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On Portland’s East Side, a Sea of Empty Parking and a Plan to Change It

10:33 AM EDT on June 22, 2012

There's no blight like a surface parking lot in the middle of downtown -- especially an empty one. And no city is safe apparently.

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Portland is wrestling with the parking issue on its Central Eastside -- a major employment district.

Portland Transport has the details:

Sarah Mirk has an interesting piece in this week's Mercury in which she talks about the proposed parking plan for the Central Eastside (including some metering, which of course, everyone loves).

But the fascinating part is the amount of parking that exists in the district. She documents 400+ parking lots with 14,000+ spaces. Only 8% of that is open to the public, and 40% of it is vacant at peak hours. What a wasted resource! And then we fight over the available on-street parking.

Some of this is a function of a societal attitude that parking (which is VERY expensive to build, and chews up a tremendous amount of valuable real estate) must be free. Any time we take an expensive commodity and treat it like it doesn't cost anything, there are bound to be negative effects.

But some of this is the result of zoning. The zoning code defines parking in a lot of zones to be 'accessory' to the main use - i.e., I can park in the medical office parking lot if I'm going to the medical office, but they are NOT free to rent spaces (even if they have an excess) to a neighboring business.

Sounds like a lot of those parking lots could be shared between businesses, freeing up space to put to more productive use.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reconnecting America looks at a study examining how low-income households manage transportation costs. Hard Drive investigates whether TriMet board members use transit. And Greater Greater Washington wonders whether business attire rules for federal employees discourage active transportation.

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