GLATWG comments on Bike Parking

Green L.A. Transportation Work Group has recently been grappling with issues related to parking requirements and how they relate to affordable housing. Many of us (myself included) are generally Shoupistas – followers of Donald Shoup. In The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup makes a convincing case that unjustifiedly high suburban parking requirements drive up the cost of housing.

For example: in L.A. a typical new housing unit (ie: a condominim in a multi-story building) 2.5 parking spaces, and each space costs $20,000-$50,000+ to build… so… the parking requirement adds  $50,000-$100,000+ to the cost of new home. Reducing this requirement effectively reduces the cost of housing. While developers may not pass this reduced cost savings on to occupants/owners… overall, reducing excessive parking requirements generally can get more housing built more cheaply, which, based on market forces (supply and demand) should reduce the cost of housing.

Recapping: less required parking leads to more affordable housing.

But there’s a catch… some of the city’s most effective mechanisms for building and preserving affordable housing are built on incentives that are based on those excessive parking requirements. Basically, when housing developers build affordable housing, the city allows the developer to build less parking (under what’s called the Density Bonus.) Additionally, in some cases, excessive parking requirements prevent owners from converting rent-stabilized apartments into condominiums.

So… if we’re not careful, moving towards more rational (reduced) parking requirements can actually result in developers chosing to build market rate housing, instead of affordable housing.

Currently working their way through various legislative process, there are three initiatives that include reducing car parking requirements:

  1. AB710 (California State Legislation)
  2. Modified Parking District Ordinance (City of Los Angeles CPC-2007-2216-CA)
  3. Bicycle Parking Requirements (City of Los Angeles CPC-2011-309-CA)   

There’s a lot of commenting and dialog on all three of these… and, generally, the most suburban NIMBY types are out in opposition to anything that will remove any of their god-given parking… but for now, I am just going to focus on #3 the Bicycle Parking Requirements.

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Los Angeles International Airport - Photo by LAANE

This afternoon, Green L.A. Transportation Work Group folks received an early look at a Coalition for Clean Air study on airport pollution. The presenter/researcher is Colleen Callahan, and the study isn’t quite finished, and not available on-line, but will be available some time in the near future at the CCA website.

Here’s the blurb that was sent out announcing the meeting:

While Colleen’s report is larger in scope, for this presentation she will focus on passenger ground access transportation at Los Angeles International. LAX is the most polluting airport in the region and the vehicles traveling to and from LAX are most significant source of pollution related to the airport’s operations. Colleen finds that LAX’s ground access pricing system is such that the most polluting and least efficient transportation mode– the kiss-and-ride option that results in four trips versus two or less– is incentvized while less polluting modes– drive and park, taxi, shuttle, FlyAway, and transit– are disincentized. For example, LAX collects $2.50 every time a cab enters the airport, but there is no charge for private vehicles to enter the LAX circle and the immediate roads into LAX. Colleen’s main recommendation is to increase the viability of alternative ground access options by: 1) decreasing the cost of other modes relative to the kiss-and-ride mode and 2) increasing transit options through collaborative, regional approaches.

Two interesting things I learned that I didn’t know:

1) The “non-commercial general aviation airports” (not LAX, but the other ones – frequented by private jets – including Van Nuys) are a significant source of lead, which is still used in small airplane fuels. Scary that we still haven’t learned the lesson of lesson of just how toxic lead is. We, in the city of L.A. should ban it from our airport fuel use.

2) For a lot of air pollution impacting airport communities, car traffic is more responsible than airplanes are. So, to get a handle on airport pollution, we need to look at things like TDM (Transportation Demand Management.) We need to look at getting more people to the airport via transit, taxis, and bicycles… and fewer “kiss-and-ride” drop offs.

Looking forward to reading the finished study and to making progress on solving these important issues.

updated 13 April 2010 9pm

Coalition for Clean Air's report: Getting to Work: Your clean air commute

Coalition for Clean Air's report: Getting to Work: Your clean air commute

Green L.A. Transportation Work Group participant (and more often than not host) Coalition for Clean Air has released its new report “Getting to work: Your clean air commute.” The report’s primary author is me, Joe Linton, co-chair of GLATWG.

The report highlights employer best practices for promoting clean air commuting, including: bicycling, carpooling, walking, vanpooling, telework, transit, and, of course, managing parking!

CCA’s Martin Schlageter and I presented the report at this morning’s meeting of the Los Angeles City Council’s Jobs, Business Growth and Tax Reform Committee.  The commitee’s agenda included Council Motion 08-3249, in which the city is looking to set strategies and thresholds for employers throughout L.A. to implement a menu of transportation demand management (TDM) strategies, including pre-tax transit benefits and parking cash-out. Speaking in favor of the council motion and clean air commuting were City Controller Wendy Greuel, Samuel Garrison of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and Jason Elias of the Service Employees International Union. The motion now goes to the full city council.

Here’s the power point presentation we gave today, the full report is available here.

Committee Chair Honorable Greig Smith, with Coalition for Clean Air's Joe Linton and Martin Schlageter

Committee Chair Honorable Greig Smith, with Coalition for Clean Air's Joe Linton and Martin Schlageter

Complete Streets image from New York (from L.A. StreetsBlog)

Complete Streets image from New York City (from L.A. StreetsBlog)

In late 2008, one of the priorities that the Green LA Transportation Working Group (GLATWG) identified was “complete streets.”  This blog entry is an attempt to draft what we might mean by complete streets, and what the policy implications/goals might be for complete streets for the city of Los Angeles.

What are Complete Streets?

Here’s a definition from the completestreets.org website (from the National Complete Streets Coalition):

“Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and bus riders of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across a complete street.”

There are similar definitions on Wikipedia, and on websites of other non-profits that are campaigning for them – for example, the Iowa Bicycle CoalitionGood magazine recently ran this interactive photo-simulation that does a great job of showing the Complete Streets concept.

Many states, cities and other municipalities have adopted various versions of complete streets policies (see listing of examples here.)  Cities that have adopted policies include Santa Barbara, CA and Colorado Springs, CO.  Some cities, such as Austin, TX have various principles and guidelines for their policies. Recently Complete Streets policy has gone into effect in the states of Hawaii (where it was adopted legislatively as SB718), and Delaware (where it was implemented via executive order from governor.)

The state of California adopted Complete Streets policy in 2008.  California’s policy was adopted legislatively as AB1358, authored by then-Assemblymember Mark Leno of San Francisco.  The state bill (per this press release) requires:

“…cities and counties to include complete streets policies as part of their general plans so that roadways are designed to safely accommodate all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, children, older people, and disabled people, as well as motorists.”

The state mandate applies when a city updates its mobility/transportation element of its general plan.  The city of L.A. actually pretty good language in our General Plan Transportation Element.  Some examples from the existing city of Los Angeles transportation plan adopted in 1999:

“…reduction of vehicle trips, and through focusing growth in proximity to public transit.”
“Provide bicycle access in or near mixed use corridors, neighborhood districts, and community centers…”
“…maintain pedestrian-oriented environments…”

In my opinion, this plan language generally doesn’t get carried out when it comes to actual street design (with a few notable exceptions, for example the city Urban Design Studio’s Downtown Design Guidelines.)

Some of the language from governmental policies is a bit more formal, and allows a bit more wiggle room in its implementation.  For example, in the above-mentioned Delaware executive order, after stating that Delaware’s streets will accommodate all users, it goes on to qualify that:

“Ensure that any exemption to the Complete Streets Policy is specific and documented with supporting data that indicates the basis for the decision”

What would Complete Streets policy/outcome/goals look like for the city of Los Angeles? (ie: what are GLATWG’s goals for our complete streets campaign?)

This is where we need to hear from you.  GLATWG has suggested using complete streets as a way of framing our demands.  All of our campaigns – from bus-only lanes to parking reform to tracking modal share – can be seen as parts of a larger overall campaign.

Should GLATWG push for the city of Los Angeles to adopt an explicit Complete Streets policy?  Should it be done legislatively (via the City Council) or via executive order (via Mayor Villaraigosa)?  What should such a policy include?  How can we make it most effective?

If you have recommendations, ideas, examples, concerns, please add them to the comments on this post.  Please include links to sample policies, images, ideas, etc.  Thanks!