Comment of the Day: How To Tilt the Zero-Sum Houston Transit Game

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO TILT THE ZERO-SUM HOUSTON TRANSIT GAME parking-garage“‘The overlooked reason why cycling isn’t more popular is because driving and parking are far, far easier in Houston than in Amsterdam.’ You‘re right. So you know what would help increase the use of bikes? Allowing the market to determine the number of parking spaces. If [a business] gets it wrong and offers too few spots, they’ll suffer. But give them the choice. Right now business are required to supply tons of parking, making driving the dominant way people will always get from point A to point B. At least loosen up the regs in areas like Midtown and Montrose where we have a population that’s far more willing to walk, bike, skate, rail, etc. (or even Uber, which, while it puts cars on the road, lowers parking demand.)” [Cody, commenting on Houston Bike Plan Up for a Vote Again This Morning Amid More California-ization Fears] Photo: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

21 Comment

  • This is one of the more intelligent Comments of the Day that Swamplot has had in a long time.

  • I lived in Avondale(the heart of Montrose) for a long time. I was twice the president of the Avondale Association in the nineties. The parking ordinance was designed specifically for neighborhoods like Avondale. Until the ordinance, you could open a restaurant or bar or nightclub, in the middle of the neighborhood, provide no parking, and the patrons would park on your lawn, or your sidewalk, or your driveway. (Look-up “Free rider problem” in wikipedia) Today, you can still open a restaurant or a bar or nightclub, in the middle of the neighborhood; but you must provide an adequate number of spaces for your patrons(free rider problem solved). The parking ordinance is in place not to encourage driving but to protect those residents from patrons outside the neighborhood who drive in.

    So, next time you are at Katz’s on Friday night, know that few of those patrons actually live in Avondale. Most of them drove in from miles away. Imagine you live in Avondale and all those Katz’s patrons were parked all over the neighborhood instead of the parking lots which are provided.. That is what it was like and still is for some businesses that pre-date the ordinance and provide no parking.

  • Is there a like button on this thing?

  • Jardinero1: It would be an act of trespassing for anyone to park on others’ lawns and sidewalks. No need for a parking ordinance there. And what seems to be lost on most homeowners is that you do not own the street in front of your house. It is by default public property available for all to park on. You can apply to the city to establish permit parking on your street. It seems that the problems you had before the parking requirements were more an issue of lack of enforcement of existing laws rather than a need for more parking. Also, you don’t seem to know what the free rider problem is. Go look it up. Meanwhile you can thank your parking regulations for helping to destroy pieces of Montrose and replacing them with parking lots.

  • @Jardinero1, It’s a fair point but you’re not going to convince anyone on this board as the parking ordinance requires taxpayers and the community to give up rights to something they paid for and built. We have existing parking and noise laws that protect all residents and homeowners and don’t need additional ordinances to be enacted upon.
    I also recall seeing a number of yards in front of multi-family homes over there that serve no purpose and could easily be paved over to provide adequate parking for their residents. Parking ordinances basically regulate the under-utilization of land and serve no useful purpose in urban planning.

  • @Jardinero1

    This is exactly what happens in every dense city. If you go to Brooklyn, you will see cars street-parked in front of the brownstones. Few of those cars belong to the resident of the brownstone immediately adjacent. They recognize that they don’t own the street parking in front of their residence. It’s an incredible waste of resources to require that those perfectly good parking spaces remain vacant in favor of large separate parking structure.

  • I’d support the abolition of minimum parking requirements only if this were accompanied by a city-wide abolition of resident permit parking zones, except for those areas where homes/apartments don’t have off-street parking (0.00001% of Houston).

  • @Jarderino1: This is a normal part of life in a dense city. If you don’t like it, move to the suburbs. Montrose and Midtown are, and should be, dense urban neighborhoods. They are by far the best Houston has and that should be improved upon until they can match up to the likes of Brooklyn, San Francisco, etc.

    That means people coming in and street parking wherever they can find a spot. It means walking and public transportation take priority over residents getting a place to park extra cars in front of their houses.

    The plus side for these shortsighted NIMBY residents is the things you probably like about the neighborhood (diversity, being able to walk to many interesting things, a pleasant pedestrian experience) will just get better and better the more you reduce parking requirements and the more you steer the focus away from convenience for car owners.

    And if you don’t like those things and just want to drive everywhere, why the heck are you living in that location? Move to Garden Oaks or Meyerland or Westbury or Braeswood or a dozen other neighborhoods in Houston which are priced cheaper and offer a suburban lifestyle.

  • To everyone who replied to my original comment: If you weren’t there before there was a parking ordinance, you lack the requisite perspective and experience to understand why it exists. The parking ordinance was created to manage a very unique set of circumstances that had plagued Montrose, Upper Kirby and the Heights for a very long time. In Avondale, there were many, many, more patrons in the neighborhood than there were curbside parking spaces to handle them. Hence, cars ended up being parked illegally on private property. Sorry, Houston cops don’t worry about vehicles parked on private property. Cars on lawns and sidewalks(private property) were and are the responsibility of the property owner to remove. I had many vehicles towed off my lawn and out of my driveway during my residency there.

  • Jardinero1: I understand there definitely were problems. People should not be parking in your yard or on your driveway. The response of forcing business owners to build out more parking was inappropriate, though, and it has led businesses to buy up historic structures and bulldoze them to fill in with parking lots. This also makes real estate in the area more scarce. A better response would be for the city to assist residents in kicking out bad actors. When people realize there’s a stiff and consistent penalty for violating property rights, they will stop being assholes AND you get to preserve your neighborhood.

  • This is just a hunch – but I would wager that the vast majority who are in favor of street parking for non-residents are people who tend to frequent the types of commercial establishments in the neighborhoods around and not necessarily property owners within that area (or any area).

  • @ Jardinero1: Could you have simply monetized the problem by rationing your assets at a posted price? Say…$500 per hour? Or more?

  • Jardine: My house is in Westmoreland. I walk to most of those places. I don’t think anyone would argue for someone parking in your driveway or lawn. But if someone parks on a public street, that is a better model for a city that requiring every public place have a ocean of asphalt.
    Maybe if we add just a bit of inconvenience to parking, it’ll encourage that many more people to walk/bike. Or encourage more people to think about where they want to live in terms of being close to where they like to go.
    Look at some of the most desirable / walkable areas. Does each place have it’s own ocean of parking? It would be terrible. And places that NEED parking will add it as it’s in the best interest to do so.

  • Nobody wants another parking debacle like Brasil created in its surrounding blocks. I recall it opened as an art gallery that served coffee. Their web site helpfully suggests using Westheimer, Dunlavy, and other streets for parking. That is why Hawthorne is chockablock with cars at all times of the day. Even Harold gets some of this action.

    The only thing worse that being close to a new restaurant, is being close to a new bar. Plan on being woken up at 2:10 am by laughing, crying, screaming, and retching as party goers stagger to their vehicles.

  • Welcome to the big city :)

  • Try parking where you shouldn’t in Montrose sometime. Good luck finding your car when you come back. On any given weekend evening, there are tow trucks hovering around, waiting to pounce on any un-suspecting motorist that fails to read and comprehend a resident-only parking sign.

    Street parking only clogs streets when the streets aren’t equipped to handle it. Most of the streets in high-density neighborhoods like Montrose, Midtown and (parts of ) the Heights should be one-way, so as to accommodate parking on both sides. The planning commission should waive setback requirements for shared-driveway townhouse developments so as to encourage them in favor of street-facing garages and the associated curb cuts.

    And if on-street parking isn’t adequate, the market will end up providing off-street parking: it just won’t be free. There are no off-street parking minimums in the CBD, and I’ve never had a problem finding a place to park, even for large events. You just can’t expect it to be free.

  • Rustie: So do you think a place like Brasil should have to have a big parking lot? I love(d) walking to Brasil from my house (I think enough people live in walking distance to Brasil to keep it busy).
    Do you realize how crappy Montrose would end up if parking requirements were even stricter?

  • Yes. Brasil is a pox on its residential neighbors. Oh the owners and staff and patrons think nuanced “rainforest thoughts” but folks who have lived quiet lives for decades on Hawthorne are taking it on the chin. Its all about cost-shifting. Imagine what Common Bond is paying to provide two lots on Dunlavy. That’s a boatload of cash that Brasil doesn’t have to shell out.

    People want the trifecta. No cars. No parking lots. Close to everything. Well you get two out of three, if you’re lucky. Baba Yega expanded its parking nicely a few years ago with landscaping and it works for them.

    Its not a neighborhood’s job to make sure some entrepreneur succeeds in life, especially if they cut corners. This notion of “break the rules and apologize later” started with Clinton and infected Silicon Valley and can now be found everywhere (see Uber). Good-bye to good will, moderation, trust, accommodation.

  • @Rustie -im not sure why people parking on public streets is a “debacle.” That’s one of the purposes of streets.

  • @ Rustie: I agree that Brasil’s success has had a negative impact on Hawthorne Street residents, but I think it was unintended and I disagree that they broke any rules. This is a developing situation as the Montrose area changes. I’m one of those who believes that further street-parking restrictions and paid parking are in our future, which is all good and natural in a city.

    And, to set you straight, if “break the rules and apologize later” does actually have a historical point of origin, it’d more likely be all those adulterous televangelists of the 1980s who, when caught, tearfully broadcast their repentance.

    Or maybe it was Ronald “mistakes were made” Reagan.

  • Or how about areas like Wash Ave where all of the street parking areas have been completely cut up by multiple driveways? I sympathize with the complaints about commercial use of on-street parking (and much of the complaint is as much about the nuisance of middle of the night parking as anything) but it’s not as though in many of our city neighborhoods residential isn’t also contributing to that problem.