Are Cities Using Parking as a Hammer to Get Folks out of Cars?

The City of Santa Monica has decided to demolish a 300 plus space parking structure adjacent to its downtown mall and replace it with a multi-use project including low cost housing. It is being sued by local businesses who say that the project hasn’t been thought through and backs this up with the claim that at this point, no developer has been selected and after the lot is demolished, the empty space will be surrounded by a chain link fence. There is much more to this controversy. Feel free to research it if you like. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but noticed something in the fine print from a consultant’s report (emphasis mine):

Parking analyses concluded that the proposed demolition of Parking Structure #3 would not generate additional parking demand. Instead, it is expected to redistribute existing parking demand to available spaces in nearby facilities, and potentially bolster other means of access to the coast, including the robust multimodal transportation system serving the Downtown area. The loss of parking supply at Parking Structure #3 will not impede the public parking system’s ability to accommodate existing parking demand on typical peak days, the analyses concluded.

Since the city doesn’t seem too motivated to have a complete project plan in place, including a developer, before the site is demolished, I wonder if an alternative reason for the reduction in parking space might be in play. As you note above the consultant’s report indicated that the reduction in parking spaces would “potentially bolster the robust multimodal transportation system serving the downtown area.”

The area where the parking structure is located is near the terminus of the LA Metro Expo Line which has been struggling to maintain its numbers in the face of declining ridership. The same is true with buses in the area. Nationwide “multimodal transportation” has been losing ridership, even before the pandemic hit. Seems people prefer to drive.

Is the city really concerned about low cost housing, or is it concerned about getting cars off the streets and making parking inconvenient so folks will take the train or the bus? The expanded report from where the above quote came notes that there are over 2000 spaces available during peak times in the area. I’m not sure what that means, since the parking structure is adjacent to the Third Street Promenade. I wonder just over how many blocks those spaces are spread.

In the face of decreased multimodal ridership and increased vehicular traffic, are cities using subtle means like reducing parking to coax people out of cars and onto other means of transportation?

Of course they are…


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2 Responses to Are Cities Using Parking as a Hammer to Get Folks out of Cars?

  1. Clyde Wilson says:

    It seemed that the city was taking the position that the garage had a large amount of empty space so it was no longer necessary to serve the 3rd street mall. The garage is not running at pre-pandemic capacity but neither is any garage in the country. I looked at a google earth street view from October 2015 and the digital space available sign showed 8 spaces and in 2008 the sign showed full. Appears to be a city using the pandemic numbers to justify taking away parking from a city that has a very dynamic downtown.

    Given that there are no plans to build on the remaining empty space anytime soon I can only guess that there will be a tent city full of 3rd street mall shoppers.

  2. Anna says:

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing.

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