Friday, June 19, 2009

Pave Paradise

So the City says we apparently need a big, shiny new parking structure downtown, for the newly-renovated Fox Theatre. Huzzawha? The Fox sits across the street from two parking garages that I know of (Dan Bernstein, that bastion of awesome at the PE, says three), and I know for a fact that at least one of those is deserted come quittin' time. Furthermore, downtown has plenty of parking spaces available during those hours that you'd actually want to go take in a show. They're scattered about the district, and the City knows they're so plentiful because they don't even bother to turn the parking meters on at night.

Aside from the very basic issue of giving still more land over to the automobile, and building a giant concrete block that we can't afford right now, a parking structure just for the Fox Theatre destroys any possibility that it might help revitalize downtown. Think about it. If you had to park a block or two away and walk to the theatre, you might pass by a restaurant or shop and say to yourself, "Hmm, maybe after the show I'll stop there for comsumptive satisfaction." If you park at the theatre, walk across the side of the theatre building and into the theatre, you get to see nothing more than the beautiful blank side of the theatre.

You want to get your downtown back in order, Riverside? Get people walking on the streets. At all hours. If you build a bunch of insulated bubbles connected to their own parking bubbles, all you've built is a dense analogue of a tract-home development. Everyone drives their car into their attached garage and lives fundamentally alone. A functioning city district requires walking, it requires that element of mingling people, of serendipity. (I've mentioned before Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and she makes this point well.) In short, it requires everything that you're denying it by building a Fox Theatre parking bubble.

Now, RTA is building in night-time service come January, if the currently-under-review SRTP clears the board (which I have no doubt it will.) Here's a thought. The Fox also happens to be right across from the downtown bus terminal, from which four of the soon-to-be-late-night routes (1, 16, 22, and 25) will emanate. Now, as a transit rider, I can tell you about plenty of times when I showed up at a place with 30 or 40 minutes to kill, and what did I do? I went to go eat or look through the local shops. How about it? Run a cross-promotion with the RTA starting in January. Give transit riders some sort of discount if they show their pass, or distribute a coupon on board the bus. Decrease parking demand, increase that urban vitality, AND introduce people to the experimental new late-night service. It might not work... but what will it cost you to try?

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