Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Parking Madness, Detroit Edition

RustWire pointed me at this map from Data Driven Detroit that shows the simply staggering amount of parking downtown. I never cease to be mind-blown when I see one of these:

Topics: Public Policy
Cities: Detroit

31 Responses to “Parking Madness, Detroit Edition”

  1. Paul Lambie says:

    That is awesomely terrible, but I’m guessing a bit misleading as it probably shows every property that contains any amount of parking even if it’s only underground. I think such a map would better reflect parking’s impact on the attractiveness of the city by only shading those areas that have parking at grade level, whether it’s a surface lot or structured.

    Should Grand Circus Park be shaded the same as a multi-level structure used exclusively for parking?

  2. pete-rock says:

    I agree with Paul’s assessment above. Grand Circus Park should not be shaded simply because it has parking underneath. Other sites are probably similarly misidentified.

    However, I look at this as not an indicator of the NEED for parking in downtown Detroit, but an indicator of the LACK of a dynamic economy there. I’d bet that most surface lot sites are the sites of former buildings that have been torn down, and property owners simply default to parking as a holding pattern until a better proposal comes along. The parking demand is probably way less than the supply.

  3. Tom says:

    The prevalence of parking in downtown Detroit reflects the fact that the vast majority of downtown workers get their by car. Not bus, subway (doesn’t exist), People Mover, bike or walking. I’m sure there are stats on this but I’d bet that a minimum of 90% – 95% of downtown workers get there by driving their personal automobile, by themselves.

    pete-rock’s right in that if there was huge economically justified demand for downtown real estate a lot of those surface lots would get developed. The combination of less parking and more people would result in more parking structures and perhaps more mass transit.

  4. Derek Rutherford says:

    I agree with the above comments – in this case, the preponderance of parking is a symptom of the problem (lack of demand for downtown commercial land), not a cause. I might add two more points:

    1- Large parking lots (often well lit) can serve as a “wall” between what is left of the downtown commercial district and the higher-crime residential neighborhoods. This might be a conscious policy to “protect” the high-profile white elephant projects downtown (the GM HQ in the Ren Center, the stadiums) by creating a moat between them and troubled neighborhoods nearby.

    2- There are two major stadiums in the picture. While a baseball stadium is sometimes served by walking/public transit (Fenway, Wrigley, among a few others), football stadiums never are. Of course there are acres and acres of parking around Ford Field. That’s why football stadiums are always outside of downtown areas. A weird planning decision, unless motivated by #1, above.

  5. James says:

    As a point of comparison are there similar maps for other cities? I would be curious to see how Detroit compares to the usual trifecta (NY, LA, Chicago) as well as fellow rust belt denizen Milwaukee.

  6. Rod Stevens says:

    No wonder the city went bankrupt. There’s something dreadful about this picture that no amount of rationalization can dismiss.

  7. Jon Seisa says:

    I agree with Paul (1st commenter); I thought this was gravely misleading, as well… regarding structures with subterranean parking and most of the buildings marked as “parking garage” are most likely functional structures and high rises with integrated subterranean parking. To do this is a grave misrepresentation of grade level allotment for parking when the land is also being efficiently used for a plethora of other multi-use tiered functions, simultaneously. This type of bending of the truth reeks with a cognitive agenda to shore up a specific view.

    These 2 images (below) clearly show how misleading this diagram is, though you can see some grade level allotted parking structures, and the massive parking structures for the Joe Louis Arena sports complex and MGM Grand Hotel & Casino-Detroit, there is a vast mass of commercial, finance, and business structures that clearly house subterranean parking which have been mis-marked as parking garages on the diagram giving the illusion that is all that sits on the lot. Also, some of the parking structures feature rooftop tennis courts and jogging tracks with landscaped greens. You can see all of this on Google Maps of Detroit. Shame on “Data Driven Detroit”…. so much for unbiased research.,1250088384,1/stock-photo-ariel-shot-of-detroit-along-the-riverfront-35148088.jpg

  8. George V. says:

    You’re not going to believe this, but many workers in downtown Detroit still complain about a lack of parking, and there a constant battles between preservationists and business owners that want to demolish the historic buildings near their investments for even more parking. Basically, your typical suburban commuter to Detroit doesn’t feel comfortable having to walk more than a block or two in the dangerous city, and the holy grail is to have either an elevated walkway connecting your building to a garage, or having a garage beneath your building.

  9. James says:

    Thanks for the link Aaron. Looks like downtown Detroit has more parking than downtown Providence.

    Another thing to keep in mind is price. There is a fair amount of parking in downtown Chicago, even surface lots. But parking can be terribly expensive. Last time I was in Detroit I parked at the art museum for next to nothing. And literally nothing at the big farmer’s market.

  10. Carolyn says:

    This is a chicken and egg situation. Yes, we’d all love it if the parking lots would disappear in puffs of smoke and become vibrant developments. But as it stands, a development in Detroit can’t survive without providing a ton of parking. They can’t rely on foot traffic because there isn’t enough, and George V. is right that visiting suburbanites expect a cheap, nearby place to put their vehicles.

    To understand the seriousness of this issue, look no further than the legendary parking lot war between Motor City Brewing and the Traffic Jam restaurant in Midtown.

    What needs to come first is better public transit, and a shift towards a transit mindset. Luckily with the recent establishment of a regional transit authority we’re moving in the right direction. But nobody’s going to give up their cars or their asphalt until there’s a viable alternative.

  11. Whether the graphic is misleading or not, it does illustrate just how much “on-site” parking there is. Even if there’s a 30 story building with 10 stories of parking, that’s still a lot of parking, whether under a building or a park or standing on its own. The problem there is that all these garages and lots encourage driving, thus swamping the streets around rush hour, and they discourage the use of transit, walking, or biking. When this happens, you end up with a sort of “density without urbanism” situation where since everyone has to drive anyway, the street level becomes a car sewer that nobody wants to walk along, even if there’s multi-story buildings all around. That’s not a good thing.

  12. Jon Seisa says:

    There’s no argument here that a happy medium needs to be reached that is balance and pragmatic, and satisfies all concerned, but to target exclusion of a major segment of society for the dreams of a few is rather silly. And this all-out “War On the Car” by social-engineering Globalist-Socialist-Eco-Wackos operating under the thin veneer of so-called “New Urbanists” to eradicate personal vehicles off the face of the planet is just completely over the top. In the skyscraper I work in, many of my vendors need to get here by car because they have loads of equipment or sensitive product prototypes to bring in. Biking it in through dangerous traffic or risking taking a jam-packed transit would be totally and utterly ridiculous.

  13. Chris Barnett says:

    “That’s why stadiums are always outside of downtown areas”.

    This is a grossly false generalization, especially among the major league cities in the Midwest.

    Detroit has three downtown stadia. Pittsburgh has three. St. Louis has three. Chicago has one. Cleveland has three. Cincinnati has three. Columbus has one pro team downtown. Indianapolis has three stadia downtown (two major league and one AAA minor league). Even sprawling OKC has two downtown stadia (NBA plus AAA baseball).

    I think cities realized long ago that existing downtown parking is underutilized on evenings and weekends, and that stadium events are countercyclical to workday parking demand. In other words, many newer downtown sports venues do NOT have to be located in a sea of surface parking, precisely because the parking is already built into the downtown area. (In Indianapolis, the new football stadium was actually built on surface parking lots.)

    Contrast this with the Phoenix and Dallas football stadia. Now THOSE sit in suburbs, in the middle of a sea of asphalt, though in fairness some of the Dallas lots are shared with the nearby baseball stadium and Six Flags amusement park.

  14. Mike D says:

    This is in reply to Jon Seisa.
    Apparently you believe that only people in Detroit have loads of equipment or sensitive product prototypes. I guess Detroit must be doing well after all. (Note Sarcasm.) Obviously you don’t know that there are many conservatives and libertarians who are just as in favor of the New Urbanist ideas as the “social-engineering Globalist-Socialist-Eco-Wackos”. And if you don’t think that it was social engineering that created sprawl then you don’t know your history.

    And finally, there have been a lot of cities that had lots of auto traffic that made cycling dangerous but they decided to make the change and now have a well-developed bicycling infrastructure and less driving.

  15. Jon Seisa says:

    @ Mike – Apparently you cannot read, or perhaps absorb what you read… “a happy medium needs to be reached that is balance and pragmatic, and satisfies all concerned”. The problem with the New Urbanism is it is a BACKLASH RETALITORY REACTION to the former modus operandi, a severe swing into the complete diametric and antipodal direction that is equally as drastic, severe and in error, from one extreme to another extreme.

    It doesn’t matter if conservatives and libertarians embrace the severity of NU, a skewed movement is a skewed movement, regardless, and people are easily fooled by flowery visions, i.e. the Italian Futurists whose principles formed the manifesto for the ultimate outcome of Mussolini’s fascist state. What I advocate is moderation and not the radical Globalist agenda of the NUs’ quest to create dense urbanized concentration camps controlled by population surveillance, limited movement and confinement.

    And lastly, now cycling is dangerous to PEDESTRIANS, as I encountered yet MORE clueless bikers, two young adult bikers, this time, yesterday in a crosswalk and they attempted to pass me on my right (their left) as I walked TOWARDS their approaching direction to cross the street, which nearly cause a head-on collision due to their complete and ignoramus stupidity, and I had to yell at them, “To the RIGHT! To the RIGHT! GO TO THE RIGHT!” I don’t even own a bike and the last time I rode one was in 1968, and yet I had no problem knowing this very basic and rudimentary rule that seems to have succumbed to utter oblivion as cyclists today apparently make up their own rules based of their whim of the day. Soon America will be like 1940s China with millions of bikes on the city streets. We are going backwards into decline, but happily brainwashed into believing its ‘progress’. I imagine next we pedestrians will have to dodge runaway rickshaws to save our lives.

  16. Peter Brassard says:

    What made sprawl possible to begin with was the nationwide destruction of streetcar systems from the 1930s though the ’50s, whether directly or indirectly, by GM, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of CA, Phillips Petroleum, and Mack Trucks, as well as, the construction of the Interstate Highway System, and federally guaranteed mortgages for suburban single-family homes. That was social engineering on a massive grand scale. It’s rather silly, if not a joke, to suggest that creating mass transit alternatives or bike lane infrastructure in a Downtown is anything similar in scale to what occurred during the 20th Century to support car culture and the resulting devastation of American cities.

  17. Jon Seisa says:

    Furthermore, if there is now going to be this growing plethora of countless bikes and a “bike culture” traveling the byways of our cites that will increase the chances for bodily injury to defenseless pedestrians and potential for property damage, and cause injury to other bikers, and collisions, even with road vehicles, then all 50 states must enact new laws, including all bikers must have an operator’s biking license, a displayed and registered bike license plate attached to their bike, involving annual registration tags and payment of annual fees to operate their bike in the public arena, and also obtain an annual operator’s comprehension and collision bike insurance coverage plan up to a certain designated amount deemed by the state. The revenue gained can help maintain and enhance the city’s biking network system and its maintenance, as well. This will help to ‘legitimize’ this transportation mode and weed out the reckless undesirables who pose as a menace to pedestrians, for without the proper documentation, tags and license then there will be severe penalties and fines imposed, i.e. citations from peace officers for operating a bike without a license. Yes, this all sounds frivilous, but it will be essential as the numbers of bikers mushrooms during America’s further future decline.

  18. Rod Stevens says:

    Joe Seisa,

    I agree with you. It is the frivilous, menacing, undesirable and countless bikers (non-motorized Hell’s Angels)who caused the problem in downtown Detroit, secretly invading to convert perfectly good real estate into bike parking.

  19. Jon Seisa says:

    Peter, it’s the other way around… the street cars (like the Los Angeles Red Line to Anaheim, Orange County, etc.) precipitated and created the birth of suburban sprawl, not the freeways. The freeway systems came after the suburbs were already in existence and the freeways were the most comprehensive solution at the time to create a more expedient transportation system to bridge the outward communities with the urban cores, though later for newer metros they expedited suburban sprawl. But very true your point on the oil companies and the demolition of the street car lines to facilitate a dependency on the automobile.

    The damage that NU will cause to cities will dwarf the damage of previous decades and it will be known in its fullest scope and extent in 50 years with all its severe ramifications and casualties. NU enthusiasts forget that they are at the beginning of this new fresh cycle that dazzles their unbeknownst hypnotic eyes with breathtaking euphoria and glittery pixie dust as they tiptoe through the tulips.

  20. John M (Indy) says:

    Derek, to elaborate on what Chris said, nearly half (15 of 31) of NFL stadiums are located in or within walking distance of the city’s central business district: Indy, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Charlotte, St. Louis, and Seattle. Not all of those cities have great transit, but all of those stadiums are served at least by bus and several of them by rail. Whatever the merit of the planning decision (and certainly there is a risk that it becomes a bland wall of inactivity), it certainly isn’t an unusual decision.

  21. Paul Lambie says:

    Jon Seisa said:
    “The damage that NU will cause to cities will dwarf the damage of previous decades and it will be known in its fullest scope and extent in 50 years with all its severe ramifications and casualties. NU enthusiasts forget that they are at the beginning of this new fresh cycle that dazzles their unbeknownst hypnotic eyes with breathtaking euphoria and glittery pixie dust as they tiptoe through the tulips.”

    That’s quite a fantastic statement. Does this mean I should expect to see all the urban freeways get demolished soon or what?

  22. Jon Seisa says:

    @ Paul Lambie – Naturally, when the baby is thrown out with the bathwater, expect the worse; this is what NU is adamant on doing. But the truly astute are wising up to the scheme and there is emergent “Trouble in NU-Paradise”…

    Apparently, NU falls short of some expectations, even in the parking division, where parking lots are hidden in the back, for now… out of sight, out of mind.

    Chris Dewolf:
    “Unfortunately, as popular and seemingly positive these developments are, they fail in their objective and ultimately reinforce the strength of the auto-oriented suburban environment. They are feel-good faux-towns, cozy and nostalgic developments which feign urbanity without making the effort to actually be urban.”
    “As Michael Sorkin wrote in the September 1998 issue of Metropolis magazine, ‘New Urbanism reproduces many of the worst aspects of the Modernism it seeks to replace [it] promotes another style of universality that is similarly overreliant on visual cues to produce social effects.’ Instead of actually being successful urban neighbourhoods, New Urbanist developments simply look like urban neighbourhoods.”
    “Jane Jacobs noted in an interview with James Howard Kunstler that ‘the notion of a shopping centre as a valid kind of downtown has taken over. It’s very hard for architects of this generation even to think in terms of a downtown that is owned by different people with different ideas.’ Similarly, she stated in an interview with Reason that ‘the New Urbanists want to have lively centres [yet] they don’t seem to have a sense of the anatomy of these hearts.’”
    “One of North America’s largest New Urbanist developments is McKenzie Towne in Calgary, Alberta. Located several miles from the downtown area, McKenzie Towne embodies all the flaws I see in modern New Urbanism: segregated zones, an inadvertent reliance on the car, a contrived atmosphere. And while the original section of the development contains a wide variety of mixed density housing, it was recently announced that new sections will separate housing types from each other – yet another similarity between standard suburbia and New Urbanist suburbia. Wendell Cox, a staunch critic of the New Urbanism, said it best when he wrote that beneath
    McKenzie Towne’s neotraditional exterior ‘beats the heart of suburbia.’”
    “What disturbs me most about the popularity of the New Urbanism is that it has led us to neglect the old urbanism. What is wrong with the organic neighbourhoods that fill inner cities? (SoHo comes to mind) They never stopped working, as countless metropolises can attest. Most New Urbanist neighbourhoods are greenfield developments built without context on urban peripheries. Many lack adequate transit service to existing urban neighbourhoods, standing alone in a vacuum of more typical subdivisions. New Urbanism tries to fool us into believing it is the saviour of urbanity when in reality it is nothing more than a new style of slipshod suburban development. It is a pretty veil over common suburbia.”
    Personally, I agree with Chris Dewolf’s article and assertion of the artificiality of the sinister Agenda-21 glucose aesthetics of living in quaint little compact and bizarre film sets attempting to be ‘livable communities’ candy coated as faux nostalgic Disney Cartoon Towns. The superficial realms of “Westworld” and “Stepford Wives” comes to mind. I’ve seen some of these atrocious NU make-believe towns and centers popping up like cookie-cutter communities without self-identity distinction as if rolled out of a gargantuan Xerox machine. But much worse and most atrocious are the so-called NU metrocore esthetics that look like bland Legolands of depressing browns and beiges assembled with that hypnotic Illuminati checkerboard pattern of hodge-podge incongruity of mix-n-match Legos stacked to the sky. I think it will produce an epidemic of mind-control depression and dependency on Prozac; obviously the plan… a comatose population is more easily shepherded and controlled.

    Yet, since NU has its roots in sinister Agenda-21, I think Dewolf is not aware of the full spectrum when he asserts NU’s replication of suburban principles as its failure. Like all movements that are introduced to the gullible and blind masses, they are done incrementally, not suddenly. First, get foot soldiers unaware of the true agenda concealed by the upper elite-echelon to do their bidding as enthusiastic advocates on the superficial level of the mere exposed tip of the iceberg to paint a palatable and delightful picture of benefits for public acceptance. Hence, PHASE I: Disney Cartoon Towns. Then, gradually role out more severe aspects under other guises and rationales, which appear logical to the untrained eye, by using the standard weapon of choice of the Globalists, the tripartite Hegelian Principle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, until the true hidden agenda is ultimately established with iron clad claws. So what Dewolf and the world is seeing is a gradual indoctrination to NU that has not yet fully unfurled its darker and more aggressive sinister side… the herding of the populace, like cattle, into densely populated beehive prison cities. Think—- Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report” as the NU future city model, where all your liberties will be striped away under the guise of eagerly accepted ‘security’ and ‘safety’.

    “Sustainablity” (as well as resource and economic oriented “sustainable development”) in the sinister U.N. Agenda-21 and in the inherited NU vernacular is ultimately a euphemism for “control” and is a tenets of Marxism under the principle of “social justice”, terminology coined by Karl Marx, himself.

    “Prepare To Be DICED”:

    “Social Justice” Karl Marx in “Sustainable Development”:

    U.N. Agenda-21 – Tom DeWeeses – “New Social Justice Programs – Exposed” #1 (full lecture series)

  23. Derek Rutherford says:

    Chris, John M-

    Thanks for the perspective on the NFL stadiums – I hadn’t realized how many were close to downtowns (I knew about the baseball stadiums).

    To go back to the picture of parking: the presence of the stadiums certainly has a lot to do with the amount of parking, although as cause or effect I cannot say as I do not know the history of that part of town.

  24. Norman says:

    What I know about New Urbanism I find very attractive. Walkable neighborhoods, broad sidewalks, defined centers- that sounds very nice. Some of the certainty and dogmatism around it that I see from people who aren’t really connected to it but surmise that it is politically virtuous is off-putting, but everything is like that nowadays, hyperpartisan and fully-convinced of the 100% guaranteed future success of ones own side. So maybe I’m on the fence a little, but if the opposition is going to be that it is a UN social-control program then it is a damned certainty to win out and I’ll have to reconcile myself to it. That sale just isn’t going to work.

  25. T says:

    A bunch of people been living in, “Dense urbanized concentration camps controlled by population surveillance, limited movement and confinement” forever.

    Where were ya on that one?

    Clearly Seisa’s life is fine, and cushiony. He already whinin’ about him and his weak people getting stuck in a ghetto. Weird how he’s failed to see a ghetto in his long struggle free life, and yet he’s suddenly so concerned for the well being of people in ghettos.

  26. AIM says:

    ” And this all-out “War On the Car” by social-engineering Globalist-Socialist-Eco-Wackos operating under the thin veneer of so-called “New Urbanists” to eradicate personal vehicles off the face of the planet is just completely over the top.”

    The funniest part of this is the author’s lack of irony in using the phrase “over the top” as if what they had just written isn’t them most overheated, overblown, dare I say “over the top” response.

  27. Rod Stevens says:

    Despite the hyperbole of the above comments, the bottom line is still how you bring life back to an area that has so been given over to the automobile, both on the streets and parking lots and in the offices.

    I’m struck by the way that the freeways surround downtown. Maybe the first step should be eliminating the freeways to the west and east, to allow it to reconnect to neighborhoods. Freeways are the modern equivalent of city walls. Time for these to come down?

  28. Jon Seisa says:

    Norman said: “What I know about New Urbanism I find VERY ATTRACTIVE.” (emphasis mine)

    Well, obviously what you know about NU is limited. A picture is worth a thousand words. So let’s take a breathtaking tour of this so-called “attractiveness” of New Urbanism… which I call “New Urban Architerrorism”. If you think the cities are ugly now—— just wait.

    Photos of true reality don’t lie…

    #1 “NU-MEGA-LEGO ARCHITERRORISM: I Forgot Which Building I Live In” – Providence, RI

    Here we can clearly and vividly see with our very own eyes the casting of ALL beauty to the wind and the embracing of complete hideousness. Imagine blocks and blocks and blocks of these “Mega-Lego Replicators” coming to a city near you. This is not “attractive”; this is utterly “atrocious”. It wasn’t enough for the New Urbanism architect firm to produce one ugly façade; no, instead they had to replicate it over and over and over again with redundancy for lack of creativity, as if 2 wrongs make a right, then perhaps multiple uglies make a beauty. And because it all looks identical without any individual distinction (individualism is not allowed in a communist oligarchic society) then residences will arrive to their neighborhoods and won’t be able to discern which building they live in. And note the scale, how it is entirely out of touch with the human factor.

    2# The Hodgepodge-Mega-Lego-Mixed-Use-Monstrosity That Morphs Into A Titanic Transformer At Midnight – Palms Point, Los Angeles, by architects Archisystem International

    Do you see it? Do you see how this is just so absolutely far more attractive than a mere parking garage? Those NUists, they’ve certainly got it all figured out; how could we have been so wrong for all these years? As I stated earlier, we are at the threshold of the “Minority Report” city model with a little “Logan’s Run” thrown in for good measure… the new (umm) ‘urban beauty’. I just know you want one of these on your city block, first thing tomorrow morning.

    And so much for community involvement, a mere hollow process… the local residences objected to this architerrorism design, and despite the architectural rendering that obviously depicted the full-fledged monstrosity to a perfect “T” with every nuance of ugliness that would be ultimately constructed, the BLIND city officials approved it anyway. So with all the NU claims of being community friendly and community directed, the New Urbanists behind this Titanic Transformer thumbed their noses at the community, and now they’re stuck with the monstrosity.

    But it gets even better…

    #3 “New Urbanism Colonial Utopia”- Yes I just know that every NUists wants to live in this quaint, charming and most ever-so-tasteful 9-storey urban paradise on earth—— (on Prozac). Isn’t it just beautiful, because it takes its cues from traditional architecture as New Urbanism advocates. Well sort of, in a roundabout way. Well, diluted way. So of course, that must mean it’s the epitome of beauty.

    #4 The New New-Urbanism Design Principle: “Why Design for People, When You Can Design for Sardines In A Can?”


  29. Jon Seisa says:

    @ T— The Industrial Revolution produced migration and overpopulation into the city cores that precipitated high rise tenement housing of dense population and a whole assortment of complications that eventually morphed municipal sectors into urban ghettos and produced deplorable conditions and un-sanitized conditions due to infrastructural inabilities to provide amenities for the massive capacity influx. It’s ironic that the New Urbanism is moving in this same direction to shepherd into the cities the populace from rural and suburban regions through social engineering. I predict in 50 years new “mega-ghettos” will be the result.

  30. WoodyinNYC says:

    Jon Seisa, #29 —
    You are right about this one thing: the buildings you show us in your links are ugly. I’d say #3 is the worst, with a dead street wall of a massive parking garage with apartments above. Ugh. Sadly, #4 looks like other apartment buildings with large parking areas in front, with some cutesy-poo play with the roofline. Poor #2, so flashy today, will look terribly dated the moment styles change; I just don’t see how it can age gracefully. And yes, #1 gives us the exact same face six damn times, at least three times too many. Even the appearance of density is off-putting; with the water feature right there, could we get a little room to plant some trees here and there?

    But I’m not blaming these failings on Socialists or Agenda 21. These Providence buildings look to me like a new version of the “old law tenements” erected by private developers in 19th-century NYC. There the effort was to crowd as much building onto the lot as the law allowed, and mediocre, repetitive, and ugly were the way it was done. Then reformers — could they have included Socialists? — changed the laws, so that “new law tenements” had to have air shafts allowing fresh air and some natural light to reach the lowest floors. But they too crowded every lot and were mediocre, repetitive, and ugly. The more things change …

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