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Parking. So many spots, yet not affordable.

for those working in the service industry there just aren't a lot of options

Photo of annie young
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I was having a conversation today with an architect who works in downtown Grand Rapids. We were discussing the new building high-rise that was reduced to 13 stories. The conversation turned to parking, and I said I thought that was an issue. He made the point that there is plenty of parking downtown. He argued that the city of Grand Rapids and Ellis has done a great job of taking single level parking lots and building them up and making them several stories adding the necessary and needed parking. I agree with that. But the argument that I hear repeatedly from service workers is that they can't afford to pay 16 18 or $24 a day to park. The architect told me he pays $100 a week to Park, well, not actually he pays $100 a week, the company he works for pays $100 a week. I asked him how many restaurants, hotels, bars or stores downtown do you think are paying for their service workers parking. For those that work the service level jobs downtown it certainly is a challenge. Perhaps there doesn't need to be more parking downtown, rather, there needs to be a better way to help move them around especially late in the evening. This should be part of the conversation.

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Photo of Idrees Mutahr

Thanks for sharing Annie, service workers do need access to downtown but if the cost of parking is prohibitive I could see this creating an issue with access to work. Parking can be expensive to build in a downtown, and this is a cost often internalized by employers who do provide free parking to employees. For both of these reasons I think downtown districts would be better off if there were convenient alternatives. One concept I have heard before is employers allowing employees to receive cash rather than the free parking spot, so they have an incentive to find alternative modes if possible: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2017/03/17/d-c-wants-employers-to-pay-workers-not-to-drive-to-work/?utm_term=.cb2594d58afd

Photo of annie young

I think there is a solution, I am not sure what it is, but I fear the thought that just because there are parking spots available that some believe there is no parking issue in downtown Grand Rapids.

Photo of Idrees Mutahr

You are correct, that is often how the problem is framed. There may be plenty of parking lots downtown - maybe even too many - but in reality it still feels difficult to find accessible, convenient, or affordable parking.

Photo of Tom Bulten

Lower-income employees are doubly disadvantaged: high cost parking for jobs downtown and limited transit options for jobs in the suburbs.