Monday, October 16, 2006

Less Stalling, More Action on Parking

Dan Voelpel's column this weekend in The News Tribune echoed concerns expressed here last week: "Tacoma City Hall [has] no [parking] "system" at all--despite city ownership of three parking garages, management of roughly 1,700 on-street parking spaces and enforcement authority over both." Maybe it's not surprising--Voelpel accompanied us on the Tacoma City Council's visit to Portland a few days ago, where the comparison between the two cities' programs was...well, there was no comparison.

Portland Commissioner Sam Adams told the visiting group that gathering broad stakeholder input, informed by strong analysis of current trends, should lead to development of a strategic plan that can guide not just planning but overall resource development and allocation. "Give people alternatives," he urged, "not out of political correctness, but because it really is the best way to go..."

Like Sam Adams, Rick Williams (executive director for the Lloyd District Transportation Management Association) stressed the need to look at transportation assets as key pieces of a city's economic development toolbox--a tool, not just a "nice to" part of the urban landscape. In the Lloyd District, Williams has been able to offer capacity to new development through better use of existing facilities instead of having to raise money to build new parking complexes, many of which will stand empty or underutilized in off-peak hours.

Rising costs for land, ever more challenging environmental considerations and burgeoning traffic congestion all dictate that "access" may be the key to future development in Portland and elsewhere. Tacoma needs to initiate broad community dialogue around access for its growing downtown--if it wants to remain competitive...

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