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Petition to the Santa Cruz City Council

Please accept the plan developed by METRO staff to offer free bus passes to all workers in Downtown Santa Cruz, paid for by parking revenues. Bus passes are the key contributor in reducing rates of drive-alone commutes in places such as Downtown Seattle (25% drive alone) and Downtown Boulder (43% drive alone), compared to Downtown Santa Cruz (58% drive alone). Reducing drive-alone commutes frees up parking for customers at a much lower cost than new parking structures.

(Scroll down for more facts and good references.)

Here's why:

The City of Santa Cruz is proposing to build 5 levels of parking above a ground-floor library and commercial space on the site that currently hosts the Downtown Farmers' Market. There are many ways to reduce the workforce demand for parking and free up more customer parking that should be implemented before committing to a new garage, according to three urban planning consultants who spoke to the Planning Commission and Downtown Commission in 2015.
These include:

  • Free bus passes for all workers downtown. (See the example of Boulder, Colorado below)
  • Emergency ride home vouchers with taxi and ride service companies.
  • Credit at bike stores for purchase and repair.
  • Discount parking for carpools.
  • Cash rewards such as Stanford's $300 per year reward to staff who limit their parking to 8 days per month.

"Parking garages require 325 sq feet per car when accounting for ramps, turn around space, etc. No agency will make enough on user fees to pay for that space. We've become very conservative. [We need to maximize] existing inventories before we step out into that arena of financing new resources."

– Janis Rhodes, JR Parking Consultants   

More facts

Rewards for commuting by bus, bike or carpool need to be combined with reform of permit pricing. Currently the monthly cost of a parking permit available to downtown workers and residents is $39/month, well below the City's cost to provide that parking space ($105/month). The City should adopt a policy of phasing out subsidies for parking, and replace them with benefits for working commuters who carpool, ride the bus, walk or ride a bike to work.

The City's estimate for building a new garage is $37 million. The City's payment on debt (at 4.5% for 30 years), maintenance and administration would put the cost of a new parking space at well over $400 per month. Building a new garage would require raising parking revenue in the Downtown Parking District by approximately 75%. Ironically, raising the price of parking by this much could reduce demand by a significant amount.

See what Downtown business owners say about the garage proposal. Click on this link.

The Situation in Boulder, Colorado

  • Boulder's downtown has 1 parking pace per 1000 square feet of commercial space.
  • Santa Cruz's downtown has 1.8 parking spaces per 1000 square feet of commercial space.
  • Boulder is not planning to build any more parking structures downtown.
  • Even if all surface parking lots in Santa Cruz were replaced by buildings, the City would still have many more parking spaces per sqare foot than Boulder.
  • In Boulder 43% of downtown employees drive alone to work. (It's 58% in Santa Cruz).
  • In Boulder 23% of downtown employees commute by bus. (It's 4% in Santa Cruz).

In 1991 Boulder implemented an Eco Pass (free bus pass) program. All downtown employees receive an Eco Pass, paid for by parking revenue. They say: "The City's strongest Transportation Demand Management tool is Eco Pass".
See the Boulder Progress Report. Page 26 of this report describes their Eco Pass.

Other relevant articles

parking meter
No Parking Here

Mother Jones, in the January/February issue of 2016, ran an excellent piece by Clive Thompson under the above headline.

In this article, the renowned expert on parking issues—Donald Shoup—is quoted. Here's what he says:
Parking is wildly mismanaged—it’s probably our most inefficient use of resources in many ways.
The complete article is well worth reading. Click right here to read it.

Imagining City Life After the Car

Here's another piece, from Christopher Pollon, writing in early 2017 from Canada, under the above headline. He writes:
Our love affair with the private vehicle is waning. Does it still deserve a third of our urban living space?” The full article is here.