Sunday, January 17, 2010

Flint's Latest Parking Problem

Is downtown Flint's latest parking structure the son of AutoWorld. Columnist Andy Heller thinks so after Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal reported that Flint taxpayers "could be on the hook for payments on $10 million in loans for a downtown parking deck that now sits mostly empty."

"Less than six months after opening the James W. Rutherford Parking Structure, the Downtown Development Authority already is scrounging to make the first payment on the city-authorized bonds for construction of the parking ramp.
"The problem? The DDA expected to bring enough downtown tax revenue this year to cover the $620,000 payment, but instead is bringing in a tiny fraction of that — about $900."


  1. Where is this parking lot located? The only place that I know where people park is that flat lot across from WaterStreet Pavillion... why didn't they build the structure there? And who were they expecting to park there?

  2. God, that journal article makes me thing absolutely nothing has changed in Flint. Larry Ford has been making bad decisions for 30 years, and he's still at it.

    I'll try to keep this brief:

    1. Does any rational person really think Flint needs more parking? Even if Flint did need more parking, would it really be the best way to blow $10 million in Flint? With all the cities problems, can anyone justify a parking deck?

    2. Even if you somehow delude yourself into ignoring all the questions in #1 above, who in their right mind would assume that downtown business taxes and parking revenue would cover this debt? Absolute insanity. (Of course, in a bizarre parallel universe sort of way, if you could somehow generate that much tax revenue in Flint, you probably would need the parking deck.)

    3. If you really think parking is a priority, why not simply subsidize the existing parking and make it all free? After all, no one is going to pay to park in Flint. Free parking is the answer, not more paid parking.

    4. The city council and mayor williamson backed this disaster. Williamson's gone, but a lot of the council is still there and should have to answer for this. Larry Ford needs to retire for the good of the city.

  3. Sable Pelt, could to have you back. Apparently, you're not alone in you views:

  4. I think I read that this lot is $5, credit card only. Haven't thought of a scenario yet where this makes much sense in downtown Flint, maybe others disagree? I propose a survey: A) park in a credit card only, 5$ flat rate ramp that isn't particularly near anything; B) Park in a ramp or lot, $.50 per 1/2 hour cash, maybe more close to the center of downtown; or C)(not available in Flint), park in a ramp that has reserved parking, meters, and auto-attendands for cash in the heart of downtown. The survey is really a question of whether, or to what degree, these things are thought through. This may come across like chucking pennies from the peanut gallery during the youth matinee at the community players presentation of Peter Pan beacuse I don't have any direct part in the whole process, but I assure you people see things like this and sigh, "Well, it is Flint." Seems like a sad commentary, especially because for the most part there are still a lot of really bright people around.

  5. The last time I was in Flint on a weekday, I tried to park near the Torch. Buckham Alley had signs saying "only commercial parking", even though I've parked there at night numerous times, I thought during the day, people may care if I did, so I didn't. The next option was to park in the parking lot that is behind the Torch, which to my surprise requires a card key to enter it and is not available to park in. This lot WOULD have been empty, if not for other cars who drove around the barrier to park there (I could tell because of the tracks in the snow). Still trying to be an abiding citizen, but not have to walk more than 2 blocks for lunch, I found a spot on the street for free.

    So in a way, yes, Flint has a parking problem. But building new structures won't solve it. It hasn't solved it since they razed that block for Waterstreet that costs money to park in.

    I think I've said this before, but Genessee Valley Mall "won" in the 70's because it had free parking.

  6. Without getting too much into the details, I think I agree with Sable Pelt: Flint should provide free parking downtown. That should be the guiding principle. Parking should not even be considered as a revenue option. Ever. They should be doing everything within their power to make it easy for workers, businesses, and potential customers to come downtown.

    Why are we even discussing this in 2010? Shouldn't the city have figured this out in about 1984?

  7. You might think that Flint, Michigan, of all places, would have figured out how to relate to people who drive automobiles. Heh.

  8. It is my opinion, and an opinion shared by many urbanists, that Flint Michigan needs to think about how to accomidate the automobile, while catering to the pedestrian and to transit.

    Communties that focus on auto only transport eliminate the potential for civic involvment from those too young, too old, too poor or simply not wanting to drive. They also tend to turn themselves into shortlived places without any real cultuyre or identity. Take Court and Center free parking kept that intersection at a peak for what 30 years? then Miller and Linden, free parking was it's savior for another 30 years, now free parking is going to make the next suburban intersection a commercial "hub" and leave these places just as desolate as Dort Highway.

    Free parking is a nice perk, but is that really what our society deems as the most important part of a community?

    Lets think out of the box, shall we?

    By the way, that lot by the torch is now full of ROWE employees' cars.

  9. I'm with you corner office. There needs to be more big-picture planning that doesn't have everything revolve around the car. I guess I should clarify that if the city were going to blow $10,000 million on a parking related initiative, then somehow providing free parking would have made more sense.

  10. So, are there many cities with 100,000+ population that offer free parking downtown? It would be nice, but there are a lot of things to think about. A simple example: how long could someone stay parked in one spot - hours, days, weeks? In order to have someone manage things like that, they will expect to be paid. In order to pay them, there must be revenue. It cannot all be subsidized somehow.

    The culture in southeastern Michigan is and has been based on people's desire (and ability) to drive places. Whether or not that was by design is probably a different argument, but that is how the infrastructure exists today. Fact is, people need parking downtown, and that ramp has the wrong model.

  11. San Francisco has numerous neighborhood commercial districts with free parking mixed with metered parking. Sometimes the parking is limited to 2 or 4 hours to prevent people camping out. It's also against the law to leave your car in any spot for more than 72 hours. But the Financial District in SF is by design expensive to park in an effort to force people to take public transit.

    Here's a story on Sacramento's efforts at limited free parking during holidays.

  12. I appreciate the debate over what is best for the future, but the ramp is there. It's new. It's shiny. If used properly, maybe, just maybe the taxpayers wouldn't be assuming the position.

  13. Most of the parking meters downtown were smashed by theives or vandals. Thus they move to free parking for 2 hours on the street; the DDA supposedly gets the parking ticket fees. The Plaza One building downtown has its own block size lot with free parking. In response to "that isn't particularly near anything" about the ramp, it is 1/2 block west of Saginaw St. and the main downtown flat lot that charges by the hour. They are shooting themselves in the foot by charging $5/day as the .50/hr. lots would only cost $4.50/day.
    As far as not dealing with other forms of transit in Flint Downtown has the Main Bus station at Harrison Street and 2nd Street. That is just a block off Saginaw. Heck, it has an adjoining lot with $30/month fee and closer to the Rowe and Wade-Trim building. Wish the neighboring apartment building tennants would uses it instead of our lot.

  14. On the Anyone but Larry Ford for DDA Director note, he was on the Genesee Intermediate School District's board when they were busy spending large amounts on travel and dinners. He is amazingly enough stil on the GISD board and is its president.

  15. Coincedentally:

    plus intersting comments

  16. What about validated parking? I remember Jacobsen's used to do that... maybe Flint's new restaurants could do the same.

  17. The beat goes on...


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