News from Patrick Flynn

Downtown parking

Today’s article in the local paper about a potential new development at Sixth Avenue & E Street that would occupy an existing parking lot prodded me to write about downtown parking.

Recent increases in parking rates downtown have elicited concerns from some quarters – no pun intended – so I was pleased to have the opportunity to sit down last week with Ron Pollock, the Executive Director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority, which oversees Anchorage Parking.  Anchorage Parking either owns or manages more than a dozen downtown lots, in addition to on-street parking in the downtown area.

The primary source of concern, an issue often arising in the Voice of the Times, has been on-street parking rates, which have steadily grown over the past several years.  In talking with Mr. Pollock I learned about two reasons for the increases:

  1. Downtown, unlike other neighborhoods in Anchorage, has zoning rules that generally exempt property owners and developers from providing off-street parking.  The expectation is that either Anchorage Parking or a private enterprise, such as Diamond Parking, will address this issue.  Both groups rely on revenue derived from parking fees to maintain and develop additional spaces needed to accommodate growing demand.
  2. Anchorage Parking prefers motorists use its parking lots and garages.  I’d wondered about this since learning that metered, on-street parking rates rose to $1.25/hour while garage rates remained around $1/hour so I asked whether the intent was to increase the use of off-street facilities (click here for a map with locations & rates).  Mr. Pollock confirmed my supposition, and said this reflected market practices in most jurisdictions.  While I didn’t inquire further, I’d guess that garage use drives the numbers necessary to finance future projects.  The next time I see Ron I’ll try to follow up.

In our conversation Mr. Pollock spoke enthusiastically about several of the projects ACDA is advancing across Anchorage, and the successes they’ve enjoyed to date.  He also mentioned some future ideas and, returning to parking, referenced survey work by the Seattle branch of Colliers International, which places Anchorage parking rates toward the lower end of the national spectrum.

My conclusion from the conversation is that continued downtown development, which I tend to support, will require more garage spaces that must be financed with parking revenues.  ACDA has responded by increasing rates to meet the revenue needs so the question for you, thoughtful reader, is whether this approach is the right one or if we should be looking in a different direction (like property taxes) to pay for downtown parking development.  Let me know your thoughts!



This contribution was made on Saturday, 19. July 2008 at 15:12 and was published under the category Transportation. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. this is an issue i simply don’t care about, at all. i think we already do way too much to subsidize cars. at suburban sites, parking is the singlemost limiting factor affecting redevelopment potential. we simply require too many spaces. with some notable exceptions, most of the parking lots in anchorage are never even half full. we should have neighborhood commercial centers where on-site parking is optional — as exist in almost every other city our size and larger. not necessarily as part of new ‘town center’ development, but along several existing streets in various neighborhoods around town. property owners could still provide on-site parking if they choose, or they could construct a building on their entire lot. when you consider how much of the central business district is dedicated to surface car parking, it’s tragic! we need to get over the idea that it should be easy and nearly free to park downtown. that usually isn’t the case elsewhere. you’ll either feed a roll of quarters into a meter, or pay 20 to 30 bucks for a spot in a garage or subbasement. i do recognize there needs to be some parking — just not entire blocks paved over like much of the territory between 6th and 9th is now. less trafficked streets such as 3rd and 4th [and maybe 7th and 8th] could be reconfigured to allow diagonal back-out spaces [increasing capacity over parallel spaces]. but really, this is part of a larger strategy. if it becomes harder to drive downtown and park there, then we will have real incentives to develop better transit alternatives. downtown could become a lot more bicycle friendly, with more bike lanes and more places to lock bikes.

    Comment: clark – 21. July 2008 @ 9:52 am

  2. Great blog entry, Pat. And great comment by Clark. The parking rate increase took many by surprise and continues to bother those who feel that they should be able to drive up to the front door of whatever store / restaurant they want to visit. That’s not realistic in a thriving urban environment like ours. As Mr. Pollock indicated, the rates in Anchorage are toward the bottom of the scale. Having been to other cities similar in size, I’d have to say I agree with that. I also agree with Clark’s criticism of the over supply of surface parking in Downtown and the need to provide incentives for alternative transportation. Being someone who regularly spends my entire weekend (a) on my bike and (b) coming Downtown, I can hardly wait for improvements that will make it easier to get into and around Downtown while on two wheels. Providing adequate parking for our new developments as they build up (efficient garages, not surface lots) and improving the pedestrian / cyclist environment will go a long way toward making our Downtown one to remember.

    Sincerely, Christopher Schutte
    Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.

    Comment: Christopher Schutte – 21. July 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  3. thanks, christopher, nice to have someone agree with me for once. here’s a little anecdote — in seattle, in the belltown district there’s been a lot of condo towers built in the past deacde. mayor begich said seattle mayor nickels told him that most of the new condo owners requested two parking spaces in the building garage at first — but 75% of them give up one of the two spaces within the first year, as they figure out that most of what they need to do on a daily basis is within easy walking distance. so that second car doesn’t get much use.
    we have hardly anyone living in the central business district right now. getting people living there will add to the vibrancy, excitement and diversification of retail and business uses.

    Comment: clark – 23. July 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  4. That’s all fine and good, but you should know the parking authority does nothing to help out residents who live downtown. At current, when streets get plowed and cars get towed, most of them are downtown residents who made an economic gamble and lost. Creating a more vibrant downtown should also call for solutions for people who live there.

    Comment: Andrew – 10. February 2009 @ 10:06 am

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