Yesterday, the City of Kansas City issued an online survey to get people's opinions on parking downtown.
The questions are typical:
Do you live downtown?
Is parking hard to find?
Do you have a dedicated parking space?
Do you look for on-street parking or park in a garage?
How far from your destination is too far away to park?
No matter how the survey comes back, I can't think of a single way that the city will recognize from the survey what one of the biggest problems with downtown parking is in this city.
First of all, I don't think there is a major problem with parking downtown for 90% of people, uses and destinations -- unless you're used to pulling up to a strip mall and parking right out front of your destination for free. But compared to most cities, Kansas City Parking is cake. And cheap.
But if there is a problem, the problem isn't lack of parking spaces.
It's lack of access to those spaces.
Because of the city policy for the past 5 decades that has mandated a certain number of parking spots for downtown businesses, far too many parking spots have become single use lots. A business owns and maintains the lot, but those spaces can only be used by those businesses -- even if the business is not open.
Let's take the surface lot at 19th and McGee that encompasses the entire city block for an example. The lot is, I believe, owned by Children's Mercy Hospital. They then drive shuttle buses from the lot to the hospital and back every day. At night, when the majority of their staff goes home, the entire city block of parking is chained off and not accessible. On a typical First Friday, there is a struggle for people to find parking spaces at the Crossroads -- and yet, this entire block of open parking spaces sits completely empty.
This same scenario plays out with various lots throughout downtown -- where a restaurant that relies almost solely on foot traffic during the day has empty spots, but then has a shortage of parking in the evening when people drive to their location -- and yet, the empty business lots around them are sitting empty. The Star has several lots exactly like this.
In many ways, Kansas City's parking space mandates have CREATED a parking shortage downtown. In other cities, it has become financially viable for a private person to own parking garages that cater to business workers during the day, but are easily accessible for events/restaurants/night life at night. They're mixed use garages. We have very few of those in Kansas City (there is one on the 1700 block of Main between the old TWA building and the old Retro Inferno building - -so there are some) because of the city's parking laws.
It's my hope that the city actualy takes a deep dive into the city's downtown parking situation -- and doesn't just look at a survey to conclude that "Parking is fine" or "We need more parking".
The answer isn't that cut and dried. We need more mixed use parking spaces -- that have uses both in the day and then different uses in the evening. We don't necessarily need MORE parking -- just more and better access on more occassions.