Thursday, December 10, 2015

One Week After Kicking Me Out of My Parking Spot, the World-Herald Asks If Downtown Omaha Needs More Parking

My commute to work downtown just got five minutes longer this week, thanks to the Omaha World-Herald. A week before Thanksgiving, I received the following letter, informing me that the World-Herald was kicking me out of the parking garage (where I had been a customer for over 12 years) for good. Two years ago, they bumped me to a non-reserved spot, but starting this week, I was out - period.

And scrambling for a parking spot.  I started calling around to find alternatives, and frankly, didn't find much availability.  My choices came down to two lots:  one in the Old Market and one under the Interstate 480 bridge north of the old Civic Auditorium.  I took the spot under the I-480 bridge because it was $26 cheaper than the other and some spots would be covered from hail.

And now it's a 9 minute walk from my car to work (and as my wife can attest, I'm not a slow walker) each way.  But it's really my only option at this point.

But when I saw the front page of Wednesday's Omaha World-Herald, I could have sworn that I was being trolled by Omaha's daily newspaper:
What I found incredulous are some of the comments from Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and others:
Mayor Jean Stothert and city planners say they want to radically change how Omahans see parking. Garages that might appear necessary now, they say, will seem redundant in the future.
 “We do have enough parking stalls,” Stothert said. “It’s a matter of where those parking stalls are.”
 Wait, what? I guess you can argue that since there are plenty of parking spaces on the fringes of the business district, that downtown Omaha needs less parking.  Of course, I bet the mayor doesn't have any issue with parking; she surely has a covered, secured (and probably heated) spot at City Hall; she probably doesn't even need to wear a coat to get to the office.

I did see this little lulu of an idea from the Mayor's office:
For the long term, officials say the city will need to find ways to make it easier for people to come downtown without parking there.

That vision includes an urban circulator — a modern streetcar — to get people around downtown without driving. A new bus rapid transit system, a quick and convenient bus running from Westroads to downtown, could spur more people to hang up their keys and take public transit to work downtown.
Here's the problem with that idea: it doesn't exist today, and it's never going to exist in Omaha unless the city builds it like Sarpy County built a unnecessary, duplicate ballpark.  I'm not sure that I've ever seen a "convenient" bus in Omaha; in fact, with my work hours, I've learned that I really can't depend on Omaha's bus system for my job. A streetcar? I've heard it discussed more than once, but frankly, I don't know how that works unless it's (a) free to ride and (b) as reliable as the car.  That's going to take one heck of an investment by the city of Omaha, and I fail to see how Omaha taxpayers will ever agree to fund this.

Evenings and weekends aren't an issue for parking, and it's not an issue for the CenturyLink Center; there's plenty of parking there for events.  Same thing with the Holland Center; the symphony could hold a concert during the College World Series, and parking wouldn't be an issue downtown.  In fact, Omaha has hosted the Olympic Swim Trials and the CWS on the same evening.

But on a workday, parking is in short supply, and with HDR building a new headquarters downtown, it's going to get worse. Frankly, at this point, it's too late at this point to implement a streetcar to be ready when HDR employees join the crush downtown. And no, bikes are not an option for someone who lives in West Omaha.  Not in a city with this many hills and weather extremes like Omaha has.

No comments: