The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Editorial: Portland’s parking problem

Posted by on August 14th, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Existing conditions on Williams Ave-17

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The issue of new apartments being built in close-in neighborhoods without (or with very little) auto parking has been making headlines in Portland recently. I’m glad to see this story getting the attention it deserves. Portland has a parking problem and the first step to fixing it is awareness that it exists.

In short, developers throughout the central and north eastside have taken advantage of Portland city code that encourages the construction of apartment complexes without any obligation to include auto parking. The thinking was/is that if an apartment building is in a transit/biking/walking-friendly area, the lack of parking wouldn’t be a problem and it would actually encourage more people to go carfree (or low-car). Developers — eager to be seen as “eco-friendly” and save lots of money by not including expensive auto parking — jumped on the opportunity.

Many sustainable transportation advocates probably see that as a good thing, as limiting car use is a necessity for a city to function at its highest potential. That is indeed true; but the problem is we’re just not there yet.

Despite the lack of auto parking, and Portland planners’ dreams, most people still own cars and they need a place to put them. With increasing density (thanks to these apartment buildings), this means people are parking their cars on neighborhood surface streets. This increased demand on neighborhood parking has a lot of real consequences — many of which have come up in bike-related projects.

When activists wanted to try out Portland’s first “parklet” (what PBOT is now calling “street seats”), they were looking at N. Mississippi Avenue as a potential location. But when the idea floated around the neighborhood, there was opposition from some people on the grounds that there was already too much parking pressure on local surface streets.

When PBOT approached a project to improve the bikeway on N. Williams, in one busy area (near N. Failing Ave), the idea of removing parking to create more space for a protected bikeway was off the table before the public process even began. (PBOT’s calculation was that businesses would revolt against the idea.)

The spillover of auto parking on streets near busy commercial corridors also impacts how neighborhood greenways function. The increased traffic, looking for parking space, adds to the volume of cars and makes the side streets less pleasant to ride on. Another issue is when cars are parked right up to the corner, which limits sight lines and can make crossing by foot, bike or car more stressful and sometimes dangerous.

I’m all for developers building in fewer auto parking spots; but we need to be realistic. It seems to me the answer isn’t to roll-back the regulations and require more auto parking. Instead, in the short-term, we need to come up with more creative solutions to storing cars. More importantly, we need to make our planning dreams a reality by making decisions that will allow biking, walking and transit to compete with auto use. If more people felt biking was safe and convenient, and if they had more robust and reliable transit service nearby, we would see a much faster adoption of the carfree and low-car lifestyle I believe city planners hope for.

Put another way, Portland city code aspires to a city that doesn’t quite exist yet… So let’s hurry up and make that city a reality and the parking problem just might solve itself.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • steve scarich August 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Quick question: you said “most people still own cars”. What does that mean exactly? Every apartment in Portland has at least one (or two) cars associated with it? I hear young Portlanders say they don’t have a car, and it is a trend in America that fewer young people own cars than prior generations.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      i mean that a majority of close-in portland residents own at least one car. As for the trends and young people, I know about all that… But we’re not there yet. I feel like we’re in a multi-year transition period where we’re moving toward a new era, but we haven’t shaken the old era yet. Until transportation behaviors truly shifts, we need to address this parking issue.

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      • Bjorn August 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        The majority of housing has off street parking, why not allow some development of units where people aren’t forced to pay for off street parking if they don’t want to utilize it? The average portland household has more than 2 people living in it, should we stop allowing 1 bedroom apartments to be built?

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      • HAL9000 August 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        Part of the problem is of density – Portland’s density is pretty low, which means that there is actually a lot of parking around, streets are relatively uncongested (not counting I-5), so driving is pretty easy and attractive for a lot of people.

        If you look at Seattle or Vancouver BC, they have roughly double the density that Portland does, and a lot more people take mass transit and, in BC, they bike more.

        We shall see what the future holds, but the city is definitely becoming more dense. Downtown Portland, however, has a tiny % of the jobs in the city – roughly 10% – that very few people actually work there.

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  • Anonymaus August 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t think this is a good argument for apartment buildings to include parking. The only way we are going to get where you and I want us to get, is by forcing upon people. People don’t walk in NYC because they like to (well not initially at least), they do it because they can’t drive. We gotta force those hipsters out of their parents’ Camrys. 🙂

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Mr./Ms. Anonymous,

      I’m not making the argument for apt buildings to include more auto parking. In fact, you and I agree. My argument is that the way to “force hipsters out of their parents’ camrys” is to do everything we can to make biking and transit more convenient and plentiful.

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      • Spiffy August 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm

        Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
        Mr./Ms. Anonymous,
        make biking and transit more convenient and plentiful.

        no, we should just stop making driving the easy option…

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        • Utility cyclist (Eugene) August 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm

          I think this is the crux of the issue. There is a simple way to regulate on-street parking; tax it. Parking meter rates are way too low and it serves as a public subsidy for car owners.

          The best and highest use of our public right-of-way is for moving people, not storing private vehicles!

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

          because I believe one thing, doesn’t mean I don’t believe the other. Obviously I think we need both better biking/transit and we need to make driving more inconvenient and expensive.

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          • grumpcyclist August 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm

            Whenever you accuse the Oregonian of running a “bikes vs. cars” article, remember you said this.

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm

              that doesn’t make sense grumpcyclist. Saying that I think we need to make driving less convenient and more expensive isn’t anti-car at all. It’s just realistic. Driving a car is highly subsidized and we don’t glean nearly enough revenue out of it. It is also way too convenient in the inner city and in order to make a more livable city we need to discourage auto abuse and encourage people to be smarter about when they drive and where they drive.

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              • Caleb August 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm

                I’m glad you are for promoting bicycle use in this case, but perhaps what grumpycyclist is getting at is that the Oregonian running bikes vs. cars articles might be similar to you stating your opinions here. You call your perspectives “realistic”, but maybe they see theirs as that, too. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with you or them…just that what’s “realistic” is whatever we as a collective choose to make happen, and any time we call one side more or less “realistic”, we’re basically fostering the “x vs. y” mentality.

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        • mark kenseth August 14, 2012 at 6:13 pm

          Agreed. It should be a less convenient to park a car, and/or more convenient to park a bike. For example, my street is wide enough to support an entire lane of parked cars on either side, yet the only bike parking consists of 3 sign posts (telling people where they can park a car) on the block. The neighborhood I used to live in had no posts along the street (single family homes). As parking for cars becomes less convenient, hopefully bike parking will become more convenient (as I think it is in some areas). Maybe it will someday be like those metal loops along the curbs for horses; there could be a bike corral or two on every block.

          Hopefully car-shares can help alleviate the generational transition that Jonathan mentioned. My girlfriend and I are part of the transition. Both in our 30s; sold my car in 2008, sold her car in 2011. Haven’t looked back.

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      • HAL9000 August 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm

        Copenhagen taxes the crap out of everyone, so they can’t afford cars. Car tax is roughly 200% of the car’s retail value. So that $15,000 Camry is actually $45,000!

        …which explains why you don’t see many Prius’s (Priuii?) over there, they cost like $72k over there. Oh, and they also give bikes a tax break.

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      • AnonyMAUS August 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm

        First of all, please excuse my oversight during proof reading. I meant “is by forcing it upon them”. I agree with you. It sucks. I just feel like if the developers provide that option it is a good thing. I think I just got bothered with the fact that you seemed to call out the developers as if they were doing wrong. The economy is bad, so sure they have to cut costs to make things affordable. But by cutting auto parking is that a bad thing? Isn’t that what we want? Those apartment dwellers will get sick of parking and ditch their car, or just rarely use it (like my friends in NW did). Sure it sucks, I dot like seeing cars bumper to bumper covering both sides of the street all the time. It’s ugly. There seems to be no solution though. Perhaps the first set of apartment dwellers will have cars, but what about the ones in the future? Will the area eventually get dense enough to support car free/car light lifestyles? Maybe there will always be parking ridden streets in dense areas? I don’t know. I do know that I don’t like biking on said steets, though it seems to alleviate itself within a few blocks (even off of Alberta during last Thursday). Is it a price to pay for density and “affordable” inner-eastside housing, probably.

        Just a wannabe wonk thinking out loud…

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    • cw August 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      People in NYC don’t drive because the subway is awesome, not because they don’t want to. I lived in NYC for 10 years, and the transit in Portland SUCKS. Mass transit needs to be improved before people will start thinking about giving up their cars. At a minimum, it should run 24 hours a day.

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  • Case August 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I would still say “most”, as in more than half, of Portlanders own a car, those this is speculation on my part. I have a new apartment complex popping up on 24th and Glisan in my neighborhood. Lots of units, no parking, on a street with a bike lane that is well used. Should be interesting to see the impact it has when it’s full.

    In general I’m not too excited about this plan. As you have said, it looks good on paper, but without investment in public transit it’s just a way for developers to appear green while saving money on the backs of the tax payers. On street parking causes wear and tear that the city has to deal with. Looks like the Free Ride Zone was just moved from the downtown core to developers’ pockets.

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    • Bjorn August 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      One of these buildings is next to the hollywood transit center, it seems pretty plausible to me that at least in that case a lot of the residents may not own a car.

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    • HAL9000 August 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      NW Portland has also repeatedly shot down any parking meter plans, which would include off street parking garages. Dense neighborhoods like NW Portland really need to charge for parking, because of the very high demand for parking.

      Charging for parking of course discourages people from driving in the first place, so this would be an excellent strategy to discourage driving. Alas, NW Portland neighbors and business leaders disagree, at the same time waving their “green credentials” and “liberal credentials” as they drive Prius cars and recycle their organic wine bottles.

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  • Stretchy August 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    In parking-challenged neighborhoods, charge for on-street parking.

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    • Paul Souders August 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      In ALL neighborhoods, charge for ALL on-street parking. Just do it on a scale that slides all the way down to zero, based on demand. In quiet outer neighborhoods the price will be “free.” Along NW 23rd it might be $10/hr. or more. This could be done digitally (it’s all ball bearings these days…) and in real-time; in effect you’d be “bidding” on parking every time you park your car.

      This actually works really well for everyone: if I absolutely have to drive to NW 23rd then I’m more likely to find a space, and the charge is worth it to me. Otherwise I’ll take a bus or ride my bike — indirectly strengthening the constituency for better transit, bike infrastructure etc. Businesses will know they have the exactly right amount of nearby parking.

      Theoretically residents could get a subsidy or break, but the libertarian in me says: heck no, let them pay the market rate like everyone else. Parking is a resource someone is paying for; it’s only free to YOU.

      The best part is, this is a super-duper free-market solution. Anyone who objects is essentially saying “I want someone else to pay for my parking.”

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      • A.K. August 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm

        I’d absolutely agree to a city-wide parking permit system, like what they have in NW near Jeld-Win.

        I live near the Aladdin Theater and parking is crazy on show nights. There are also people with driveways who I always see parking in the street, which sort of boggles my mind. I WISH I had a driveway, but don’t. I don’t WANT my car on the street, but have no choice currently as a renter (if I bought a house, a driveway would be a must-have).

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      • Tony August 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm

        Absolutely 100% YES YES YES

        And since you bring up NW 23rd, that street is so screwed up, put meters there and use the money to pay for repairs!

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        • A.K. August 14, 2012 at 9:29 pm

          Yes, they need meters up there, for sure. The argument that it’ll scare business away is bollocks, as it’s so crowded as is you can’t actually park on 23rd most of the time any ways, and wind up having to walk blocks and blocks.

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      • jd August 17, 2012 at 12:23 pm

        San Francisco already does exactly this. Check out

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    • Chris I August 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Bingo. The root cause of these problems is under-priced parking. We have all been raised with free or subsidized parking. If you rent an apartment, it comes with a parking spot, whether you own a car or not. When you buy a house, it has a garage and a driveway. When you buy a condo, etc, etc. In most cases, these are city or county requirements. If you require every unit to have a parking spot, then the cost to park a car is zero. In reality, these spaces should all cost something, because they are using real estate. This piece should argue for a market-based pricing model for street parking, similar to the SF Park system and the removal of parking minimums in city regulations. Let the free market decide how much parking we need.

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    • Stretchy August 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Just remembered this video:

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    • HAL9000 August 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      It turns out that Portlanders don’t actually like to pay for parking. This is a political non-starter. See the parking wars of NW Portland and Hawthorne dating back to the 1990s.

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      • Chris I August 15, 2012 at 7:14 am

        No one likes to pay for parking directly. We all pay for parking, though. It is added to the cost of the things we buy, and the taxes we pay fund the real estate and maintenance of the parking infrastructure. Everyone pays for parking, we just need to change how we collect this money.

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  • SilkySlim August 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Could this be the one reason to vote for Romney, for his pro car-elevator stance?

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    • HAL9000 August 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      No, Obama wants to fund mass transit.

      Bikes > Transit > Cars

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  • Andrew Seger August 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    We definitely need to try out charging for on street parking. The trick is convincing PBOT to share it’s money (as they do with the Lloyd TMA) and let the neighborhoods use their half of the money to fund various improvements in the neighborhood. Including maintenance, parks, etc.

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  • Allison (@allisons) August 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I think this is a little shortsighted of you, Jonathan and I’m surprised. The reason people own cars at the rates they do is that they have calculated the various options and their costs and chosen a car (even if this didn’t happen consciously). The costs of car-ownership include the cost of parking, except that *the city is currently paying that cost when it provides free on street parking*. If there isn’t enough parking, it’s because the price on the parking is too low.

    If we build that parking along side the apartment development, that parking is with us for the life of the building and does nothing to adjust the cost of car ownership. Those apartment developers are taking advantage of a policy – we can change that policy so that they’re required to price in parking in their development at market rates. If parking is the highest and best use of that land, then it’ll get built. Currently it’s not.

    If you want more people to shift away from car-ownership or car-dependence, we’re going to have to increase the cost of car ownership by having car owners bear more of the cost of their own transportation choices. People expect parking to be free and believe it is their right to park their cars on the public thoroughfare. They’re wrong about that and they need to be disabused of this notion.

    Furthermore, it surprises me that you take what is essentially a back lash argument to criticize a policy that you ideologically agree with. Long term, this is going to change people’s behavior and transportation choices (which are sticky and take awhile to change). In the short term it might make bike-friendly infrastructure harder to get people to swallow. That is not an argument against the policy.

    In the short term, we can address all the things you talked about by say, preventing parking within 15 feet of a stop sign as they do in Seattle, instituting resident parking permits, and just organizing better to support the stuff we think should pass.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm


      I’m not bashing the existing policy. Just trying to say I am concerned about the impact it’s having and I’m putting forward some thoughts on how to lessen that negative impact.

      I agree with you about changing behaviors — but what about the interim years before those behaviors have changed? Bottom line is that Portland isn’t doing enough fast enough to encourage folks to give up cars in the types of numbers that would actually make the existing parking situation work.

      I disagree a bit about your assumption that people make financial calculations before deciding to own a car. I think the bigger reason ppl have a car is they feel it’s the safest and most convenient way to get around. And they’re right.. because we continue to compromise our streets to serve the auto-centric status quo in many parts of Portland.

      And I agree we should do those things you mention in your last paragraph… But with less parking pressure it would be a much easier lift wouldn’t it?

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      • Chris I August 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm

        It sounds like what you are arguing for are places like the Lloyd district, where businesses and residences all have large amounts of off-street parking. Every cycling city has parking problems and excess cars. The really good cycling cities don’t force developers to build off-street parking. They raise the cost of parking and provide less space for it.

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      • Craig Harlow August 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm

        Jonathan, when you say, “the impact it’s having, ” do you mean that residential vs. commercial parking pressure is adversely impacting active modes when PBOT tries to implement projects?

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      • Allison (@allisons) August 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm

        Lifting parking pressure by providing more parking is the same argument as wider freeways to fix congestion. The only pricing signal we have right now is scarcity. As long as you’re keeping the cost low, you will have over utilization. “Free” on street parking is the problem, not a lack of off street parking.

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  • peejay August 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    So, removal of minimum parking requirements for construction isn’t a ban on off-street parking; it’s giving the developer the freedom to decide how to allocate space to provide the most compelling housing situation for the market. If the developer felt that nobody would want to live in a place without parking, you’d better believe they’d build all the spaces they need into the building. But that means that there’d either be fewer units or smaller ones, for a given lot size and height maximum (for which there still exists regulations).

    The reality is that most of the people moving into these buildings DO have cars, but they are making the gamble that there are enough on-street spaces that the cheaper housing cost will be worth it. The assumption is that on-street parking will continue to be free, of course. And the problem with free on-street parking is that it doesn’t exist in a proper supply-demand balance. If the demand for spots rises, and the supply can’t go up (only so many spots can exist on a given street grid), then there’s nothing to temper the demand, so you wind up with a scarcity that cannot be profited from (ideally, by the city, who could then provide some other benefit back to the community). But if you charge for parking, and charge MORE for high-demand parking, then people can decide how much it’s worth to them. Cheapskates can walk ten blocks to where they want to go, and lazy people can park in front of their destination, because the pool of people willing to pay a higher price for that space is smaller. And really smart people will realize it’s easier to visit that neighborhood without a car at all. And they’ll be able to, because the dense development is happening that allows more transit options to make sense.

    So, we have to go through this stage of everyone complaining about parking, because this is the only way we can get the density we need to make our city function sustainably. I wish we could just jump into the future, though, without all the pain.

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    • 9watts August 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      “The reality is that most of the people moving into these buildings DO have cars, but they are making the gamble that there are enough on-street spaces that the cheaper housing cost will be worth it.”

      Do you know this?
      I just learned the other night that the developer who is building a 50-unit apartment building at 19th & Hawthorne (with no off-street car parking but 55 off-street bike parking spots) already built a very similar 50-unit building in Irvington. They have done surveys of their tenants and find that of the fifty units, the number of cars owned by the residents is between 12 and 16. I suspect this is on the low end for Portland, and they talk as if they’ve tried to encourage this. But I found that very encouraging.

      I think there is a real risk that single family dwelling people in our neighborhoods automatically project their own car owning habits onto future apartment dwellers in their neighborhoods and conclude that the sky is about to fall.

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  • deborah August 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    There’s a condo building at 20th and Hawthorne that found a really creative solution. They have stacked parking stalls. If we could get a couple of those car ‘storage’ type facilities i bet there would be plenty of people to use them. My family has two cars we park on the street, and we would LOVE to find longer-term storage for atleast one of them since we both bike commute. The problem is that there are very few options in Portland for even remotely affordable car storage, aside from street parking.

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    • benschon August 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      In fact, when that condo building “unbundled” its parking from housing (residents pay for each separately), it saw lower than expected demand for the private spaces. Now they are converting some of the spaces to bike parking. Welcome to the revolution!

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    • Skis August 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      I’ve heard that building doesn’t even reach full parking capacity and that they are looking to convert some of the auto parking to bike parking.

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    • 9watts August 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      “The problem is that there are very few options in Portland for even remotely affordable car storage, aside from street parking.”

      You’re saying this is a problem? I guess I should be glad you don’t collect semi trucks.

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  • Andrew K August 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    The last line says it all really.

    I live in close-in Southeast and I hate to admit I agree there is a parking problem. On a lot of side streets there are so many cars parked and the streets are so narrow that getting hit by a car door is a serious concern of mine.

    Now granted, I’m not saying we should just build more parking garages or increase the size of our homes to “store” more cars. Nor am I saying we should widen the streets. I’m saying let’s go all the way with this idea of a truely sustainable city. If we did, the lack of parking would fix itself.

    I’m actually an advocate of making the downtown core for example completely car free. I mean why not? In order for this to work you would of course need a better street car network and by extension better public transit to get into downtown (either that or large parking structures on the outskirts). But think about how calm and peacful downtown would be if you took out the cars.

    Yeah yeah yeah, I know that is a bit utopian of me to say, but I can dream right?

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    • Craig Harlow August 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Keep saying it, “car free cities”.

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      • Andrew K August 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm

        I say it in the mirror every morning.

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    • mark kenseth August 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      It’s not utopian. Cities were car-free only 100 years ago.

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  • Andrew K August 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    also, as and added note, I do think more neighborhoods should charge for on street parking. The Alphabet district for example has strict time limits on how long you can park on the street and residents have to pay for a parking permit.

    This doesn’t seem to stop people from wanting to move there as rental and housing prices in that neighborhood are still very high and in demand.

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  • Spiffy August 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    this is the first BikePortland article that makes me never want to come to this web site again…


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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Why not Spiffy?

      And in some ways that’s pretty cool because I reckon I’ve posted thousands of articles since you’ve been reading ;-).

      seriously. Curious what you find so sickening? The fact that I say people own cars and they need a place to put them?

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      • Chris I August 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm

        I would love to own a trailer so I can haul gravel or take a large raft out to a river for the weekend. However, I don’t have a garage, and I don’t want to pay to rent a storage unit, so I won’t buy one. This is the problem with parking in Portland. There are too many cars, because we subsidize car storage. Fewer people would own cars if they had to pay the true cost of storage.

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      • Spiffy August 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm

        yeah, I suppose that’s a good track record… c(:

        people don’t NEED a place to park their cars… they WANT a free place to park them… and the people currently parking for free are just complaining that more people will be using those free parking spaces…

        what people NEED is fewer cars…

        we are the future… we park bikes, not cars…

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  • Carl August 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    In parking-challenged neighborhoods, charge for on-street parking.
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    This is the answer right here. Right now, valuable real estate is rented very cheaply or even given away. Charge market rates for on street parking and watch the parking “problem” evaporate.

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  • spare_wheel August 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    IMO, street parking should be metered or require a purchased permit everywhere in PDX.

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  • ME 2 August 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Great and timely editorial Jonathan. One of the reasons I sold my house in SE was all of the apartment dwellers nearby took up all of the on street parking in my hood.

    I live near the NE Fremont commercial strip and currently there is a developer who wants to build a 4 story complex on NE Fremont and 44th. There is a lot of push back not just from area residents but from existing businesses. The developer has been pretty upfront that the project doesn’t pencil out if he has to build an underground parking structure, but I don’t think he should have it completely subsidized either. I wish there was an easy solution to make this fairer such as an additional fee for existing businesses or new proposed projects but I doubt that’s politically feasible in this current climate.

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    • Chris I August 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Would you move or sell a car if you had to pay for a residential parking permit? Would you move or sell your car if you had to pay and the system could guarantee that you would always find a spot?

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  • Esther August 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I agree it is a huge problem, not just for parking-free complexes. My friends live right by 2121 Belmont, on the Morrison side. the building includes an underground parking garage, but there is a price to lease one of the spaces. The result? Morrison is totally parked up all the time there now between 25th and 20th (I tried to find parking once when I was picking them up to go skiing) and the city ADDED street parking on the cemetary side of the street.

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    • Andrew K August 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      I know the building you are talking about as I have a friend who lives there too.

      This is a perfect example where the city should require a parking permit to leave your car on the street for more than say, two hours or risk a ticket. For someone in your situation where you were just trying to pick someone up to go skiing there would be no cost, but if you live there you need to pay up for the space you are using, either on the street or in the garage provided by the building owner.

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      • Craig Harlow August 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        How about Smart Meters for which the first 15 minutes are free? Goes along with the congestion pricing model.

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    • Spiffy August 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      it’s working… people are inconvenienced so they’ll find another way other than driving a car… it will just take them a while to learn, and yes we’ll have to listen to them whine during their learning curve…

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  • Cliff B August 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Can I get a parklet in front of my house? There is no meter, so it should only be the supplies and permit fee. $1000 for a new patio in front of my house would be great.

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  • CPAC August 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    It took me a while to figure out exactly what you’re advocating with this article, which seems to be: short term auto-storage solutions. And why? Because the parking-crunch makes drivers frustrated and thus more likely to oppose biking and transit projects.

    But it’s frustration with driving and parking that ultimately causes people to abandon their cars. Putting off that frustration for a few years with short term auto-storage solutions doesn’t move us closer to getting the transit and cycling infrastructure we need.

    I lived in New York for most of the last decade. Most people don’t own cars because it’s incredibly inconvenient (not to mention expensive) to have one: you can just take a cab, subway, or walk faster than you can get to your garage, drive, find parking, and walk to your destination. Moreover, you can rent a car any time you please for far less than it would cost to pay for a car, car insurance, and parking each month.

    Portland isn’t New York. We have much less of a parking crunch. But frustrating drivers is a key step along the way to getting fewer of them.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm


      You don’t have my perspective exactly right. To me, it’s not about people who have cars getting more frustrated at lack of parking and therefore more likely to oppose biking and transit projects. I didn’t write that at all and I’m sorry if the piece was unclear.

      I’m saying that we have to acknowledge the reality that people have cars and need a place to store them (not a free place of course, just a place!). When they store those cars on surface streets, that parking demand/volume then negatively impacts the bicycling experience and it impacts the politics around some projects.

      I’m all for making use of a car more frustrating! If only owning/using a car was anywhere near as frustrating or dangerous as my experience bicycling around the city… we’d live in a much different place!

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      • CPAC August 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm

        Thank you for the clarification, though I’m still not sure I follow your line of thought:

        People have cars (ok)
        People have few places to put cars (ok)
        We need more places for people to put their cars (why?)
        Because we aren’t “there yet” with transit and biking infrastructure.

        Is that about right? If so, how do we know when we are ready to stop adding (or even star eliminating) parking? I guess I’m just skeptical that we will *ever* be “there.”

        If there were a concrete reason for making parking more plentiful in the short term, I could be convinced. (For example, if the streetcar were going to open in a year and we needed more temporary spots for that year; or if we need to placate drivers leading up to an election year in order to get a bike-friendly politician elected, ok.) But without some sort of concrete and extremely practical reason for adding parking, I think all it will do is prolong the problem.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm


          yeah that’s about right. I’m not saying I have this all figured out in my head quite yet.

          And I do think there’s a concrete reason to consider making parking more plentiful in this context… Because in the short term there isn’t enough. Does that mean I think we should give away a bunch of parking for free or litter our n’hoods with surface lots? no. Absolutely not. I’m just saying let’s be realistic and not put our heads in the sand. Fact remains that people have cars and that it could still be a few years before we see major swaths of the population live without them. In the meantime, we need to charge more to park/own them, improve biking/transit, and also perhaps consider putting pressure on developers to come up with more creative ways to store these cars… Like underground elevators, rooftops, or something… And whatever the method of storing the cars, make it easy to change the use to something else (like bike parking or parks or something) as auto use wanes.

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          • CPAC August 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

            I think we have a chicken-and-the-egg problem here.

            You want a short term solution until the demand for parking goes down (as people switch to other modes).

            I say that demand *wont* go down unless and until parking becomes even more scarce than it already is.

            Again, it’s not that people in New York are just enlightened and somehow choose to live car free. It’s that it’s so expensive and inconvenient to own a car in New York that most end up not doing so. If we want fewer people to drive here, we need to make it *more* inconvenient/expensive/annoying to own one, not less.

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      • Spiffy August 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm

        this response was easier to understand and more to the point than the article…

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  • MossHops August 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I think I agree with Jonathan on this. Specifically, its ok to build developments that make driving harder by restricting parking, if the city does its part to make public transportation and biking easier. My fear is that the city won’t move as quickly as they ought to build out alternative means of transport.

    I live 5 blocks from Division which is ground zero in this fight and I’d be far more excited about the parking issue if there were plans for street car to run through the neighborhood.

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  • Phil Kulak August 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    The problem is that on-street parking is free. If you want to not require parking for new construction, you need to charge for parking on public streets, or yes, people are just going to take the lower rent and own a car anyway.

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  • are August 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    it is already illegal to leave a car parked in one place for more than 24 hours
    if you do it twice you can be towed
    i think everyone knows this is not enforced, but if people overwhelm a neighborhood with parked cars, you can imagine there will be some citizen initiated citations.

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    • Spiffy August 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      citizen citations only work for ORS code, not PDX, and you have to see the person, you can’t just cite a car…

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    • OnTheRoad August 14, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      I have had quick response from the Abandoned Auto hotline. You call them about autos that have been parked without being moved (I usually don’t call until they’ve been parked for a week or more) and the city comes out and tags it usually within a couple days. They give the owner some few days to move it. If it is still there on the second inspection, they tow it.

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      • was carless August 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm

        Really? I remember seeing cars parked near NE Alberta that had blackberries growing through the rusted-out hood! They had been parked on the street for over 10 years!

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        • OnTheRoad August 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm

          Apparently nobody felt the need to call them in as abandoned. It is primarily a complaint-driven system.

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson August 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I think our transit and bike lanes are a lot better than New York City and they don’t mandate parking for development. When I pass those new developments in inner SE (near the new streetcar) I think, “this is great here will be 200 new alternative transportation advocates”

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    • MossHops August 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Bikes infrastructure is probably better here, hard to argue that our public transport is better than places like NY or Chicago. In Chicago, not having a car is fine because most every block is 10 blocks from the el.

      Portland needs to change behavior with carrots and sticks. I see the stick in making parking harder, but there need to be more carrots.

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      • D_G August 14, 2012 at 3:53 pm

        I think our transit has a ways to go before it can be considered transportation. I think it is pretty good for commuting, but the way the fares work, rules about taking a pet along or a small cart, make the MAX or bus really only useful for a commute. A trip to the grocery store, IKEA, downtown with my family (including the dog) is still always in the car. For me, my commute by bike could not be replaced in terms of cost/convenience. For getting around with a family, we walk/bike some, take the MAX a couple of times a year and drive the remainder. We could give up our 1 car (rely on Zipcar for trips) if we could get around with our dog on transit.

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        • Chris I August 15, 2012 at 7:24 am

          So we add demand-based meter parking and use the money to fund Trimet? Seems like a good idea…

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        • Olive828 August 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm

          Agree completely, though I don’t have kids… the dog is a problem if I want to bring her to a friend’s house… especially places I normally would bike… if the bus let dogs on we’d be on track!

          SIDE NOTE:
          I think a crucial part of pay-for-park street parking would be some sort of visitor pass for residents. 2-hour time limits in a residential neighborhood are pretty cruddy if someone wants to come over from SW to NE with their infant, and, say watch football on Sunday and have a dinner party. Very rarely do I have a visitor for less than 2 hours!! So I’d be glad to pay a market rate (love the tiered pricing based on smart-park demand) for street parking, as part of my property taxes or a-la-carte or whatever, but with that I’d like the option to get a (few) long-term visitor permit. That said, I’d definitely sell one of our family cars if we had to pay for street parking.

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  • Sarah H August 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    As someone who has been car-free for over a decade and is looking to move to Portland, this stance you’re taking makes me sad. Is Portland really not ready for me? Will I suffer too much from not owning a car if I move there? Should I stay away? These are all things that go through my mind when I see the resistance to creating housing specifically designed for people like me.

    Housing that does not come with expensive unneeded parking will *attract* the people Portland is looking for, who will help move Portland into its new car-light future. I don’t want to move into a place with an HOA fee for a parking space I will never use.

    The pressure has to come from both sides or progress will be very slow and ultimately limited. I have personally known people who have moved to San Francisco (where I now live) without a car, and because they happened to land in an apartment that came with parking, they said “well maybe we should get a car! since we have somewhere to put it.” If you want a city full of cars, provide a lot of “free” (i.e. subsidized) parking. If you don’t, don’t. It’s really that simple, from my point of view.

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    • Andrew K August 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm


      I think this thread is at least in a small way proof that Portland is very much for you. We’re just having a conversation here, and a very civil one at that while we throw some ideas around.

      If you pick your neighborhood wisely living a car free life-style in this town is easy. I admit I own a car, but I use it only for the times I want to go on a hike far outside the city. If the car wasn’t totally paid off I probably wouldn’t bother with it and would instead use Zip Car for those rare occasions or something similar.

      But anyway, don’t be surprised if you hear conversations like this if you decide to move here. We like talking about bikes, transportation, walking, and urban transformation over a good beer and yummy food. It’s one of our favorite things to do!

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  • Rol August 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    This is simple: the shortage of parking is supposed to be a stick. Better bike facilities would be a better carrot. Both can work. But the stick only works if you have the will to use it, and the carrot only works if people know about it. Though this analogy still doesn’t account for people’s dullardly unimaginative tolerance for sticks.

    Anyway, compromising bike lanes in favor of parking amounts to making the carrot smaller in order to make the stick smaller. Hmmm, it’s almost as if there’s someone out there who doesn’t share the same goal toward which the carrot and stick are leading. Who could it be? I believe that someone is called AMERICA.

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  • Sarah H August 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    It seems to me the answer is not to stop building these parking-less developments, as they are exactly the future we need to be aiming for. They are a no-regrets move in the long term. As others have suggested, the answer has to be in the structuring of the parking permitting and pricing in the neighborhood to take these new developments into account. To help guarantee that actual car-free people are moving into these new developments, make street parking permits for people living *at that address* very very expensive. This way, people who were already living in the neighborhood will not be as adversely impacted, and people with cars will think twice about moving into this new development.

    Obviously alternative transport has to be built out in parallel, and it seems that Portland is on the right track in this regard. If you deter car-free people from moving there (by covering your city in parking lots and compelling developers to include parking in their plans, making the housing more expensive), you are needlessly repelling mass transportation, pedestrian, and bicycle advocates from the area.

    When I see these articles about new car-free developments in Portland, I immediately want to know where they are, so I can consider them as a possible future home (and, oddly, it’s often hard to get to these details from these articles), and I immediately suspect that the surrounding neighborhood will be a future car-free-friendly neighborhood if it’s not car-free friendly already. I really don’t think I’m alone in this.

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  • Terry D August 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    The city should require permits for on street parking if there are curb to curb built streets. The permits should be priced by demand in the neighborhood. Residents without driveways should be given first priority, but there should be maximums per household. Greenways narrower than a certain width should only have parking on one side of the street. At the same time in the areas where full streets are built require the streets to be emptied completely at street sweeping times, like San Francisco does. Anyone who does not move their car would be towed, but sweeping would occur at posted regular intervals. This would also solve the debris build up and gravel problems we have since the roads would be better swept while getting rid of the clunkers and other forgotten about vehicles.

    Retail corridors throughout the city should have their parking metered with the neighboring residential areas having enforced time limits/permits for residents only.

    Apartments buildings that do not have auto parking should not be completely left off the hook. They should require bike parking and work room facilities PLUS pay a special development charge that would go into a pool to build more neighborhood greenways, bike lanes or other needed infrastructure. The permits should still be low enough to make not building auto parking still more attractive but still be able to pump some significant money into bike friendly facilities from the private sector. Good examples are several new apartment building popping up around the future “20’s” Greenway/Bikeway the city has been promising us for years. Have these developers put some money into a pool thus making building this connection that much cheaper and at the same time making the neighborhood easier to navigate by bike.

    Welcome to the “eco-friendly” big city……

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  • Happy to rent out my empty driveway August 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    There IS enough parking. Many of the people complaining the loudest about parking pressure are people who live in single-family homes with driveways and garages. If people actually stored their cars in the car-storage space that comes with their house, it would remove a lot of cars from the street. So I agree that charging for on-street parking to incentivize more efficient use of our existing (and plentiful) parking makes more sense than continuing to build more capacity. We’re supposed to be doing more with less these days, right? Let’s use a capitalist, market-based approach to be more efficient about using what we have.

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    • Chris I August 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      That’s a good point. If you were to add metered parking in a residential area, I think you would see a lot of garage sales the weekend before they go in…

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    • Evan Manvel August 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      There’s a company that facilitates renting out empty parking spaces, similar to AirBnB. Not yet in Portland.

      More about it:

      This company may be trying to figure it out:

      It makes a lot of sense. We have something like six parking spaces for every car in America, and that’s ridiculous, and happening, as the previous commenters have pointed out, because car parking is way too often underpriced and bundled rather than having a marginal cost.

      San Diego had ten parking spots for every car in 2006. Not sure about Portland.

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    • El Biciclero August 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      This is one of my pet peeves: folks in my neighborhood with 3+ cars, one or two in the driveway, one or two quasi-permanently in the street…and a garage full of junk. Or shop equipment. Or a rock band. Etc. I’ll admit I have two cars, but one is in the driveway and the other is in the…wait for it…garage. The other half of the garage is full of junk and bikes, but I really try to keep my cars out of the street unless I’m driving somewhere.

      Of course, there are always the temporary visitors that come over and need to park somewhere, or the times I get bark dust or something delivered in my driveway and have to park a car temporarily down the street (I figure my car is more visible at night than a pile of bark dust…). Not sure how to sort out temporary visitor parking from resident permanent storage, but I would love some incentive for folks in residential areas to keep their cars on their own property.

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  • Nate August 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I’ve seen a few interesting ideas:
    – Pay to park a car everywhere! This should be done with EZPass type technology where demand-set pricing means parking in un-congested areas is free, while hotly contested areas is expensive.
    – Have a few parking spots for new development. These cost extra to ‘lease’ for residents, or workers in commercial spaces. As fewer people are interested in leasing their own, they transition to carshare and/or bike parking. A 10-spot lot under a 20-unit building would be easy to fill, and easy to retrofit down the road if it goes unused. Carshare has gone largely unmentioned here, but it can play a critical role in making “carfree” a feasible option for many more people.
    – No complaining when the “free” onstreet parking in your neighborhood gets used up. Is your car parked in your driveway? (Many residents in my neighborhood don’t use their driveways, meaning on-street parking can still be difficult.) Get a 2-car garage if you insist on having 2 cars and parking for them!

    Having lived [nearly] carfree for over a year now, I’ve watched as more and more Washintonians park in my N.PDX neighborhood to take the MAX to downtown. How would their behavior change if that was metered parking? (To say nothing of running the light rail over CRC/new interstate boondoggle?)

    Final thought, brought on by this review of “The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City”
    It seems that increasing density raises prices in ways that may disproportionately affect low-income folks: causes them to move further out, likely to become more auto-dependent, and bring on a further drain due to the host of related health/other issues.


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  • Skis August 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    The parking situation impacts people on bikes. Look at Division. I see more and more cars using Clinton for parking and/or circling around to look for parking. A low traffic road is being used in a way that it wasn’t intended for and this is only going to lead to conflicts. Not sure what the solution is, but that is the reality and with a lot more apartments with first floor retail coming on line soon it is only going to get worse.

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  • Randall S. August 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Maybe I’m just too new-fashioned, but I’m still not completely clear on the concept of why it’s okay to use public property for storage of private property.

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  • Paul August 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    If Portland charged for street parking everywhere, I’m willing to bet a lot of cars would be sold. I agree with Sarah H that if there’s a free parking spot folks are more likely to have a car. Hell, I even thought about it. I’ve been car-free for about 5 years and there are plenty of days where I think it would be nice to drive this trip instead of riding a bike in a much longer zig-zag and roundabout way instead of a straight shot with a car because it’s too dangerous on a bike. Or waiting 10-15 minutes for a bus with a 10-15 minute transfer wait. If people are really going go the car-free or car-light way, transit and bikes must be the more convenient way, not the other way around. If driving a car from one neighborhood to another meant going a roundabout route instead of straight as an arrow, and parking was charged based on demand, then yeah, we might have a chance. Buses and trains might then start running every 4 minutes and you’d be able to bike the length of Hawthorne or any other business street without any stress.

    Point: Everything we humans do is related to convenience. Require people operating large machinery to go the less direct way and they will make different transportation choices.

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    • El Biciclero August 15, 2012 at 8:58 am

      I could only click the Recommended icon once, but +50 on routing and convenience of auto alternatives.

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  • Tony August 14, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Permit parking is the way to go. Unfortunately, the only residential permit zones allowed by PBOT are for areas impacted by 25% or more “commuter” traffic, that is, people who drive to the area to walk or take the bus to another area.

    We need more flexible permitting options. Let people pay to store their cars and let the neighborhood manage that money for street repairs, sidewalks, etc.

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  • resopmok August 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Making parking metered everywhere in town doesn’t make sense, especially in my neighborhood (mt scott/arletta) where the economic impact would be disproportionate to income and property value. Furthermore, property owners have good reason from time to time for needing access to on street parking. For example, if it’s necessary to tear up and replace a driveway it’s unlikely they’ll want to park their vehicle in their raised garden beds. It also seems unfair to charge them an hourly fee during such a project when they are trying to improve their property – which ultimately comes back to the city in the form of higher property tax as well.

    It’s a trade-off of lifestyle that has perhaps gone misunderstood in this city. The closer to the city’s core that you live, the more dense housing becomes and there is less need to drive, as most everything you need will be within walking distance anyway. The farther out you live, wheeled transportation becomes necessary so that a whole day alone is not needed just to make a trip to the grocery store.

    Perhaps the best solution is simply to allow those who pay property taxes to attain a permit for one or maybe two vehicles (and charge for the second) to be parked overnight in the street in their zone. In densely populated areas, put meters on the streets. And Seattle’s no-corner-parking law is just a no-brainer to ensure line of sight and turning radius for larger vehicles.

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  • JRB August 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    As someone who has lived in cities with much worse parking problems, i.e. Philadelphia and DC, I just can’t sympathize with what Jonathan is saying. We have two vehicles, a station wagon and a pickup, both paid off years ago. We used to drive them much more, but now we’re down to about 4,000 miles per year on the wagon and 2,000 on the pick up. The wagon is indispensable to my wife’s business and we park it our driveway in NE. The truck we keep for the occasional times I need to haul stuff to that you need a truck for or get to a trailhead without losing an oil pan or muffler. We park it on the street.

    If parking ever truly becomes an issue in Portland, I’m in favor of the pricing schemes many posters are advocating. For people who truly need a vehicle for a business or other purpose as we do, we’ll pay the price whether that’s for a street permit or the extra for a house with off street parking. For the truck, which is optional, we would weigh the pros and cons against the alternatives like car share. A street parking permit may be the con that would tip us over into a car share, but as somebody earlier posted, since my truck is paid off and requires hardly any maintenance or insurance, I’ll hang on to it.

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  • wsbob August 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I think it’s probably true that most of the people owning and parking cars on the street aren’t particularly wealthy. Wealthy people can afford houses and condos with garages, and valet parking when they drive to town.

    Poor and not so wealthy people that aren’t located near light rail, trolley and bus lines that can provide them with practical alternative transportation to cars, and/or for whom walking or biking isn’t a practical alternative to driving…are the majority of people needing cars and places to park them, on-street or otherwise.

    Sure…charge them for on-street parking in their neighborhoods, and more where they’re already being charged for it, and they’ll pay it because, this not being NYC with its highly developed mass transit system and for those that can afford it, the traditional practice of traveling around by cab…they really have no practical alternative.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson August 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Some random thoughts on parking in Portland:
    *I lived in SF in the 70’s (rode a bike, took the Muni and owned a BMW), and when we moved to NW PDX in the 80’s I had to laugh when folks complained of a parking problem here. No way. Just no way!
    *We were in Frankfurt a Main a lot in those years, a dense European city, and one night at a party I overheard someone ask a friend if she drove over. She answered, “Oh no, I came by streetcar as I found a really good parking spot near by place for my car and don’t want to lose it!” Hmmmm.
    *Surface parking is the ugliest, poorest use of urban land, and Portland is blighted with acres of parking lots downtown, in vital industrial/employement areas like Swan Island, in the Lloyd District. All over. Put that land to higher use for housing, commerce, production.
    *Portlanders seem to believe they “own” their curbside parking…not true, its public right of way, and we should charge for its use as demand grows.
    Use the proceeds to fund better bike facilities and transition to a fareless TriMet.
    *The project on NE Fremont & 44th is two blocks from a frequent service bus, the 75, that gets you to Hollywood MAX and three lightrail lines in 5 minutes. We need affordable housing and retailers on Fremont need customers who will spend their “no car bonus” locally.

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  • paul August 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    The percentage of citizens who own a car is easily found rather than made up by anecdotes about your friends. Portland isn’t even in the top 50: We are just below Seattle, at 16.10%.

    There are a few cities on that list that fit the description of making parking very expensive, but there is a much larger set that are simply poor.

    This discussion about on-street parking misses one glaring fact: 64% of the housing stock in Portland consists of single-family homes ( The vast majority of these are not located in the Hawthorne or Clinton neighborhoods; e.g. the have driveways.

    MossHops, D_G, Nate have it right. Banning or making on-street parking very expensive is only going to penalize those who live in residences without off street parking or live in apartment complexes. Guess who’ll pay the price?

    Hike the gas tax,funnel the money to public transportation, stop building wasteful max trains to the suburbs and restore frequent bus service. Then you can start to talk about moving people out of their cars. Until then, it’s just a pipe dream of young upwardly mobile cyclists who live in close in neighborhoods.

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    • wsbob August 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      “The percentage of citizens who own a car is easily found rather than made up by anecdotes about your friends. Portland isn’t even in the top 50: We are just below Seattle, at 16.10%. …” paul

      The stats in the wiki article tells not of the percentage of citizens owning a car…but instead, of the number of households that don’t have a car. Didn’t see the 16.10% figure you cited for Portland, but assuming it’s approximately accurate, that would suggest that 84 percent of Portland households have a car. That’s a lot of cars, an unknown number of which inevitably will be parked on the street at various times for some reason or another.

      That a need to have cars and park them on the street exists is symptomatic of how urban and suburban land planning in the U.S. has been awry for so long. Even people that don’t need cars to get to and from work may tend to have them simply because walking and biking in their neighborhood or slightly beyond is impractical or lousy. If the private motor vehicle ride is more comfortable and enjoyable than a walk down the sidewalk along a busy, noisy street, people will, if they can somehow afford it, drive.

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      • 9watts August 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

        “Even people that don’t need cars to get to and from work may tend to have them simply because walking and biking in their neighborhood or slightly beyond is impractical or lousy.”

        I don’t think all that many people make decisions about whether to own a car based on the practicality of the alternatives. I think they own a car just like folks grab a beer from the fridge. It is a reflexive thing, done without all the contemplation and calculation some folks here attribute to it.

        Besides, many of the reasons why walking or biking may be impractical or lousy (if we stop and think about it) is that so many people have cars….

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        • MossHops August 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm

          I see it as a “both/and” thing. Some drive because they have to, many more drive out of habit. We have to figure out policies that make driving a requirement for far fewer people, and less of a habit for many more.

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          • 9watts August 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

            “We have to figure out policies that make driving a requirement for far fewer people, and less of a habit for many more.”

            Agreed. But I’d note that many who have convinced themselves that driving is a requirement say & believe this in part because they have no experience substituting a bicycle for those trips, and perhaps their peers all drive reflexively too. Put another way the distinction between requirement and habit may not be so clear cut.

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        • wsbob August 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

          “…I don’t think all that many people make decisions about whether to own a car based on the practicality of the alternatives. I think they own a car just like folks grab a beer from the fridge. It is a reflexive thing, done without all the contemplation and calculation some folks here attribute to it. …” 9watts

          That’s mighty expensive beer to be grabbing reflexively without contemplation and calculation. Beer doesn’t get a person to the grocery store in the safety, comfort and shelter of a car during the extremes of weather conditions. Except in peak commute hour periods, travel in a car is a time saver over walking and biking.

          For many, many people, a two mile round trip is a long distance to walk, and it takes a fair bit of time…40 minutes or more vs 20 minutes or less by motor vehicle. Depending on street and traffic conditions, travel by bike could match motor vehicle travel time for people able to make that mode of travel work for the what they have to accomplish.

          It’s true that the walking-biking experience for practical, day to day tasks wouldn’t be as lousy as it often is, if fewer people used motor vehicles for travel. Land planning over past decades has created conditions that essentially oblige people to travel by motor vehicle. That planning has set a human activity pattern that’s very hard to break.

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    • HAL9000 August 15, 2012 at 10:32 am
  • Joe Rowe August 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Jonathan noted the complaints used to sell more parking.

    Chris nailed the root cause here: “under priced parking”.

    America builds quick fixes because people who assume leadership have a blindness to the root causes and dialog is controlled.

    The same line of logic is used to add more lanes to a freeway. Problem is…. more lanes and more parking never works. Never.

    The end of free and cheap parking will solve the problems noted here.

    We need a long list of things being done in other cities to address the reality of our transit and parking problems. We need to force people living in many neighborhoods to buy permits to park in their neighborhood. No permit = no parking and circling on quiet streets.

    What if curb parking is all full on busy streets like Williams? Raise the meter price and shorten the time.

    We need more parking officers. The tickets they write pay for their salary and increase safety. We need more spots with a 15 minute paid limit for everyone. We need more areas with metered curb parking. Portland is getting very dense and we’re beyond gentrification. That means high and low income people should pay to park. There are ways to reduce hardships on low income car owners as we phase in these improvements.

    The reality of $4 gas is forever here.

    No more free parking folks.

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    • MossHops August 14, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      “The same line of logic is used to add more lanes to a freeway. Problem is…. more lanes and more parking never works. Never.”

      I don’t think it’s necessarily wise for Portland to add parking or require parking for new developments. However, San Francisco is very instructive case on how not to do this. San Francisco has lots of meters. San Francisco also has permitting required for many neighborhoods. Furthermore, the value per parking space is probably about 10x what is is in Portland (if you judge by parking garage prices). However, for many years (at least through 2007, when I left that city), parking was an absolute nightmare.

      The big problem for San Francisco is that through parking scarcity, driving was a challenge, however for many in the city, there are no other viable options (bike infrastructure at that time was poor, public transport is ok, but not great). By limiting the available spaces, San Francisco became a much less livable city. It didn’t drive people to other options, because the other options weren’t viable, and that is the crux of the issue.

      Charging for parking, or making parking more scarce is a viable way to make our community less dependent on cars if (and only if) we provide meaningful alternatives for more of it’s citizens. Our bike infrastructure is good, but has stalled out. Our transportation infrastructure is getting better, but is no where near where it needs to be. We can change behavior by making parking scarce, only if there is a true alternative for those ready to give up the automobile. I find that I am blessed because I can bike or walk to so many places in this city, but that statement is probably not true for a majority of our residents.

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      • Joe Rowe August 14, 2012 at 10:24 pm

        Let’s look at details.

        1) What metric did you use to label and judge SF as not as livable?

        2) Mr. Maus points out a problem. He suggests more parking would prevent the unsafe condition of people parking to the very edge of an intersection. I solved that exact problem without adding parking. I made 2 years of photos and calls to the parking violation hotline. I also called lawyers of victims on Foster who had city staff blaming the victims. That same staff had sent me email with the same blame game. Rather than paint the curbs and write tickets the city staff sent me documents about the duty of a pedestrian in crossing duties. When the illegal parking got worse tri-met busses were blocked for 25 minutes and could not make the turn. School truck drivers used no parking zones and claimed their supervisors suggested it. Lo and behold the city painted the curbs in a very unsafe spot. Lo and behold there is no need to write tickets because people obey the paint and no parking poles when used in tandem. Paint the curb, most of the problem solved.

        3) Mr. Maus points out that adding parking would solve the problem of people circling a quiet bikeway in search of a parking spot. This could be so easily solved without parking. Any quiet street or bikeway located near a busy commercial street would simply need a) meters and limits on long term parking on the busy street b) zone parking stickers needed to park on the quiet street c) staff to write tickets and make some sweet revenue. The problem noted by Ester would not exist if we had some leadership and vision.

        The details are worth a longer debate.

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        • MossHops August 14, 2012 at 11:02 pm

          1. My proof point on SF is not very general nor scientific, as it’s born out of my personal experience. I lived in SF for 7 years and had a job that required a car. Every night coming home, there was a distinct possibility that I would be trolling for a parking spot for 30 minutes or more. This problem was surmountable until I had my son, then it was absolutely unacceptable and so we moved to Portland. Now we are “car-lite” and I bike to work most days and bike with the kids on most of our errands.

          San Francisco is a city I absolutely love. However, there is a a problem with regards to livability. This is especially true for families and is probably why San Francisco has one of the lowest percentages of children in households in the US.

          Paying for parking is equivalent to a flat tax which is something I am philosophically opposed to. Some people (and this seems to affect low and middle class blue collar families more often) still need to drive to work as they either need to use their car at work, or they need to drive to places to far to reach by bike and unreachable by public transport. By charging for street parking, you wouldn’t be hurting the rich (who probably would view it as a mere nuisance) but rather hurting those who would see these fees as a real burden. I don’t think that parking fees are the most equitable solution.

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          • Joe Rowe August 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm

            Ok. Well I lived in SF and was car lite there. When there were no spots for parking I did not need to hover and circle in my car for 30min. I would just drive to nearyby neighborhoods with plenty of parking (2 min) and then walk to my apartment (8 min).

            So you are saying that because of this SF is less livable? And you’re using your life experience in SF to justify Portland adding more parking rather than follow best practices in other cities?

            Seriously, the details here are many, and very important.

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            • MossHops August 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

              Joe, my second line on the post that you responded to states:

              “I don’t think it’s necessarily wise for Portland to add parking or require parking for new developments.”

              I’m not advocating for required parking. What I am saying is that there are plenty of places in San Francisco where parking is restricted, yet people are not moving to other forms of transport as many believe will magically happen here in Portland. It is fine to make parking more scarce, as long as we accelerate the development of other forms of transportation so that people have truly viable alternatives.

              Second, that is great that you had the ability to be car-lite in San Francisco. But the difference between your experience and mine is instructive. Just because you could be car-lite in SF doesn’t mean that everyone could be. Furthermore, just because we both can be car-lite in Portland doesn’t mean that everyone can be. Talking about parking issues on BikePortland is a bit frustrating because there is a distinct lack of empathy for others who can not pursue our lifestyle.

              In the end, our transportation options in Portland are not good enough. Both public transport and biking need to get better. To charge for parking permits throughout the city at this point means that we are punishing drivers, but for many, we are not yet giving them a true viable alternative.

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              • 9watts August 16, 2012 at 9:38 am

                “… just because we both can be car-lite in Portland doesn’t mean that everyone can be. … a distinct lack of empathy for others who can not pursue our lifestyle.”

                while I hear what you are saying, and it is a familiar refrain. But I don’t think we know enough to say all that. Most people who drive can list dozens of reasons, not the least of which is that this is America: everybody drives, bla bla bla. But with time and some focused attention most of them could phase out their reliance on a car. Will it take time to learn new patterns, figure out how to equip one’s family with a serviceable suite of bikes and accessories, develop a different set of priorities? Sure. Will this happen overnight? Of course not.

                “In the end, our transportation options in Portland are not good enough. Both public transport and biking need to get better.”

                But this is a dynamic problem. In our flawed system, asking for all this (what have been called carrots here) without also discouraging car ownership (the sticks) is crying for the moon. Our flawed system actually does work for lots of carfree households (how well or poorly would be worth investigating, but I’ve not gotten much traction trying to motivate that). Now is a perfect time (in my opinion) to crack down on the subsidies to car ownership, of which free parking is but one.

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              • MossHops August 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

                I definitively want both carrots and sticks. My concern with this thread is that there seems to be far more focus on the sticks.

                Everyone has their own “tipping point” where they make the personal decision to park (or sell) the car and start to rely on other forms of transportation for their needs. We can’t dictate for others where this tipping point is, they have to decide for themselves.

                If we look at Portland’s mode counts, it is clear that many feel that biking/public transport is too dangerous, too inconvenient or takes too much time. Many of those concerns are misperceptions and many are valid. We do have to do more too make cars less attractive, while making other modes more attractive so that we can move the tipping point for many towards alternative modes of transportation.

                I understand and agree with you that many who think they can’t do without their car are misinformed, but I can’t change their minds for them nor can I force them out of their car. I can only make driving less attractive to them and make biking and public transport more so.

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              • 9watts August 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

                “If we look at Portland’s mode counts, it is clear that many feel that biking/public transport is too dangerous, too inconvenient or takes too much time.”

                Mode count tells us all that? Really?

                As I said above, I suspect (don’t know but imagine) that many people’s choice to keep driving has nothing whatsoever to do with any weighing of the practicalities of the well-known alternatives. They just always had a car and so did/do their peers and that is pretty much all there is to it. Social class, habit, inertia, you name it, there are plenty of ready explanations for why driving remains the norm, even in situations where it is patently ridiculous or could easily be jettisoned.

                This is why I think it is time for sticks. Carrots will do nothing for the people I know who fit the above description. They are neither interested nor concerned because they’ve never given biking-as-transportation a second thought.

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              • Alex Reed August 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm

                Charging people for parking, which I bet costs the City millions to provide, is not adding a “stick.” It is taking away a “carrot” that we are currently giving people for behavior we would like to see less of.

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      • 9watts August 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm

        “… driving was a challenge, however for many in the city, there are no other viable options (bike infrastructure at that time was poor, public transport is ok, but not great).”

        I’d like to unbundle this term a bit. What do we mean when we say ‘getting around without a car isn’t viable.’ Who are we talking about? Have we asked those who engage in this unviable activity what they think?
        I’d be in favor of eschewing the term altogether, because I think those who get rid of their car for the most part never look back. Of course many of our peers still think that is unviable. Ha.

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        • HAL9000 August 15, 2012 at 10:52 am

          The great Portland bikeway system is atrocious.

          Here’s an example: Have you ever biked to the airport from your house? Even studying Google Maps for half an hour, I don’t think I could remember the route from my house. Not to mention that it would take 3 times longer than driving. So now I just blew 3 hours biking to/from the airport (or more likely, IKEA for me) to pick up some shelves and a desk lamp.

          Other parts of the Portland metro area are even more off-limits to ordinary people riding a bike from Portland: the West side, Lake Oswego, and don’t even get me started on Vancouver!

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          • Joe Rowe August 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

            The airport is a weak link in the bike way. Because of one weak link our bikeway is atrocious? I disagree.

            If you need to get to the airport and/or Ikea(TM) there are many multi mode options that are far better than even the best bike path. Carshare? Cab? Friend?

            The topic here is regarding adding parking spaces so cyclists are safe. My point is that adding parking spaces will make cyclists less safe. The safety and transportation issues can be resolved without adding parking.

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    • HAL9000 August 15, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Yes. And the problem is that we focus our energy and time building infrastructure to move and store automobiles, instead of moving people. This is a fundamental flaw that has yet to be addressed anywhere in the nation!

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  • jim August 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    They should figure out how many cars are expected for each building, figure out how many street parking spots there are, and make them supply the balance of the parking spots on site. This would only be fair. The row houses that pop up often do not leave room for on street parking and no driveway, this means they have to park in front of the neighbors house. ……

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    • Chris I August 15, 2012 at 7:43 am

      You don’t own the spots in front of your house. We all pay taxes, so we all have equal rights to street spots.

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      • jim August 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm

        I didn’t mean to infer that anybody would have the rights to those spots, I just wanted them to not add more cars than available spots. It’s not fair, kind of like when you buy an airline ticket for your vacation and you find out they sold more tickets than what the plane holds…

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  • Alex Reed August 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    What about, instead of allowing zero-parking apartment/condo buildings, the City requires apartment developers and managers to unbundle housing units from parking spaces? Then you could rent/purchase a unit, but not a space. This would also help solve the existing problem of buildings without enough parking spaces – tenants/condo owners could rent spaces at nearby buildings.

    I guess you would also have to start either charging or limiting parking on the street (with resident permits etc.) That’s a huge political lift but a must in order to solve our parking problem.

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  • spencer August 14, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    The problem with your argument is that we are all happy to have more density, but when we get density, we’ll be left sharing the bike boulevards/ complete streets with people circling the block looking for parking. If we all just ban parking w/o charging for on street parking, the public ROW will only get more and more congested w/o increasing safety for road users. Ultimate density does NOT equal bike utopia without planning for a separate ROW

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  • rwallis August 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    This article and the comments that followed should be mandatory reading for transportation engineers and land use planners. I thank you Jonathan for sparking such excellent commentary. Not that it matters, but I agree with Jonathan!

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  • Lance P. August 14, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    I couldn’t disagree more. It took my family a long long time to find a place close in that has no auto parking. I want to live around other people that bike and walk. There is waaaaay more demand for carfree choices than available. Not only that. Have you seen the Multmomah census? You might be surprised by the % of carfree citizens. Your so called ‘Parking Problem” could be solved by adding parking meters. Just last year my neighborhood, 28th/Burnside, tried to convince the city to add parking meters. We convinced just around 55% of the neighbors to sign the petition. Unfortunately, the city ignored our request. I have read this blog for years but feel like I just either this was an co written paper or somebody just paid you off. Sad.

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    • MossHops August 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      “I have read this blog for years but feel like I just either this was an co written paper or somebody just paid you off. Sad.”

      Seriously? I understand why some disagree with the piece, but you really want to jump all over BikePortland and yell “Sell Out!” as soon as they write something that you disagree with? What would biking be like in Portland without this site?

      Furthermore, we, as a community of urban cyclists are fighting for our slice of the urban landscape on a daily basis. We are asking to be heard and respected even if the majority of motorists don’t agree with us. Given that, it’s rather appalling and ironic how little many commentators on BikePortland tolerate diversity of opinion among generally like-minded cyclist.

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  • geneb August 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    This is bigger than just parking…My problem is with the “planners” and the City trying to tell me how I should live my life and trying to force me to live a lifestyle that I don’t choose. Various social engineering attempts to force me to not own motor vehicles are but one example of this. You would not like if if I told you how to live your life, in detail, why should I like it when you try to tell me?

    Embracing diversity means letting other folks do it there way. I have no interest in living in a place where we are all the same.

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    • Alex Reed August 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      I don’t like people telling me how to live my life either. But, I also don’t like people without cars (who tend to be poorer) subsidizing people with cars (who tend to be richer). In the status quo, where the City owns and maintains free parking for as many cars as anyone wants to have, people without cars are subsidizing people with cars. I have a car myself, which I keep parked on the street. I think it’s completely unfair that anyone except for me is involved in paying for my private vehicle storage. I think it’s especially unfair that the people who get a raw deal tend to be less well-off and privileged than I am.

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    • El Biciclero August 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Well, in a sense, “planners” and developers are telling folks how to live their lives transportation-wise by creating streets that are downright hostile to anyone not in a car. You want to get anywhere? Better use a car, or you are taking your life in your hands. How is coercing folks into cars–under a not-so-figurative threat of death or injury–that much different from “forcing” folks out of cars under threat of actually paying the true costs of owning and storing them?

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  • Joe August 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    why create any limits or build any spaces? Unless parking generates revenue, don’t build any more ‘free’ parking. once its at capacity, it will price some out and encourage others to eschew it. problem solved.

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  • tom August 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    The combination of climate change and sprawl are leading to global ecological collapse. Its easy to forget about or dismiss this because it is happening in slow motion compared to our lives but we absolutely have a responsibility to address it immediately. Cars must become much less common. No more easy parking spaces. We all must make sacrifices (even if that means congested streets for bikers) and we cannot wait. We certainly cannot politely wait for our city to become completely bike and pedestrian friendly while encouraging auto use in the transition. The upside is that a life without a car is actually more enjoyable, healthier and simpler. No more excuses.

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  • Caleb August 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Let’s all fly a kite…up to the highest height. Done.

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  • GlowBoy August 15, 2012 at 1:02 am

    My attitude about carrots and sticks is that I’m 100% in favor of making biking, walking and taking transit easier – MUCH easier – than they are today. I might also be convinced to support some things that make driving less easy. But only on a limited basis; I used to live in Seattle, which is all stick and no carrot, and I’ve watched that region’s livability gradually swirl down the toilet as a result. And I do NOT support making car ownership more difficult, because I see excess car use and not car ownership as the problem.

    Realistically, some of us MUST own cars. In our case, my wife needs one for her 24×7 on-call job. And when she gets called in, I can’t get my child to school and then get myself to work on time without a second car. So even though I bike or take transit to work more often than I drive, leaving my car parked harmlessly in front of my house, suddenly I am the devil incarnate, stealing public resources for storage of my satanmobile?

    Like many of the homeowners in our 100+ year old neighborhood (same as A.K.’s, though we’re a couple blocks far enough from the Aladdin to not be impacted on concert nights), we have a beautiful old house that does NOT have a garage or a driveway. Probably close to a third of us are in this situation.

    We knew that not having off-street parking was a bit of a drawback when we bought our house, but our only concern with that would have been finding parking. Fortunately there’s plenty of extra space on our block and we almost always manage to park right in front. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that someone would cook up the idea of charging us for using this underutilized slice of The Commons.

    What would a “market rate” be? $200/mo PER CAR is probably the going rate for garage space. We certainly can’t afford that, nor should we realistically have been expected to anticipate that when we bought the house. If we’d thought that was a real possibility (and really, it probably isn’t) we would of course have kept shopping. Start charging these “market rates” now, though, and you’d screw us double by destroying the value of our home and making it impossible to move somewhere with off-street parking. Same with a lot of my other neighbors. So I’ve got a dog in this fight, and fight is certainly what I would do.

    I know we don’t own the street. We also don’t own the sidewalk portion of the public right-of-way, yet we still have to maintain it. I’m about to spend $2000 on minor sidewalk repairs the city is requiring. I sweep the leaves even though none of them come from my yard. And whenever it snows I’m always the first one out there, busting my butt to go shovel 160 linear feet of it (I live on a corner lot, so this can be a ton of work). I don’t complain about these legally mandated and sometimes burdensome responsibilities, because I currently view them as my duties as a citizen. But if a new, absolutist view of ROW ownership is to prevail and the city is going to start charging for on-street parking, then the city can also start paying to maintain its sidewalks.

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    • Alex Reed August 15, 2012 at 11:22 am

      I don’t think $200 per car every month is ever going to fly in non-downtown Portland. I’d think $20 per car monthly would be much closer to the mark to start. Would that be a huge burden on your family? If it would, it’s because you’re already close to the edge of your means – perhaps if the City were to institute such a fee they could create a fee waiver program for families in need.

      For most families in Portland though, $20 or so a month per vehicle would be a completely affordable annoyance. It would be an awesome revenue source for the City and would pay for lots of improvements (possibly including taking sidewalk maintenance, repair, and clearing under the City’s wing – personally I think that would be completely proper).

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    • Alex Reed August 15, 2012 at 11:37 am

      In fact, this seems like a great opportunity for a revenue source to pave and add sidewalks to streets whose residents want such things done. Parking fees from those streets’ residents could be squirreled away to construct complete streets there once enough money was collected. Parking fees from other streets’ residents could go towards street maintenance, sidewalk clearing and repair, parks, and other public goods. Sounds like a visionary City leader could solve two big current problems with one fell swoop!

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      • GlowBoy August 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm

        No, $20/mo would be affordable for us. In fact, that’s the figure I had in the back of my mind as what I would be willing to accept. It would still be a significant incentive for most families to avoid parking on the street if they don’t really need to — without being downright punitive like the idea of a true “market rate” being bandied about (with a downright punitive tone) here. My guess is it would free up quite a lot of space on the street.

        I like the idea of using some of the proceeds to improve the substandard ROWs we have in many parts of town, and I would support that even though the improvements would not be in my neighborhood.

        Portland (and many other cities) already have resident parking permit systems in some dense neighborhoods where parking is tight, and this could be used as a model for the whole city. Add the ability to have means-tested discounts for low-income people, and also a mechanism for non-residents who are only parking for a few days (overnight guests, contractors working on homes) to opt in on something like a day-by-day basis, and you could have something that might work. I might even support it.

        The biggest question in my mind would whether enforcement costs would end up eating up all the revenue. Permit systems work today because they’re implemented in dense neighborhoods where the area of enforcement is relatively small. Could it be done across Portland’s entire street system, with thousands of miles to patrol? We might end up with a complaint-driven system like we have for so many other aspects of city regulation.

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        • Alex Reed August 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm

          Agreed, I do worry whether enforcement costs would eat it all up. But I imagine some motivated and imaginative bureaucrats could think up a system that would work. Perhaps affordable monthly fees ($20 or less) combined with sizeable penalties for violations (maybe in the $500 range) combined with lots of signage and options for visitors (a large number of guest day-passes with scratch-out days – perhaps 60 or more – given out to each resident for free?). Then the Police bureau would recover their costs from enforcing egregious violations while what most people see as legitimate use would avoid penalties, hopefully without excessive hassle.

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    • Terry D August 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      We also have a car, a house, a corner lot and 160 feet of sidewalk to maintain. The house was built in 1902. Since we bought the house we have spent close to $1800 on sidewalk replacement required by the city. I did not baulk since having fully built streets and sidewalks was priced into the cost of the house when I bought it….the same sized house in a neighborhood without these amenities would have been cheaper.

      The house had an undercut into the basement one-car Model T sized garage with a tiny driveway large enough for a table and chairs. I did not care since at that time I was carless. I few years later I hooked up with my partner, he moved in and we compromised and changed his car to an older style diesel we could convert to B99. We parked it on the street because of course it was too big to fit in the tiny “garage”. Since we live about a half mile from a MAX stop we assumed that over time on-street parking would become more difficult and eventually would have to be permit only because of future growth. So, when we had the opportunity to build a driveway we did. It is in between the houses, is bricked so all the rain water is handled on site and the permit was only less than $300. It looks like it was always there. At the same time the “garage door” conversion permit, which was really just replacing a garage door with French doors, cost about the same. Now to get to the point….

      We did this because we assumed that in the long run the city would grow enough that on street parking would become a problem, like it is in every dense American city. We saw a solution and took it. I did not EXPECT that on street parking would be available just because we lived on a complete street. That is publicly owned space, it is NOT our space. I assumed in 2003 that eventually on street parking would become either too inconvenient or expensive because this city is growing. I bought the house and lot, not the spaces around it. Luckily due to circumstances we had the resources to fix the “parking problem.” In your case it sounds like you live close enough to a future MAX stop that the same thing will happen to you. It is unavoidable in a city that is growing. The increase in property value you will get from living in a walkable neighborhood near a MAX stop will more than outweigh any negative impact you will receive because of permit only parking that will inevitably occur because of your location. The city is growing, residents have to adjust. If you do not want to move and you absolutely need parking long term then you will need to look into building your own spaces if you have room on your property.

      Now on a side issue….why was a simple permit to change out a door the same price as the permit to build a WHOLE driveway? The first permit was about 25% the cost of the project and the permit for the driveway was closer to 5.5% (we did almost all the work ourselves for both projects). I found this ridiculous…the city should have charged significantly more for the driveway and less for the door change out since one of the main reasons we did it was for energy efficiency….

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      • GlowBoy August 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm

        Good for you Terry D. Just because you took the initiative to prepare for 2050, though, doesn’t mean everyone else should have to, especially if they live in neighborhoods where parking is NOT tight. Our house, incidentally, was also built in 1902, but there are a couple of key differences.

        1. Maybe parking is indeed tight where you are, but it isn’t where we are, and probably won’t be even 20 years from now (by which point we will have retired and sold the house anyway). We’re far enough from the new Rhine MAX station that we won’t be seeing radical changes. Unlike your assumption, our purchase decision certainly DID anticipate a steady increase in density as part of the city’s natural growth (even though the plans for the MAX line were not known at the time), and I welcome the idea of the city absorbing a very large part of our region’s future growth. But our neighborhood could absorb quite a bit more density without parking becoming terribly scarce. Our part of Brooklyn is not going to be packed with 4-6 story Euro style midrise housing anytime soon.

        2. We don’t have the cheap, easy driveway option you did. Adding a garage would require excavating a large portion of our backyard (accessed from the side street) and building a new driveway across the sidewalk. This would, I’m sure, cost many tens of thousands of dollars and might also entail some tricky permitting issues.

        As I said in another post, I’d gladly pay $20/mo/car for the privilege of parking on our lightly used street. It’s the idea of charging a so-called “market rate” (which could easily be 10x higher) that I object to.

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        • Terry D August 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

          If your street does have open parking spaces as the norm than $20 a month would probably be market rate. As long as commuters do not figure it out once the MAX stop opens (that can be dealt with by “residents only” parking restrictions). As far as the driveway permit goes, sounds like your back yard is almost exactly what we did…create a new curb cut-out around the corner. We did not build a garage, just the 11 foot wide driveway. As long as your “impervious surface ratio” on your property is ok and there are no severe slopes to deal with then the permit is not tricky at all and ridiculously cheap. We were lucky in that we just plowed our top soil into the back yard and it is now growing tomatoes. The driveway can butt up to the property line. Of course you have to replace the sidewalk since the cement depth has to be thicker for an apron than a normal sidewalk but that has no impact on the permit pricing. It is all about cost-benefits and how much it is worth it to you to have convenient access to your autos combined with losing that 500 square foot or so of green space on your property.

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    • Joe Rowe August 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      If you live close to the “Aladdin” theater and you’ve got no current problems then why argue for more parking or free parking? Permit neighborhoods are only for places with current parking problems.

      If you live close to the Aladdin you may someday have parking issues, and on that day you’ll also have made a ton of equity in your home (100k) so you can afford a neighborhood permit at $200 per year. That’s a 99k profit.

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      • GlowBoy August 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm

        I’m not arguing for more parking. And you’re right, I’ve got no current or anticipate problems finding a place to park; I’m responding to the threats on this thread of charging EVERYONE (even in neighborhoods that don’t have problems) “market rates” for parking on the public right of way.

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        • 9watts August 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm

          I hear you, but I have a different interpretation of market rate:
          “I’m responding to the threats on this thread of charging EVERYONE (even in neighborhoods that don’t have problems) “market rates” for parking on the public right of way.”

          (a) If we only charge for parking in areas that have excess demand, the problem can be expected to spill over into areas that currently don’t experience this excess demand. Though I think this spillage won’t be a tidal wave either. I notice for instance that the church goers who flock to the new-to-our-neighborhood church clog the streets around the church on Sundays with their cars, but that effect drops sharply outside a radius of about 2.5 blocks.
          (b) Market rates along Hawthorne on a summer weekend are not, I don’t think, going to be the same as market rates on your less trafficked block. That is at least how I understand the term.

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  • Jake August 15, 2012 at 8:27 am

    love that there are so many opinions about this issue. the conversation needs to continue, hope the developers read too.

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  • Jeff Bernards August 15, 2012 at 8:57 am

    A bigger issue than the car parking situation is where will we plant the “victory” gardens of the future, if ALL the land has high rises? It only solves the transportation issue not the food issue. I can miss the bus but I can’t miss too many meals.

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  • MossHops August 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

    One of the interesting issues relating to the smart meter idea is that it is essentially a flat tax that creates a greater burden for the low and middle class as opposed to the upper class.

    We all agree our current parking schemes are not “free.” However, this street parking is generally paid for through property taxes, gas taxes and perhaps state income taxes (I’m not positive on that last one). Property taxes and income taxes tend to be a bit more equitable in terms of being progressive taxes, but the downside of course is that they are not helping change behavior.

    Installing meters won’t affect me much as I don’t drive much, but I am torn between the idea of meters creating greater incentive for those who bike (good) yet creating a greater burden for those in the lower and middle class who have to drive (bad).

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    • spare_wheel August 15, 2012 at 11:35 am

      metered parking is regressive but permitted parking does not have to be regressive. for example, permitted parking in missisipi, alberta, the pearl, laurelhurst, NW, sellwood, and irvington should be *very* expensive while parking in underprivileged areas should be inexpensive (or even free for those with demonstrated low income).

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    • bicycle rider August 16, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      regressive?!? give me a break. first off disabled get free parking and secondly there is a transit system as well as bike and pedestrian options, owning a car is a luxury in a city

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  • Ted August 15, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I’ll just weigh in and agree with people that the change that is needed is for on-street parking to cost more. The revenue raised should be kept within the neighborhood where it is generated and used for visible improvements in that area. The whole public pays for these streets, so any private entity hoping to use them for storage of their private vehicle must be asked to reimburse the public for that right, and the lost opportunity to use that very expensive road space for something else.

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  • MIke August 15, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Forcing people to bike or walk is all well and good but if you own a house near one of these apartment buildings you kind of get screwed. The developers probably don’t think of the people that already live in the area and that is lame.

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    • spare_wheel August 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

      many loan owners have an existing parking space. and many of those who do not could build a parking space.

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  • Lisa August 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

    You think we have a parking problem in Portland?

    Go live in LA. Go live in NY. Go live anywhere but here.

    It’s a joke to say it’s hard to park here. And controlling parking is the one of the best tools to get more people actively commuting and commuting via public transit. Fewer trips by car = fewer cars trolling neighborhood streets for parking.

    You have to implement the policy first before people change their behavior. That’s why 82% more people in a year started biking in Sydney… AFTER they built more bike infrastructure.

    I normally agree with you, but this argument is all wrong, and clearly faltered by a limited understanding of “difficult parking”.

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  • Lyle August 15, 2012 at 10:10 am

    How do you create temporary parking in areas where it is most needed? I don’t see how that is possible. Even requiring a few more spaces from developers is short sighted because that land will be almost impossible to redevelop later on. As many have already stated, start charging for all on street parking. Transitions are tough. I’m sure that when the streetcars disappeared there were a lot of people who didn’t own or couldn’t afford to own cars. For them, the transition must have been very difficult. Today it’s probably only an inconvenience for most households to give up a car.

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  • Woodstock_Cyclist August 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

    This is a debate the city needs to have, so thanks for bringing it here, Jonathan. (Previous rounds have been instigated by folks like Jack Bogdanski and the Oregonian, neither of whom have added much to the conversation beyond grumpiness.)

    Like others, while I’m glad you’re wading in, I’m surprised by the constrained lens through which you’ve analyzed the problem here. It’s true that cars circling for parking make cycling difficult and unpleasant in some places, and it’s true that it creates safety issues and maybe even hampers removal of on-street parking for certain types of bike infrastructure. But to think the solution is just more parking at some apartment buildings–so that those people can now own a car more easily, which they can drive to other parts of town and take up street parking there–seems an astoundingly short-sighted conclusion.

    It’s kind of a chicken and egg question to some extent, but unless we bring the full range of market solutions–paying for parking and so on–the chicken won’t lay, nor will the egg ever hatch. And let’s not forget that there is an affordability issue at stake here. As reported on OPB this morning (, not having to put in parking is the difference between what might be an affordable apartment and what will never be. (The “creative” parking solutions would only make that more expensive–ramps and garages and elevators and the like do not grow on trees.) Same goes for making transit work effectively–without adequate densities and people who find it more convenient than driving, transit continues to languish in much of Portland. Parking fees don’t have to be exorbitant, but they do have to make people think about other options. (And as someone else pointed out, if distributed fairly, they can help improve neighborhoods substantially.)

    I might take this opportunity to remind readers of Bike Portland (and Jonathan) why land use matters a great deal in these issues. You want to get to that sustainable city where cycling and walking and transit are great and people don’t drive everywhere? You need to pay attention to what’s happening at the fringes–the UGB and the regional policies that enable more car-oriented sprawl vs directing growth into more walkable places (whether in Portland or in suburban town centers). Better biking doesn’t happen through infrastructure or culture alone–it happens through policy frameworks at multiple scales that incentivize the kind of development allowing people to live without cars. Between that and reasonable pricing/permitting for parking, along with enforcement, I think you’ll find that the minimum parking issue becomes less of a problem.

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    • Joe Rowe August 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      I agree about the attention to the edges of the city. I feel like the non profit OPAL is on this battle. Not so for other “leaders” in transpo. I feel like the BTA and others lobby very hard and loud for slick toys of transportation. I hear silence regarding basics needs of poor people on the edge of the city. I rarely see any news from the BTA about ways to help low income adults who can’t use a bike or car.

      We would need less parking if we had leaders with the guts to nix the bike share and spend some cash on clearing some roads in rush hour so we could add express buses connecting the edges of the city.

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  • Doug G. August 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    …we’re not there yet. I feel like we’re in a multi-year transition period where we’re moving toward a new era, but we haven’t shaken the old era yet. Until transportation behaviors truly shifts, we need to address this parking issue.
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    You make some good points, but I’d argue that your line of reasoning here could very well have been applied to prevent the growth of Portland’s bike lane network, or any city’s.

    We hear this in New York all of the time: “We think expanding bike lanes are great, but we’re just not there yet in terms of shifting transportation behavior, so until it does we need to address this traffic issue.”

    What ends up happening with this reasoning in New York is that we build a bike lane that doesn’t go anywhere or doesn’t connect to anything. The result is familiar to you, I’m sure: opponents of change complain that no one is using the bike lane, which then delays the building of the bike lanes that would bridge the connectivity gaps. Instead, we keep accommodating cars and get more traffic…which then leads to the next round of delayed infrastructure for bikes.

    The same logic holds true with parking. If you require or encourage developers to build parking, even a small amount to take some of the burden off of free on-street spaces, you’ll only prolong the argument that people need places to store their cars. In turn, you make it easier for people in the future to use the same line of reasoning: “We still can’t do anything about limiting parking because so many people need a place to park.”

    And the tail eats the head…

    At some point it may be necessary to just radically revise building codes and other policies to enable the new era to unfold faster.

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  • Ted Buehler August 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    In Boise neighborhood, we’re fine with the developers not putting in parking. We’ve requested that they put in large bike rooms. Some have complied, some haven’t.

    We figure easy parking will soon be a thing of the past regardless of whether the developers spend $20,000 per stall to add a token number of parking spaces. We’d rather see them put those funds into something more meaningful to the long-term quality of life of their residents and neighbors.

    This applies to buildings proposed on N Williams, N Vancouver and N Mississippi between Fremont and Skidmore.

    Ted Buehler
    Co-Chair, Boise Neighborhood Association

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  • kittens August 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Jonathan, I think you are getting in over your head. This editorial is not very smart.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks kittens,

      I realize parking/housing policy isn’t my strong suit; but I felt strongly enough about my thoughts on this that I felt they needed to be shared.

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      • A.K. August 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

        I’d just like to say I’m glad you took the time to write this editorial. It’s sparked a lot of really good conversation, and some totally silly comments as well.

        It doesn’t matter if people think you don’t know what you’re talking about or threaten not to read your blog any more – it’s YOUR blog, and YOUR opinion, and I hope you continue to write more ‘controversial’ topics such as this, and I’m glad you’re not simply in the ‘bikes good/cars bad’ camp – as that echo chamber would get really old, really fast.

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  • biking mom August 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    100% agree with this analysis, Jonathan. Very well-said. Living in a neighborhood impacted by housing projects without adequate parking, I can attest that simply eliminating the requirement for parking spots- allowing developers to save tons of money- does not necessarily translate into fewer cars. Its just means people park “creatively”, which has consequences for everyone, some unfortunate. I am as bike-minded as they come, don’t own a car, and wish very much that there were more car-free folks out there, but the reality is, as you stated, we just aren’t there yet.

    Lack of parking for large groups of residents is certainly a quality-of-life issue for the surrounding neighborhood. Simply put it exponentially increases the car traffic on side streets as people circle the block looking for parking, park blocking driveways, and park too close to the intersection, blocking views.

    Simply not including parking for new residents does not eliminate them owning cars. I wish it did. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t, and my neighborhood is living proof.

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    • Chris I August 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Perhaps your neighborhood should lobby the city to create an improvement district, where parking meters are added to charge market-based pricing for the spaces. This money can be used to improve pedestrian and bike facilities in the neighborhood, improving livability for all. Those that drive will always be able to find a spot, and pedestrians and cyclists like yourself will have improved facilities.

      The alternative is the construction of denser housing with added parking, which will increase the traffic in your neighborhood anyway.

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  • Lyle August 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    @biking mom

    Isn’t that the point of high density housing? That everyone should share the burden?

    The world is changing and we all have to do our bit whether we like it or not.

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  • Chris I August 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm
    • 9watts August 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      What an excellent piece. Here’s a shorter link.
      Everyone should read it. Why do (many of us) assume no one else has thought of a better approach than what our local officials discuss?

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  • Kathryn August 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Glad you chimed in on this issue. It is indeed complicated and I agree, Portland isn’t there yet. In the mean time we need to get creative and think about what to do about it with a variety of people. Charlie Hales posted his plan to address this issue the other day-

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    • 9watts August 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      “The feasibility of a car-free lifestyle is different in different neighborhoods.” (taken from Charlie Hales piece linked above)

      If Charlie Hales wanted to do something really bold (the press release was a bit vague for me) I think he should turn the above statement around and inquire into the actual distribution of carfree households in Portland and Multnomah Co. I think he might be surprised how widespread the phenomenon is.* Of course it would seem easier in dense inner East Side neighborhoods or downtown, but most of my neighbors own and drive two or three cars per dwelling, so it really isn’t about location so much as it is about priorities, and economic calculations, and so on.

      *I’m happy to forward you the spreadsheet I put together showing percentage of carfree households in the 110 census tracts across Multnomah Co. from the 2000 census. Send me an email at 9watts at gmail

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      • Joe Rowe August 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm

        It would be great if you simply uploaded the EXCEL to google docs, then changed the share settings to allow anyone with the link to read.

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  • Steve G August 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm


    Lots of people are moving to the Portland Area. We can grow up (more density), or we can grow out (more sprawl). Personally, despite the fact that I live in the Richmond neighborhood and it’s sometimes difficult to find parking, I’d much rather have more density.

    Density (in Vancouver BC they call it “EcoDensity”) will lead to more vibrant retail districts along Division, Hawthorne and Belmont. We’ll have more shops and restaurants, and fewer weedy lots and barely-making-it second lamp stores. More density will also add to the tax base, and allow more investment into better services — like schools, parks, etc.

    Also, as far as cars go, there are clear trends (do a quick search for “Millennials and Car Ownership”) showing that more and more people (not only youngsters; aging boomers, too) are choosing to forego car ownership — especially in areas well-served by transit and bike facilities — in favor of walking, biking, transit and car-sharing. With Zipcar (200 cars), Car2go (210) and Getaround (233 and growing daily), non-car-owners in Portland now have nearly 650 vehicles that they can rent, on demand, right in their neighborhoods!

    A bunch of your neighbors (some 230, as of today) are already renting out their personal cars to their car-free neighbors via Getaround (full disclosure: I work part-time for Getaround), and many are making hundreds of dollars a month doing so. Also, parking demand — like driving distance per capita in general, is on a long-term downward glide path. (Again, do a Google search. It’s happening everywhere, not just in Portland)

    I recently met with an executive at American Property Management — Portland’s largest landlord — and he pointed out that “the closer to downtown you get, the less demand we’re seeing, for parking”. He went on to explain that lots and lots of APM’s tenants are asking for bike parking, but relatively few of them even own cars. Instead, they use their bikes or Trimet to commute, and when they need a car, they rent a neighbor’s car via Getaround, or a Car2go, or a Zipcar.

    So: there’s a happy solution at hand: More density, more prosperity AND fewer cars! These are great trends for anyone who wants to live in more prosperous, more environmentally sustainable neighborhoods.

    Lastly, here’s a suggestion. If you own a car and want to be part of the solution, check out — and offer up your car for rent. You set the price, and you can choose your clientele by accepting or declining any rental request that you receive. Getaround, meanwhile, takes a cut and provides full insurance coverage that indemnifies the owner’s insurance carrier — and provides primary coverage for the owner, the renter and the car.

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    • El Biciclero August 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

      May I humbly suggest “aPARKolypse” as the appropriate term here?

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  • dwainedibbly August 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    There is a proposal for an 18-20 story, 450-bed, “high end student housing” building on SW Jefferson, between 10th & 11th. Many of the units are <350 sq ft. Target rentals are in the $2.80 to $3 range, completely furnished. The developer says that they have done research that says that 95% of their target market ("foreign students") does not own a car, so there is zero parking in the plan.

    The neighborhood, especially the older residents, is not convinced that this isn't going to be a huge problem. I'm on the fence. I like the idea of discouraging automobile use downtown and Mrs Dibbly & I drove <1000 miles last year ourselves, but once a project that size is built, you aren't going to be adding parking to it.

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    • A.K. August 16, 2012 at 7:35 am

      There is talk about a large apartment building with hundreds of units eventually being built near the QFC in Westmoreland as well, also with no parking (but not geared towards foreign students). Not sure if it’ll happen or not, but that would certainly disrupt the feel of that neighborhood significantly.

      I first heard about that in the most recent issue of the Sellwood Bee. I’m sure they’ll have more coverage as time goes on.

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      • Alex Reed August 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm

        “Disrupt” meaning what exactly? Does “disrupt” mean “change?” Personally, such an apartment building would probably make me *more* likely to want to buy a house in that neighborhood, as the additional residents would result in more dollars being spent at local businesses, resulting in more and better stores and restaurants in the area. The presence of such stores and businesses and perhaps slightly more frequent transit would far outweigh some parking inconvenience in my personal calculus. I’m sure it’s different for different people, but you can’t expect your neighborhood to never change ever.

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  • Patrick August 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    A point lost in all of this is that free parking is not free. The developer is not giving it away but including it in the rent. In the same way they are not pocketing all of the savings from not building it, but charging less rent. Many of the buildings proposed are work force housing and not luxury apartments. According to the DJC article site on Bike Portland, “On-site parking also can be the difference between an apartment’s rent costing $700 or $1,200, Mullens added.” It is silly to be renting a 600 sf apartment and paying for a 200 sf parking space in my mind. Let the market sort it out. If people want parking they can pay more, if they want to bike and use transit they can reap the savings in lower rent.

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  • 007 August 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I’m against accommodating more drivers and their cars. More people without cars will come and more people will have to give up their cars. Oh well. So sad.

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  • Doug August 15, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    As a few mentioned, the available figures show that, in fact, many, and even the majority of people living in parking-free buildings don’t own cars. UD+P, the developers of the building at 38th and Division, said that of their several buildings around town that don’t have parking, 48 percent of their tenants have cars. And this is relatively expensive and large units. According to developer Mark Desbrow, buildings that have parking available average 60-70 percent car ownership. And, Mullins’ figures of about 30 percent or less car ownership make sense since their company builds smaller, cheaper units, and thus even more likely than UD+P to attract people who don’t have cars.

    The time is now. The plan for transition to low-car life is working, driven by market forces. In all these zones, the developer is allowed to include parking. They don’t because they figure they can rent the apartments without it. Admittedly some of the “costs” are shifted to adjacent neighbors who then see more cars parked on their street. But, without the complexity of permit parking, etc., this is the simple price to pay for this transition time. The choice is some more on-street parked cars, or (with apartment parking) a lot more cars being driven around your neighborhood.

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  • Doug August 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Oh and by the way. Most of the zoning where these apartments are being built, with no parking, has been in place for 30 years! 30 years we have waited for developers to take advantage of the no-parking provision. And now, the perfect combination of reduced car ownership, more alternative transportation use, and apartment demand and the right economic factors, and we’re finally getting car-free apartment buildings.

    Why should we backtrack on this turn of events we have waited so long for, saying “the time is not yet right”?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 16, 2012 at 10:04 am


      Again. Nowhere in my article did I write that we should “backtrack” or make a change to the code. All I am saying is that there are some key disconnects going on and this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

      It’s great that developers are taking advantage of the code… But PBOT must step up to the plate and make these areas truly transit and bike-friendly so that tenants can actually not drive/own cars. Look at Williams as a perfect example. I know veteran bike riders who won’t even ride on Williams because it’s so stressful and Vancouver (its couplet) includes some of the most danger bike/car intersections in the entire city. If Portland continues to maintain the system as it exists now, the parking problem will get worse. PBOT is not doing enough to encourage the type of transportation behavior that their code aspires to. In the meantime, developers should face more burden to deal with the cars they are bringing into n’hoods.

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  • Steve G August 16, 2012 at 7:17 am

    The average American car is parked (at home or work, typically) 92% of the time. Even in parking-challenged NW Portland, most driveways are EMPTY between 9 and 5, when their owners are a work.

    These assets have tremendous value that can be monetized by their owners, by renting them to others who don’t have their own off-street parking spaces or cars.

    This isn’t a regulatory problem, it’s a legacy of excess and poor regulation. A market failure. The good news is that entrepreneurs have noticed, and in both cases, there are now peer-to-per marketplaces that allow people to rent out their excess car- and parking-capacity.

    You can read about these and dozens of similar startups at

    Here’s the bright side: the more congested your neighborhood, the demand you’ll see for your car and your space — ergo, the more money you can earn!

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  • Steve Gutmann August 16, 2012 at 9:38 am

    A key insight in this debate, which several people have already brought up, is the fact that no individual — not matter how long they have lived in a particular neighborhood, has any “right” to park in the PUBLIC right of way. On-street parking belongs to the public, and if there’s more demand than supply, access should be allocated — by pricing it appropriately — to maximize revenue FOR THE PUBLIC.

    So… In areas where demand exceeds supply, the city should collect money on behalf of the public, and use it for public purposes. This is called a “Parking Benefit District.” IMO the ideal public purpose would be to return all of it (less the cost of collection) to neighborhood residents as a “parking dividend.” That’s unlikely to happen, but neighborhoods should pressure PBoT to maximize the value of the ROW via permits and meters, and to use these revenues for LOCAL amenities (e.g. nearby park improvements; a neighborhood swimming pool/community center; better sidewalks; local street maintenance, etc.).

    There is no defensible reason, IMHO, to give private citizens free access to the public ROW once there’s more demand than supply. Doing so subsidizes car ownership, which is bad transportation policy. In a parking-constrained environment, anyone who “needs” a parking space should either park it off street, or pay to park it on public property.

    People who genuinely need a parking space in front of their home (e.g. handicapped drivers) could be allocated reserved spaces in the public ROW, but even these spaces shouldn’t be free, unless the individual who needs it can’t afford to pay. In that case, providing a free, reserved space in the public ROW for a private purpose seems justified. Otherwise, we should do what we do for most things: let the marketplace allocate scarce resources.

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    • MossHops August 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

      I think we may be pushing this subsidizing parking thing a bit much. Your right that we do subsidize it and your right to state that it’s bad policy… however…

      We subsidize a lot in this town.

      Property owners and income tax payers subsidize public transportation, they subsidize libraries, they subsidize schools and they subsidize police and fire and jails and parks and greenways and sidewalks and city workers and so on and so forth. There a lot of stuff in there that those who are paying the taxes don’t use are subsidizing for the benefit of others.

      It would end up being very bad policy and very counterproductive to argue that free parking is somehow “unfair” because it is paid for by others. By this logic, we would have a very difficult challenge ahead of us with regards to continued build out of bicycle boulevards and mass transit as there are those in the city who pay for, but do not use, these services.

      To effectively argue against free parking, we will need to create a very strong argument as to why it is bad policy. Forget the fact that it subsidized and forget about how “fair” it is to those who are paying for parking through taxation, but are not receiving the benefit. The only argument that we should be making against free parking is that is it bad policy for our city and alternatives such as mass transit and bicycle boulevards are good for our city.

      If everyone “paid their fair share” for their mode of transit, bicycles would do very well (as it is very cost effective when we compare usage vs. dollar spent), but it’d be the death knell for public transit.

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      • Steve Gutmann August 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm

        Good point, MossHops. Subsidies generally reflect government (and, at least, in theory, publicly-supported) priorities. So my rant against certain subsidies (e.g. driving subsidies, fossil fuel subsidies) and favoring others (transit, bikes, renewables) is really a rant about misplaced priorities.

        On the other hand, as Amory Lovins likes to point out: “a market economy is a great idea. It’s high time that we tried one.”

        If drivers paid anything close to the true cost of driving, they’d quickly make other choices: especially bikes, and probably carpooling, vanpooling and perhaps a bit of fixed-route transit with paid drivers. Similarly, power generators would be scrambling to invest in renewable and energy efficiency if they were faced with the real cost of burning fossil energy.

        At least in energy and transportation, our public officials have, over decades, established all sorts of hidden subsidies & incentives to do the wrong thing, whereas the small subsidies that support doing the right thing are the only ones that get “called out” as subsidies.

        But your point is well taken.

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  • Sarah H August 16, 2012 at 9:50 am


    I have been following the whole thread pretty closely and for the most part it has been reassuring – even those who disagree seem only to be doing so because they ultimately want the same thing we all do: more and better alternatives to driving. And I couldn’t agree more on that point!

    I do get sad, though, when I look at satellite view of Portland and see *so many parking lots*, even downtown and in the Northwest. Such wasted space, making the landscape ugly and making everything I’m trying to walk and bike to needlessly farther away.

    There’s little I like better than discussing these sorts of things over a beer too, so it sounds like I may just fit in quite well there. I’ll be checking it all out over the course of a couple of upcoming visits, and I can’t wait. I’m very excited. Thanks for your direct reply!

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    • Sarah H August 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

      (sorry that was supposed to be a direct reply to Andrew’s reply to my earlier post… I fail at replying)

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  • Ted August 16, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Noticed in the news today that Los Angeles has just reduced its parking requirements:

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  • wsbob August 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

    People are going to own cars. More efficient use of space available to park cars can be accomplished by encouraging people to own smaller cars with the length dimension of cars such as the Smart; two of them can just about park together in a parking space sized for a big sedan or SUV.

    Since big cars still seem to be extremely popular in the U.S., cities wanting to make more money from the public ROW could set parking rates higher for long cars.

    The idea of charging residents to use the street parking space in front of their homes is a really lousy way to for the city to extract money from its citizens. Charging residents for that space, also doesn’t solve the problem of parking space demand arising from new housing being built without provision for the storage of residents’ vehicles and at least a few short term guest parking spaces, on the property.

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  • benschon August 16, 2012 at 11:40 am

    “Parking requirements force-feed the city with parking spaces, and removing a parking requirement simply stops this force-feeding. Ceasing to require off-street parking gives businesses the freedom to provide as much or as little parking as they like.” Preach it, Dr. Shoup!

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  • benschon August 16, 2012 at 11:44 am

    “Parking isn’t some crucial public good, such as medical knowledge, that needs subsidizing. Let the market determine the supply and the price.”
    -Ed Glaeser, economics prof at Harvard

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  • GlowBoy August 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    To wsbob’s point about the size of cars, we should do away with delineated boundaries between parking spaces on the street, in places like downtown. That made sense when each meter served 1 or 2 spaces, and you had to define exactly where the spaces were. And they made the spaces HUGE so that they fit every car, no matter how big.

    But now that we have the electronic system where there’s one parking meter for each block, we no longer need the stripes between the spaces. Let everyone fit their cars in however they best fit (as is already done in NW Portland and most residential neighborhoods) and you’ll get 1-2 more cars in per block. AND provide an incentive for people to have smaller cars, and/or take their smaller car (if they have more than one, as most families still do) when they’re going to a crowded area.

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  • spare_wheel August 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    i believe a “market” rate would be inappropriate. any rate should also price the social, economic, and environmental costs of low occupancy vehicle use. if this city were seriously about sustainability and equity we would be rationing road use, not subsidizing it.

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  • Jeff August 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    The streets belong to everybody. Using them for free personal storage is something I have a concern with. However, cars exist (though they probably should not in cities). I would think, perhaps, remove parking from corners and they charge “market rates” and Donald Shoup advocates in his book, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

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  • Dave August 17, 2012 at 9:31 am


    Hi! Rhetorical question coming.

    How can Portland do road diets and reduce speed limits to create safer bicycling conditions when some people need to drive? We’re not there yet, where everyone can ride a bike. These are the interim years. During these interim years we should be careful not to give over much street space to bikes.

    – Dave Snyder

    p.s. I hope you’re doing well and look forward to the next time we get to visit. Probike in Long Beach?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 17, 2012 at 9:59 am

      Hi Dave,

      Nice to hear from you.

      I know my opinions on this are easy to poke at; but I don’t your analogy is very productive. I like looking at specific contexts of issues, not simply analogies that make for good sound bites and that are not similar in my opinion.

      The problem in Portland is very specific and I felt it needed to be addressed.

      Developers are piling on impacts from their projects onto the public, and the public doesn’t have access to a transportation system that allows these negative impacts to be absorbed. In the meantime, there are a bunch of excess cars on our streets because of these developments. What should we do with them? I agree with many of the comments here that we should price parking accordingly to help make some of the cars disappear.

      The bike analogy doesn’t make sense for many reasons. Key in these debates is that biking is a behavior that is encouraged by the city in officially adopted plans, and therefore we are obligated to create a city where it’s possible and safe to do it. Driving a car does not share the same type of official stamp of encouragement/approval in city policy and goals, so it makes no sense to plan for it in the same way. If someone wants to argue that “we’re just not there yet” with bikes, I would explain that to them.

      And.. I’ll be sorry to miss you and everyone else at Pro Walk/Pro Bike. I’m riding down the Oregon coast with the People’s Coast Classic ride that same week (!) so I can’t make it. Have a good one and see you in March in DC.

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