Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wrapping Up

Essentially my goal throughout this blog has been to shed some light on the relevance of parking in urban environments. Each city faces its own challenges; however, each one has at one time or another struggled with parking issues. This is because the prevalence of cars in this country (the United States) increased during the 1990s when the economy was booming. Families were moving from owning one car to two automobiles becoming the standard. This led me to question whether or not cars are truly necessary to live comfortably in an urban setting. Over the past two decades the need for parking has increased significantly and the built environment has had to adjust accordingly. For some people this has meant they have to leave earlier in the morning in order to account for the time they will spend searching for parking and for others it has been trying to prevent parking from replacing a meaningful part of their community. The people parking has caused some of the biggest problems for is preservationist. Although preservation has had advocates for close to two hundred years now the general public has only recently become interested. With the idea of being green becoming more popular and people trying to do their part in helping the planet preservation has risen in the ranks of importance to most people. So the answer to my earlier question is that there really is no one solution to the problem. What I hope people take form this blog is not that parking is bad or that I think everyone should use public transportation, but that it is important to understand what is happening in the environment around you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

If parking were not provided would less people drive? It seems as though people drive to most places because the option is available. The price of parking alone was enough to change my mind, but some people are willing to hand over the cash for the convenience. So once the people unwilling to pay have been weeded out that still leaves quite a few people. There are codes and ordinances for all other aspects of parking, so why not on the amount. This does not give license for those constructing garages to build as high as they would like either. When a parking structure is more noticeable than an actual building it is time to make some adjustments. It is a good idea to look for solutions to a problem before it gets out of control. When there is enough parking for one hundred plus cars within less than a block priorities need to be reevaluated. There should not be that many people in such a small proximity unless there is a major event. In the case of an event parking is usually not allowed in the immediate area. So then the question becomes what purpose does this parking really serve. It is not ever used to its full capacity and in cases where it could be it is not properly utilized. This would lead one to believe that if parking were more efficient then there could be less of it. It is important to look for areas of waste and use them to eliminate some of the excess. No one ever cries or is distraught when a parking garage is demolished, so why have so many? The answer must lie in what already exist. Obviously there are more car owners today then there were when most of the structures in Baltimore were built; however, cars should not dictate the development of Baltimore. The city should dictate how and if parking fits into it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Preservation vs. Parking

Baltimore Heritage is a preservation organization located in Baltimore, Maryland. It focuses on local preservation issues in the area. Some of its biggest struggles have been with parking which is not typically an issues associated with preservation. Institutions are supported by parking and Baltimore Heritage has realized that shunning it completely is not the answer. When people come into the city to attend events or visit they want a safe place to park their vehicle. No one wants to return from a fabulous evening only to find their vehicle vandalized or the victim of a hit and run. Parking is not on the majority of the populations radar; however, organizations such as Baltimore Heritage are shedding light on the issue. They make people aware of the threats to historic sites and usually play major roles in rallying support for sites that would otherwise go unnoticed. Sometimes people just need a little push and the organization is willing to offer that. Baltimore and other cities like it are full of amazing history that is threatened by parking lots and structures. Most people probably find parking important especially during a crowded day when it is scarce, but it is not a must. In a city public transportation should be utilized and walking should also be encouraged. It is so easy to hop in your car and go to a place, but it is not always practical. A twenty minute walk never hurt anybody. It would not only benefit the environment, but it would give people a chance to exercise that they would not normally have. In the years to come preservation will hopefully gain more supporters and become more important to the average person.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Central Park

Central park is bustling with people going about their Saturday afternoon activities. The majority of its occupants (with the exception of cyclists and runners) are traveling in pairs. There are not too many people here alone unless they are exercising or walking their dog. This Saturday brings out parents with their children, couples and the casual group of friends. A couple was at the Bethesda Fountain taking wedding portraits. No one was really too concerned about what anyone else was doing. Everyone was just enjoying the day. There were pick up games of volleyball on the courts throughout the park and there was even a rollerskating group near the band shell. The road was dominated by cyclists, roller skaters, runners and carriages, but the paths belonged to the pedestrian. No one was in a rush. Some people had left the path to enjoy other activities such as boating, baseball games and sailing electronic boats. Children were waiting in line for the carousel and people were sitting on the bedrock reading books. Relaxation seemed to be the theme of the day. Sheep Meadow was filled with people sunbathing and taking naps. There were gondola rides across the lake for couples and the line for boats was out the gate. There were people riding horse drawn carriages and bike carriages around the park. People were taking photos and documenting their day with their children, friends and families. Overall it was a wonderful afternoon in Central Park and everyone was making the most of the weather.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Park and Ride

I must admit that some mornings I drive to the train station when I could take the bus. The thing that separates Baltimore buses from say New York or Washington D.C. is that they are notoriously unreliable. The other morning my co-worker (who lives in D.C.) was talking about how the bus took ten to fifteen minutes to get to her stop. I had to laugh to myself since that is how frequently the buses run in Baltimore during rush hour. Compared to other cities Baltimore's public transportation system is subpar at best. It is definitely a car dependent city. If you do not own a car everything becomes a little bit harder. What could convince the city to spend more money on public transportation? A city should not require a car. It is not like there aren't people who take the bus. The bus was so crowded the other day that people were standing over the yellow line. With the amount of people that own weekly and monthly bus passes there could not possibly be a shortage of funds. There is an underwhelming desire to improve the system from its current state because people have become complacent. Even if they have to sit through traffic and even if it cost less to buy a monthly pass than to pay for gas they would still rather drive. Why is this? Because no one wants to wait for extended periods of time for the bus only to find themselves standing again on an overcrowded bus once it finally decides to arrive. It is an important step in the growth of Baltimore to improve upon the areas in which it is lacking. It needs to be competitive in order to become an attractive location to the military families being brought in by Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). If it can not compete then families will look elsewhere. This is a chance to bring in much needed money to a city with so much untaped potential. Otherwise Baltimore will always wonder what if.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

University Transportation

There are several universities in the City of Baltimore and they undoubtedly bring in a good deal of traffic. The shuttles run by each school offer students an opportunity to get around the area without using their individual vehicles. It not only benefits those students that do not have cars, but it also cuts down on the traffic. People like convenience and usually look to their cars to provide that comfort. Universities such as Towson have on and off campus routes that provide services to students who need to get to class or go to the train station. The benefits of a service like this one are that less traffic is coming into the downtown area and makes a more livable environment for residents and visitors. The city should budget for each school to provide extensive shuttle services because not everyone has a car and the need is there. The city stands to benefit from such a deal because less traffic makes for a more pleasant environment. When tourists come visit and have a pleasant experience then they will recommend a place to people they know and its popularity will increase. More popularity means more tourist which means more money and there isn't a city in this country that could not use more money in this economy. In addition the fewer students that bring their cars into the downtown area the more parking there will be for tourist and residents which will inevitably eliminate the need for as much parking (in the form of lots and structures). People pay extra money to avoid the hassle of driving around for extended periods of time searching for parking. Baltimore should consider a solution of this nature because the population only stands to increase with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) bringing so many military families into Maryland. This is the opportune time for Baltimore and it needs to seize the moment before it disappears.

User Friendly

Can the average person come into New York and use the public transportation system? It can be overwhelming at first glance and even third and fourth glances. Like with anything the more you use it the better you become, but that is not helpful when you have places to be. As amazing as the system is it is so intricate that new comers can easily get confused. Of course it is best to have someone with you that knows the ropes the first few times, but everyone does not have that luxury. There needs to be more options for those who want or need to drive. People who are visiting for a few days do not want to be bothered with figuring out the way the system works. The catch twenty-two is that parking is so expensive that taking a cab suddenly looks appealing. People want convenience and practicality all in one, but it is possible that those looking to visit New York should not expect it. Regardless of how unlikely it may be it is always nice when a place can accommodate everyone. Like real estate, parking cost more the more in demand it is. New York is not exactly booming with tons of land to place sprawling parking lots. Even if the space were there that does not mean it needs to be used to its full capacity. People seem to have a problem with empty space especially in the city. It is not always a bad thing. People need breathing room and the city is desperately lacking it. Whether it be parking or open space the city needs to focus on opening up the space and not always piling building on top of building.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why Preserve Instead of Park?

New York has taken eliminated the need to deal with many of its parking issues by creating a public transit system that is more efficient than driving to work. Why drive if you can get there faster through other methods. Most parking in Manhattan is underground, but that is not plausible for preexisting structures. Preservation depends on the ability of those in the field to anticipate what the next big threat will be. There are always the naysayers that have no interest in preserving anything, anywhere or at anytime. There could be plenty of parking in New York if every historic building was replaced with parking. The question is how many people would stick around to see that happen. The charm that attracts so many tourists and incoming residents to New York is that it has incorporated the old and new into one place. The most appealing part of the city is that the new does not overshadow the old. People can see the new and the old and appreciate each for what they are. Parking can be apart of that equation if done right. It's best if parking is kept as close to the ground as possible. A low profile will give parking a better reputation because people in the design world will not have so much distain for it.

Preservation and Parking

Most preservationist cringe at the thought of parking because it is a constant threat to historic structures. It is important to incorporate parking into an area without compromising the integrity of the built environment around it. As congested as the streets of most cities are the more cars that can fit on the street the better. An apartment building near Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore,MD has a parking structure that is actually taller than the apartment it is serving. Who wants to be a resident of the top floor when their view is a parking garage? A garage should be secondary to the building it is serving and not compete with it in size. This alone is a reason to promote street parking, but unfortunately this is not always a practical solution. A solution that may be more attractive to everyone would be if parking structures were aloud, but had height limitations. There are of course the limitations set by the International Building Codes; however, those are not enough in some cases. Cities need to protect their best interest. Tall parking structures are not only aesthetically displeasing, but also encourage more people to drive. Baltimore is not exactly known for its public transportation and with all the people that drive it will never be. Parking should be more of a concern to preservationists because it has everything to do with how well older buildings can be incorporated into today's lifestyle and needs. In the future massive parking structures might be avoidable if they are considered more incremental to the layout of the city.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To Sum It Up

Parking is not something that has just one solution. There may never be the perfect answer for how to make it apart of city design. What is really important is that people continue to realize it is a problem because the more attention it gets the better the solutions will become. Parking is unique to each place and what works in Baltimore may not work in New York and vice versa. By studying the ways that other places have dealt with the problem may lead to each place working out something completely appropriate for the problems it is facing. In the design field people like to talk about what works and what doesn't. If half as much time was spent coming up with solutions then eventually something would be bound to work. The more answers there are the more chances there are of getting it right. Come on people the population is steadily increasing. If something isn't done soon then all American cities will be like New York City. The difference is that no other city in this country is equipped to handle the volume that is packed into that twenty-three mile island. No one wants to be the next Manhattan. Cities may want to be similar to it for various reasons, but no one is truly aspiring to be just like it. It would take the joy out of visiting different cities. It is so much fun to experience the history and individuality of each city. People want to see the real McCoy not an impersonator.

Street Cars

The relationship between parked cars, traffic and pedestrians is an extremely dynamic one or chaotic depending on how you look at it. Street parking is a city epidemic. It is just so crazy. Trying to park without hitting other parked cars and then watching for the passing cars so that you are not holding up traffic. For a person that is fairly new to driving or that lives in the suburbs it can be nerve racking and anxiety building. Since most cities were designed during a time before cars it has been a struggle for them to incorporate space for them within their limits. Aside from changing the entire layout of the city it is virtually impossible the fit parking into most cities gracefully. France is the perfect example because when they had the chance to rearrange the layout of their city to better accommodate cars they did and it is all the better for it. Most places are not confronted with such a opportunity, so instead they must play the cards they have been dealt. No one could have known years ago that cars would be dominating the roads. Instead of trying to fit parking in with the already existing structures cities should opt to go underground when and if they can afford to. There needs to be an effort to keep the streets clear of parked cars. People hit parked cars, people cause accidents when they are trying to pull out of and into spaces and it takes forever to find a space. Street parking can be convenient when you just want to run in and out of a store, but overall it is just an inconvenience. When you have to ride around looking for parking because there are all of these regulations on how, where and when you can park your vehicle. At the end of the day parking will always be a difficult situation in the city.

The Underground

Parking garages in New York are kind of discreet. You do not have to go on a scavenger hunt because when you pass by you will notice them. That being said the sign is not overbearing and the entrance is not put out there. The entrance is just a dark whole in the wall, but it must be a parking garage because what other use would have an entrance of that nature. Parking entrances in Baltimore are loud, noticeable and begging for cars to enter. This is the complete opposite of New York parking. The underground parking provides the space for other uses such as hotels, apartments or offices. It also makes for a much more pleasant atmosphere above ground when pedestrians do not have to deal with the overwhelming heat being produced by the concrete reflecting the heat rays away from itself. So immediately by eliminately the parking the temperature decreases. Then there is the benefit of having usable space that passersby can take advantage of and enjoy. Parking garages are not exactly known for their safe, warm and friendly environment. Floors and floors of empty parking spaces are not places anyone would want to be walking by at night time. It creates an area in which people want to avoid; therefore, becoming dangerous. On the flip side areas with a lot of commercial space on the first level provide an automatic sense of security because it brings large crowds throughout the day and night. The more people the less crime and the better everyone feels. At that point the city reaches its peak potential.

Parking Spaces

The Inner has changed immensely over the past twenty years. Harborplace was added in 1980 and was followed by the Pier 6 Concert Pavilion and the Hyatt Hotel in 1981 and then Camden Yards opened in 1992. The area has slowly become more successful and has brought more revenue into Baltimore City. The harbor is an ideal location within the city and could not exist in every city. It is a genius solution to an otherwise defunct, dead area of the city. The reinvention of the space in the harbor was the beginning of the the frequent tourism. Once it became successful then measures had to be taken to deal with the mass amounts of people it would be bringing into the city annually. In order to cater to the tourists parking had to be added within a reasonable distance of the the attractions. The comfortable walking distance for most people before they reach their destination is a half mile. So then in order to make guest happy parking must be located near any place that is not immediately outside of the harbor. While this is convenient for those visiting it is not the best design solution. Parking lots and structures change the aesthetic of an area. As a designer you are always taught to look for a better more appropriate solution for the area you are planning. To just give the people what they want and provide ample parking is the easy way out. As a designer you should give the people what they never thought they wanted and then have them love it. As a designer that is the most success anyone could have. Parking sucks the life out of an area because then no people interact there. They just park their cars there and then head to their destination. An area where all a person can do is park their vehicle has to be the biggest waste of space ever invented. Parking lots and structures are missed opportunities. They are the spaces that beg for life.

Parking in the City

I am studying parking trends in Manhattan and Baltimore in order to understand how public parking evolves over time so that I can better explain to my blog followers the increasing/decreasing need for cars in each city. This blog is meant to distinguish the major difference in the dependence on the automobile in a city with a less active public transit versus a city with a very active public transit system. Each city has its own unique set of issues surrounding parking and how it deals with it. A city such as Baltimore may choose to use various parking structures throughout the downtown area to alleviate the strain on the streets and parking lots. Other cities may like New York may decide that underground parking and stacked parking is a better option. The need is determined by the demand and the amount of space allotted. A smaller city can afford to take up countless square feet with above ground parking structures whereas a more heavily populated city can not sacrifice the space just so the few car owners have a place to park their vehicles. A comparison of the quantity of parking lots in both cities would find that both have quite a few. The difference arises when the amount of above ground parking structures is taken into account. The next several posts will be a detailed walk through the parking in both cities. They will explain their similarities and differences in order to better show how they relate to the city in which they serve.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The Inner Harbor is the premier tourist attraction in Baltimore, Maryland. Taking this into account one would assume that there would need to be parking to accommodate all of the traffic. This results in a combination of street parking, above and underground parking structures and parking lots. The harbor is surrounded by office buildings, restaurants, hotels and general public gathering space. The experience at the inner harbor is truly unique in that there is a vast amount of open space that is not encroached upon by large buildings. With the exception of the World Trade Center, Baltimore all of the tall buildings are on the other side of the street. It has a different feel than in other cities that have their open space enclosed within the city. It is refreshing to be able to look across the harbor and see the other side as oppose to cumbersome skyscrapers. One thing that does distract from the nice landscape is the amount of surface parking and parking structures within a one block radius of the water. It is not as overwhelming as skyscrapers for miles; however, several stories of concrete is not the most pleasant sight. Parking must be addresses since there are so many tourist, but there are ways to deal with the situation that are more aesthetically pleasing. Underground parking although expensive is a way to free up space for either open space or buildings. Is there anything more visibly offensive than seeing rows and rows of cars amongst otherwise beautiful scenery. Another option is to disguise the parking with cladding or even turning it into a green wall. Anything is better than looking at concrete masses.

Bird's Eye View

Lower Manhattan easily has fifty parking garages. The difference between Manhattan and Baltimore is that an aerial view of the city does not even hint at this fact. The secret to their success is underground parking and not putting parking on the upper levels of prominent structures. Not many people are going to be flying close enough to the city to appreciate this fact, but imagine if the New York skyline was cluttered with cars. Then who would want to use it as the opening scene of their movie? A fly through of rooftops covered in cars is not quite as appealing as architectural detailing. It plays into the romanticized image that most Americans have of New York. Image is everything for a city. The image is what brings in the tourists. It should visually communicate everything the city is about. Appearance is critical because it is what people base their opinions on. The first impression is lasting and once a negative one has been made it will take a long time to dig out of the hole. The idea is to get it right the first time. A city depends heavily on the people that live and visit there. There is a clear cut line between those cities that are frequently visited and those that are not. The ones with fewer tourist are farther behind. It is not because they do not have the potential. The revenue that tourists bring into an area allows for maintenance and upgrades that would otherwise not be apart of the budget. Money is always a problem. The budget of a city is always in the news. It is the deciding factor in what a city can and can not do. It either helps it progress or causes it to fall behind the other prominent cities of the time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The New City

What makes some people attracted to the suburbs versus the city and others attracted to the city versus the suburbs? There are some individuals that can thrive in either, but for the majority they want one or the other. Recently planners have been trying to incorporate some of the things people love about the suburbs into city life. A friendly environment where everyone knows each other is definitely a trait associated with suburban or rural living. While the city may not be a place capable of that kind of intimacy planners are trying to incorporate the small town feel into new developments. There are so many ideas floating around in the design world and it is important to filter through those that work and those that do not work. Even people living in the city desire more space regardless of their love for city life. Space is something that can not be reworked or changed to soot the owner, you either have it or you do not. In some respects the city has advantages that the suburbs will never have such as amazing transit systems, but what the suburbs do have to offer is an abundance of space. Planners are thriving on the reintroduction of new urbanism (Richard Layman). Ideas have been recycled throughout the history of architecture and the built environment. Taking old ideas and making them new again is the key to a successful career in most industries, but especially in the field of design. The city is headed in a direction that has been seen, but not to this degree. The world has never seen a time like this where the environment is going through so many changes. It is important that design steps up to the plate and is what the environment needs at this point in its history.

Sustainable New York

While most would attribute the success of New York City to the intuitive forward thinking of Robert Moses will it be able to hold its position as one of the most sustainable cities with up and comers like Portland,Oregon on its heels. New York does have a one up on many other U.S. cities because it is the epicenter of so many cultures and industries that the country thrives off of, but when it comes to people who want a less dense, less busy environment they may look to places like Portland. As I have previously mentioned parking is a major issue in New York, but that lends to its well organized transit system. Despite the fact that Portland is moving away from using vehicles they have more space and more opportunities for those who would like to drive rather than ride public transit. The people of Portland seem to have a better grasp on what it takes to be sustainable as a whole and not just as an individual. Even the University of Oregon offers opportunities for organizations and people to be educated on how to become leaders in sustainability. It is crucial that every city becomes more of a unit when trying to build towards a better environment. While I was visiting New York I saw a huge counter keeping track of how much green house gas we are omitting. I thought it was a great idea because it makes everyone aware of what is happening around them. This hopefully makes those passing by think about what they might do to be more "green". If New York wants to hold its position it better watch out and not just rest on its laurels of being the most populated city in the country.

New Urbanism

According to Wikipedia, new urbanism is an urban design movement which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. This concept is nothing new to most people, but it is only recently that people outside of the architectural and planning fields have taken interest. The importance of the pedestrian to new urbanism is undeniable. Venice is the perfect example of how new urbanism should work. The city has no cars and functions purely as a pedestrian oriented city. It would be amazing if this concept could be incorporated into every city especially considering the amount of accidents involving pedestrians occur each year. In places like the United States completely eliminating traffic is a stretch to say the least. The overall structure of the country is just not conducive to having absolutely no cars. One can only imagine how difficult it would become for places that do not currently have public transit if suddenly there were no cars. The difference between a place like Venice and a place like Chesterfield, Virginia (my hometown) is that everything one would need for day to day life in Venice is within walking distance. Some of the residents of my county live more than a twenty minute drive from the nearest grocery store. To try to work a public transit into an area like that is not feasible. It would require more money and time then anyone is willing to put toward the effort. In a city everything is within minutes of its residents. So then the question becomes how relevant is new urbanism to those who like myself live in rural America?

Resolving Parking

New York is probably the last place anyone with a car would want to have to park. The New York city Department of Planning is trying to make the best out of a bad situation by providing maps of parking facilities . Parking has to be addressed for those who do not know and the department has come to a nice compromise by having maps that can be accessed online and in the city. While it may still be discouraging to drive in such a dense city this step gives some hope to those interested in taking on the challenge. In essence the public transit system provides a much needed service to what would otherwise be immobile city. Not immobile in the sense of not being able to get around, but immobile in the sense that there would be constant traffic jams if everybody had to drive. What we really have to recognize is that New York and cities like it could not properly function if it were not for their public transportation systems. The need is what makes these systems the best. It is important that people realize that New York is an ideal and as with most ideals it is difficult to replicate. Instead of trying to go and recreate New York other cities should make adjustments based on their situation. Cities such as Portland, Oregon are choosing to be green and are making their own rules on how their city can be green. Hopefully other cities and even suburban areas will take notes from them and do what works best for their particular area.

Urban Park(ing)

I am studying parking in urban environments because I want to know how it shapes its surrounding area. Does parking shape its surroundings or do its surroundings shape it? Take New York City for example. Driving is almost an inconvenience because once a person has arrived at their destination they have to search for a spot. Of course that is the case in most major cities, but the amount of people in New York enhances the magnitude of the situation. In fact, there are several sites that navigate a visitor through parking in New York. I think it is safe to say that in the case of older cities parking was designed around the already existing layout. This leads me into my next question. If the city originated before the need for parking then why is everything based around parking? Readings such as the Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability [Riverhead Books,2009], by journalist Davis Owen would have you believe that cities especially New York are all about public transit. While that is probably true for most of its residents where does that leave visitors? Anyone living outside of New York has to find alternative methods to enter and then get around the city. There is a certain importance on the limited parking within the city. If parking was of no importance then it would be free because so few people would use it. I am more inclined to believe that people would rather use public transit because of how difficult it is to find a parking space without having to pay an arm and a leg.