The first story about ”problems” parking in Bricktown was reported in 1990. That’s a fact.
So this discussion isn’t new. I’m not sure that I saw a lot of new ideas in the consultant’s report on Bricktown parking, though as one person told me, it might take an outside consultant repeating solutions mentioned by others to get people’s attention. But there is some intriguing discussion going on at Blair Humphreys’ Imaginative America. In he past few days I’ve also heard ideas posted here and at OKC Talk that include parking meters that let you choose how long to park (and the prices go up for the longer periods) and a garage in Atlanta that lets people park for two hours free, and then charges them there after.
I did some thinking last night and read through the 70 pages again. And it occurred to me – no where in that study did the report try to delve into “what are we trying to accomplish?” By that I mean, what’s the intent here?
The folks who invented the parking meter (right here in OKC) knew what they were trying to accomplish – a way to ensure parking spaces rotated throughout the day to accomodate shoppers and other downtown visitors and discourage workers from parking curbside.
And seems to be part of the intent expressed by the study consultants from Dezman Associates. But hold on just a minute – parking meters were created for the Central Business District, where it’s assumed visitors won’t need more than an hour (most Bricktown parking meters assume two hours).
I’m also a bit uncertain of the authors’ logic of saying that those who used parking meters for more than four hours were likely employees of area business and not visitors. Oh really?
Don’t we want visitors to spend more time in Bricktown? How might one spend their time currently?
OK, they park. They stroll down Sheridan Avenue and the canal, looking around, considering where to eat. Let’s say they’re out for a really nice evening, and they choose Mickey Mantle Steakhouse. We’re easily talking about 90 minutes just doing this.
Now our couple out for a night on the town decides to check out the Painted Door gift shop, and they proceed to Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Emporium. They look at the statues and murals outside the ballpark. Add another 45 minutes.
Oh, look honey, there’s the canal boats … Add another 45 minutes, usually… BUT WAIT! Guy sees the Bass Pro Shops and asks the boat driver to let them off. They spend 30 minutes at Bass Pro. They get back on another boat and head back for the Mickey Mantle plaza drop off. All together, the boat ride and detour at Bass Pro Shops lasts 90 minutes (they had to wait about 10 minutes for another boat to come by, and they did do some strolling as well).
We are now at 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Our couple arrived in Bricktown at 5 p.m., so it’s still pretty early – not even 9 p.m. How do they cap off their evening? Do they spend a couple hours at CityWalk, SkkyBar or Lit? Do they enjoy a horse-driven carriage ride? Do they go bowling at Red Pin? Or do they catch some live music at the Purple Bar at Nonna’s or at Toby Keiths? Or do they go play pool at the Brewery?
Any way you choose, we’re looking at five hours or more. And, according to the study’s authors, these folks must be employees because visitors won’t spend this sort of time in Bricktown.
So, here’s the first question when it comes to parking meters – what is the intent of having them in Bricktown?
Now, let’s move onto the parking lots. Again, what is the intent here? Are the owners and operators motivated to balance making money with also making sure they don’t charge so much that they discourage people from visiting? I suspect that there isn’t just one answer that applies here. For people like Don Karchmer, Jeff Moore and Marsh Pitman, it seems as if they’ve kept their parking rates comparably low; they are invested in the district in a way that involves far more than parking.
Then the question moves to parking operators like Virgil Haymon, who last week was arrested on complaints of charging people to park on a lot he didn’t control and in city right of way. He’s the first to admit he has no investment in the district and isn’t a member of the Bricktown Association. He’s just out there charging people to park and sharing the proceeds with property owners like Bob Meinders and Bricktown Burgers. He only operates when Bricktown is at its busiest – weekend nights, special events – and he is often hit with complaints of price gouging, using “boots” to lock tires of cars where visitors don’t pay him. So what is his intent?
We have the Cummings lot at Mickey Mantle and Walnut. Nobody seems to even know who this guy is, and he was the only owner/operator not present at a meeting last week. Most in Bricktown agree this corner is prime for development – yet the owner has seemed content the past decade charging $5 to $10 to park, sometimes more, depending on how busy the area is. He has as many spaces cramed onto the corner as is possible. What is his intent?
Then there’s Jim Brewer, whose family controls a majority of the surface parking lots in Bricktown. Brewer is a self made man who deserves a lot of credit for Bricktown’s early development. He was a talented promoter who made what was slim pickings for entertainment in the district’s early days seem like a lot. He owns several undeveloped buildings, however, and his lots have been among those charging people upwards of $20 to park when huge crowds hit the district. And yet he was also among those agreeing last week to a parking cap of $10 for special events and $5 during non-event days. What is his intent?
Then there’s the city. The folks at City Hall didn’t spend much time discussing the inequities in parking in Lower Bricktown versus old Bricktown when they agreed to take the money Randy Hogan paid them to develop Lower Bricktown and reinvested it in canal improvements and creating free parking for the area’s visitors.
The city did not say “let the free market dictate parking, Randy, and if it can’t be done without charging visitors to park, well then, charge them.”
Yet the city has done just that in old Bricktown, and even signed away control of lots it did own to private operators. So what’s the intent here?
Now, onto the visitors. I’ve been in Bricktown at its busiest and I’ve always found a place to park. I might have had to walk a couple of blocks. But guess what – that walk is no different than what you face when you decide to catch a blockbuster movie at Quail Springs Mall or go shopping at Penn Square Mall on the weekend before Christmas. If you’re willing to walk that much in suburbia when you know it’s going to busy, why the sudden laziness when it comes to enjoying downtown? What’s the intent here?
Finally, enough with comparing Bricktown parking rates to other cities. For whatever reason, the cost of living is lower here, but so is per capita income. The consultants themselves agreed that $10 parking here is not the same as $10 parking in Denver or Dallas.