Thursday, December 21, 2006

who will Google bring to town?

A recent AANEws article announces that Google is moving downtown, at least for the next four years. The seemingly good news for the city is followed up by another article pointing our that the addition is not all wine and roses. Specifically, parking is an issue again (yes we agree that it probably never stopped being an issue; the framing is just different).

In an effort to accomodate Google's four year stay in the McKinley Town Centre and show a commitment to providing infrastructure that will allow them to stay downtown as they ramp up to 1,000 employees and look for permenant offices in four years, the city guarenteed the internet giant...
go!passes for all employees?
expansion of the Zipcar program to include downtown locations?
increased funding to AATA to expand routes and extend service hours?
a commitment to improving bike and ped facilities downtown?

Sorry gang. The city took the easy way out (or, rather, foolishly dug themselves further into a parking hole) by offering 200 guaranteed parking spaces. Promising 200 parking spaces at a time when permits for downtown parking have a waiting list is a pretty clear indication that Ann Arbor is planning to build more parking.

The article poses the question "As downtown evolves with a flurry of development and visions, one question stands out: Does the city have enough parking to support it?" Hopefully this narrow perspective is to representative of Ann Arbor's view on mobility. By viewing parking as the major constraint to increased density, the reporter boxes us into a one-track (or lane) mobility solution. More people = more cars = more parking.

Really, there are lots of programs in our fair city that support alternatives to driving. We are reassured by programs like the DDA sponsored getDowntown program, which advocates and promotes a variety of transportation options. We are expanding our cycling facilities, the Link is up and running, and the Mayor is pushing for rail service to neighboring areas. It seems feasible that increasing density with the right mix of transportation services could reduce Ann Arbor's car/household ratio.

Yet the policy and infrastructure will do little if the new residents and employees coming to town are only interested in having a parking spot. When wooing Google and other potential business to Ann Arbor, and particularly to downtown, we would like to see a greater effort by the city and business associations to promote the city's complete mobility package, instead of just throwing a stack of parking permits on the bargaining table.

McKinley CEO Albert Berriz says he's ready to house goolites across the street from the office. By promoting the mobility and flexibility of a go!pass, safe bike/ped experience, and a Zipcar membership to new residents and employers, we take a good first step to attracting the kind of people who are more likely to support and use the facilities we want to build and improve.

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