VOL. 131 | NO. 203 | Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Surface Parking Lots Inhibit Medical Center’s Growth
By Madeline Faber
Surface parking lots are a “default land banking” strategy, according to Tommy Pacello, president of the Memphis Medical District Collaborative. Often, developers will pave over land with the intention of building something at a later date.
After years of deferred intentions, the Memphis Medical District bears 250 acres of surface parking lots, which is roughly the size of the Harbortown neighborhood.
The MMDC, with Innovate Memphis and other national leaders, is rethinking Memphis’ dependence on surface parking lots.
“What we want to say is if we took a collective approach, we feel we could be much more efficient and unlock the potential of surface parking lots for other things like buildings, apartments, houses, whatever we need in the area,” Pacello said on the WKNO/Channel 10 program Behind The Headlines.
Replacing surface parking lots with apartments could help the district shift away from its commuter culture. Only 6 percent of the district’s 24,000 employees and students actually live in the district.
“The best transportation solution is being there already,” said Paulo Nunes-Ueno, a national consultant about transit-related issues. He said building a neighborhood that is easily accessible by foot and alternative transit is a much more effective use of the district’s footprint.
That necessitates a serious attitude shift for Memphis’ car-centric culture. People have come to expect free and abundant parking, said Suzanne Carlson with Innovate Memphis. Efforts in the medical district aim to build up infrastructure that supports alternative transportation while at the same time motivating people to leave their cars at home.
Part of that strategy is rethinking parking as an incentive. Employers will often pay for parking for their employees, but neglect to provide transit passes. Employers can also provide a “guaranteed ride home,” which is a free cab ride for employees who need to make an emergency trip during the work day.
“That’s proven very successful and low cost because people rarely use it but it provides that guarantee, which is exactly what it’s for,” Carlson said.
Transit is typically seen as a concern of the public realm, but Nunes-Ueno said that private employers have to be concerned with how their employees get to work.
Businesses can make small changes to their campus that can make it more habitable to alternative transportation, like adding end-of-trip facilities for bicyclists or supporting a shuttle than can move employees across a smaller footprint.
“People are used to thinking about your transportation options as either I drive, or maybe I ride a bus,” Pacello said. “But it’s also bike share, ride share, car share, carpooling, van share – all these different systems that begin to get layered together so as they get to be put in a place like the medical district, where because you have the buy-in of the various institutions, you begin to decrease demand on surface parking lots.”
“Behind The Headlines,” hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.