Home > Announcement > The parking-deck party & a discussion on roundabouts on the schedule

The parking-deck party & a discussion on roundabouts on the schedule

Monday Rant (+1)

Doubling-up on a post today…first a short P-Deck rant and below that, thoughts about Ian Lockwood’s visit to talk roundabouts.

City opens new party hall for 522 cars

At 10:30-am, the city will have a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate another temple of worship to the parked car. Once open, the The Old Town parking deck will host daily services M-F, with smaller observances held over the weekends.

I have an inner conflict with our p-decks. I actually like p-decks as a curiosity & have purposefully parked at the top of them for the chance to drive through them. It’s exciting to see the innards of a structure so open. Besides the novelty, they are also touted as a smart growth tool to increase density by replacing surface lots, which isn’t a bad thing. However, as they are operated in Traverse City, our P-Decks continue to encourage/accept/support/enable an over-reliance on single occupant automobile commuting. It’s been about expanding parking while capturing/spending TIF money downtown, meanwhile citizens have to beg for a sidewalk on a street like Barlow (FYI, that project has now been indefinitely postponed).

Construction progress photo, July 2, 2010 (by CWS)

It’s all fine-and-well that the Old Town P-Deck is LEED certified, is embraced as saving the city from a Hagerty Insurance move and promises a gold nugget to every city resident…but really, big whoopee.

Is there a phrase about a pig & lipstick that I could use?

Parking in Traverse City remains an under-valued commodity. Street parking remains so cheap that there is little incentive to use our parking decks, let alone pay the meter, and, from my napkin calculations, the $370 annual permit for a single space in the parking deck covers about 25-35% of the construction & maintenance cost of that single space per year. If the spaces are empty, the costs remain. We are subsidizing the parking of cars with the current structure & system. We do so while also increasing the opportunity for more car traffic on our limited street network and increasing the need for major, ugly, inhospitable intersections on the corners of our city.

Ahh, this is a rant for another day…ribbon cutting ceremonies are for looking ahead to a brighter future. I just wish that we could find a quarter of the amount the city is about to allocate for the next sexy DDA project, the West Front P-Deck, to build, fix or maintain a sidewalk without a fight. Perhaps if we charged adequate amounts for parking, we could use the proceeds to invest in our neighborhoods and build some infrastructure that moves us away from being a city that gathers to celebrate temples for cars.

In the meantime, be ready to continue to fight like hell for basics of city service, like crosswalks, bike lanes, sidewalks and bus stops. Despite being less costly transportation solutions, these facilities remain a struggle….uhg.

I’m looking for local parking gurus…the p-deck Kool-Aid offered so far isn’t working.


Traffic calming and roundabout discussions

A bicyclist navigates a roundabout Olympia, Washington. Notice the ramps for bicyclists. Photo: Dan Burden•www.pedbikeimages.org.

A more productive event today is transportation engineer Ian Lockwood’s forum. He specializes in traffic calming measures, in particular handling corridors like Division St. that have high traffic flow while running through context sensitive areas like our own Division St., Grandview Parkway or even 8th Street.

Lockwood was here this past spring to lead a public charrette for rethinking Division St. & one for Grandview. After balancing all the diverse set of community needs, he proposed a series of roundabouts as the main option to ameliorate the four areas of concern: safety, accessibility, context and quality.

The community is asking for a corridor that provides for a diverse set of mobility options, that is safe, convenient and has a sense of place. Many argue that as the entrance to our city, Division St. needs to communicate loudly, “Greetings! Welcome to Traverse City where we value neighborhoods. Show some freaking respect and slow down and share the damn road.

Or, something like that.

Lockwood isn’t here to talk about Division St. He is here to provide insight to traffic calming, including, but not limited to, roundabouts.  The main event, which will also include a presentation by MDOT, is this evening from 4:30-6pm at the Hagerty Center and before the city commission at  7-pm at the government center.

Engineered Roundabout at Grandview & Division St.

MyWHaT has dedicated a lot of time to roundabouts since the spring, and this author still maintains that for Division St., it is an elegant compromise. A series of roundabouts could go a long way in improving the conditions of the corridor. Roundabouts are also a major development out of the Bayfront Planning Initiative, despite consistently being played down as a distant option by city staff they are a way to Put the Park back into the Parkway. There are a number of other locations where roundabouts would improve conditions.

The resources are available for everyone to reach an informed consent on roundabouts and MyWHaT has a growing list of resources on roundabouts to help, including the well populated map of Michigan roundabouts. Going on a road trip? Check the map and see if you can include a roundabout experience.

It’s posted at the resource page, but this cheesy government PSA from Carmel, Indiana is a useful introduction to roundabouts. It also answers why this Midwestern town has embraced them to the count of over 50.


  1. Ross Richardson
    July 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

    About the Barlow Street sidewalk (Centre to Carver) — at this point, the city has moved it back to the 2012 list, which means it would be done 2 summers from now. The city manager says he is working on using 2011-12 money (the city’s fiscal year begins July 1), but accomplish the project next summer, in 2011. There has been no explanation on why the project wasn’t just delayed 1 year, which was legitimate because of the time needed to engineer the project. Stay tuned, but it takes a lot of huffing and puffing to push the bureaucracy toward a goal they are not overly excited about.

  2. July 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Thank you for the update, Ross. You saved me a phone call. Also, thank you for championing the Barlow St. project from your position on the planning commission.

  3. Hans Voss
    July 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Lighten up Gary! This is key piece of urban infrastructure that will, over the long term, support increase density and walkability, not too mention the local economy. Get a glass of parking deck cool-aid, celebrate with your neighbors and downtown businesses, and then let’s get to work together on what else the community needs to reach each potential.

  4. Laura Otwell
    July 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Great piece Gary. Your voice is needed at a time when folks think there is never enough parking. When the Hardy deck was proposed, it seemed like a good idea, even good land use, touting stacking vehicles and ridding our downtown of unsightly surface parking. With the opening of the third public deck (lets not forget the one at Munson Hospital) there has been virtually no reduction in surface parking.

    Perhaps the newest deck would be easier to get excited about if there was any kind of balanced transportation funding. How about a $6 million deck, with another million put to transit and another million put to bicycle facilities. Parking for private automobiles seems to be the greatest single outlay of public funds these days. Quite a legacy left for our children.

  5. Bill Palladino
    July 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I’m thinking Hans’ idea of having you lighten up is a bit in the wrong direction. You are doing a service right now. Strong voices are needed from all who would speak out. I welcome the heavy load.

    As a Midtown neighborhood resident, I’m all for the parking deck… that is not the issue. What is problematic, and the thing I believe Gary has pointed out well here, is that parking decks by themselves do not solve the problems they are built to solve. Along with the bricks and mortar and solar panels, there need to be policies and practices outside the confines of the deck that reinforce the values and behaviors the deck is supposed to represent.

    Gary’s right on point. Why would anyone choose to park in a parking deck if the penalty for parking on Front Street and other valuable downtown streets is barely the cost of a day’s fee? If the parking deck, and the others already built or yet to come are to work we need brave policies and informed citizens. It’s an integrative process. One simply does not work without the other. It starts with raising meter fees, then raising civil infraction penalties, encouraging high-occupancy-vehicles, and creating a real benefit for businesses, their employees, and customers to choose least-impact transportation methods. Not to offend people or push them away, but to create the kind of vehicular parking behavior that the City needs.

    If I have an issue with the parking decks in Downtown it is that they come with no real comprehensive and integrated strategy for implementation beyond financing their construction. And that I’ll admit was daunting in itself. I want to see a comprehensive surface transit strategy, a plan for the city and how it will treat parking now that it’s got all those new spaces. What have we gained in public space by building the decks? It’s a fair question. I would love to see the City celebrate the deck (as Hans says) by committing to removing several downtown parking spaces and replacing them with public seating, bike racks, more trees, or dog parks. And I don’t expect it today, but I would like to know there’s a plan to reflect the change in use of public property.

  6. Matt Ross
    July 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I would like to know why it cost so much to maintain a parking space. I have a cement slab I park on at home, and all I need to do is sweep the dirt or shovel the snow off of it!

  7. July 29, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Matt, my estimates are from a couple of sources that give a general cost of a parking deck. Admittedly I have no experience whats-so-ever in managing a p-deck and claim no expertise, but from my reading the conservative average maintenance/operation cost that I kept seeing was $650 per space per year for a multistory deck like ours. At a minimum, someone has to be paid to do the sweeping. TC may indeed spend less. Or, maybe more. I also factor in the cost of building the structure per space for the life of the park, estimated at 30-40 years. I’m sure the DDA would be willing to share their P-Deck budget with us, so I’ll try to stop in there soon.

    The costs associated must include labor, elevator operation/service, line painting and boom gate upkeep to think of a few. From a quick perusal, they also need to be checked for stresses due to the nature of their use: holding heavy vehicles. Actually, preventive maintenance seems to be key with p-decks to avoid escalating costs, similar to the dilemma we now face with our roads, streets, bridges. It’s really quite an industry.

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