University Circle leaders are working on a plan that reckons with the perennial complaint about parking—using a method that a Case economics professor would understand.
With demand for living and working in University Circle rising, the supply of land to lock up in parking is expected to shrink. While it may strike some as counterintuitive, a transportation demand management plan posits that, among the 10,000 people driving to work, many of them alone in a car, some have more flexibility and would be moved by incentives to leave the car parked at home.
Or, as a participant who works and bikes regularly to UH put it: “What is the right level of incentives to move the nearly 5,000 employees who live within five miles of University Hospital’s main campus to switch modes?”
University Circle, Cleveland’s second largest employment center, is moving into the third and final phase of a transportation demand management (TDM) plan that views parking in a new way—as a lack of options, a market failure, if you will. The plan would focus on spurring more housing or using the collective power of the city’s marquee draws to offer up incentives that make alternative modes of getting here more attractive.
Phase one inventoried parking. It found some areas are short during peak times. But, on the whole, supply is about right. Phase two looked at how to make streets more friendly to the growing population of pedestrians and cyclists. Again, it found the supply of roads and lanes were sufficient, that rush hour delays are relatively small. When experts with the New York firm Nelson-Nygaard studied the transportation options in University Circle, it found them lacking for walking and biking. To remedy the situation, they recommended short-term fixes of seven intersections where, according to crash statistics, pedestrians are most vulnerable to cars crashing into them.
Phase three would take on long-term prospects of how a car-dominated place agrees to become a more vibrant, walkable urban district.
Nelson-Nygaard (N-N) presented case studies of seven university districts in Boston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Charlotte and Buffalo that have led efforts to deflect calls for more parking while simultaneously adding new development. Some are a decade into TDM plans. With dues coming in from major employers, they offer deeply discounted transit passes, guaranteed rides home, cash incentives for biking and a whole range of programs to lessen demand (and save costs) for parking.
University Circle, meanwhile, will celebrate the ribbon cutting for the new Little Italy Rapid Station in August, another improvement to an area well-served by transit. Its Uptown development won a national design award for considering pedestrian activity. The university and the hospitals run their own shuttle buses. A plan could help align those resources better.
An interest in walking, biking and taking transit coincided with a re-examination of first wave redevelopment in University Circle. The late 1970s was marked by a penchant for hiding front doors, tinted glass, and parking lots between building and sidewalk. Uptown was built over the spot of one of the mostly vacant shopping plazas from that era. A plan to build in more pedestrian and bike friendly way may be timed to answer the question, what would work better on a sea of surface parking at the periphery of University Circle? It is a question of different approaches meeting an intentional effort to promote transit use and improve the walking environment between some of the city’s best transit service and proximity to major employers (the commuter is seen as the most amenable to try transit and bike and live in University Circle).
Observers noted during the discussion that many of the TDM actions are already being taken by individual institutions. Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s “cash out” incentive for not driving. University Hospital’s free transit passes for employees with ten years and discounts for those with fewer years. A TDM can do a better job promoting and combining forces.