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Contentious Paid Parking Hearing Continued to a Friday Afternoon.

Parking proposal not ready for prime-time: unanswered questions

Town-Gown-edgeThe following was sent to the Davis City Council on 6 March 2019.

Dear City Council members,

I did not attend last night's meeting, in part because of personal commitments but also because I don't have strong views on parking. And I have to admit that I haven't followed all of the details. So, maybe I am missing something, but I find myself extremely puzzled with the proposal and have some questions that I hope get addressed when the Council takes this up again.

First of all, I understand that a big motivation is to try to get employees and students out of prime parking spots. It seems like the current proposal is a very indirect way of doing that, a way that may or may not succeed. Just considering students, I don't know if people think that students are on campus 9-5, but they are not. They are on campus only as long as they need to be to take their classes and that is often for 5 hours or less. Students will probably be thrilled to be able to park for a 5 hour block at a cheaper rate than the university is offering. Has anyone actually studied student habits? If not, you're just making proposals in the dark, hunt-and-peck, trial-and-error, which seems like not the right way to go about it. Maybe if the Council were considering the task force recommendation to have adjustable rates based on real-time availability, things might sort themselves out, but otherwise I foresee problems.

As for employees and X parking, it really seems like a much cheaper solution would be to give these to businesses and employees for free. It would be a nice business-friendly, worker-friendly gesture that would show that the Council really is committed to making the downtown work. (As would a provision for validating parking with a purchase over X dollars). That would be a direct solution rather than the indirect one that is currently proposed, and I think direct solutions are more likely to be successful.

Second, I just don't understand the parameters of the proposal. 7 days a week? 10-10? Is parking really impacted at all of those times? It seems excessively draconian, and I think it makes people question whether this is really about making more parking available or whether it's more about raising money. I know I'm not the first to raise this concern but I do want to echo it.

I am glad that the Council decided to postpone the decision, but there are so many possible options that I am not confident that this can all be sorted out by March 22. I urge you to re-engage with citizens and businesses for creative solutions and consider more options than the one that is currently on the table.


Roberta Millstein
Davis citizen



Roberta: Good question, regarding a comparison of rates (between on, vs. off-campus parking) that students would likely make if the city implements paid parking (up to 5 hours). It would be absurd to disregard this probability.

Also wonder what the purpose is of the 7-day, 10-10 proposal. Other than to make life more difficult and costly.

I still wonder if large numbers of employees are, in fact, parking in 2-hour spots (vs. nearby areas where there are no restrictions - such as near the Davis Co-Op, I believe). Really?

For sure, parking challenges will be increased as the city grows - especially if downtown is "residentialized", as some are proposing. I guess some view this as an "improvement". And, as others have pointed out, this will probably looked at a cash cow (at some point), in the future (rates, and tickets).

In a way, I find the issue rather amusing, as some (purposefully?) fail to tie this issue to the cause (residential growth/development).

A commenter on the "other" blog (who shares my name, but little else regarding development views) seems to suggest that Woodland actually removed parking meters to support their downtown. (I'm not familiar with that story, but it's probably worth exploring.)

Roberta L. Millstein

Interesting points, Ron, thanks.

Good question about employee habits. I don't know. I do know student habits, and I know that they've got those wrong, so maybe employee habits haven't been well studied either.

It is true that we've been adding a lot of housing recently with no thought to what other sorts of changes adding people will entail, parking being one of many. I guess the impacts are all supposed to magically sort themselves out.

Woodland took out their meters, really? I'd love to hear more about that. Maybe the other Ron will venture over here and elaborate. :)


Roberta: For sure, I (and probably others) will be attempting to utilize any surviving "free" 2-hour spots (that aren't converted to paid parking), when I visit downtown. Pretty sure that the neighbors in those areas won't like that!

One time (several years ago), someone actually put a note on my vehicle, asking me to not park in front of their house anymore. I recall that they claimed that they were trying to sell the house. (I occasionally drove to a bus stop near the Lake Alhambra neighborhood, e.g., when I didn't want to walk there in the rain.) In that case, I parked across the street, instead. Probably annoying someone else.

As they say, every action causes a reaction, some of which may not have been considered. Usually, those that cause the change don't want to pay for it. The same thing is true regarding efforts to eliminate on-site parking requirements, which are intended to mitigate impacts of new developments on surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. It's even worse when this cost-cutting measure is claimed as a "green" effort.

Another thing I find amusing is that some seem to assume that eliminating parking will cause everyone to take up bicycling, for example. (Including visitors to Davis, who aren't traveling by bicycle.)

Roberta L. Millstein

"...some seem to assume that eliminating parking will cause everyone to take up bicycling, for example. (Including visitors to Davis, who aren't traveling by bicycle.)"

Hmm, yeah -- so there is this big push to make Davis a food destination for people traveling on I-80, especially between the Bay Area and Davis. Not exactly consistent with eliminating parking!

Rick Entrikin

Great questions, Roberta. I am especially concerned about the plan to reduce parking limits to 90 minutes in the 3/4 of the core that would not be metered. And to enforce that 90-minute limit, from 10AM to 10 PM, seven days a week, is simply nonsensical.

Even Sacramento, which admittedly relies on parking meter income, recognizes the need to support downtown businesses during off-peak or "slow" times by NOT charging for on-street parking, even in metered areas, on Sundays! I don't know as much about student parking behavior as you do, Roberta, but I do know "senior citizen" behavior.

Nearly everyone I know, plans their downtown entertainment and eating excursions to avoid peak times. Personally, I enjoy Sundays due to less crowding, ease of finding a parking space and the ability to relax without worrying about rushing back to the car (as would happen with the new, proposed, 90-minute limits).

And, Ron, it's great to read you again. Agree fully about the impact of (what I consider) explosive growth in Davis, not only on parking but overall quality of life.

Roberta L. Millstein

Good points, Rick. When we're thinking about doing something downtown, we definitely think about what day of the week it is and what time of day it is and choose accordingly. Encouraging parking during those quiet times should be part of the "redistribution" of parking that the proposal is supposedly seeking, yet the current proposal doesn't promote that.

Todd Edelman

The five hour thing and how that might work well for students by undercutting campus parking pricing is a kind of red flag and I wish I understood better the reasoning within this particular context.

That said:
* A type of paid parking is called "draconian";
* Driving is not free, but consider how difficult it is to get someone out of their own, gassed-up, insurance'd car when a round-trip bus costs $5, perhaps $20 for a group of non-children, non UC-Davis undergrads who could share the $1/hr. parking fee. Even a bike share bike is not "free". Do we refer to a moderate price on either as "draconian"?
* Davis as Food Destination: Free parking near freeway exits, free low-running cost shuttles to DT that run as late as they need to in order to get anyone to their car. See my utopian vision for Davis Depot and DT Access here:

Did the formal parking discussions start with a philosophical question about use of the public ROW, the strange payment hierarchies I mention above? Relating to the more recent Downtown Davis discussions, I don't think the organizers did nearly enough to show the amazing spaces in all sorts of cities and towns in Europe and elsewhere that benefit from being free of cars, and with access from cars based on responsible pricing.

And all THAT said, the E St. Parking Plaza is proof enough that responsible financial contributions for a limited resource used to store private property can work, if just barely; the very limited and moderately-priced concept for the southeast Downtown simply builds on that.

Roberta L. Millstein

Todd, it seems to me that the implicit question your post raises is, "what are the reasons for the proposed changes?" And if the reason is, "to make each type of transportation pay their fair share," then there may be some validity to your argument. But that was not the reason that Davisites were given. The reasons given, as I understand them, were that there are too many times that parking is hard to find downtown, causing circling, frustration, and extra fossil fuel use, possibly also hurting downtown businesses if people just want to avoid the whole scene. But if that's the goal, then there are aspects of the proposal that make no sense, namely, making people pay for parking at times when it is not typically impacted, likely hurting the very businesses that we are supposedly trying to help. In other words, it's a question of whether the means match the desired end. You have a different end in mind, so it's understandable that you'd see the desired means differently. My comments are in the context of the stated goals.

As for shuttles to Davis food, I think that raises the bar higher than most Californians are used to paying in terms of inconvenience. At a minimum, I think that would make Davis as Food Destination extremely hard to get off the ground, and it is going to be hard enough to get off the ground as it is.

Todd Edelman

Roberta, the "reasons given" you mention is simply under the "fair share" umbrella. So is my end still a different one?

I want Davis to create a state-of-the-art public ROW private vehicle storage system. It will work best for people with smart phones, but can have a limited version for those with other access interfaces. It will be super simple and easy: You'll open the Davis Parking app that's heavily marketed as part of all promotion about Davis or stuff that will lead people here. On the app you will pick your destination area and you'll see various parking spaces with their cost at the estimated time of your arrival (calculated based on GPS, you can amend etc.). You will pick a spot and get various choices depending on how long you want to stay -- if the system knows you're leaving at a certain time, it can plan on filling that, similar to carshare I suppose. Some of the parking will be free or very cheap, some will cost a reasonable sum, it will be dynamic based on time, location, demand etc. If for some reason everyone wants to park in a particular zone at a particular time, the price will go up a good bit, etc. But you get your space very nearly guaranteed, you have some flex time etc. I am not sure how this will work in relation to the 80 to 85% thing -- the system might keep some spaces open for spontaneous parking, but it would cost more.

Where are the Davis food tourists going to park? Ideally some will come on the train, of course. Some will come from area hotels by shuttle, bus, L/U, bike, foot etc. I will not support some endeavor designed to attract a lot of people that doesn't have a transport plan, or takes responsibility for part of a transport plan.

The Davis grid is not designed for the amount of traffic on it. The 4th St. garage isn't peripheral because one has to go through a neighborhood to get to it. For Davis Depot, the last thing you want to is create a huge P&R structure with one motor vehicle access point to narrow streets in all directions.

Rick Entrikin

I agree with Roberta's analysis of the context in which the alleged need for paid parking has been presented to citizens. It clearly has been stated as a need for improved automobile circulation. But, at the same time, metered parking would cost nearly $1million to implement in the first year alone. Most opposition to the proposed plan before council has focused on the need to try the many less expensive, less "Draconian," if you wish, Task Force recommendations FIRST.

Todd, your creativity and the idealism embodied in your proposal(s) are definitely meritorious. BUT, in our socioeconomic environment, the first question most people ask (for practical purposes alone) is - How much will it cost?

You argue that nothing is free, but advocate for "free," remote parking areas and "free" shuttles. Those are great objectives, but how much would the land cost? And the shuttles? And what of the cost to operate such a system? I am not arguing against your plan, but I am arguing that implementation of paid parking in the core will NOT advance your goals.

If you believe that your vision can succeed with an influx of money, then perhaps it would be more efficacious to argue with council to spend $717,000 on your plan - and not on parking meters.

Roberta L. Millstein

Todd, to add to what Rick says, which I agree with:

My main point was that the current proposal is "not ready for prime time," and not even close. What you propose is very different from the current proposal, which is not "dynamic based on time, location, demand etc." I could more easily support a proposal like the one you suggest, which is more consistent with what the task force recommends, and is less likely to hurt downtown businesses by charging for parking at all times, even slow times.

So, it seems that you and I agree that the current proposal is not what we need. I'm very happy to discuss details of other proposals, including shuttles, etc. The problem is that this isn't going to happen by March 22.

Rick Entrikin

Roberta, you wrote exactly what I was thinking, but wrote it far better than I could have. Todd, Roberta is right: your proposals, as creative and promising as they might be, are NOT before the council right now. And, IF council approves nearly $1 million to move ahead with the rigid plan they are considering on March 22, the chances of money being allocated for your (or any other) more dynamic proposals will evaporate for the foreseeable future.

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