Novel Approach: Owning Up To Parking Problems
The recommendations of Walker Parking Consultants in Kalamazoo begin with a candid preface: the idea is to limit the number of vehicles coming into the area. It is a statement more easily said than done, given another decade of continued construction already booked on Michigan Street hill. That construction will expand the Van Andel Institute and Spectrum Health facilities. It is unusual for the businesses causing increasing congestion to offer remedy, but Grand Valley State University and Spectrum Health are given salute for their management of the problems, and their willingness to be part of the solution.
A similar study picks up at the edge of the Michigan Hill study area, and will encompass the developing Ionia Avenue/Cherry Street sector of the Heartside neighborhood.
The completed parking study offers a learning opportunity, and not too soon as the downtown continues to grow. The Michigan Street hill is thriving with the addition of GVSU’s Center for Health Professions and its top-floor SmartZone.
It bears the weight of traffic congestion from Grand Rapids Community College, Ferris State University and Kendall College of Art & Design campuses and their burgeoning student population. Kendall’s plans to expand have been announced and, in all likelihood, so, too, will FSU and GRCC. Spectrum and GRCC own 85 percent of all parking spaces in the Hill area.
The study’s recommendation to GRCC to eliminate free parking for its faculty is likely to draw some ire from those employees, but GVSU provides the example in solving such problems in the offer of its shuttle service from the Eberhard Center and DeVos/Pew campuses on the river. The university also provides transportation for students to and from its Allendale campus. GVSU also has taken leadership in its offer to build a parking ramp at the Fulton Street campus and alleviate congestion. The study shows the area is short 837 parking spaces to handle even current demand. By 2007, the deficit is expected to climb to 1,711 spaces.
The idea of public transportation is long overdue in a “world class” city giving lip service to environmental protection ideals. The solutions for parking problems are varied and illustrated in the Kalamazoo firm’s study. Shuttle lots along the freeways could save as many as 360 parking spaces and relocate 700 parkers. City DASH lots should be extended.
Land is limited. Services are not.
If the city and business owners continue to attempt to answer the complainers looking for “front-door” parking with construction of additional ramps or lots, we will continue to provide subsidies for public transportation while bearing those construction costs. It just doesn’t make sense. The idea of a short walk supports the medical community’s wish to affect obesity and heart disease.
Businesses throughout the downtown should advance the recommendations in the study and avail their employees to transportation services. Planning — and planning for convenience — can begin today.