Parking Shouldn’t Matter So Much
Patrick McIlheran mischaracterizes the main point many people have against parking: it’s not that parking doesn’t matter, it’s just that it should be unnecessary to have it increase at the same rate as new development. Parking obviously does matter — although more than it needs to — when a city doesn’t have a viable transit system.
When I lived within a stones throw of Downer Avenue, there was more business activity than appears to be there now, but apart from a few busy weekends I never struggled to park my car in front of my house. Even then, it was easy enough to park on the same block. It’s only my simple generalization, but the problem with parking in the city is that too many people in Milwaukee expect it to be convenient (i.e. in front of their destination).
And that’s where McIlheran clumsily attempts to draw former Mayor John Norquist, President and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, into his transit lesson. I think Patrick links to an interview Norquist gave where he describes his preference for parking maximums as opposed to parking minimums in downtown development because he thinks it supports his argument that parking critics were wrong for opposing the parking garage on Downer Avenue. But this is incorrect; Norquist was referring to downtown parking minimums and their inhibiting influence on development patterns in that area.
While most people wouldn’t confuse Downer Avenue for Wisconsin Avenue, Patick should try not to confuse criticism of parking minimums for a case of the NIMBYs, which is what appears to have happened in the case of Downer Avenue development. Many of the people opposed to the development of Downer Avenue did so because they wanted to either preserve a popcorn wagon and a surface parking lot, prevent development that would ruin their backyard view or keep a specific developer, Boris Gokhman, out of the neighborhood; none of which are high on the list of priorities for CNU or other urban planners.