Dependable Erection

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So Saturday night, Mrs D and i were talking about going out to dinner. We ended up at Kim Son, on Guess Rd., because it meets most of our dining out criteria: tasty food that we wouldn't make at home at a reasonable price, with decent service. With drinks, dessert, and tip we dropped well under 50 bucks.

The proximity of available parking did not figure into our decision at all. Of course, it would be great to have those kinds of dining options located in a part of town where, after dinner, you could walk to some other place for music, coffee, shopping, you know, the things that a downtown has*. Besides parking decks.


*Brightleaf comes close to fitting that bill. In the summertime, at least. But Mt. Fuji doesn't compare to Kim Son.

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  • The anti-parking deck sentiment continues to mystify me. I just don't get it.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 1:48 PM  

  • We have enough parking spaces downtown. It continues to mystify me how our elected officials believe that downtown's revitalization will be hastened by commissioning more parking decks.

    It won't. It's a waste of taxpayer dollars that could be used for other means of attracting people into the downtown after hours. Like better transportation options. Or a walking police beat. Or finishing up the streetscape project to get rid of the loop.

    I have never, and i mean never, had a problem with parking downtown. Even during the holiday parade.

    Spend my money on something that will still have value and utility 20 years from now.

    By Blogger Barry, at 1:55 PM  

  • The problem downtown isn't insufficient parking. The problem with downtown is that it's covered with surface lots that should be covered with buildings. But if you do cover up those lots, you end up with not enough parking for either the new businesses or the existing ones.

    Parking decks allow you to increase the parking density while still increasing the density of the commercial and residential structures. And, parking decks allow for a much better urban streetscape than surface lots.

    The point isn't just more parking. It's also fewer surface lots, which to me is a pretty big deal.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 3:37 PM  

  • I agree that parking decks are bunk and a mis-directed tool for downtown revitalization or taxpayer money.

    The main reason being they bring the visitor to an anti-place.

    They mightily discourage walking down city blocks, this lack of people walking down city blocks discourages merchants from staying open later or bringing new merchants in. (meanwhile nervous nellies don't want to walk down the street because there ain't a heckuva lot of other people walking around)

    they deteriorate relatively quickly. they are quite expensive. (imagine what 30 million bucks could do if spent elsewhere, increased bus service, fixing the loop, etc, that is a rough guess at the cost of the two AT decks and the two coming up next).

    you would think most people who use them dislike them as well for the long queue they inevitably end up in after their event ends as they funnel hundreds of cars out a mere one or two lanes. (this is better than walking three or four blocks to your car where you can immediately go in any direction?)

    they are however fun to bicycle up and down at night (or skateboard if that is your thing).

    By Blogger Dave W., at 3:43 PM  

  • I was poking around at the DPAC website earlier. There are still blocs of orchestra level seats available for the BB King show on Sunday, single seats available in the Grand Tier, and blocs available in the Balcony. Let's assume that they sell (or give away) 2700 of the 2800 seats.

    How many of those people do you think are going to spend more than the $6.70 for parking (if you buy your parking ticket from Ticketmaster. The N&) says that the parking price for the 3500 spaces in a 5 minute walk of the theater cost 4 or 5 bucks) in Durham either before or after the show?

    And of those that do, how many will spend money somewhere other than ATC?

    By Blogger Barry, at 4:21 PM  

  • And here's where we disagree. I think parking decks actually encourage people walking down city blocks, much more so than surface lots.

    With a surface lot, you turn the person into a car. The person wants to go to a place, he or she will try to take the car as close as possible, then likely walk through the surface lot directly to the venue. The person never becomes part of the pedestrian flow of the streetscape.

    With a parking deck, you put the car in jail. The car goes in, a pedestrian comes out. With a parking deck, it's far more likely (I conjecture without support) that the person will visit multiple stops along the way, acting as a pedestrian all the time. The deck becomes one building out of many the pedestrian enters and exits through the sidewalk streetscape.

    Wrapped decks are even better, because it means that the block that was dead and wasted space and actually activate the streetscape there, while still parking cars on it.

    Now, granted, none of these are as good for the streetscape as on-street parking, but the narrow street widths in Durham and Public Works's aversion to diagonal parking has made that relatively difficult.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 4:59 PM  

  • Call me Eggs -- I'm with the Bacon on this one.

    I appreciate where Barry and Dave are coming from but (as I've told Barry before) contemplating a wish-state we'd all like to see for transit doesn't obviate the fact that the vast majority of Americans own a car, whether they use it for work commuting or not.

    Take the wrapper structure's residential component. Would there be a market for those residential units without the presence of some deck parking? Better question: would there be a market for ALL of the residential units without parking?

    Scott Harmon is a guy who "gets it" where a transit-oriented future is concerned, but still, a goodly of the Mangum 506 units have a 1-car garage.

    The Ambacco decks get guff, but as someone parking in them most days, I can tell you they're pretty full. Would businesses have moved into the development without parking?

    If we eventually find the decks aren't needed, great! Tear 'em down and build anew. No one is going to complain about the aesthetic impact of losing a parking deck for another structure.

    My guess, Barry, is that we will see folks driving teeny-tiny Smart car style vehicles on alternative fuel sources before we see (say) 70-80% transit adoption rates.

    One estimate I've seen has commuter use of transit at 60% in the NYC metro area. Terrific! But how long, and how much density, would it take for the Triangle to reach 20%? 10%?

    Not building parking decks doesn't get you to a transit-oriented future. Instead, it leads folks to develop more in the sticks. Lure the density into the urban core, in a car-oriented way, and replace the decks when transit becomes a reality.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 5:55 PM  

  • Hell, Kevin, what makes you think there's a market for retail even if it comes wrapped around a parking deck in downtown?

    How long has Safari been vacant? Blaylock's? A dozen other addresses that even in my short time in Durham housed businesses trying to make a go of it that failed?

    Lack of parking is not the reason why businesses fail in downtown. Building more decks will not be the solution to a non-existent problem. But investing in infrastructure requires thinking in 20 - 30 year horizons.

    And you simply can't make the argument that 30 years out, what will make Durham a great city will be ample parking.

    By Blogger Barry, at 6:03 PM  

  • Um, Barry, have you ever had to do business downtown during the week, 9-5?

    There is barely enough parking for that now. I had an appointment with a lawyer near Main and we thought about parking in the library lot and walking from there. Well, guess what? The library pays guards to keep riff-raff like me out, because we didn't plan on visiting the library.

    As for your restaurant on Guess Road, I think the availability of cheap, easy parking right at their door was every reason why you were there and not downtown?

    Because to be located downtown, a business like the restaurant you went to would need people to drive by and make a random decision to pull in and eat. Walk-in traffic via automobile, in other words. People don't cruise downtown for restaurants that I know of.

    I agree decks are ugly but it's going to be a long process to re-educate people to go downtown just because it's good for them. As far as I know, most forms of consumerism don't exist just because people think the object or service they desire is "good for them." They just want it and don't care about the consequences. That's why there are so many fucking SUVs on the road right now.

    For you to visit your favorite Vietnamese restaurant, re-located downtown, means that you'd have to move the restaurant and the exact same parking scheme the restaurant currently has. Not gonna happen.

    Free public transit in a circuit or loop downtown, like the one I heard was going to happen on art crawl Fridays, might help fans of downtown figure out how to arrive there, park in one spot, and get around town.

    By Blogger Tony, at 9:15 PM  

  • most cities (well, real cities, anyway) are implementing higher hourly rates and stiffer fines to make sure that there are always short-term on street parking options available. In many cases, people are willing to leave their car in a limited time space on the street and risk the parking fine rather than pay for off street parking because 1) it's not any more expensive; and 2) it's not enforced with any regularity.

    That said, yeah, i've been in town many times during the day and never, repeat never, had a problem with parking. When i was meeting at city hall regularly with the EEC group, our meetings started at 4 pm. Occasionally i had to park in either the surface lot across from City Hall, or in the deck, but most of the time, there's on street parking available on Mangum, or Chapel Hill, or Parrish, or, hell, almost anywhere. Put up a few meters and charge a buck an hour and see how many spaces that clears up!

    And no, Kim Son's parking lot has absolutely nothing to do with eating there. Believe me, if there was an equivalent restaurant downtown, i'd be there at least 3 times a month. Even if i had to park 4 blocks away. As it is now, i probably only eat there 3 or 4 times a year, because of its location

    By Blogger Barry, at 9:26 PM  

  • I work downtown, so I actually pay for a regular parking space. But I have colleagues work work downtown and don't pay for a regular space, either because they aren't there on a daily basis, or because they just don't wanna. Until recently, they were able to pretty much park all day in one space and not worry. In the last couple of months, though, the city has actually started enforcing the parking laws. So you'll get a ticket if you park 3 hours in a 2 hour space.

    Since I have a space downtown any time I want it, it's harder for me to weigh in on the too much/not enough argument. My observations, though, lean towards there being plenty of spaces already. But I think a lot of people are conditioned by suburbia and malls to think that "adequate parking" means "I can park right in front of where I'm going." I've lived in enough urban environments to be content if I can find a place 3 blocks away. Hell, there are neighborhoods in San Francisco where I'd count myself lucky to park 10 blocks away.

    I'd be interested the percentage-full rate is for the existing by-the-hour rates downtown.

    This is not about downtown, but recently, I had an errand on 9th street, followed by a stop at Sam's. That is a distance that, in most circumstances, I would walk without hesitation. But I drove from the 9th st. lot over to Sam's, because that crossing-main-street-under-the-tracks area just doesn't strike me a safe place to walk.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:48 PM  

  • Barry, I completely agree that we need a lot more than good parking to make downtown work. That said, can you point to a single American city that has a modicum of reasonable density in its downtown and a truly walkable environment that DOESN'T have extensive parking decks? I've never been in one, and I've been in a lot of cities (and weirdly enough, I tend to notice these things while I'm there). Even midtown Manhattan, where driving a car during the weekday is roughly akin to biking down I-40, is loaded with them (although they're usually wrapped or underground).

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 10:31 PM  

  • Michael - i mentioned that when i was in SF a couple of months back, there were virtually no parking decks to be found, even near the Moscone center. (Clearly there are some. They're just not obvious. And i'm pretty sure they're not built with taxpayer money.)

    I was using the Google earlier trying to find some data on parking space ratios to population in major American cities. No luck with that. I did find this, though. It's a Times article from about 20 years ago, talking about developing the last surface parking lot in Manhattan into a high/medium density project. I know this lot pretty well, as i worked across the street from it for a year and a half in '84 - '86.

    Here's the key takeaway:The Worldwide Plaza project consists of a 49-story office building, One Worldwide Plaza, with 1.56 million square feet of rental space, on Eighth Avenue where the old Madison Square Garden stood; a 39-story mid-block condominium called 2 Worldwide Plaza, with 268 apartments; and a five- and six-story condominium extending 300 feet along 49th and 50th Streets to Ninth Avenue, called 3 Worldwide Plaza. It will have 386 apartments.

    IN addition, there is a 35,000-square-foot health club; a 450-car underground parking garage; a six-screen cineplex beneath the central plaza that separates the office building from the residential elements, and 19,000 square feet of retail space on Ninth Avenue.

    The 654-unit residential section is of special interest on a variety of counts. For one thing, it has given architects one of their rare opportunities to design a large-scale low-rise development.

    654 new residential units. 1.5 million square feet of office space. 20,000 square feet of retail (I'm guessing there's probably more than that there.) 450 parking spaces. Considering that there were probably 200 parking spaces on the empty lot in the early 80s, that's a net of 250 new parking spaces.

    When i worked on 49th and 8th, it was not unusual for me to get out of the subway at 14th and 1st, and walk the 60 blocks or so to my job. Especially in the spring and fall when the weather was nice. That's about 3 or 4 times the distance from my house to, say, the Carolina Theater. I almost never walk that. One, because parking is just not a problem. And two, because walking is. It does not feel safe walking down Markham, or Mangum, or Geer, or Liberty, or Glendale, or Washington, or any of the streets between my house and downtown.

    Yeah, i know. That's Manhattan. But this was 20 years ago.

    Kevin and i had Stephen Mancuso from DATA on our show a month or so ago, and i was very excited to hear him talk about the circulator route. It would run through downtown and all the way over to 9th street every 10 minutes or so. That was pretty forward thinking, and could eliminate quite a few car trips during the day and evening.

    Unfortunately, it's already been scaled back due to lack of funds. Now, it will only run every 20 minutes or so, and not over to 9th street.

    All i'm saying is that our leadership needs to, you know, lead, on the transportation issues. Staff knows what needs to be done as far as making downtown more walkable and pedestrian friendly and less car-centric. Too bad, when it comes to funding anything other than parking decks, our elected officials keep shooting blanks.

    By Blogger Barry, at 10:57 PM  

  • Dogpile on Barry!

    The parking/transit issue seems kind of like a chicken/egg problem to me. Do you have to make driving completely miserable before you can get sufficient political capital for transit development, or should you just build it and hope people come on board?

    My impression is that the truly transit-oriented cities in North America almost entirely have the following characteristics: 1) they got big before everyone had a car, and 2) they are geographically constrained, generally by one or more bodies of water. I'm thinking NY, Boston, Chicago, Philly, SF. Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix are car-oriented because they "grew up" in an era where everyone had a car.

    The best counterexample is probably Portland, OR, but they effectively created geographical constraints with the urban growth boundary. And even then, there are vast swaths of PDX that remain very car-oriented. DC might not fit either, but it's a special case since (I assume) the federal subsidies for transit there are substantial.

    I'm not sure Durham is easily comparable to any of these, because it is so much smaller. And not only is it not geographically constrained, but it is very close to a larger (and car-oriented) city, and a significant chunk of its economic engine (RTP) is housed in an area outside the city limits that is the epitome of car-centric development.

    All of that is to say that any future of real transit around here is probably going to have to happen on a regional level (much as it did in SF). Which means it won't happen quickly in any case.

    With all of that in mind, I think downtown developers can be forgiven for viewing a parking deck as a infrastructure investment with a 20-year horizon.

    By Blogger Brian, at 9:59 AM  

  • I don't think it's entirely accurate to say that transit in SF occurred on a regional level first. I'm pretty sure the Muni predates BART by several decades.

    By Blogger Barry, at 10:10 AM  

  • earlier...

    "All i'm saying is that our leadership needs to, you know, lead, on the transportation issues. Staff knows what needs to be done as far as making downtown more walkable and pedestrian friendly and less car-centric. Too bad, when it comes to funding anything other than parking decks, our elected officials keep shooting blanks."


    Shit ain't gonna happen spending big chunks of taxpayer and city revenue cash on parking decks.

    it is propping up what will likely be considered a dinosaur in 30 years (the idea of a private auto for every American that they rely on for every single errand or trip and; and the belief in driving alone to work when work happens to be where there is quite a few other people doing the same thing, driving alone to the same locale.)

    By Blogger Dave W., at 10:33 AM  

  • I'm pretty sure the Muni predates BART by several decades.

    Yes, of course. Didn't mean to imply that, but I can see why you read it that way...I should have said "is" rather than "did"

    I just meant that any viable (non bus) transit for Durham would pretty much have to be regional, much as BART currently is.

    By Blogger Brian, at 11:59 AM  

  • I can imagine a trolley system in Durham happening before a regional light rail system gets off the ground. Cross town from Golden Belt district to 9th street (and eventually to Hillsborough street and 15/501). North and south on Roxboro/Mangum, Duke/Gregson, and Broad/Ninth for starters. On Fayetteville St. to NC Central, eventually expanding to Southpoint. Eventually bring the new mixed use developments on University/Chapel Hill Blvd. into the grid. Crosstown in the north along Carver St. In the south along MLK.

    A self-contained system like that would have natural hooks to a regional system that could be built later. (IE transfer stations at 15/501 and Hillsborough, 15/501 and Chapel Hill Blvd., Roxboro/Mangum and downtown, assuming that the regional line uses existing track, etc.) But if Durham decides to wait until regional rail is a reality before thinking about a local system, we'll be pretty far behind the 8 ball.

    By Blogger Barry, at 12:14 PM  

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