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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's kill off downtown Portland once and for all

Jack up the cost of parking down there even higher. Jarrett, old buddy -- a lot of us ain't gonna ride your goofy streetcar, no matter how much you charge for a parking space.

Comments (30)

Why doesnt Randy just arm the meter maids and make parking a felony in downtown portland? That is the next logical step.

Inexpensive parking downtown is one of the few remaining reasons we still go downtown. We won't be loading the kids onto the bus and streetcar to go downtown if parking rates go up. We'll shop at the mall or stores that provide parking.

"Investment in transit is likely to be futile in an environment of subsidised parking."

What makes it "subsidized" exactly? The analysis in this post is asanine. These freaking social engineers seriously make my blood boil.

"Since 10th & Yamhill is a city-operated garage, the city may be subsidizing parking (by charging a below-market price)"

Actually the quoted $10 price is right in line with the private surface parking lot I use downtown. I guarantee they aren't subsidizing their spots. In fact, they tweak them regularly to find that "sweet spot" in the market where drivers are willing to fill up their lot. The definition of "market pricing."

These people seriously infuriate me. Why can't it be enough for them to bike and ride transit if they want to? Why is there this aggressive push to interfere with how others want to live?

In a 12-year period when the city added four new rail transit lines, including the globally marketed Portland Streetcar, the percentage of Portland residents who take transit to work (called "mode share") seems not to have changed at all.

What about biking? I'm sure a large number of people took up biking to work in that period. And, really, if you live in, say close-in SE and work downtown, it's just as fast to bike in as opposed to taking 2 buses. So we could have the same number of people taking transit to work AND a lower % of people using a car.

Thanks for the link, Jack! But if you think the streetcar is "mine" in any sense, you obviously need to read this, and its ferocious comment thread.


We urbanists are a lot less united than we look!


Also, in response to dg's comment, note that my post is about ALL-DAY parking aimed at commuters, not the shorter term parking aimed at visitors and customers.

Although I do believe that if a business offers to validate your parking, they should also offer me a free transit ticket.

Dave J. Biking is definitely up. In fact that's the only sustainable mode that's up in the last 12 years, at least for work trips in the City of Portland.

More on that here: http://www.humantransit.org/2010/01/portland-a-challenging-chart.html

Actually, IMHO, the city has been hurting downtown vitality for years by tweaking the all-day rate to maximize revenue. The three Smart Parks near Pioneer Square fill up when they charge a competitive ($9 or $10) all-day. Shoppers and other short-term visitors then get turned away by the dozens between 11 am and 3 pm, and probably reconsider the whole idea of patronizing downtown stores and professional offices. A rate more like $12 leaves spaces available during the day, but only to bring in a few hours' revenue at the short-term rate.

Jarrett, there are plenty of privately-run parking lots downtown. You could do a quick survey of them to find out what the "market price" is and compare it to SmartPark pricing. Smart Park is actually slighly MORE expensive than the private lot I park in two blocks away.

First of all, kudos to Jarrett for responding to the various points made here.

Isn't the big missing factor jobs, though? If downtown was a more viable destination for employers, parking lots would be charging lots more, right? I mean, we can talk about cars, mass transit, % of people doing whatever, average $ charged for all-day parking, etc., but until we get employers moving TO downtown, parking lots are going to be in a race to the bottom in order to get people parking there. And, as long as that happens, why would anyone chose transit over driving? Chosing the less convenient option is the very definition of irrational behavior.

Jarrett: In fact that's the only sustainable mode that's . . .
JK: I’m glad to see that you KNOW what the future will need.

Please share your secret crystal ball with us:
Start by explaining how other modes of transport are NOT “sustainable”

Then explain how you KNOW that we will not discover better, cheaper, alternatives(like has always happened in the past) to each item you think we may be running out of.

Since running out of oil is a common theme of “sustainable” advocates, please explain WHY we won’t be able to make oil like Hitler did to run a war machine. Or make it from thin air by pulling carbon our of air like plants do.

Also explain why we will still even want to use oil in another 100 years.

Since emissions from motorized transport is a common theme of “sustainable” advocates, please explain how these will affect future generations (as opposed to temporary effects on the current generation.) PS: Don’t bother with that CO2 stuff - it has been shown to be a TOTAL fraud (just like the famous hockey stick) by the CRU & NASA emails. And now the revelation of IPCC lies about peer-review, cherry picking data and conflict of interest at the very top of the IPCC.


A monthly TriMet pass is about half the cheapest monthly parking rate downtown. So its certainly not cheap parking that is keeping commuters in their cars.

I guess it's not conceivable that the Streetcar is simply a failure - a mode that people will not choose even if it's free to ride, which for all intents, it is.

I guess people are just too selfish not to patronize the mode of transport that inconveniences them, leads to longer commute times, and leaves them with 1/4 mile walks in the rain from their door to the stop, and then the stop to work.

I ride the bus every day to my coat-and-tie job downtown. I am infuriated that Tri-Met has decided to cut bus lines (which are efficient, flexible, and convenient) in favor of VERY expensive rail lines that carry massive infrastructure capital costs, no flexibility if neighborhoods change, and are less comfortable when you take into account that most riders have to stand during busy periods, whereas buses have most people in seats, and maybe a few standing if it's packed.

And here's another bit about increasing the parking costs. For all of the efforts to get people to live downtown, we're still looking at a situation where many of those residents may have no choice but to drive to and from work. Worse, these are usually folks living in locales where on-site parking isn't an option. (My old apartment building had a parking lot out in back, and it was already completely reserved for use by Lincoln High students, who were paying almost as much as I was paying in rent for the dubious privilege.) Suuuuuuuure: go ahead and raise municipal long-term parking rates, and give all of the people living in downtown yet another reason to abandon it.

Let's kill off downtown Portland once and for all
JK: Good idea.
The sooner we abandon the obsolete concept of downtown, the better of we’ll be. It has become a money pit for the rest of the city to pay into and most of it is urban renewal. Most new housing is subsidized either by being in an urban renewal district, or through tax abatements, low interest loans etc. (List here: http://www.portlandfacts.com/developersubsidies.htm)

It is overcrowded, overpriced and inconvenient. Suburbs are cheaper, less crowded and more convenient - all of which raises people’s standard of living.

Cut off the money and let downtown find its true economic value.


Jarrett, the reason businesses that validate parkers mostly don't give away transit vouchers as well is that everyone would want one--since they are transferable and not time-limited. Validations are only affordable because such a small percentage of customers can offer proof that they parked in a garage on their current trip. Even then, stores that aren't 1) in Pioneer Place or 2) Nordstrom or Macy's, mostly don't validate.

Ain't nuttin' free folks. IF businesses validate parking you pay for it indirectly in the cost of goods or services you buy from that vendor.
Also there sure seems to be a great many street parking spaces available recently in the downtown and Pearl areas of Portland. Of course that is just my very unscientific observation for my most recent forays into that area.
I would say that the downtown merchants who are left, are hurting post holiday season.

Businesses aren't going to locate downtown because employees then have to either ride mass transit or pay for parking, or the business has to more heavily subsidize parking. Not all employees can take mass transit. Not to mention (especially with the cuts in service) the real possibility that riding Tri-met could take 2-3 times the time one would spend driving.

late yesterday afternoon we decided to go downtown for a local brew and a bite to eat...and we wanted to take the bus as parking is more money than a bus ride and who wants to park on the street after 5pm and find a spot and feed a meter? The bus ride down from LO had a lot of folks on it-standing room only at 5pm-that was good to see. ...we had checked our bus schedule and wanted to return at 7pm- well! The #35 7pm bus only circles downtown so we had to wait 30 more minutes for the next one-
so why did we want to go downtown? We could have driven our car to the east side of town
and had the convenience of a car. Next time we'll do something different. Good bye downtown.

Okay, assume that the internal combustion engine eventually goes away (I don’t think it will soon as it is actually very efficient in modern form). The preferred method of transportation is still going to be a car-like vehicle that allows for single occupancy use. I worked in Downtown for three years and rode Tri-Met. I currently work out of town and commute in a four-person car pool so don’t tell me I haven’t tried the alternatives. The power or fuel supply may change but the basic design of the car will live on. People prefer the freedom and flexibility offered by a car so we should expect to provide parking and bridges that can handle the volume of such vehicles for a long time to come. Trying to price people out of using a car will just encourage them to drive somewhere else.

"And as that argument plays out in each city, we have to notice that the remaining pro-streetcar arguments are primarily CULTURAL. A streetcar's ridership, and its ability to spur development, are based at least in part on people's CURRENT attitudes about buses"

I have to say, I read Jarrett's analysis on humantransit.org and found it very refreshing and applicable to Portland. Basically, there's no technical reason Streetcars are better...just cultural (and political)....

Nice stuff Jarrett.

I reallt think Sam and company should have a car-free month downtown. Just to let them see what happens when the novelty wears off.

Right now, every retailer downtown is hurting (you can either ask the small guys or look at Pioneer Place above the street level) and govt really has no clue about how to make an area livable for all people.

"I reallt think Sam and company should have a car-free month downtown. Just to let them see what happens when the novelty wears off."

And I really think all government officials, elected and hired, at every level ought to have to do this for a month every year. We'd be far better off.

Just back from my "weekend" and, once again, in four streetcar rides to and from NW 23rd, not one person approached the fare box to buy tickets and nobody checked fares. Why doesn't Tri-Met simply remove the fare boxes and make room for more free seats?

The mistake that TriMet makes lies in its adamant insistence upon downtown PDX-centric transit. I live in SW Portland, and I work in SW Portland. I'm not going to ride my bike up Scholl's Ferry Road even under ideal conditions - much less in the dark.

By car, it's a 12-minute drive to and from work. By TriMet, it's over two hours each way. Why on earth would I spend four+ hours out of my life each day in order to get to and from work?

It would make more sense to route in concentric rings around the downtown area, with connections into the core. Unfortunately, sense and TriMet are two incompatible terms.

People are under some crazy notion that they don't pay for "free parking".

Lesson #1:

Nothing is free.

Businesses pay property taxes on their land -- which includes parking stalls (often in suburban areas, parking consumes more land than the actual businesses themselves). A business, which has to pay the bills, its employees, taxes, etc. will just push the cost of their building off on the consumer and employees.

Your "free parking" just means items cost more than otherwise or your paycheck is less than optimal because the business owner needs to pay the actual cost of providing those parking spots.

Yes, there is a crazy anti-car crowd that wants to make parking insanely expensive to be punitive towards cars.

Also, an urban environment is not supposed to be conducive to high automobile traffic. It wouldn't be a "downtown" if there was abundant and cheap parking.

A true downtown is markedly different than suburbia areas because the land is mostly devoted to people, buildings, and places -- not parking lots. Who wants to experience a parking lot over a nice building, anyways?

Abundant, cheap parking and downtown is an oxymoron. It's basic economics at play.

"What makes it "subsidized" exactly? The analysis in this post is asanine. These freaking social engineers seriously make my blood boil."

Parking is subsidized in the US because the Municipal Gov't body tells businesses and homeowners the minimum amount of parking spaces they need to provide. Usually in the order of 4-6 parking spaces per 1,000 sf of retail space, etc.

If you ever wondered why so many grocery stores have a swath of parking that never gets used -- that is why.

"Smart Park" is a subsidy because the city is operating a parking garage w/o paying property taxes on its holdings. It limits the amount of land in private hands in the downtown area, land that could be used for other things than just city run parking.

Portland should see the garages to private interests. If they want to operate a garage, let them determine the amount that people are willing to pay.

Good point, ws. All you really need to do is liberate the free market. I've heard that some conservatives supposedly believe in this.

"What makes it "subsidized" exactly? The analysis in this post is asanine. These freaking social engineers seriously make my blood boil."

If you're really interested in learning the answer to this question, check out Donald Shoup's book The High Cost of Free Parking.

BoingBoing has a summary: http://boingboing.net/2009/08/07/free-parking-costs-a.html

"The cost of building all that parking is reflected in higher rents, more expensive shopping and dining, and higher costs of home-ownership. Those who don't drive or own cars thus subsidize those who do. "

And as pointed out, the dollar figures cited in at the link above do not include externalities like the air pollution and congestion created by increased trips drawn by cheap parking.


Keep the socialist roads flowing and the conservatives are happy, at least in the US. ;-)

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