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Exploring parking solutions: Corvallis holds second session on the issue
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Exploring parking solutions: Corvallis holds second session on the issue

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The city of Corvallis continues to explore parking issues in town.

A “community conversation” on Oct. 21 involved about 60 people at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in table discussions on parking problems in town.

Last Thursday about the same number of people were on hand for an “exploring solutions” forum.

The data from both sessions, which were sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Corvallis and the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, will help inform an ongoing parking audit being conducted by the city of Corvallis.

Three speakers were on hand, Jeff Petry, who manages parking for the city of Eugene; Meredith Williams, director of transportation services at Oregon State University; and Evan Manvel, a land use and transportation planner with the state Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Here’s a look at the topics brought forward:

Eugene

The Lane County city is similar to Corvallis, mainly because of the presence of the University of Oregon, which is close to the size of OSU.

But Eugene is almost three times the size of Corvallis and its parking infrastructure is much more developed. The city has 3,000 spaces in parking garages, and it has a ring of eight residential parking districts that all but surround the campus.

Corvallis has three parking districts, mainly to the north and east of the OSU campus. An effort to dramatically expand residential parking districts in Corvallis failed at the ballot box in 2014.

The Corvallis plan was a one-size-fits-all approach. Eugene handles its districts a bit differently.

It has a Zone H which consists largely of high-rises apartments to the south and west of the campus. City research found that there were 22 homeowners in the district and 3,000 renters. Petry and his staff decided it was unfair to penalize long-term residents at the expense of students who are only in town for a few years.

So they charge the 22 homeowners and other long-term renters $40 per year and the students $150 per quarter.

Four of the zones, A, E, F and G cost $40 per year. But Zones B and C on the west side of campus are $99 per quarter.

Eugene also has a Zone S that only serves staff at the neighborhood’s Edison School. Each year Petry just delivers 22 permits to the principal to dispense to teachers and other employees.

“We have a supportive community that is willing to try new things,” Petry said.

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But he also said “parking is too cheap.”

OSU

Williams and others at the university are working on a transportation demand management plan. The goal is to reduce OSU’s carbon footprint by limiting the number of students and employees who drive alone to campus.

Currently, about 32% of the 30,000 or so individuals who come to campus each day do so in single-occupant vehicles. And the data Williams and her team have crunched show that if that trend continues OSU will increase its greenhouse gas emissions, be forced to add 1,600 parking spaces and lose valuable land to asphalt that could have been devoted to OSU’s core missions of academics and research.

But the OSU data also offers room for optimism. The university found that just incremental increases in the number of individuals who bike, walk, take public transit, carpool or telecommute could have significant effects on those greenhouse gas and parking numbers.

OSU has conducted workshops on campus and Williams also briefed the Imagine Corvallis Action Network Advisory Board on the project. ICAN has agreed to participate in a community outreach event at 5:30 p.m,. Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the Corvallis High School commons.

The main activity will be a board game OSU has developed that helps players understand campus transportation issues. Williams and her team will develop strategies to reduce SOV driving to campus and present them to university leadership this spring.

“This is a really exciting time to be in transportation and we want to be a part of the solution,” Williams said.

State of Oregon

Petry of Eugene and Williams of OSU approached the parking problem more from ground level. Manvel’s observations were more at the 10,000 level … as well as the fantasy level.

“People want parking unicorns,” he said, which means “200 square feet of space precisely at the place they want, exactly when they want it and for no cost.”

Manvel spoke at length on the hidden costs of parking, noting that just 4% of parking costs is paid at pay-to-park spaces. The other 96% of costs is bundled into higher rents and home prices, lower paychecks and higher consumer prices.

Manvel noted a study in Oakland, California, that found that adding a mandate of one parking space per unit led to an 18% increase in rent and 30% fewer units being built.

In the Seattle area adding one parking space per unit increased costs by 12.5%. Two spots led to a 25% jump. And less affordable housing.

Parking also is expensive to build. Manvel noted that OSU’s parking garage cost about $62,000 per space. Surface parking generally is in the $6K to $10K range.

“The economy picks up the tab for free parking, which is an enormous inducement to drive,” said Manvel, who concluded that “most cities have a parking management problem, not a parking supply shortage.”

        

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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Approximately 32% of the 30,000 or so students and employees who show up at Oregon State University each weekday do so in single-occupancy vehicles.

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