Archive for the 'Public transit' Category

Indy Parking Policies Fail its Citizens

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Many people are now familiar with the MDC hearing examiner’s recent denial of a variance.  Current coverage on IBJ’s Property Lines, Huston St Racing (w/photos), and Urban Indy.  This variance would have allowed a renovation of an old urban property consistent with its original and proposed use.  Basically, the developers wanted to eliminate the requirement for off-street parking.

The neighboring property owners were worried this would force the tenants to park illegally in nearby surface lots.  After review of the case and a private meeting with the interested parties, the Hearing Examiner concluded that no compromise was forthcoming and denied the petition for a variance.

I think the Indianapolis planning staff summarized the issue quite well in their analysis, which recommended *approval* of the petition.  Here is the planning staff’s opinion:

Urban sites should be developed to the highest intensity possible. To require this site to meet the required off-street parking standards, would require the demolition of a portion of the building or acquisition of adjacent sites. A practical difficulty is met by this request since the site is fully developed. Additionally, there are several IndyGo bus routes that travel along Meridian Street and nearby streets that substantially reduce the need for parking. Finally, it is a common and preferred planning method that little or no off-street parking be added to a reuse of an inner city site. If residents require off-street parking, there are three off-street parking sites directly adjacent to the site to the north, northeast and east that could meet that need.

MDC documents are here (p. 85), results from the hearing are here (p. 3).

I think it is time that Indianapolis accepts that off-street parking requirements are the bane of true urban renewal.  The minimum parking requirements are a senseless way to devalue our CBD.  They are an existential threat to urban life, and therefore the core identity of Indianapolis.

Someone raised an interesting question on the IBJ website:  What are the requirements for becoming a hearing examiner in Indianapolis?  I suggest we remake the qualifications process, and that it only have 1 component:  survive in Indy for one month without a car, and then we’ll take you.  A human’s eye view of the city might do some of these people some good.

One of the commenters on Huston Street Racing offered an apology of the Examiners actions, stating:

He is a thoughtful and even-handed person, and a thorough lawyer. He is not a dolt or hack, as portrayed on the IBJ comments thread. …  It appears to be his belief that someone will part with some parking spaces if offered enough money to do so. 

All of this may be true, I won’t dispute it.  But off-street parking should *never* have become an issue with this property.  I am not sure the examiner even read the planner’s report, because it pretty clearly laid down the rationale against parking requirements and why they wouldn’t apply in this case anyways.  Just in case anyone didn’t want to read the full report, or even my summary, just read the part in bold above.  One sentence is all you need to know.

This situation is yet another lost opportunity for a representative of the City of Indianapolis to address the real infrastructural problems that have ruined the city.  Indianapolis I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

The Fallacy of the "Automobile"

1 Comment

The automobile has been an interesting development in the history of man. Replacing the horse with a machine that can propel itself has certainly given us some great opportunities.

While horses present an inconvenient form of transportation, the modern automobile doesn’t exactly propel itself without needs. Whatever resources a horse may require, a car has a much more extensive list. Gasoline, parts, maintenance, and most importantly lots of roads. Sure its got an engine, but you won’t get far without those trillions of dollars invested in our highway network. In the end, I find both horses and cars a great nuisance.

The freedom of transportation that a car offers is great, but the sad fact is that I am carrying 3,000 lb of useless metal with me everywhere I go. And then I have to find somewhere to park when I arrive. The parking issue becomes very important in large cities. This interesting post by frumination shows what NYC/Manhattan would be like if it was trying to accommodate vehicular traffic every day (via Infrastructurist). Basically mass transit is essential to a city like NYC. Just as elevators are essential to the development of tall buildings.

The US Bureau of Labor releases information how average US consumers spend their income. A recent graphic from Visual Economics summed it up quite nicely, we are spending over 1/6 of our income on car transportation each year.


A lot of people complain about the high cost of public transit system proposals, but it’s obviously not more expensive than cars. If we assume that the entire population of Indianapolis, roughly 800,000 people, were to trade in their vehicles for public transit then we would free up ($8758/2.5)*800,000 = $3B per year to invest in other strategies. I bet we could find a solution with that level of funding. It won’t ever happen, but it’s not impossible to imagine.