costs are such that not everyone can afford to live in a well planned, dense urban areas. People have to live elsewhere and take some form of transit in. It’s always been like this. Our light rail system here in Houston is in it’s infancy. We have no commuter rail, and the jury is out as to what improvements will come from our bus reimagining – so a lot of people drive. It’s just a fact. And where people drive, they need to park.
    So how do we provide parking? The old seas of surface parking aren’t going to work any more as Houston gets denser. We need denser parking – in the form of multi-level parking garages. All I’m proposing is a simple, proven way to fund, build, and manage those garages.

  • For those of you stating that Houstonians are culturally acclimated to having (usually free) parking adjacent to the building of their destination, I’m sure that’s true. Thing is, that preference is starting to run into a head-on collision with land use economics – businesses need parking but they’re not in the business of parking, they get revenue from having space for their actual operations, usually inside of a building. As demand for residential and commercial activity in certain areas of the city goes up (including the ever-complaining Montrose and Heights areas), land values go up, and it becomes financially unsustainable to devote as much land to non-revenue use, even on larger sites. The City of Houston should in no way try to stall or divert this phenomenon through increased on-site requirements; it should allow the full impact of rising demand to force changes in the public’s expectations and preferences regarding parking, walking, and mobility in general. For those in Montrose, the Heights, and elsewhere who find this to be unacceptable to their quality of life, they are free to choose to give up their place of residence and find another area that meets their criteria. Existing residents should not be treated as any more special than those who are willing to replace them (and quite possibly pay more for the privilege of residing there).

  • Local Planner is spot o, both posts. The problem (in my experience pulling permits) is the god-damned Fire Dpt , HFD (arg, dont’ even get me started on how gov’t employees should NOT have the right to form a workers union, only private employees should (but the corrupt #TXlege shit on them with “right to get fired”) but that’s another ball of wax but it plays into) restrictions are extremely hard to get a variance on. Never mind that building fires are becoming more rare everyday and most HFD calls are for ambulance support (take you insulin or get insurance! #corruptTXlege). I respect the job itself, hate the institution it’s become.

  • ZAW, the City of San Francisco owns a number of municipal garages in urban areas of their city, particularly around the Union Square shopping district. They view it as a way to funnel extra sales tax collections into the municipal coffers that might otherwise go to suburban shopping areas. Of course this would be declared socialism here, but that’s one large city’s solution.

  • @ZAW: Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. Whoa there. I sound like Ronald Reagan? No need to be mean.
    The only thing I don’t understand about your proposal is what you want to change. Can’t businesses do this already? And for the most part they aren’t because the economics don’t make sense?