Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Parking Mea Culpa

This may come as a surprise to some readers of Tales of Two Cities but I am willing to admit it when I get something wrong. I’m human. It happens.

Today I’m admitting I got the Ellicott City parking thing wrong.

In previous posts and in my Business Monthly column I have strongly advocated for a new parking deck in what is now Public Parking Lot D behind the old Post Office on Main Street. I was not alone in this thinking. The Ellicott City Master Plan, published in 2003, reached the same conclusion. While I still believe more parking is critical to maintaining a healthy business environment in the historic district, I no longer believe a deck in Lot D is a good idea.
I credit the merchants who have put together the Second Sunday Market for altering my view. They have shown that this open space in the center of town can be much more than just a surface parking lot. In a town defined by tight spaces dictated by the natural features of rivers and ravines, this central open flat space offers a welcome respite.

I have come to the conclusion that a parking deck in this area would destroy that. I was wrong. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.


Anonymous said...

The Columbia flea market used to be held in the old, 2 story parking garage by JC Penney. Couldn't the same be done in EC? It would even offer shelter during less than ideal weather.

Anonymous said...

There is plenty of parking locations in E.C., you just need to know where to look. No need for a parking garage..I.M.O.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there were indeed a few posts here previously advocating an EC parking garage.

I agree with 12:46.

So, the trick is knowing where to look. Since you've demonstrated that hope springs eternal, and dogs of any age can learn new tricks, let's discuss a few.

Since the lots are scattered here and there, what's the best way to make it easy and quick for folks to know where they can park?

BWI has smart lots with sensors at each space and lots of indicators on the way in that guide to which level, which lane, and which spots. Very helpful for the very necessary time expediency sought when trying to catch a plane, but all that is costly to install and maintain.

For EC's needs, all that's needed is:
- in-road vehicle sensors at the entrance and exit to each lot (allowing a running count to determine if the lot is full or has open space)
- an indicator sign at the entrances to each lot indicating open or full but lots X, Y, and Z open, with arrows pointing the way to each open lot
- an indicator sign at the exit to each lot also showing which other lots are open with arros point the way to those other lots.

A couple signs on the primary roads into EC having those same lot status and direction signs would be nice as well.

If you're really in a hurry, there's a few other cleaner, greener ways to get to places in a ravine without dealing with parking,
- including this way (skip to 02:30)* and this way*.

(* - Ok, obviously, don't try those at home. Really.)

But seriously, beyond this present EC parking, we know our current infrastructure's limitations and inefficiencies, and must be thinking forward about the ways we need to get around more economically and efficiently, not just looking for ways to finance parking garage towers or accept more dangerous on-street parking and more congested traffic. There's no reason to accept a slower, more dangerous, more costly, more polluting traffic future.

For even larger events, parking at the former Honda/Buick dealership at the top of the hill could be used as well, perhaps it including either shuttles (with the NextBus tracking of course) or even public bikes (with speed governors probably) for the ~1 mi coast down and in and short-headway shuttles for returning visitors and public bikes to the top of the hill.

And, here, too, NASA's looking at better ways to get from terrestrial point A to B (no parking required).