Transforming parking spaces into lively mini parks show city’s potential
By Saba Long
Three downtown Atlanta parking spaces gave way to a beach-themed urban oasis on a hot Friday as part of the globally celebrated PARK(ing) Day.
Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), along with its partners, were able to capture an effusive spirit of community with people of all walks of life drawn to the hip tunes from DJ Respire, refreshing smoothies made from bicycle-powered blenders and art installations from the Mammal Gallery and Eyedrum.
“We’re pleased with the successful implementation of Paved Paradise and the attention it brought to the importance of place-making in urban environments,” said AJ Robinson, CAP President.
The success of this small gesture of place-making shows its time to reconsider our views on parking in the city proper.
Who knew you could that pack that much fun into three metered parking spaces and perhaps the more important question is, do we need to continue to use that real estate in its current form?
“Structuring an Equitable Parking Tax: Why the City of Atlanta Needs a Parking Tax and How it Should be Structured,” a 2011 thesis from then Georgia State graduate Marshall Willis, notes there are more than 75,000 parking spaces within the Downtown Improvement District – all located within walking distance of two MARTA rail stations and numerous bus stops.
One downtown surface parking lot recently advertised its proximity to the soon-to-open Atlanta Streetcar. The cost to park in that lot – a mere four dollars for the entire day – is twice the amount of a round-trip ticket on the Atlanta Streetcar.
Although many would disagree, the cost of parking in Atlanta is far more affordable than other metropolitan areas around the country. To be sure, those cities – Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, to name a few – are denser and have more robust transportation alternatives.
However, improving or increasing transportation options must not happen in silos. For example, ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft are experiencing explosive growth in Atlanta, reducing the number of cars on the road. This summer, MARTA announced rail service improvements during peak hours – an increase of 30 percent. The City of Atlanta continues to expand bicycling facilities, making cycling a safer and convenient transportation mode.
Now is the time to begin reducing the amount of parking spaces as these behavioral shifts take place and, simultaneously, policymakers must consider incentivizing or discouraging consumer decisions.
PARKAtlanta – the concept, not the company, should be viewed as step one of many in retooling parking availability and price in the city. Technology must also be at the forefront of this discussion – something PARKAtlanta has been slow to adopt.
San Francisco implemented SFPark – a parking management system that identifies parking availability via a mobile application and charges dynamic pricing based on supply and demand. Allowing motorists to view parking availability in advance reduces congestion caused by circling the block numerous times to find that elusive parking space.
Parking reform could reduce a city’s congestion by double-digit percentages, according to Donald Shoup, the godfather of parking analyses. This, coupled with the installation of smart traffic lights, could bring about noticeable traffic relief in Atlanta. At the least, it keeps traffic level as the city continues to grow.
Atlanta’s successful participation in PARK(ing) Day showed the public is interested in repurposing surface parking for micro place-making. At a much larger scale, excessive surface lots should become the lobby level for buildings that increase our density or ripped up completely and converted into much needed green space.
Reduced congestion and sprawl, creating a collective environment, increasing parks, expanding green space are all compelling reasons to implement comprehensive parking reform.
Let’s make it happen.