Parking is not the solution

(Apologies to whoever thought “Panhandling is not the solution” should be the slogan of Worcester)

I haven’t been attending City Council meetings because I’ve been otherwise occupied on Tuesday evenings.

But even I couldn’t ignore D3 Councilor George Russell’s battle cry:

This is Worcester, we need parking.”

To which one can only respond with a resounding No!

Councilor Russell is to be commended for using Facebook to communicate with constituents; the wall is, unfortunately, not readable for non-FB users.  Here are more of his thoughts on parking:

One can only wonder which projects in Worcester have failed without enough parking.  Surely a lack of parking was not the reason the Galleria (and her daughter, the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets) failed.

The problems of Worcester do not stem from a lack of parking.  They stem from a lack of vision and, especially, an inability to be brave and creative in long-term planning.

The problem is not that “too many times urban planners use Boston standards while designing projects.”  The problem is that we only see Worcester for what it is now and do not demand that our city be the best Worcester it can be.  And “best” does not involve more parking.

In the In Our Time newsletter, Melvin Bragg quoted Beatrice Han-Pile, who quoted Foucault as saying that “you can’t change a culture without changing its institutions.”

With apologies to Bragg, Han-Pile, and Foucault, we can’t change Worcester without changing the Worcester mindset.

There is a generation coming up — of people my age and younger — who want to live in densely populated, vibrant urban areas.  These are people we want to be encouraging to live in downtown Worcester.

We need to plan our downtown for people who might want (and choose) options that don’t fit into the real estate agent single-home-on-a-quarter-acre-lot paradigm.

There are people who want to be able to walk to work.  They don’t need to own a car.  They would like access to good public transportation and car-sharing services like ZipCar.

Some of the things that would encourage them:

  • quality, affordable housing
  • a variety of businesses and restaurants (including — gasp! — food trucks)
  • welcoming public spaces (parks, pedestrian streets, trees)
  • employment they can walk or bike to

Notice “parking garage” is not on that list.

First, we already have plenty of parking garages.  As Tim McGourthy noted, the old mall East and West Garages remain.  We have two municipal garages within blocks of CitySquare.  And — lest we forget — we’ve already spent $20 million on the garage at Union Station.  We would be far better to make sure that pedestrian access to and from the Union Station garage was safe (and obvious), rather than construct additional garages.

Second, we need to be planning for the city we want to have, not the city we already have.

We already live in a city that requires a car to get to many places (or to get to many places in a reasonable amount of time, or after a certain hour).  Do we always want to live in that city?

We already live in a city that considers parking first and public transportation last.  Do we always want to live in that city?

Parking should not be an automatic necessity, and public transportation shouldn’t always be relegated to the nice-to-have category.

The Standing Committee on Economic Development will be continuing this discussion next Tuesday at 5:30pm.

I would rather the committee spent an hour discussing 11 (no, 12!) new uses  for old churches rather than further maintenance the status quo.  The taxpayers of the city have paid enough for parking garages.

Now let’s get on with the business of discussing whether this DIF is what we need.

7 thoughts on “Parking is not the solution

  1. Joe says:

    RE: Urban Krag
    I doubt Worcester could support two Rock Gyms. (We already have Central Rock: http://www.centralrockgym.com/worcester/) It’s kind of a niche.

    However, adaptive reuse is a great thing.

  2. Tracy Novick says:

    To your list, I would only add: longer hours and better coverage in our mass transit.
    It’s silly that I live on a bus line and can’t take a bus to and from School Committee meetings (that happen at the bus hub). But if the last bus to my side of town leaves downtown at 7, I have no choice but to drive (and thus park downtown).

  3. Sprout says:

    I think the parking issue is so interesting it should be the subject of a blogger get together.

    Also, do you have a copy of “A Pattern Language”? http://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Language-Buildings-Construction-Environmental/dp/0195019199

  4. Eric K. says:

    This is GREAT stuff……

    I second Sprout’s suggestion that we should have a blogger get together to discuss (less) parking. Perhaps we could have the get together on a WRTA bus? A rolling get together…..

  5. Eric K. says:

    Yes, the (less) is my opinion and not that of Sprout.

    I really need to write (and read) more better clearly…….

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