Local View: ‘Ample parking’ sends wrong message about renovated armory – Duluth News Tribune
Local View: ‘Ample parking’ sends wrong message about renovated armory – Duluth News Tribune

I was pleased to read the June 5 News Tribune’s “Our View” editorial on the long-awaited renovations of the Duluth Armory (“Another milestone: Armory renovation finally upon us”). As the article noted, Duluth residents have been anticipating the renovation of this historic facility for many, many years.

I was disappointed, however, to read the editorial’s comment that the project’s planners had included space for “ample parking,” as this suggests the expectation that most visitors to the renovated armory will arrive in their own cars. As urban planners and land-use experts now generally understand, encouraging private car use in urban neighborhoods, especially by providing “ample parking”—and worse, “ample free parking”—is a terrible way to increase the vibrancy of a neighborhood.

An aerial view of the area surrounding the Armory, with off-street parking highlighted in red, provides a vivid illustration of how much of our precious land is currently being used to park cars. And that doesn’t even take into account the large number of on-street parking spaces that are also available.

Just imagine how much more lively the neighborhood would be if even a small part of this area was dedicated to housing for people and businesses instead of cars.

As has been extensively documented – first by Donald Shoup in his classic The High Cost of Free Parking and most recently by Henry Grabar in Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World – there are new and better ways to minimize the need for parking and encourage alternative forms of transportation in urban areas.

Importantly, visitors who park their cars at the Armory or other public places in the area must pay a reasonable market rate for parking. All revenue from parking fees should be used to encourage the use of alternative modes of transportation, such as walking, biking, and public transit.

The Duluth Transit Authority’s new Blue Line provides frequent bus service throughout much of Duluth, with stops less than two blocks from the Armory. Fares can be paid using a convenient smartphone app, and the exact location of buses can be tracked using GPS. Anyone who lives or works within walking distance of a DTA bus line should take advantage of this reliable, affordable, comfortable and convenient service.

The Armory opened in 1915. Later public events were often crowded, even though few of the attendees owned cars at the time. There’s no reason why a renovated Armory couldn’t continue this proud tradition without requiring countless acres of lifeless asphalt parking lots surrounding the venue.

David Roise of Duluth and Menlo Park, California, is a patent attorney, bicycle and pedestrian activist and homeowner in the Congdon neighborhood. He supports the group We Walk in Duluth, which advocates for safe and accessible bicycle and pedestrian policies.

David Roise.jpg

David Roise

By Liam