Finding a Spot

November 15, 2022

We have a Metro Council meeting tonight. You can review proposed amendments and analysis of the agenda. There is a public comment period.

I come from a long line of dads who don't pay to park. Okay, well, just my dad, but I'm genetically predisposed to avoid paying for parking at all costs.

But I also grew up when Nashville was not a quickly growing city.

And then I moved to just a few blocks from downtown. After a period when I had discovered how our infrastructure choices—not just when I was growing up but often while I was an adult—had limited our ability to move around the city in any way other than driving.

I've spent a lot of my energy over the past 15 years working to give people more options to move around Nashville, in large part because cars are expensive and having the freedom not to need one is a huge financial empowerment opportunity.

And creating parking is also expensive. Typical costs for parking are $5,000 per surface space, $25,000 per above-ground garage space, $35,000 per below-ground garage space. And the impact this has is that typical renters pay an additional $142 per month for parking and a housing unit's cost is 17% higher.

So Nashville has a big choice to make tonight. We have the opportunity to stop using decades-old formulas for per-project parking in urban Nashville and let communities and the market make decisions that are more appropriate and coordinated.

Why is this a good idea? If you'd like a book-length examination, Donald Shoup is the authority. If you prefer, there's a blog-length version and even a video.

Fundamentally, parking reform helps us with affordability goals and climate goals. It drops construction prices, and it ultimately encourages us to explore our city in multiple ways.

Over the past few weeks, taking parking concerns into consideration, I have taken transit multiple times, ridden either my bike or a B-Cycle, or ridden a scooter. Literally to avoid having to deal with parking. I love having these options available to me, and I want more of them that serve more people reliably and safely.

And this is yet another area, where Nashville would be working to keep pace with other cities. After Minneapolis pursued a similar reform, they watched a class of rents drop from $1200/month to $1,000/month.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • We eliminated parking minimums downtown more than a decade ago. We have not mandated parking minimums in downtown or the Gulch for the entire 7 years I've been in office. And we've still produced almost 50,000 parking spaces downtown!
  • We eliminated parking minimums on multimodal corridors two years ago. And still, projects are typically incorporating an appropriate amount of parking.
  • In short, this won't be an overnight, world-changing earthquake. What it will do is stop inducing demand over time with development patterns that are changing as our cores and corridors mature.

In District 19, we've had good discussion about this at the neighborhood level, and I know there are lots of supporters but also plenty of skeptics citywide.

Anyone who has followed my work knows that I'm going to keep fighting for the sidewalks, crosswalks, bikeways, and transit that we also need.

But it's time for our policy to serve the long-term interests of the city, bring down development costs, and start letting our public rights of way be more accessible to more people over time.

Let me know your thoughts and concerns. I'm already focused on a few of the specific scenarios people have brought to my attention.

What's Happening

What's Coming

  • We'll be revisiting some issues related to animal control. I hope that more work has been done with the department to ensure we can get to a stronger consensus. [BL2022-1571]
  • It appears some of the elements of a previously considered effort to increase the geographic distribution of traffic calming projects will be back before us. [BL2022-1572]

What I'm Hearing

  • We have had a troubling amount of gun violence on Demonbreun Hill that seem to be related to a single night club. It's difficult to get a determination of public nuisance to shut down an establishment like this, but I've discussed the situation with MNPD and the district attorney's office.
  • I continue to hear about troubling behavior changes—typically involving aggressive behavior—observed among unhoused folks and itinerants downtown and in urban neighborhoods.

What I've Been Up To

  • I joined neighbors in Hope Gardens at their neighborhood association meeting.
  • I visited with young people at the mayor's youth summit.
  • I enjoyed the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner.

What You Can Do

  • Get your flu shot! I can't tell you how many people I know who've had the flu over the past two weeks. Protect yourself, but protect the young people, the elderly, and the immunocompromised around you.

Thanks for engaging with me as we think about and work on tough policy issues.

My best ...


Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19

Mayoral Candidate, 2023


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