Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Parking in Uptown Waterloo

Personally, I'm thrilled that they're putting a small park in front of Waterloo Town Square. There are certainly other parks in the area, but none of them are adjacent to food or shopping so they have never attained "central meeting place status." I want a place where I can sit and read, surrounded by lots of other people who are socializing and eating and having a break between shopping sprees.

I can also tell you that when things get really hot in town, a park is a blessing and a parking lot a terrible curse.

But you see, the park will replace a certain number of parking spots around the shopping mall, and a lot of people are outraged by this. They say that it's hard enough to find parking in uptown Waterloo as it is, so replacing that parking lot with green space will drive people away from uptown businesses.

Now, I walk through uptown Waterloo every day so I get a pretty good sense of where people are parking. I agree that cars are constantly cruising around the entrances to Waterloo Town Square, getting frustrated because they can't find a spot...A SPOT WITHIN THIRTY FEET OF THE DOORS.

Maybe I'm just particularly able-bodied, but there is a huge free lot next to the mall -- right across Willis Way -- that is NEVER more than 1/3 full. That lot is literally a minute's walk away from Waterloo Town Square -- and by extension the rest of the uptown shops -- but most people would rather drive their cars around the entrances than walk for more than a few seconds at a stretch.

I have only recently begun driving again so perhaps I'm missing something, but I simply don't see a "parking for shoppers" problem in uptown Waterloo. There certainly seems to be a logjam of city workers who need to park in the garage adjacent to the bank -- something needs to be tweaked there during rush hour, for sure -- but if you want to park within walking distance of the shopping, YOU CAN.

I made the mistake of asking one of the nice employees in the mall when the new park would be built, and she went off on a surprising tirade about it all. Strangely, her objection was NOT to the removal of the parking spots. She said the new park would "attract all the bums, bring in more alcohol, become dangerous..."

And I was like, "the bums are already IN uptown, and the park is going to be tiny and full of businessmen on their lunch." It had never even OCCURRED to me that the park could somehow be a "safety issue," being as you'll be able to walk from one end to the other in fifteen seconds.

I can only assume that this bizarre "dangerous park" thing is a fallback complaint after somebody deflated complaint number one ("not enough parking") by monitoring the mostly-empty lot next door and presenting their results.

Sometimes I jump to conclusions without having all the facts. But until somebody can explain to me why they can't park within walking distance of uptown -- with or without the new park -- I can only assume that those folks are lazy bums who'll be surprised to learn they actually have feet.


VanillaJ said...

Darling, you are so RIGHT ON regarding this subject. It's not that there's no parking. It's just that our local populous is spoiled, more so than others. Our popluation has increased dramatically, and many natives are used to a wasteful and thoughtless use of public space because it never used to have to be shared in the ways consistent with a developing city.

But there's a reason why North Americans have a reputation for being fat and lazy, because a 1 minute walk from you car to the mall is too long for most people here. They'd rather circle, and circle, and circle the lot until they find rockstar parking - which takes longer and pollutes more than just getting out of your car and walking.

Eli McIlveen said...

So basically, "we can't have nice things", huh? It's bizarre that creating a bit of public space, the sort of place you can sit in the sun and read and have lunch in a vaguely "natural" setting is seen as dangerous. It does sound like she's just afraid of change and searching for a rationalization.

Sometimes it seems like the biggest barrier to progress in design (urban design, product design, anything), is how hard it is for most people to imagine experiences - like what it would be like if that parking lot was a park.

Adam Thornton said...

Vanilla, just imagine how fun those city council meetings must be.

It does seem that some people demand an entitlement to "shop without walking." I've read quotes from a few local businesses who say that if a customer can't park directly in front of the store for free, the customer will stop coming.

WHA?!? In how many cities of any size can you park DIRECTLY in front of a store -- let alone for free -- and why should such a thing be necessary?

It's a wonder they don't complain that mall stores don't come out into the parking lot to visit THEM.

Adam Thornton said...

The inability to imagine an alternative...that's an interesting thought. People (myself included) tend to see the most unpleasant possible result of change as somehow the most immediate one.

Maybe we only remember the bad outcomes...maybe we forget when change has an overall positive outcome.