Friday, November 18, 2011

Houston Needs More Public Parking Garages

Houston is expected to grow by 3.5 million people in the next 25 years. As Houston grows in population, most experts agree that our city will become more dense. The logical way to add density is to replace surface parking lots with buildings. This will create problems. Most Houstonians aren’t going to give up their cars in favor of mass-transit, so something has got to give. As residential and commercial development become denser –so must parking. Houston will need more public parking garages.

Some parts of Houston already have public parking garages: Downtown; The Texas Medical Center. In most cases the garages were developed by the same people who developed the adjacent buildings, and they are run by contracted companies. There appears to be two approaches to parking garages in our City. One: charge a fee to anyone who wants to park there, and let people come and go as they please. Two: allow visitors to park for free, but only while they are doing business at that location. A compromise is pay garages, where adjacent businesses can validate parking stubs.

In the future, Metro and the City might chip in to help build these facilities. In some cases the garages could be linked to neighborhood transit centers and run by Metro. In others they might be stand-alone garages, run by contracted companies. The garages could be used to alleviate parking on residential streets. And if businesses worry that they won’t have enough parking under Houston’s parking ordinance, they could pay a fee and use garage parking to meet the requirements.

Public garages could be a win-win for both homeowners and businesses in up-and-coming parts of town. It would make sense for places like Upper Kirby and the Washington Avenue Corridor to get the first such publicly funded public parking garages. And that’s just the beginning. As neighborhoods throughout Houston get more dense, they’ll need parking garages.

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