Is there a parking problem?

No need for more parking

Last week I listened to yet another Milwaukee Avenue business owner lament the lack of parking along Milwaukee Avenue.  But this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Logan Boulevard and Diversey Avenue does not need more parking.

Merchants often take the view that shopper inconvenience due to parking is a significant factor in keeping shoppers away. But more parking would be counterproductive to merchant interests.

More parking means less space devoted to attractions that bring people to the street for a purpose.  More parking means more open vacuous spaces that present a perceived barrier to pedestrian activity.  If all, or most of what the eye can see is empty space, why would you want to walk there?  It’s not green and inviting;  they paved this paradise a long time ago.

logan-square-emmett-st-parking-lotLogan Square/Emmett St. Parking Lot

In fact, this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue has a parking advantage.  On the one hand, there is a greatly underutilized city parking lot off Emmett Street, just north of the main Logan Square “el” stop (photo above).  On the other hand, there is a greatly underutilized parking lot  that is separated from the commercial corridor by a row of buildings.  The buildings then (and what’s in them), rather than the parking lot, are the dominant visual as you experience Milwaukee Avenue.

Parking survey of the Logan Square/Emmett Street lot

On a weekday in February, I conducted a parking survey of the Emmett Street parking lot at three-hour intervals from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

There are approximately 120 parking spaces, including 7 restricted to I-GO and Zipcar car-share programs, and no time limit metered parking at a rate of 25 cents a half  hour at all times.

Thirteen cars (consuming 11% of the spaces) stayed parked for nine hours or more during the course of the day.  I presume these cars belong to residents or, based on their choice of parking spaces, parkers who ride the “el” to work.

The greatest turnover of cars (defined by vacant spaces occupied or occupied spaces vacated and occupied spaces with a change of car) occurred between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. and between 5:00 and
8:00 p.m.  I presume this to be because of people leaving work, either from the “el” or neighborhood employment.

At its peaks at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., the lot is only 50% full.  Based on their choice of parking spaces, I presume that most of the parkers are “el” riders.  After 8:00 p.m., the lot is 85% vacant.  I also presume that the cars that remain belong to residents because most are located opposite the “el” station and near the condo buildings to the north.

There is in fact too much parking, perhaps because the use of the land to park cars prohibits the use of the land for buildings and the activities they house that attract people.

And/or there are too few attractions on Milwaukee Avenue.

In general, cities need to balance tensions between competing land uses (e.g., buildings and uses that attract people, transportation routes that move people, parking spaces that house cars).  With effective use of land for parking, each space would be utilized nearly 100% of the time.  Residents who drive to work could use space in the evening, shoppers could use short-term space during the day, and transit riders could use longer-term space during the day.

There is a parking problem, but is not what folks usually think.

There is no need for more parking.


Next:  Parking:  a game of musical chairs

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One Response to Is there a parking problem?

  1. jason says:

    the wicker park/bucktown chamber of commerce is currently addressing this…many of their merchants have been calling for more parking but they ran a survey over the summer which showed more public support for improved transit, bicycle & pedestrian infrastructure instead.

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