June 19, 1999
Honorable Ron Gonzales
Mayor, City of San Jose
801 N. First St.
San Jose, CA 95110
Subject: Downtown Block 3 Parking Garage
Honorable Ron Gonzales:
A more general perspective needs to be taken on the proposed downtown Block 3 parking garage, one that asks basic questions and considers other disciplines. What is the purpose of the parking garage? The purpose of the garage is not to park cars, but to alleviate a so-called "parking shortage." But this "shortage" would be eliminated by other means that are much more cost effective. We offer the following three suggestions.
First, implement a "cashout" plan for employees working in downtown. Ten studies have shown that this will cut the number of commuting automobiles by 25%. This figure is an average for both suburban and downtown areas. In a downtown area with better transit, this figure would be even higher. More detailed information on cashout is in the enclosures or on our web site: moderntransit.org/cashout/cashout.html
From basic economic principles, this parking garage is a subsidy to the automobile, and it encourages greater car usage into downtown. It is easy to show that the parking garage is subsidized: if it weren't for government financing, it simply wouldn't be built. Private enterprise doesn't think it is economically viable, otherwise a private company would build it themselves. Anything subsidized is encouraged. By building a subsidized parking structure, government is acting counter to stated government policies that discourage automobile use and encourage using alternatives.
The second suggestion is to encourage people to travel to downtown by means other than a car. We suggest a transit ticket, round trip to and from downtown only, be given to customers making purchases. For example, one movie ticket may include one round trip ticket. Tickets can be paid from funds in lieu of constructing the parking garage. The cost of tickets to the City would be much less than their face value as the VTA could provide substantial discounts for bulk ticket purchases.
A third method to alleviate the "shortage" is simply to use fundamental free market principles: raising the price of parking will reduce the demand for parking. Instead of rationing parking by having people waste time and look for a parking space, it rations parking to those most willing to pay for it. Instead of wasting time looking for parking and polluting, these people would find it worthwhile to use alternatives.
What are the costs of the above programs? Cashout has very little, if any, initial costs. There is a long term saving. The costs of transit tickets may actually be cheaper than building and maintaining a parking garage. The costs of building the structure are listed as $50-$60 million, plus operating expenses. The third method would undoubtedly increase revenue to the City.
Furthermore, one must take into consideration the secondary effects of a parking garage. The additional cars parked would be driven to and from the city's core area. What are the congestion and pollution effects? Would this congestion necessitate additional costs in an attempt at alleviating it?
The tall buildings of any downtown exasperate the effects of automobiles. Exhaust fumes do not dissipate as well as in the suburbs. Hemmed in by tall buildings, they remain at street level. Traffic noise bounces back and forth off the tall buildings, greatly increasing noise levels. These additional noise and fumes harm and discourage pedestrians, bicyclists and transit patrons waiting at transit stops. Motorists are less effected by their own pollution (noise and exhaust), being in an isolated steel and glass "cocoon". Being seated, they breathe less than walkers or bicyclists. Motorists are often oblivious that they worsen the environment immediately around them, and that their actions discourage alternative transportation modes: walking, bicycling and transit.
The parking garage would actually reduce alternative ways of traveling, both by being a competitor, and by lowering the quality of the downtown experience.
We ask the City Council to give serious consideration to these no-build solutions for alleviating the so-called parking shortage.
The comments of this letter are also applicable to the new City Hall complex. By using the above recommendations, millions of dollars would be saved. Even less people would drive if the Vasona LRT extension goes inside the City Hall complex itself, and continues to San Jose State University. A direct route down Santa Clara Street from the Arena is suggested.
Cc: Councilmember Cindy Chavez
enclosures: cashout and cashout results