Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alternative Transpo as Incentives

Noah Jeppson, aka dfwcre8tive, posted this pic to twitter with the comment, "would be nice if all residents got a vespa as part of rent." 

If you look closely in the pic, you'll notice the building logo on the sign, the pavement, and the vespa match.  We'd have to ask Noah if this is to be shared amongst residents of the building, used by the leasing agents, or simply a marketing photo-op to publicize the building and lifestyle.

Either way, Noah's thought is one I suggested several years ago, pre-economic crash, to developers in lieu of providing parking.  Building parking can be expensive, particularly in walkable, desirable neighborhoods, often costing upwards of 15-20% of construction costs.  These are costs that get passed on into the price for the consumer.  We were looking at creative ways to save on costs, while tapping into the desired lifestyle of the emerging Millennial housing market (see the presentation I put together back in 2006).  Other ideas included things that have since proliferated such as communal bike sharing, transit passes, etc.  Other ways of providing similar mobility without usurping valuable real estate and leasable square footage for vehicular storage.

While parking minimums originally about not clogging the public realm with cars on streets originally designed for pedestrians, street cars, and carriages.  Today, they are a substitute for mobility.  People have to get around, to their jobs, to the store, etc. and for the most part (in the Sun Belt) the only way is by car.  Therefore, "the market wants a certain amount of parking."  Ironically, the ever-diminishing demand is always ahead of the top down codes (because codes by nature tend to be overly prescriptive and unresponsive to change).

But if that mobility is substituted by other means, the parking isn't as necessary.  Some, but certainly not all.  And it should be excluded from the price of the rental/condo unit as part of a choice by the consumer.  This embeds customization, intelligence, and adaptibility into the market and therefore increased market responsiveness via the feedback.

I recall the 3030 Bryan Lofts were offering a deal where if you bought a condo you'd get an electric scooter.  Based on their website, it seems the building is still only about half full.  I don't know if they're still offering a that or a similar deal.

The commonality behind the offer got me thinking, "where are the optimal places for such deals?"  It isn't in sprawl, ie totally auto-dependent places.  While vespas can operate on roads like cars, their optimal range is closer to that of bicycles.  You don't want to be getting on highways with them.  I suspect you'll find far more scooters/vespas in uptown than insert-outer-ring-exurb-here, for example.  

Also, the deal doesn't make sense in highly walkable areas.  These places are at such a premium that the market doesn't need to offer incentives.  Demand is so high that the mobility is effectively externalized to public transit and an assortment of private opportunities (cabs, car services, bike sharing programs, jitneys, pedicabs, etc.).

However, it does make a lot of sense where both the Bryan Lofts and 300 North Ervay are, in semi-walkable locations. Areas in transition, trying to be less car-dependent, in areas that were once not so, but are fighting an uphill battle against the tides of transportation policy and parking codes.  Yes, you can walk to most of your daily needs in downtown, but not quite everything.  As the walkscore heat map shows, the green, walkable areas tend to exist as isolated archipelagos segmented by flowing seas of cars.  Each walkable neighborhood an island.  They don't blend and amplify each other like in highly interconnected, fully walkable cities.