OPINION: New parking ordinance will hurt Anchorage

downtown, downtown anchorage, parking, parking lot, parking lots

As a professional engineer who spent 45 years in the Alaska transportation industry, I see the Assembly’s new parking ordinance as a major step backward in the orderly development of Anchorage. Alaska already has the worst economy of any state in the union. We have lost residents at an alarming rate. Businesses are failing because they can’t get employees to work for them. Our children suffered through the inability of the Anchorage School District to staff the school buses. We are closing schools. Wasilla is thriving because people would rather live there and commute to Anchorage than live here. And this ordinance does not make Anchorage a more attractive place to move to.

Forcing people who have a love affair with personal freedom and their own car for freedom of movement to give up that freedom to be a bus rider, Uber passenger or a bicycle rider is not the way to attract new people to move here. Add “No employee parking provided or available” to the recruitment bulletin and see how that improves your ability to attract new employees.

It is naive to think that the new parking ordinance will dramatically alter Americans’ love of their automobiles. The model city they envision with alternatives to automobiles as the prime transport medium only works when the population density is 100′s of times that of Anchorage and can sustain mass transit and other transportation at an economically affordable rate. The minuscule increase in density from the new ordinance will not create the number of riders necessary to create an affordable alternative to the personal automobile. Portland is often used as a comparison of where this model has “succeeded.” The area population of Portland is 2.2 million.

The ordinance also fails to recognize several factors, such as the fact that the models they are copying are not in snow country. We can barely keep our roads plowed, and bike paths and sidewalks are useless in Anchorage winters already. The largest rate of population growth in Alaska is among the elderly. Does the Assembly believe the elderly will leave their cars and adopt bicycles or long walks of several blocks on snow-covered sidewalks to bus stops in the freezing cold? Anchorage already has one of the highest rates of per capita pedestrian deaths in the nation.

While increasing handicapped parking is nice, as a professional engineer with decades of experience in the transportation business, I see this as hurting Anchorage in ways that can not be undone once implemented. Try it and find it doesn’t work, and then it can not be reversed and fixed. This is the thinking that is causing our economic and population decline.

Jerome George, P.E., is a retired engineer. He lives in Anchorage.

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