Park In Glenwood South Like a Pro


We hear it time and time again. “There’s no parking in downtown Raleigh.”

With so much technology around us, why aren’t we making this parking thing a lot simpler?

I worked with members of the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative (GSNC) on a very helpful web app to guide visitors around parking in Glenwood South. There are actually a lot of spaces right off the main strip in the district that people are not taking advantage of. You can even use your phone to pay for your space.

We compiled all the info and are running it on the GSNC website so I encourage all readers to check it out.

Color Codes Coming to Downtown Parking Decks

Parking is one of those services where having no complaints are a good thing and no real praise happens. I’m not sure enough people rave about how great a parking experience at a place is. So in hopes of less complaints, the city is color coding the downtown decks.

How will they do this? By placing colored signs at the entrances of course. The tweet above shows the signs that will go out. Our parking administrator sums it up:

“We hope the new signs make it easier for Downtown visitors to find their way back to their vehicles,” said Gordon Dash, City of Raleigh parking administrator. “Some visitors have experienced an hour or longer delay before they could find their vehicle, because they didn’t remember the name of the parking deck in which they parked. Color-coding also will make it easier for City of Raleigh Police and the Downtown Raleigh Ambassadors provided by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to help visitors find their vehicles.”

It seems we’ve done such a good job at making the decks hidden with facades that look like buildings that enough people are forgetting where they park.

You could look at this two ways. It’s simply a “problem we want to have” or parking management needs to be rethought.

Municipography, Moore Square Transit Station, Smartphone Apps, and Smart Cards

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

There was a lot of transit talk at this week’s city council meeting. Presented to council were some 3D renderings of what the future Moore Square Bus Station could look like after its upcoming upgrade. Technology upgrades in downtown transit are also coming as money has shown up towards setting up a downtown Raleigh smartphone application and a smart card fare system for the CAT buses.

Moore Square Transit Station

Watch the video snippet above. If it doesn’t work for you, go here.

As part of the ongoing Downtown Bus Facilities Master Plan, Moore Square Transit Station is getting an upgrade. Jason Horne of the Raleigh Transit Authority and
the design team presented some new renderings of the station’s future. Construction could start as early as Spring 2015 on the now 26-year-old facility. Plans call for a new bathroom, security and ticketing office, more open, friendlier spaces, and and an additional lane for buses to handle more capacity.

Construction is estimated to take 14-18 months with the station being open throughout that time period. Here are a few slides from the presentation. Make sure to read the Raleigh Public Record’s article about the presentation and to see the rest of the slides and renderings.

Plans for the future Moore Square Transit Station

Plans for the future Moore Square Transit Station

Plans for the future Moore Square Transit Station

Downtown Smartphone App

Watch the video snippet above. If it doesn’t work for you, go here.

We definitely talk about parking a lot here. However, an initiative that I’m involved with to bring a smartphone app to downtown in order to help with any parking struggles has moved one step further. During the meeting, council approved $5,000 from a contingency fund to go towards the development of that app. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance will raise the rest of the money and see the app to completion.

Read more about our efforts here:

It’s never a bad time to talk about everyone’s favorite topic: Parking. I typically don’t fly the blog outside of downtown Raleigh but North Hills has something that’s very unique. I’m excited to announce that the Parking App Team that won last year’s DataPalooza, with roots in downtown Raleigh, has launched in North Hills.

*North Hills Smartphone App Will Include Parking Directions, Rumored World Peace

My team’s idea? To help people navigate urban areas, showing them the best possible parking locations and offering wayfinding to their end destination. Our smartphone application, still in the prototype phase, is the first step in implementing this process. We also have a nice list of features that will make the application very helpful.

*Parking In Downtown Raleigh May Get Easier Thanks To Open Data

Smart Cards for CAT Buses
As a final blurb that I think is worth mentioning, the city has received grant money from NCDOT to go towards a smart card fare system for CAT buses. Mentioned at the meeting, here’s an excerpt from the press release:

The Raleigh Transit Authority has adopted a priority of offering smartcard technology on CAT buses. The grant will allow a contactless, smartcard payment option to be installed on the fare boxes of the CAT bus fleet. Bus purchases will have fare boxes that will accommodate contactless smartcard and mobile ticketing applications. The total funding for the project is $378,440 90, which is 90 percent NCDOT grant funds and 10 percent City of Raleigh funds.

*City Receives Grant to Allow Smartcard Payment on Capital Area Transit Buses

Yay! Technology!

North Hills Smartphone App Will Include Parking Directions, Rumored World Peace

It’s never a bad time to talk about everyone’s favorite topic: Parking. I typically don’t fly the blog outside of downtown Raleigh but North Hills has something that’s very unique. I’m excited to announce that the Parking App Team that won last year’s DataPalooza, with roots in downtown Raleigh, has launched in North Hills.

Delivered as part of an all-encompassing app, the team has put together something that acts as the center of all North Hills information including events, shops, movies, and parking. North Hills saw value in what our team put together and has now delivered it for public consumption.

The team consists of Jim Belt, King White, Eric Majewicz, and myself, all members of the Raleigh Downtown Living Advocates. For over a year now, the team has been talking about a high-tech solution in order to address growing concerns about parking in downtown. We quickly found out, through the North Hills experience, that our solution had an application elsewhere.

It is our hope to use the experience to bring the same high-tech solution to downtown Raleigh in the near future.

The North Hills app is available for download in the Google Play Store and Apple Store.

Read more about it on the official page on the DLA site.




Parking Decks and The Warehouse District

Citrix parking deck under construction

At the corner of Morgan and West Streets, the parking deck for the new Citrix offices has been rising for the past few months. The warehouse renovation into offices next door has pretty much taken shape, creating four floors for downtown’s newest, major tenant.

Any old parking deck that’s being built is usually not an interesting thing to most but this specific one has something here. It may be the elevation or the relative buildings around it but this deck just seems ominous and big.

There’s a small story here and I’m putting the pieces together each time I walk by the Citrix site. What happens when the next Citrix comes into town? Will more of these decks continue to be built?

If you look deeper behind this parking deck, you may get a glimpse into the future path that the warehouse district is on.

The Upcoming Citrix

Let’s start off by taking the focus off Citrix itself. In an interview with the N&O, Jesse Lipson, starter of ShareFile, now owned by Citrix, tells reporter Bruce Siceloff that they will have about 500 employees when they move into the building in 2014. What is not mentioned is that the parking deck will be built for about 400 cars, something you need to dive into the planning commission meetings to find out.

Citrix should be applauded for providing less car parking than employees. Their company culture encourages alternative transit and the downtown office should bump up the number of those types of commuters. They are also a web-based company and teleworking is a common practice. They are at or near the minimum number of spaces needed according to city code.

Less is More

While this behavior for our downtown sounds good, it could have been even better.

After the start of construction of its downtown site around January 2013, Citrix wanted to expand even more and made plans for an additional floor in the office component. This lead to a conversation during a certain May 28, 2013 planning commission meeting when Citrix applied for approval of that same expansion.

Citrix developers were applying for a 40,000 square foot expansion of office space, what was referred to as ‘Phase 2.’ In addition to approval, they also wanted an exemption to having to raise the number of new parking spaces that would have to go along with the new office space. More office space equals more needed parking, according to zoning.

Before the addition, Citrix was providing 341 spaces where city code required them to be at 325. With the office expansion, code would require them to raise that number to at least 400. Citrix wanted out of that and made an argument why in their presentation before the planning commission.

So to show the numbers clearly:

  • Citrix phase 1 – 341 parking spaces planned, minimum of 325 according to code.
  • Citrix phase 2 – 425 minimum needed according to code.

Here’s the 55-minute planning commission video of that presentation and followup discussion. Watch the first 24 minutes for an overview of the entire project and to get a peak at some of the amenities of the Citrix building.

Municipography – Dillon Supply Warehouse Redevelopment Phase 2 on Youtube

During the presentation, the Citrix reps state such things like:

  • Citrix runs three shifts so employees come and go 24/7, spreading the traffic out.
  • Citrix promotes alternative transit and biking with plans for a 100 space bike storage including showers.
  • 86% of employees are remote for one day of the week. This equates to about 70 people on any given day being off-site.
  • Kimley-Horn, a local engineering company, reviewed the proposal and supported Citrix’s request for a parking increase exemption. (jump to 31:35 in the video to hear their points)
  • Kimley-Horn also noted that downtown currently has a gross oversupply of parking and is facing a revenue problem.

Currently, 1 parking space per 500 square feet of office space is the code. However, a good point that the Citrix reps make is that the site will have gym and recreation spaces, a lobby, and a large auditorium. The parking count may not have to rise for these amenity spaces and if you subtract them, the actual amount of spaces needed including the new office expansion is now 329. (still below the 341 provided at this point)

This sounds like a great fit for an urban area as the parking needs are smaller than most. These are the types of places that would be great for a transitioning downtown. Employees here don’t punch a clock at 9am and 5pm, contributing to a typical morning and afternoon commute. Activity should be ongoing throughout the day and night around the Citrix offices, supporting that 24-hour downtown that supporters are trying to build.

After the presentation things started to turn.


If you want to watch this part, jump to about 24:30 in the video.

A few commissioners expressed concern about the lack of detailed information on how many employees would be on site at a time. Without this detailed information, commissioners could not anticipate any potential problems that, if Citrix was wrong in its parking usage, would permeate out across the warehouse district in the future.

Commissioner Steve Schuster, who by the way is one of the leads at Clearscapes Design Firm and is probably an expert on the warehouse district because of their heavy involvement on Raleigh Union Station, stated, “We’re about to face a parking challenge in the warehouse district.”

Schuster’s thinking was most likely based on ongoing analysis of the entire warehouse district and how development could boom here in the near future. Schuster, with the backing of other commissioners, felt that allowing this parking reduction exemption would set a precedent for future developments here, further exacerbating the parking problem. (the upcoming challenge)

The conclusion to the meeting is that the commission motioned to defer the office expansion so that Citrix could bring back more details on employee counts. They approved the deferral. Remember, this application was for the office expansion but parking dominated the discussion instead.

Citrix reps then, right on the spot, made a move to drop the parking reduction exemption, raise the parking space count to 430 in an effort for construction to stay on schedule. This was approved and Citrix got their office expansion.

A missed Layup

While I tend to always challenge parking minimums and preach about the need to reform parking management, there is a real concern with too little parking. As city staff stated during the discussion, having too little means that cars start using spaces in nearby areas that weren’t intended to handle that kind of traffic.

If Citrix had too little parking, the thought, shared by the planning commissioners, is that nearby Boylan Heights and the rest of the warehouse district would pick up the load. The neighborhood isn’t zoned for that kind of activity so the result would be an inappropriate use of those streets.

The planning commission mentioned the precedent that could be set by allowing Citrix to be exempt from the minimum required parking. They were afraid that future developments in the warehouse districts would also want that exemption, resulting in an area that continues to struggle with the so-called “parking challenges.”

What bothers me here is the handling of the request from Citrix and how it fits into the future vision of the warehouse district and downtown as a whole. Aren’t we trying to become a little more urban? Aren’t we trying to create growth nodes, filled with density that support alternative transit? Haven’t we identified that the city has a parking oversupply and is spiraling into debt?

I felt like the commission had a perfect candidate, one that asked for a parking exemption and is compensating for it with the exact urban culture that downtown Raleigh needs. Instead, it was status quo and the future of the warehouse district is on a path for more parking decks.

I know we can’t magically turn urban in just a few years. The way to get there is to have small victories that transition us there. It takes small steps. I think more people need to realize that.

We didn’t take that step here with Citrix and the way I see it, the planning commission has now made it more costly to building in the warehouse district, threatening any preservation of the warehouses we have there, and continuing to support a car culture in a very walkable, human-scale area of downtown.

In the spirit of basketball going on now, the commission had an open lane for an easy layup but instead passed the ball for someone else to decide what to do.

Confusing Parking Signs in Downtown Raleigh

Parking signs in downtown Raleigh.

Examples of parking signs. Hourly on the left, metered on the right.

I get asked for help all the time while walking the sidewalks in downtown Raleigh. People ask me for directions most of the time but sometimes for an ATM location or for a nearby place to eat. This happens either because I walk so often or I just have a friendly face. My bet is on the first theory.

Another question I get asked about a lot are parking related questions. You may have seen this exact scenario yourself. A person banging the buttons on the parking meter like it was an arcade machine. That person looks like they are losing. They are losing because it’s the weekend and it hasn’t hit them that parking is free.

The frustrated parker is a common occurrence in downtown Raleigh and the plethora of signs on each block are responsible for informing a visitor of the rules. I’m going to say it straight up that there is a lot of room for improvement in signage around downtown, not just for parking but we’ll stick to just one topic for this post.

This is why a project by Nikki Sylianteng caught my eye. Highlighted in The Atlantic Cities, the New York City designer is attempting to make the parking signs more informative there. Nikki built a prototype and put it out on the street with a comment box for real-world feedback.

Here are some photos of Nikki’s work, borrowed with permission.

New parking sign design by Nikki Sylianteng

Current city signs on the left and Nikki’s design on the right.

New parking sign design by Nikki Sylianteng

On her project page, Nikki writes:

My strategy was to visualize the blocks of time when parking is allowed and not allowed. I kept everything else the same – the colors and the form factor – as my intention with this redesign is to show how big a difference a thoughtful, though conservative and low budget, approach can make in terms of time and stress saved for the driver. I tried to stay mindful of the constraints that a large organization like the Department of Transportation must face for a seemingly small change such as this.

*Parking Sign Redesign via

I’ve always thought that the main problem with parking signs is that they do not tell the whole story. For example, the Raleigh signs indicate the hours of enforcement, those being from 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday. They do not indicate what to do outside of those hours. A more ideal sign leaves no doubt during any time of the day, any day of the week.

The Raleigh signs also emphasize the wrong information. “2 Hour Meter Parking” is in the largest font on the sign with the hours being smaller. To the eyes of a driver, the “2 Hour Meter Parking” is most likely all they can read while cruising down the street. With more distractions in downtown compared to the suburbs, drivers have only so long to look at small signs. This portrays that parking enforcement occurs always and the sign is not clearly informing drivers.

What Nikki’s designs show is a 7 day week, 24-hour picture indicating to a parker whether they should be there or not. While the sign is still difficult to read from the driver’s point of view, it more accurately helps someone after they have parked.

During hours of free parking in downtown, I’ve always felt that nervous parkers feel better if they are reassured in some way that what they did was legal. No one wants a parking ticket and this keeps new visitors on the alert because there’s the possibility of a ticket when parking in downtown. Signs must instill confidence in people that they know how the system works and they can avoid the big bad parking ticket.

So there’s clearly room for a design overhaul here. An alternative would be to rethink the parking enforcement system entirely or perhaps throw more technology at it, a suggestion one of our city councilors has brought up.

Parking In Downtown Raleigh May Get Easier Thanks To Open Data

Throughout the summer of this year, I’ve been part of a competition that started in April and ended yesterday with my team claiming victory. The North Carolina DataPalooza is an open-data competition where developers and entrepreneurs use open data to solve some of society’s problems. Hosted by the entrepreneurial co-working space HQ Raleigh and Forward Impact, NC DataPalooza was unique in that it was the first ever region-wide event of this type in the country.

My team’s idea? To help people navigate urban areas, showing them the best possible parking locations and offering wayfinding to their end destination. Our smartphone application, still in the prototype phase, is the first step in implementing this process. We also have a nice list of features that will make the application very helpful.

If you don’t already know, parking is somewhat of a fascination with me.

Earlier this year, stories like these arose in conversation with other downtowners. Parking in downtown Raleigh turned out to be a real annoyance to a lot of people. The ones that didn’t have a problem with parking sounded like mathematical magicians.

Parking is easy! City decks are free for the first 15 minutes then $1 per 30 minutes after that. They cap you at $12 but it’s cheaper to park on the street for 25 cents per 15 minutes. But don’t go over the limit which varies between 15 minutes and 2 hours. SO. EASY!

Whether you get it or not, the urban parking experience, when compared to the suburban experience, will always be more difficult. Hearing complaint after complaint, I found myself discussing this more with a group of Downtown Living Advocate (DLA) members. We formed a team and started looking into it.

We were motivated by finding a solution towards lowering the bar and making parking easier for casual visitors. Hopefully, this would result in citizens being more confident in navigating downtown Raleigh and possibly increasing commerce.

It turns out this issue is not unique to us.

Throughout the summer, working on this Parking Initiative we found that other areas have the same parking complaints and issues as downtown Raleigh. There are areas around the triangle and cities around the southeast that echoed Raleigh in a very similar way.

All of this research has been an integral part of our winning the NC DataPalooza. We have a busy few months ahead of us as we build up the prototype application, formalize our new company, and move towards launch. I think I speak for the team when I say “Thank You!” to everyone behind the NC DataPalooza, our advisors, and the people behind the City of Raleigh who we’ve worked with.

We feel our approach is truly unique compared to any solution out there so stay tuned, Raleigh.

Downtown Parking Woes

Wake County Parking Deck

Some people love to get into intense debates over a variety of topics. Apple versus PC. Romney versus Obama. State fairgrounds July 4th versus Downtown Raleigh July 4th. You get the idea.

I’m not so big into these but I absolutely LOVE talking about parking. There’s something about moving all those 2,000 pound metal boxes on wheels in and out of an area that I think gets the problem solving juices cooking. Especially when it’s in downtown and people compare it to the suburbs.

I’d like to go over some of the parking issues downtown faces today and what might help improve them. Most of this comes from what I hear talking to visitors and residents and there is an ongoing theme here.

Parking is a lot like transit. The service has to have some basic respects to all the users. Whatever a visitor is coming downtown for, eating, drinking, recreation, the experience can be hindered or enhanced by the accompanied parking experience. It must respect the things that are valuable to us, some of those being comfort, time, money, and safety.

Perception #1: “Parking in downtown is confusing”

Downtown has on-street parking, parking lots, and parking decks. These spaces can be owned by the city, the county, the state, or a private company all with their own enforcement hours and rates. Some take coins and credit cards but no bills. Some take it all. Others take cash only. Some have tellers that you can work with and some have metal boxes with little slots for you to insert your money. Some charge on special event days and others do not.

You see where I’m going with this? I feel that this inconsistency in parking rules and regulations can hurt some visitors’ experience to downtown as it may be a new story each time they arrive.

It is important to note however that the eight city owned decks are very consistent with each other. Except for the special occasion only Performing Arts deck and the required 24-hour enforcement deck under the Marriott, the other six are exactly the same. However, some may not see it that way as I bet only very few Raleighites are aware of the deck ownership situation.

The experience of “going downtown” can be lessened because of this inconsistency. If there was a way to somehow standardize the parking experience and create some kind of consistency between parking in one area and then being able to assume it’s the same elsewhere, the experience would be enhanced. This could include small changes including all decks accepting credit cards and all types of currency or something more controversial like a city-wide set parking price.

An easier experience in this aspect pays respects to downtown visitors’ time as they will know what to expect beforehand. This lowers the “obstacle” that parking in downtown can be when compared to a shopping center in the suburbs.

Perception #2: “Parking in downtown costs too much”

Oh I love this one. You’ll occasionally meet those that view a parking fee as just another tax. The reality is that the commodity of parking lots in downtown and decks cost money and to use that commodity, Joe Consumer must pay the fee.

Downtown Raleigh has some of the highest property values in the city and to dedicate that space to parking a car for free when demand is high makes little sense. We’ve talked about some examples where the spaces are worth more than the cars that sit in them!

It’s more appropriate to think that a shopping center in the suburbs has zero fees rather than being free. The cost of building and maintaining a parking lot in the suburbs is all calculated down and the owner then puts that cost back into the leases. If the parking lot cost goes up, leases go up, and so do the prices of the goods sold that consumers buy. It’s like a hidden cost that people either forget about or just don’t know exists.

So the theory goes with a downtown where businesses don’t have to pay for parking, the consumers now have a choice. Want to park close to your destination? We have that but it’ll cost you a few dollars. You could choose to ride the bus and pay a little less. Or, if possible, you could ride a bike or walk at no charge. If you believe in this theory, then walking to or riding transit to a shopping center makes little sense because you have to pay the price that the business puts into their products to cover the cost of the parking lot anyway.

Now let’s talk about the parking decks in downtown. The city owns eight parking decks and sets a competitive hourly rate to park in them. With a larger supply like this, the city has leverage to keep rates low among competing decks. We actually have some of the lowest rates in the country according to the 2011 Colliers International Parking Survey. The city also dedicates a large portion, around 75%, toward paying back debt, some of the highest in the country. This is good to hear as we are currently digging ourselves out of a hole because of the down economy.

Based on our city’s size, I say downtown is doing pretty well on the parking cost game. Educating citizens on this may be necessary but the low parking prices in downtown pay respect to our wallets, directly at the teller as well as indirectly through our city taxes.

Perception #3: “There is never enough parking in downtown Raleigh”

I’m a big fan of Wilmington Street. It’s like the little brother to Fayetteville Street. Fayetteville has the view, the large sidewalks, and all the flare but Wilmington Street in downtown is smaller, cozier, and has a different sort of buzz. Those that claim that there are not enough places to park need to get to know Wilmington Street as it is the main parking artery of downtown.

For five blocks, vehicles have access to six parking decks consisting of over 5,000 parking spaces. Add the surface lots and you could push it to 6,000. This is the densest area of parking in the city. The five blocks with parking decks along Wilmington Street have a total area of about 10 acres. Do the math and you get an estimated 500 cars per Wilmington deck acre.

For access into the city core, this is also one of the best places to go to park and walk to your destination. The Fayetteville Street district is the most pedestrian friendly area so getting to a deck quickly and walking is the best option.

Perhaps more people need to realize this and get to know the city’s Parklink program. Keep an eye out for the blue Parklink signs around town and you’ll know you are working with city owned decks or lots. Did you know they have a Guide (pdf) with some great information? I think the included map, shown below, is THE source for parking information in downtown.

City of Raleigh Parklink Parking Map

The city has had success in tweaking the parking situation over the last few years. Better resources on the web are available as well as increased signage on the streets. Over the next few years, the city’s parking program will work to fine tune the prices of deck parking versus on-street parking. This has been delayed because of the debt that needs to be paid and the down economy but it is in the works.