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More parking is not the answer to Elmwood problems

Elmwood must thrive, but providing more free parking is not the solution. Cities and communities prosper when they are created for people, and Elmwood does just that. The consequence is an increased demand for development. The challenge with any new development, though, is getting people there.

In Buffalo, we have for many years focused our attention in this regard on providing more public parking for private automobiles at a tremendous public expense. Current national trends detailed in the National Household Transportation Survey show that of all trips in the United States, 50 percent are under three miles and 28 percent are one mile or less. However, 72 percent of trips 1 mile or less are driven.

By this account, our traffic congestion and parking woes are not created by visitors from elsewhere in the region, but from within. To address this, strategies should be developed to get people moving by other means — walking, biking or using public transit. There is a lot we could do to encourage these healthy travel options, making them more effective, efficient, convenient and easily accessible. ?One low-cost solution is to create dedicated bicycle lanes, making it safe for cyclists while providing them incentives such as our bicycle benefits program, which gives discounts at participating businesses. The recently established GOBuffalo.org campaign was developed to encourage behavior changes by outlining all transportation options available and providing the tools to help better plan a trip.

Parking policy, such as reducing alternate parking hours on nearby streets, is a good step. However, a more robust system should be put in place that charges market rate for parking, ensuring that there is always a nearby space if you are willing to pay and residents can be assured of having a space to park near their homes.

The resources from such a program could be dedicated to enhancing the corridor and residential neighborhoods through such things as sidewalk snow removal, public art, trees or other people amenities that would continue to strengthen the district and support the city's tax base. This all comes down to the simple premise that in any successful city, parking your car is not a privilege, it is a public service that comes at an expense.

Leaving the car at home and choosing to walk, bicycle or use public transit can improve your personal health, enhance the environment and support the local economy. So next time you head out, consider choosing a healthier mode and help us encourage the city to implement a complete streets approach for our roadways to make it safer to do so. This simple and cost effective strategy will go a long way to curtailing our purported parking woes and make Elmwood truly thrive.

Justin Booth is executive director of GOBike Buffalo.