Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

Parking garages are wasteful and environmentally damaging. So of course the industry has invented a greenwashing campaign, called the Green Parking Council:

LAS VEGAS – July 1, 2015) — The Green Parking Council (GPC) today announced the first seven parking facilities in the U.S. to achieve Green Garage Certification, a comprehensive sustainability standard for existing and new parking facilities evaluating 48 elements of garage operation, programs, structure, and technology. The Green Garage Certification program will be delivered and promoted globally by the Green Business Certification, Inc., the certification body for the U.S. Green Building Council’s global LEED® green building rating system.

“Cars are getting smarter, people are getting smarter, and parking garages are getting smarter,” explains Paul Wessel, executive director of the GPC, an affiliate of the International Parking Institute. “The greening of parking facilities transforms them into enablers of sustainable mobility. Certified Green Garages offer significant benefits for drivers, tenants, building owners, property managers, and society overall.”

When parking garages are built with green elements, it is often to mitigate stupid planning decisions. That is certainly the case with the 7 “winners”. In a way, we can thank the GPC for finding the country’s most ridiculous parking garages — a list which includes the following:

  • Silver Spring Metro Plaza – parking garage built at a Washington Metro “intermodal” station.
  • Bank of America Plaza – situated in downtown Los Angeles, near several Metro stops, and dozens of bus lines.
  • Westpark Corporate Center – another facility near the Washington Metro, and located in a Tysons neighborhood that certainly doesn’t lack for parking.

Also on the list is the Corrnell University Forest Home Garage. It deserves special recognition for most ironic location of a “green” parking garage. The 3-level facility was built (at considerable expense) under the new Human Ecology building, in a prime lakefront location:

Constructed in 2009, Forest Home is a 254-space garage located under the LEED Platinum-certified Human Ecology Building. Electric vehicle charging stations, building systems commissioning, nearby public green space and a highly efficient LED lighting system contributed to the certification. “Cornell’s pioneering efforts toward greening parking facilities is a tremendous source of pride for us” Bartt Smith, Transportation Services’ project specialist for GGC. “Progress continues toward the certification of the Hoy Field Garage.”

Congratulations to this year’s winners! And looking forward to learning about other sustainable, green parking garage from the GPC in the years to come…


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The IMF has published a new paper on global fossil fuel subsidies. The problem is worse than you thought:

1. Post-tax energy subsidies are dramatically higher than previously estimated—$4.9 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2013, and projected to reach $5.3 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2015.

2. Post-tax subsidies are large and pervasive in both advanced and developing economies and among oil-producing and non-oil-producing countries alike. But these subsidies are especially large (about 13–18 percent) relative to GDP in Emerging and Developing Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

3. Among different energy products, coal accounts for the biggest subsidies, given its high environmental damage and because (unlike for road fuels) no country imposes meaningful excises on its consumption.

4. Most energy subsidies arise from the failure to adequately charge for the cost of domestic environmental damage—only about one-quarter of the total is from climate change—so unilateral reform of energy subsidies is mostly in countries’ own interests, although global coordination could strengthen such efforts.

5. The fiscal, environmental, and welfare impacts of energy subsidy reform are potentially enormous. Eliminating post-tax subsidies in 2015 could raise government revenue by $2.9 trillion (3.6 percent of global GDP), cut global CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent, and cut pre-mature air pollution deaths by more than half. After allowing for the higher energy costs faced by consumers, this action would raise global economic welfare by $1.8 trillion (2.2 percent of global GDP).

Correcting the price imbalance would improve the economy, improve the environment, and improve public health. A win-win-win proposition.


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It is amazing how the highway lobby gets their hands on all the money. When a BART extension project took tracks over Mission Blvd in Fremont, the highway lobby used the opportunity for a massive $150 million road widening:


This monster freeway interchange lies just south of the new Warm Springs BART station. The entire station area has been surrounded by a moat of highways and freeway interchanges.

Even though there have been various bike plans for the south Fremont area, none of it has been built (unless you count riding on the shoulder of a high speed arterial). So good luck using the new BART station to generate walkable, bikeable TOD development that was promised. And anyone dumb enough to try biking through there will suffer the consequences.

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The Camden, NJ has a huge parking crater extending from the waterfront to downtown. Now the city’s Parking Authority wants to hollow out downtown even more:

When the Parking Authority of the City of Camden decided it wanted to tear down the decades-old Commerce Building in the heart of downtown to put up a parking garage, it made an offer far below the property owner’s expectations.

The Estate of Milton Rubin, a real estate investor in the city, had been paying property taxes on an assessment of $1.66 million, and in 2007 had prepared to sell it for $4.5 million.

The Parking Authority’s offer came in considerably lower.

In a letter in June, the agency raised the specter of eminent domain as it offered minus $200,000 – essentially asking the estate to part with the building and pay on top of it.

“There’s just a level of some inexplicable absurdity here,” Robert S. Baranowski, attorney for the estate, said last week. “I’d love to go around taking people’s property and telling them they have to pay me to do it.”

“Absurd” doesn’t even begin to describe it. The property sits one block from a PATCO subway station, and is across the street from the Walter Rand Transportation Center (an intermodal station with rail and bus service). It is the last place where a city should be replacing buildings with parking.


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Parking is one of those things everyone in Berkeley complains about (ironic for a city that is supposedly environmental). Merchants especially have complained about parking “deficits” in downtown and southside areas. And yet whenever city planners measured parking occupancy, they found empty spaces even during peak hours.

What was going on here — was there or was there not a parking crunch? As it turns out, both sides were right. Due to inefficient pricing, the prime on-street spaces were monopolized while garages and other areas went under-utilized. Drivers would typically drive in circles hunting for the cheap on-street parking, avoiding more expensive garages.

Could market-pricing strategies correct the parking imbalance, and result in more efficient utilization? The city received a 3-year Federal grant to test that hypothesis. The transportation department analyzed parking occupancy rates in three neighborhoods, continually adjusting parking hours and pricing based on demand. Price and time limits were set with a goal of always having 65-85% occupancy on each block. Where parking exceeded the 85% threshold, prices went up and time limits went down. Where parking occupancy dropped below the 65%, prices were reduced and time limits increased. Clear signage was installed to inform drivers their pricing options.

The results of the program are quite impressive:


Here is another survey result:


But the most surprising result is the large number of blocks where price and time limits were relaxed due to minimal parking demand (remember: price and time limits can go up or down depending on parking demand). On the map shown below, these are are indicated in green; i.e. the Max Parking Zones. It is interesting that areas that were thought to have very high demand, such as 2 blocks from campus, actually don’t have very high demand at all.


The program is on-going. One of the next challenges will be automating the collection of real-time data. It is currently done manually, which doesn’t scale well. The city is exploring technological solutions to automate the process, such as the use of parking sensors or license plate readers.

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You Reap What You Sow

With vacant storefronts and burned-out lots, Telegraph Ave in Berkeley has been on a long downward spiral. To revitalize the corridor (and boost tax revenues), city planners once envisioned converting the auto-centric arterial into something more pedestrian friendly. The street would get a road-diet to calm speeding. The excess road space would be converted to bike lanes and a new Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT) service. Wider sidewalks were also proposed, with streetscape enhancements and outdoor cafe seating.

But merchants balked at loosing automobile capacity. Arlene Giordano, owner of the Le Bateau Ivre restaurant, vehemently opposed the plan. She put forth a ballot initiative with the intent of killing the project, and wrote some scathing editorials.

City Council relented, leaving Telegraph as a high-speed arterial. And this is the predictable result:

After the recession, its co-founder’s death and dwindling foot traffic, the fabled Berkeley hangout is losing money and struggling to survive in a changing landscape. Owner Arlene Giordano, who founded the restaurant 43 years ago with her late husband, Thomas Cooper, launched an Indiegogo campaign in September, hoping to crowd fund $60,000 to pay bills, replace kitchen appliances and get the business back on its feet.

She is now applying for a small-business loan from the city to stay afloat. Part of the loan would be used to install lights “which she hopes will help make it more obvious that the restaurant is open for dinner.” I guess she is finally discovering that drivers zooming by at high-speed won’t notice your restaurant.

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ARTIC Platform Fail

$188 million was just spent building a new train station for Anaheim — including new platforms.

Those new platforms will allow for level-platform boarding right?

No, of course not. But the planners did publish a helpful Powerpoint presentation explaining why the new station doesn’t have level-platform boarding. It reads like a confession from the planners, describing all the reasons why they suck.


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