FINDING A SWEET SPOTAug 13, 2019 12:09PM ● By Pam Kessler
Until the engineering geniuses in Silicon Valley figure out practical alternatives to driving—yes autonomous vehicles are on the horizon—parking will remain an intractable issue for Walnut Creek. It is after all what cars do most of the time: the average automobile spends 95 percent of its time sitting in place. When cars do move around, they need multiple parking spaces: at home, the office, a shopping mall, the grocery store. The question for planners, public officials, and researchers is how to transform communities reliant on cars into active, pedestrian-friendly places.
Right now, there are 10,000 parking spaces downtown: 3,000 are city-owned, the rest privately-owned and operated. During peak times, 90 percent of the city-owned parking spaces are occupied. Since a new public parking garage is economically prohibitive, city officials are working on creative alternatives. One semi-solution winding its way through city hall is “Rethinking Mobility”, a long-term strategic plan aimed at reducing automobile use and managing parking demand, while also making it easier to walk, bike, and use public transit. The idea is to leverage ride sharing, bike sharing, bus shuttles, electric scooters, smart parking technology and the like to manage mobility challenges.
“We’re a post-WWII auto-centric suburban community,” says Associate City Planner Ozzy Arce. “More recently, we’ve shifted our residential development pattern to the urban center near mass transit. How do we move people around in today’s world? How do we move more, not less, people through Walnut Creek to experience our business community?” Pilot programs like the purple pole parking meters that afford extended hours at lower rates in exchange for walking an extra block or two have proven successful. Easy access to bike-sharing and increased shuttle service is another program the city is working on as part of its efforts to reduce reliance on automobiles. “It’s an ever-evolving, complicated field. We’re looking at mobility in so many lights,” says Arce.
Success will depend on changing people's behavior and reducing our reliance on automotive transportation -- a challenge facing cities across America. For more information on Walnut Creek’s progressive transportation initiatives, go to RethinkingMobilityWC.com.