Do you build high density, multi-use buildings first and then add the transportation infrastructure or do you build the infrastructure first and then add in high-density? This is the question.
I contemplate this question every time I see a new, high-density apartment complex go up in an already congested urban area. In particular, I was thinking about it as I drove down I-94, past Loring Park this morning. There is a the new 36 story, multi-use building being constructed one block off of Loring Park in what used to be an empty surface parking lot.
There are many things about this building that are pretty awesome – in terms of building in a sustainable fashion – its multi-use, it’s high density and its LEED certified. All things we want when building, especially in an urban setting.
But here is what I ponder as I see buildings like this going up. Where are all the cars going to go – and I don’t just mean parking? Do they honestly think that most people who move into that building will just park their car in the parking garage and never us it again? How are they going to get to and from that building? And I am not just thinking about those living in the building. What about those coming to eat or shop at the multi-use part of the building?
Have you been to Loring Park recently? Have you driven around Loring Park or tried to get to and from the park? How about trying to get on or off the freeway at Hennepin/Lyndale Avenues? Or tried to travel down Hennepin/Lyndale past Loring Park? Its abysmal, right? Now, think about adding in another 600+ cars into that picture. Not so pretty now.
So, are we building the building in hopes that everyone who lives there will walk, bike or bus to work? Sadly, I think the answer from developers and planners is yes. The reality is that they won’t. Most every resident in that building will own a car and drive it to and from that building on a regular basis.
And why won’t more of them use public transportation and leave the car in the parking garage? Simple. There it isn’t enough of it and its not easy and convenient to use. Sure, there will be residents who live there who will work downtown – but what about when they need to go get groceries or other errands?
Does this mean we shouldn’t build any more high-density, multi-use buildings? No. But we do need to have better transportation infrastructure in place so that when we do – all of the people who live and use that building WILL leave their car in the garage.