Gerard Giosa, parking consultant and president of Level G Associates, has worked with communities across the country to improve downtown parking. He is co-author of Parking Matters: Designing, Operating, and Financing Structured Parking in Smart Growth Communities. Giosa prepared analyses of the economic benefits of the four proposals for the ParkingPLUS Design Challenge. We discussed his findings in December 2013.
Parking garages can lead to more tax revenue: you estimate more than $1.5 million per year in new tax revenue for the Westbury proposal, more than $2 million for Rockville Centre, and more than $7.5 million for Ronkonkoma. How would structured parking generate tax dollars in these communities?
Gerard Giosa: The residential and commercial uses that can be created because of increased parking supply would generate new tax revenue. For example, shops and theatres would create sales tax revenue, while residential units would generate real estate tax revenue.
Tell me more about the appeal—in terms of economic benefits—of adding residential uses to a downtown parking garage. Housing envisioned as part of new deck parking in Rockville Centre could pump more than $4 million in disposable income per year into the downtown; Westbury’s downtown could benefit from an additional $3 million from new residences.
Giosa: Residential uses supported by downtown parking garages have tremendous appeal and multiple economic benefits. One of the greatest benefits is the residents themselves. People who seek housing in a downtown environment are generally looking for a more active and trendy lifestyle. They live downtown because they want to shop, eat, go to shows, and meet friends downtown. The average consumer uses approximately 30 percent of their income on discretionary purchases; a young couple with a combined income of $135,000 living in a downtown dwelling unit would bring more than $40,000 of purchasing power to the heart of the downtown area.
You calculate that a shared parking system for Patchogue could mean Village savings of approximately $9 million over the next 5 to 10 years. Why would this system save money for taxpayers?
Giosa: The continuing revitalization of downtown Patchogue is a Long Island success story. However, this growth and revitalization may require the construction of up to 1,500 new structured parking spaces over the next decade. We estimate that the proposed shared parking system for downtown Patchogue would significantly improve parking facility utilization, to the extent that 30 percent or 450 fewer spaces would need to be built. The cost to build 450 new structured parking spaces in the future would be at least $20,000 per space, or $9 million.
The shared parking system would also mean individual savings for Patchogue’s residents and visitors. I’m picturing drivers doing a whole lot less circling in their cars, searching for spaces. How does this translate into fatter wallets?
Giosa: The benefits of less circling are numerous. Less circling improves the parking experience, reduces accidents, turning movements, congestion, vehicular-pedestrian conflicts, miles driven, time spent looking for parking, and vehicular emissions. Beyond saving gasoline, it is difficult to quantify the specific economic benefit resulting from some of the more qualitative benefits, but they do exist—and they all add up to a cleaner, greener, safer, and easier to use downtown.
The scheme for Ronkonkoma could create an estimated 500 jobs. How does a parking garage create jobs? Is the vast surface parking lot that’s in Ronkonkoma today creating any jobs?
Giosa: The current parking lots at the Ronkonkoma train station are not creating jobs, but they are supporting jobs outside of the Ronkonkoma/Town of Islip economic region, primarily in New York City. The new parking deck that is part of the Parks and Rides proposal would replace the existing parking spaces within its footprint, plus add 750 new spaces. The plan succeeds from a parking perspective because many of the uses in the Parks and Rides project—such as recreational uses, theatres, and nightclubs—have peak parking demands at times when commuter spaces are empty. These recreational uses, theatres, nightclubs, restaurants, and other uses would create an estimated 500 new permanent jobs within the Ronkonkoma/Town of Islip economic region.
You calculate that development with structured parking for Ronkonkoma Parks and Rides could support more than $150 million—yes, $150 million—in new investments. How did you reach this number?
Giosa: Ronkonkoma Parks and Rides contains more than 1,000,000 square feet of diverse new uses, and this does not even include the future airport terminal, driving range, parking decks, and athletic fields. Using a blended rate of $150 per square foot to design and construct this space yields a total investment of $150 million.
What could this mean for the broader Long Island region?
Giosa: The ParkingPLUS Design Challenge features four pioneering concepts for parking structure development. The basic concept is to replace vast expanses of asphalt parking lots with transit villages or other smart growth projects that will revitalize our towns and villages. ParkingPLUS represents the beginning of a dialogue about improving the long-term economic health and vitality of Long Island by redefining the way people park in our unique downtowns and suburban centers.