Burlington is scheduled to add another public parking garage downtown in 2019, but we could instead add parking by partnering with private developers, constructing a level of underground public parking in residential or commercial developments under construction.
The benefits are numerous: adding parking supply bit by bit is quicker – we have projects we can partner with now rather than wait to build a garage; this approach avoids debt – building a large parking garage paid for all at once will empty reserves and require debt and interest payments but incremental construction could be paid for using existing reserves; the land for a parking garage can be better used for tax-paying office or residential development that will add to the vitality of downtown; adding underground public parking in new developments scatters the supply around the downtown, rather than in one location; and parking garages aren’t terribly attractive.
For these reasons, I’ve championed public-private partnerships as a way to build more public parking downtown, underground, in private buildings under construction. The City’s Downtown Parking Committee and the Core Commitment vision for downtown also support the parking partnership approach.
I brought a staff direction last year asking staff to report back on criteria for entering into such partnerships, which arose from a potential partnership with the private developers who are building the Saxony condominium at Locust/Blathwayte/Elgin Streets.
Staff have now come back with general criteria, which will be considered at the Development & Infrastructure Committee April 19. The most important criteria for determining whether or not to consider a public-private parking partnership is demonstrated parking demand; currently there is sufficient parking supply downtown, states the staff report (Parking Partnerships)
As an aside 36 additional on-street parking spaces will be added to the downtown parking inventory as follows:
- Brant St. – 1 new space (was a vehicle loading zone)
- Ghent Ave. – 1 new space
- BPAC – 13 new spaces (was a bus loading zone)
- AGB – 7 new spaces (was previously free, 5 hours)
- Brock Ave. – 14 new spaces (was previously free, 5 hours)
Staff are also looking into using some loading zones as paid parking at certain times of the day. Separately, four spaces are being added to Lot 4, (John/Elizabeth lot), as part of the Elgin Street Promenade to offset the loss of spaces in Lot 1 (Pearl/Elizabeth lot) when the promenade is constructed.
I support adding parking supply incrementally as part of larger private developments, rather than building a stand-alone parking garage in a central location. Staff have developed thoughtful and detailed criteria for determining when to proceed with such a partnership. That said, it may be necessary to build new supply prior to demonstrated demand, since once a building is constructed there’s no “do-over” to add parking later when demand materializes.
Criteria for adding new parking via partnerships with private developers:
The criteria are grouped under three main categories: existing operational parking needs, financial implications and legal implications.
Among the highlights:
- parking should only be added when there is a demonstrated operational need. Staff have concluded that given the parking studies in 2011 (MMM Group) and 2013 (Carl Walker) there is currently sufficient parking downtown, and people prefer on-street parking, followed by surface parking lots followed by the garage as a “last resort.” Integrating parking in a residential building with the addition of the spaces being underground appears to be a “less desirable choice for the parking customer,” states the report. This spring, underground “pucks” will be added to all on-street parking and municipal lots to give us real time, 24/7 parking use data, so we have a better idea of whether parking is at capacity, and the times and areas of downtown where there is heaviest use.
- new parking supply should pay for itself; the cost of an underground space is roughly $40,000, versus $25,000 for an above ground structured space. Annual operating costs are roughly $470 per space in the existing garage, plus $440 per space for annual capital renewal, for a total of $910. Revenue in the existing garage is roughly $1,230 per space. Currently, parking downtown generates revenue, with no taxpayer subsidy. Businesses within the downtown pay a special parking levy in lieu of providing onsite parking facilities. The surplus of revenues over expenses goes into a reserve fund for renewal and new parking. As of December 31, 2015 the Parking District Reserve Fund had an uncommitted balance of $6,498,508. The 2016 capital budget and forecast includes a $12.9M placeholder for a new parking structure in 2019. An analysis of the reserve fund indicates that building this structure would be financially unsustainable at current revenues and reserve fund balance. To be sustainable “consideration should be given to future growth in parking supply being distributed in small structures over multiple locations and time periods as demand warrant,” states the report.
From a real estate perspective, it is more desirable for the City to own a parcel of land than to own a below-ground interest in land, states the report. An underground parking garage basically cannot be used for anything else and is a depreciating asset. While surface parking is undesirable as a long-term land use, it does make a good interim land use for a property until economic conditions support redevelopment of the property. There would be an opportunity to replace the surface spaces lost as part of the redevelopment.
In 2011, the City commissioned a report from the MMM Group on the current status of parking in the Downtown. This report was followed by a report in 2013 from Carl Walker on sustaining the parking strategy. The MMM study evaluated the use of the current parking supply and the demand for use.
The total public parking spaces available consist of 298 on-street, 640 in parking lots and 339 in the Waterfront Garage and 42 accessible spaces totaling 1,319 parking spaces.
The current occupancy rates during peak demand periods are: 60-62% for the parking lots and parking garage and 60-64% for on-street parking spaces. At times, on-street demand reaches 85% occupancy. At 85% utilization, parking facilities are generally considered to be operating at practical capacity when ease of locating a space and vehicle circulation is taken into consideration.
New Parking Facility
The MMM Group concluded that a combined 261,000 sq ft of new office development in the downtown would trigger the need for a new 500 space parking facility. Since 2011, approximately 6,000 sq ft of new development has occurred.
As a result of the slow-down in investment in the Downtown, the construction of the proposed parking garage has been postponed and moved back in the parking capital forecast from 2017 to 2019.
The MMM study identifies existing surface parking lots as the best locations for a future parking structure.
It is clear that the demand for parking in downtown Burlington is being sufficiently accommodated by the current parking supply. The issue for vehicle parkers is the opportunity to have a parking space adjacent to the destination.
Parking Demand Criteria
- Using the parking occupancy data, does the municipal parking infrastructure exceed 85% capacity at peak times?
- Using the parking occupancy data, do the two municipal parking lots closest to the subject property regularly exceed 85% occupancy?
- Have any parking spaces been provided by the municipality in close proximity (approximately 300 m) to the subject site recently? If so, how many?
- Is the parking partnership proposed in a non-residential building which will have increased daytime demand?
- Is the parking partnership with another government agency or institution or with an established commercial developer?
- Will there be a legal agreement in place that the parking facility will be maintained to the City’s standard?
- Is the City able to retain control over the parking rates?
- Will the parking continue to be self-sustaining?
- Are the parking spaces provided on either the surface or on the first level of either underground or above-ground parking?
- Is there clear access for the public to observe and access the parking spaces?
Do you support partnering with developers to build public parking underground? Are there additional criteria the city should consider? What’s your experience of parking supply downtown? Leave a comment below or email me privately at Marianne.meedward@Burlington.ca