By Mike Walker

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The city of Bend is attempting to use parking shortages as a tool to discourage automobile use. In the three parking studies the city spent two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete, the city claims to be “right-sizing” parking. The “right-sizing” parking movement began because communities had required development to build more parking than was actually needed. The definition of “right-sizing” parking is to balance the supply with the need.

In the “citywide study,” city staff admitted their surveys were focused on categories of uses which they thought had surpluses of off-street parking. However, Rick Williams Consulting found that the existing code requirements for four of the five categories of land uses surveyed didn’t lead to a surplus of parking beyond a reasonable buffer. When the consultant found the code parking rate led half of the surveyed industrial sites to have a shortage of parking, the consultant recommended the industrial developments be allowed to park on-street in the surrounding neighborhood. The consultant never considered increasing Bend’s code requirement to insure an industrial project’s parking is right-sized. What happens when a project’s parking extends into the surrounding neighborhood?

In the Galveston Parking Study, the same consultant confirmed the neighborhood’s belief that it had a severe on-street parking problem. In nearly half of the study area, the on-street parking usage exceeded the standard of 85 percent usage. The parking was so over-utilized that many blocks had illegal parking. Read the Jan. 8, 2017, Bulletin for a description of the impacts to the residents of the Galveston neighborhood. When the city made the findings public at an open house last fall, staff refused to discuss what caused this over-utilized parking and tried to appease the audience by referring them to the citywide study mentioned above. Imagine how this neighborhood felt when they saw the citywide study failed to survey the type of land uses that occur in the Galveston neighborhood and was focused only on surveying categories of land uses with potential parking surpluses. City staff had shown no interest re-calibrating parking rates to avoid shortages which are occurring with restaurants and medical offices.

The cause of the Galveston parking shortage can be traced to previous decisions by city planners. In 2006, the city adopted a new development code that reduced the parking requirement for restaurants by 67 percent and by 133 percent for medical offices. Then the city allowed developers to further reduce the parking requirement by 10 percent if the development includes measures to encourage bicycling and other transportation options. Last fall, the city increased this reduction to 20 percent even though nearly all existing bike racks go unused, including those for city employees. The city hopes someone else will bike.

The city’s solution to parking shortages are expensive, management-intensive parking districts with time limits and permit fees. Will this balance the supply with the need? Parking districts don’t increase the supply, but are intended to reduce the “need” by trying to make parking inconvenient.

In the study for the downtown parking district, parking shortages adjacent to the downtown core were ignored while the study identified the need to exploit the alleged remaining capacity in the neighborhood to the east. This city managed district practices a different standard for your employees while the city issues nearly two hundred free passes to city staff to park on-street even though the parking garage is half empty.

Before the state is blamed, read “Parking Made Easy,” a handbook published by the state to assist communities manage their parking. It says, “the concept of right-sized parking is not to force a standard that would under-supply parking.” Bend’s parking consultant, Rick Williams Consulting, wrote this state handbook. Bend’s manager for its parking studies was on the committee that created this state handbook. Bend’s parking studies don’t follow the standard of this state handbook. Tell your council how you feel about parking shortages.

— Mike Walker lives in Bend.