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St. Louis Zoning Needs Maximum Parking Requirements Instead of Minimums

A few months ago a reader sent me an article about a trend toward new residential buildings constructed without parking:

A wave of new residential construction projects in places like Seattle, Boston, and Miami are showing that, yes, modern American cities can build housing without any car parking on site. (Real Estate Trend: Parking-Free Apartment Buildings)

It wasn’t surprising to me to see this in cities that value the pedestrian and support public transit by actually using it. Here only a few of us value pedestrians, use public transit. Bankers wanted condos/apartments to have more than one parking space per unit, requiring a minimum of a 1:1 ratio. For example, a 100-unit project couldn’t have 80-90 spaces, it needed at least 100 to get financing.

In Dcember Boston approved a new project with zero resident parking, raising eyebrows even there:

Recall that in September developer Related Beal asked for the BRA to approve a revised plan for the residential component of Lovejoy Wharf: 175 condos instead of a few hundred apartments; and, please, let us eliminate the 315-space garage. The developers’ logic? There’s so much public transit nearby and the project’s smackdab in one of the nation’s most walkable (and bikable) cities that it’s sheer cloud cuckoo land to follow the Boston regs of at least one parking spot for every two housing units. (No Parking: Boston Green-Lights Car-Less Condo)

One space for every two units? St. Louis doesn’t have any parking requirements downtown, but lenders mandate one space per unit. Outside of downtown at least one space per unit is required. What we need to do in places like downtown, around near light rail stations & bus transfer centers, is have maximum parking requirements, rather than minimums. I’d set the maximum pretty high initially, like 0.8/0.9 spaces per unit.  It could be set to automatically lower over the next 20-25 years, ending up at say one parking space for every two units.

Currently when most people rent an apartment, or buy a condo, they get a parking space included. Of course, parking isn’t free, but the cost isn’t clear to the consumer when it is bundled. Just the act of charging a separate fee will cause the end user to begin to evaluate/question car ownership. Instead of $800/month the apartment might be $750/mo with parking at $50/mo.

A few downtown buildings do this, one just reopened. CityParc is one of six 1950s buildings originally part of the urban renewal project called Plaza Square.

This outdoor space is built on top of a parking garage attached to CityParc, click image for website.
This outdoor space is built on top of a parking garage attached to CityParc, click image for website.

This is the only one of the six with garage parking, but even that isn’t enough for one space per unit. Public policy has an impact on outcomes, require minimum parking you’ll get more than necessary and fewer pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Your Ranking of On-Street Paid Parking Options

March 16, 2014 Featured, Parking 20 Comments
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

The St. Louis Treasurer’s Office is looking at new parking technology for the City of St. Louis to replace the coin-only individual meters. For the poll this week I want to get a sense of which type of physical payment machine readers prefer.

Individual meters

We’re all familiar with the individual meter, but in the 21st century they can now accept credit cards, but not bills. Paying via a mobile app means you don’t need to fiddle with the meter.

Pay-and-Display stations

With Pay-and-Display you park, walk to a station to buy your time, take the receipt back to your car and stick it inside the side window (it has a Post-It like substance to self adhere), the paid receipt is valid in the same zone until the time expires.  With this option parking space length is not defined.  Accepts coin, cash, credit cards.  Paying via a mobile app means you don’t need to take a receipt back to your car.

Pay-Per-Space stations

Pay-Per-Space eliminates the need to return to your car. You park, note the 3-4 digit space number you’re parked in, walk to the station, enter the space number, pay for time, go to your destination.  Paying via a mobile app means you can pay while looking at the space number.

Mobile apps work with all three types. In the poll this week I’ve included every combination of the above types, I’d like you to pick the answer that corresponds with the order you prefer them from 1-3, the poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


Another Parking Meter Test Starts Monday

The previous St. Louis Treasurer, Larry Williams, conducted limited testing of modern parking collection technology on South Grand in 2006. There were a couple of blocks of pay-per-space and a few pay-n-display. (FYI: In St. Louis the treasurer is responsible for parking revenue.)

What’s the difference between the two types?

  • With pay-per-space each fixed-length parking space is assigned a number. After parking you walk to a nearby pay station, enter the space number where you  parked, and pay.
  • With pay-n-display you park, walk to a nearby pay station, buy time, return to your vehicle and display  the receipt on the inside of the windshield.

Each has pros & cons compared to each other and against individual meters. In 2006 it was concluded neither pay-per-space or pay-n-display were right for St. Louis. I say the design of the test was flawed — only 2-3 blocks of each and they were next to each other. Someone might park in front of a store and use pay-per-space and a few days later park a block away and use pay-n-display.

A pay=per-space station on South Grand, November 10, 2006
A pay-per-space station on South Grand, November 10, 2006
A pay-n-display machine on South Grand in April 2006
A pay-n-display station on South Grand, November 10 2006

Monday St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones will announce new pilot programs testing new parking technology. The treasurer’s office director of communications, Deborah Johnson, told me via email:

The city has previously tested “pay-n-display” units, where the customer must walk to the unit, print a ticket, and walk back to their car to display the ticket. The multi-space units this pilot is testing will use the “pay by space” method, where the customer types in the 4 digit space number they are parked in and does not have to return to their vehicle to place a ticket. Instead, the system automatically monitors and communicates with enforcement officers.

I reminded her both pay-per-space & pay-n-display were tested simultaneously.

In response to another question she said:

The pilots are in four locations in the city: 10th Street between Chestnut and Washington; Broadway and Pine; Euclid and Laclede; and Euclid and Maryland. The pilot will be in place for six months.

The new equipment is already installed on 10th Street, I posted the following picture to Twitter & Facebook yesterday:

Pay-per-space meter installed on 10th, will be functional starting Monday
Pay-per-space stations on 10th will be functional starting Monday

Of note is the stations on 10th accept coins, bills, and credit cards. You’ll even be able to extend the amount of time via phone!

Instructions to extend time, click image to view website.
Instructions to extend time, click image to view the mobile-optimized website.

From the site:

Extend-by-Phone is an innovative service that enables the parking meter to send you a text message reminder when your parking is about to expire, and allows you to add time to your parking by simply replying to the reminder message with the amount of additional minutes you need.

The FAQ answers common questions, such as fees.  Of course this could mean even more people stay parked longer than the 2-hour limit, see St. Louis Not Enforcing Short-Term Parking Limits.

Small signs with numbers replaced the meters on 10th
Small signs with numbers replaced the meters on 10th

I’m glad to see recent testing isn’t limited to a very tiny test area as in 2006. I also appreciate the caution given the infrastructure costs to change, but I’d hoped for something more modern years ago. Treasurer Jones has only been in office a little over a year and for someone who campaigned on not wanting to be a “parking czar” she and her staff are making changes at a record pace compared to her predecessor.

I look foreword to hearing the official details on Monday.

— Steve Patterson


Readers Prefer Plastic To Pay For On-Street Parking

November 5, 2013 Featured, Parking 3 Comments
Our current parking meters accept coins only.
Our current parking meters accept coins only.

The poll question last week had nothing to do with individual parking meters versus pay stations, the goal was to see the payment options ranked:

Q: Assuming on-street parking rates will increase, what are your two preferred methods of payment?

  1. Plastic (debit/credit) 46 [48.94%]
  2. Coins 22 [23.4%]
  3. Cell phone 16 [17.02%]
  4. Bills 10 [10.64%]

Coins came in a distant second to debit/credit cards. Surprising to me is bills came in very last, but I rarely carry bills now either.

I haven’t tested the “Liberty Meters” being tested in the CWE yet, I should go see how easy they are to use:

Motorists parking in the City of St. Louis – you can stop searching your consoles for loose change! The City Treasurer’s Office is launching a pilot program called,”No Change, No Problem.” Starting May 10th, Sixty (60) new individual credit and debit card accepting parking meters will be installed in the Central West End neighborhood. The “No Change, No Problem” pilot program will run through summer and fall 2013. With this program, drivers can use coins, credit or debit cards to park at one of the new meters. Parking rates will not increase and no additional fees will be charged for using credit or debit cards. These new meters will function the same as coin-operated meters– just more conveniently.

We want to hear from you! Give us some feedback about the new meters. Click the survey button below or comment on the Treasurer’s Office Twitter (@stltreasurer | #stlparkingmeters) or Facebook (St. Louis Treasurer).

Your feedback will help determine whether or not to expand this program to other areas of the city. (Source: St. Louis Treasurer)

Has anyone paid the new test meters using plastic?

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Assuming on-street parking rates will increase, what are your two preferred methods of payment?

For decades the individual parking meter was pretty simple:

The world’s first installed parking meter was in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935.[3][4][5]
Industrial production started in 1936 and expanded until the mid-1980s. The first models were based on a coin acceptor, a dial to engage the mechanism and a visible pointer and flag to indicate expiration of paid period. This configuration lasted for more than 40 years, with only a few changes in the exterior design, like the double-headed version and the incorporation of new materials and production techniques.[6] (Wikipedia)

I included the references because they’re interesting, number 6 especially. The following image is from that source.

From Popular Science, December 1959, via Google Books. Click to view.
From Popular Science, December 1959, via Google Books. Click to view.

Today there are many ways to pay for on-street parking:

  • Coins
  • Bills
  • Debit/Credit
  • Cell Phone (example)

For the poll question this week I’m asking “Assuming on-street parking rates will increase, what are your two preferred methods of payment?” If all goes well, the four options will be ranked. This poll is unscientific, but it lets us see how the readership is thinking. The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson