Donjek Tools: Transportation Consulting for Public and Private Clients

Donjek Transportation Consulting
Donjek is rolling out with transportation planning and policy service, so to speak.  Look to us toDonjek Transportation Service conduct travel demand projections and management analysis, evaluate streetcar finance, negotiate shared parking agreements, and determine whether to use tax increment financing for streets and structured parking.  We identify and present solutions in these areas on behalf of our public- and private-sector clients.  We are able to:
  • Work with mid-size and large employers to reduce payroll taxes and parking lease charges.  We are able to analyze employee travel and parking requirements, to help employers identify and manage these costs, using travel demand management plans and other measures.
  • Form urban and suburban transportation site plans to cultivate the vital places in your city.
  • Develop shared parking arrangements and parking management plans that ensure efficient access and circulation.
  • Prepare traffic impact studies to determine the effect of development on congestion, safety, and parking supply. 
  • Analyze transportation markets to estimate demand and identify innovative, multi-modal solutions to transportation challenges.
Click here for a brief summary of Donjek transportation services and related background.

Getting Less Mileage Out of the Gas Tax
Last week, Congress recapitalized the Highway Trust Fund, a gas-tax funded resource available in the past for construction of roads and bridges as well as transit infrastructure.  If unaddressed, the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated the fund would empty as of October 1.  This article provides a sound recent overview of the move.  It also explores the increasing folly of levying gas tax as a dollar value per gallon, while inflation mixed with reduced fuel consumption by consumers is leading to deterioration of revenues and resources available for investment in transportation infrastructure.  Talk about a volatile mixture!

Learn more about the State of Oregon’s experimentation will replacing gas tax with a mileage fee in an article from Governing magazine available here.  If you have an afternoon to spend on it, see this document.

Revelations in Milwaukee: Historic Reuse, Natural-Lit Parking and Free Parking

 

1271724579_6a1b2cf1be
I’ve returned from a recent junket to fair Milwaukee. I hadn’t been to Milwaukee
in fifteen years, and parts of the city have changed dramatically since
then. Two examples and a policy
observation:

• I noticed on my tour of the lakeshore, the vital reuse of
the Milwaukee River Flushing Station (pictured). Alterra Coffee (in combination with the
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Milwaukee County)
rehabilitated the station, which was built in 1888 to flush sewage harbored in
the river into Lake Michigan. Does this strike you as an ironic piece of
infrastructure to reuse as a coffee shop?

In fact, it works conspicuously well. The building remains owned by the sewerage
district (“MMSD”), and the county owns all land from the periphery of the
building to the edge of the site. The physical
structure is aligned with its new mission: Pervious pavement and water filtration systems are narrated on displays constructed
by the county’s parks department. The
building’s lakeshore location is not surprisingly home to a brisk business
moving excellent food and coffee; Alterra also sponsors a music series with
wares ranging from opera to Latin American.

Special thanks to Bill Robison, Principal at Engberg Anderson,
an architecture firm with offices in Milwaukee, Madison and Tucson. As the lead architect on this reuse project,
Bill partnered with Alterra, MMSD and the county, and generously responded to
my recent cold inquiry about its development.

Milwaukee Art Museum’s
renovation and expansion includes dramatic architecture and serves the need for
a much-enhanced connection between downtown and Lake
Michigan. Of course, as
principal of a public finance and transportation consulting firm, I was most
drawn to the Milwaukee_parking
underground parking garage lit with skylights (also pictured). Facilities Director Charles Loomis explained
that sensors evaluate the quality of light admitted through the skylights and
adjust the use of lighting to supplement, creating significant (but to date unquantified)
energy cost savings to the museum.  And to preempt your question before you read below, museum parking is not free.

• A recent post at Urban
Milwaukee
cited SBT and Colliers data showing the median metered hourly
parking rate in downtown Milwaukee is $0.63, versus a national average of $1.48. Author Jeramey Jannene suggests an oversupply of metered parking
downtown has suppressed redevelopment efforts: The zoning code requires structured
parking in site plans, which represents a mandate to lose money in an
environment with an oversupply of cheap on-street parking.

In St. Paul,
a very different discussion is taking place regarding the anticipated loss of
roughly 85% of on-street parking on University Avenue as light rail transit is added to the
street’s modes. At the same time, the
Metropolitan Council has indicated their wish to discourage the building of
structured parking just off the avenue in order to avoid the avenue’s use as a
park-and-ride. Arguably, the main impact
of this move is to drive up land values and favor those who control larger
parcels near University. It also highlights
the importance of the type of transportation consulting that Donjek’s Dan Walsh
can provide, including analysis and negotiation for structured parking, shared
parking, and travel demand management (TDM).

The travel log would remain incomplete without noting our visit to Sprecher Brewery, where I sampled their very fine Shakparo beer, fermented according to an African protocol using bananas.  The beer tent in Milwaukee continues to get bigger and bigger!

Photo of Milwaukee River Flushing Station: Retinal Fetish, Flickr. Parking garage photo: J. Commers

Parking: More Expensive Than We Thought

A dramatic reuse of an aging church for the new Stepping Stone Theatre required
a variance of 10420071129_lobby_2
parking
spaces, or 92% of the requirement stipulated under the zoning code in St. Paul, Minnesota, meaning only 8% of the requirement is directly provided by the theatre’s property. Do the City’s parking requirements create a
structural oversupply of parking in the city? It’s likely. I will revisit
parking requirements in coming months, during which city planners and
stakeholders will engage the future of local parking policy. The focus of this post is to consider the
public cost associated with requiring developers to meet the parking
requirements currently in place.

Stepping Stone Theatre is a success story, providing
children with training and experience in acting and stagecraft. Shows in the new theatre on Victoria Street
are
sure to be well attended, leading the reader to ask:  How will the neighborhood accommodate the
parking needs during performances? The
theatre has arranged for patrons to park in existing surface lots at William
Mitchell College of Law, located across the street, and at the House of Hope
Church parking lot at Holly and Avon Streets one block away. A few scattered observations about the area
we can use for housing or other uses, due to the shared parking arrangement in
place for Stepping Stone:

• Each parking space requires 200-300 square feet of
space. If the theatre had been required
to purchase and renovate a site allowing them exclusive control and use of 113
spaces, surface parking would represent between 0.52 acres and .78 acres of
land committed to a conspicuously low level of land use and productivity. This area is equivalent to between five and
nine residential lots for single-family or duplex homes.

• A mixed-use development recently built in St. Paul, with structured
parking underneath, is valued at $157/square foot of the lot; at this level,
the area equivalent to 113 parking spaces would represent between $3.5 million
and $5.3 million of market value. In the
theatre’s new location, a site this size might accommodate 20-40 units of
housing or mixed use development, leading to enhanced property and perhaps
sales tax base.

The car is here to stay, so devising intelligent ways of
storing cars during their many hours of non-use is essential for cities serious
about their future
vitality and financial wherewithal
. Ideas worth exploration on this issue abound, but one in particular deserves
note: Adoption of a
payment-in-lieu-of-parking program. A
sample of potential benefits:

• Allow building owners unable to satisfy a parking
requirement to make payments to the City, parking authority or business
improvement district, in return for parking credits

• Proceeds would be devoted to capital financing for
structured and/or shared parking, and pay a parking liaison charged with
connecting parties for shared parking arrangements

• The City could be separated into a number of “parkingshed”
zones, so that payments would fund parking infrastructure and agreements in
relative proximity to property owners paying the fees

• Potentially, a local market for parking credits could be
established, further enhancing the efficiency of the program.

Parking policy is a confluence of real estate development,
public finance, transportation and land use, and hence advocates in each of
these realms get involved in parking discussions. In the theatre’s shared parking arrangements lies
one critical tool for cities, the leadership of which must be absolutely
focused on concentrating tax base with redevelopment and forward-thinking
approaches to land use.

Photo: Courtesy of
Stepping Stone Theatre.

Pricing Out Parking

Television advertisements for cars never
show drivers pulling in or out of a parking space, or trawling around the block
looking for a spot. In fact, most ads
show car and driver all alone on a scenic, recently resurfaced stretch of mountain
road. If only the financial picture of
managing car parking was so seemingly idyllic!

Lexington_ballpark_1925
Cities struggle with parking for a host of reasons: In an aesthetic sense, it’s nondescript. Poor visibility, access, and lighting can
create safety issues. Excess parking is
also a very costly way to employ urban land. Instead of a structure that could be used to generate jobs, commercial
activity and hence tax base (or, alternatively, an open space that bears
related benefits to adjacent property and broader health and social benefits),
excess parking represents a spoiler on the economy and treasury of a community. For one, Donald
Shoup
of UCLA has raised the profile of issues around how to manage and
price parking (and how to use parking revenues to leverage strength in local
economies); read
his most recent New York Times editorial here
, or look at
his 2005 book on the same subject here
.

The continuing dominance of the car is unlikely to fade in
the near future, and cities and urban merchants recognize that providing
parking capacity is important for commercial viability. Michael Monte, Director of the Community and Economic Development Office
in Burlington, Vermont
, noted during a meeting Friday that the Burlington
Downtown Improvement District (a small, dynamic business improvement district)
funds two hours of free parking downtown in order to strengthen its hand
against suburban strip retail not far down the road. While at first blush this appears to be in
conflict with Shoup’s ideas, the free parking complements a range of
transportation demand management (TDM) measures including aggressive metering
(I have a parking ticket to prove it), shuttling and park-and-rides, prominent
bicycle storage facilities, and transit provided through a five-city
transportation partnership. And the free
parking is an incentive for customers to shop on foot in the area surrounding
the Church Street pedestrian mall in downtown Burlington.

Near Macalester College,
a group of retailers in Saint Paul, Minnesota
formed an association to lease space for parking from a nearby church. Each retailer pays for their customers’ use
of the space based on the distance from their front door to the small parking
facility. In operation since 1994, the
arrangement is a flexible, relatively inexpensive (annual budget is roughly
$18,000) way to provide fifty parking stalls in an urban area characterized by
a mix of residential and retail uses.

Of course, no parking is truly free: There are significant direct costs associated
with building and maintaining parking surfaces or ramps. There are also indirect costs including congestion,
the cost of increasing water runoff from the impervious surface, and the
foregone cost of using the land in a more productive fashion. A great challenge for cities in coming
decades will be recognizing and paying for these costs in ways that support the
efforts of customers and employers in our cities.

Photo:  Opening Day, Lexington ball park, Saint Paul, 1929.  Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.