Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cincinnati Considers Lowering Minimums Within Two Blocks Of New Streetcar Line

OK, let me let you in on a little secret that most people still don't know. The empty land of surface parking, dead streets with an occasional building, we now associate with the American Downtown isn't just a product of supply and demand--in most places, it's the law.

Urbanophile, is re posting a look at what these great laws have done for Buffalo.

Of course, our great urban planners will just tell you these laws just take into account that "everyone wants to drive". Well, how would they know that, since it's now mostly illegal to even offer alternatives and since the very land (like the lower Hill) used for this parking is often taken from people who lived there without cars. It's like saying everyone in North Korea is demanding dull green clothes.

So anyway, the voters of Cincinatti and city boosters are placing lots of hope in a new streetcar line. Get the Digitalis, they are even considering limiting the minimum required parking for development within two blocks of it No, two whole blocks! Amazingly, this is progress.

"That’s why the city’s decision to reduce parking minimums would be a reassuring sign that local planners understand the necessity of designing neighborhoods to encourage transit use. Today, the city requires one to two parking spaces per housing unit, even for apartment buildings constructed right downtown. The new law, if approved as likely later this year, will halve those requirements in all new construction within 600 feet of streetcar stations, even reducing them to nil in some cases for buildings with six or fewer units.

As the Cincinnati Streetcar Blog points out, this change may have the positive effect of reducing the cost of new development in Cincinnati by allowing builders to avoid building underground garages or acquiring adjacent sites for surface parking. This will reduce not only the initial investment necessary to construct in neighborhoods near the streetcar but also the cost of individual purchasing or renting, making it more likely that there will be a market for new housing in the area.

In turn, by reducing the number of parking spaces per unit, the city is encouraging people who live in downtown areas to use transit to get around — and they’ll be getting a high-quality service through the center city with the new streetcar, so that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Though some may argue that Cincinnati could have gone a step further and eliminated all parking minimums to areas near the streetcar, the initial line is short and won’t even reach the University of Cincinnati north of downtown; if and when the system is expanded, the city council may want to reevaluate the use of parking minimums at all along this corridor."

Ever wonder why, so many new downtown developments in most cities are only for rich people? Well, a requirement to use half or more of your space for parking or build a huge garage is one huge reason. What exactly are Pittsburgh's parking requirements? How come the subject almost never comes up?

By the way, Cinncinati looks like an absolutely beautiful city. Check out this long post on Urbanophile about it. Look at the amazing unloved place called Over The Rhine.

As Lolly (AKA Laura) put it.

"If you build cities for cars, you get cars. If you build cities for people, you get people."

No comments: