In Search of Utopia by Brett Wood, CAPP, PE
I just wrapped up major evaluation and documentation efforts on one of the coolest (and most challenging) projects I’ve done in a while. The City of Aurora, Colo., which has a population of more than 325,000 east of Denver, is largely a suburban-based community with no real parking vision—just a collection of strip malls, big box stores, and other suburban development. There is a large medical campus, but outside of that area, the urban context just doesn’t exist in Aurora. However, RTD (the regional transit provider) is on the cusp of opening a light rail line that will include nine stations in Aurora and connect the community with Denver and the airport. To say that things are about to change in Aurora would be an understatement.
That’s where our client comes in. The City of Aurora had the foresight to say, “we could have a parking problem.” But instead of waiting to see how that played out, they decided to get in front of the train (so to speak) and make sure they were ready. So for the past six months, we have been developing a business plan and a parking program from the ground up.
At our kickoff meeting, we joked the city had the opportunity to create Parking Utopia, where they learned from all the lessons of the many communities that have braved this transition before. Before long, what was a funny line became a mantra for the project.
We set out to create parking utopia, which, in our minds, was based on these tenets:
- The community, including the customer and the economic vitality of the community, is the most important aspect of the program
- It’s about so much more than parking; the system should be a conduit for improving mobility, access, and growth within the community
- Enforcement should be based on compliance and education rather than heavy-handed regulations
- Technologies should be designed to be easy to use for both the customer and the manager
- The staff should be ambassadors for the program, helping the community learn about how and why we manage parking
- The community should be engaged throughout the life of the program, helping define the future by providing existing feedback
- Decisions should be made based on real data from the community, ensuring that new program elements meet the needs of those they serve
- Parking should be priced to manage demand and promote community needs, not generate revenue
- If they make positive revenue, it should be reinvested into the community.
I don’t know if you noticed a theme there, but it was all about the community. Utopia didn’t mean gadgets and gizmos or progressive policies. Rather, it meant creating a parking program that worked for Aurora and positioned them for success. So, with all of that said, what’s your ideal parking utopia?