Developer calls Curtis Road parking rule risky

Developer calls Curtis Road parking rule risky

The city’s Plan Commission listened to a surprisingly divided debate on Wednesday evening while it was trying to decide how to orient on-street angled parking spaces in the Wellness at Prairie Village subdivision, which is getting ready to break ground near the Curtis Road interchange. For reference, that is the subdivision designed to house the new Christie Clinic campus in southwest Champaign.

Apparently, back-in parking spaces (like a regular angled space, but it’s angled in such a way that you drive past it and back up into it) are starting to become popular in other cities for the supposed safety benefits they provide to drivers and bicyclists. For a more complete explanation, see this report, which has details and photos of what the spaces look like.

City staff were recommending that the zoning ordinance automatically require this kind of parking space in certain areas in Curtis Road interchange developments. Eventually, the commission would vote 6-1 on a weaker version: that the zoning ordinance require the spaces, but allow waivers in certain circumstances.

So here’s how we got there:

Land Development Manager Lorrie Pearson said the back-in spaces give drivers a better view of what’s coming at them when the drivers are pulling back into traffic.

And Rick Langlois, chairman of Champaign County Bikes, said the spaces are a savior for bicyclists.

“When a vehicle backs out blind, a bicyclist is at great risk,” he told the commission.

It’s a “relatively minor issue,” according to Planning Director Bruce Knight, but it still sparked some opposition from the subdivision’s developer, Todd Raufeisen.

“We’re not the least bit interested in it, to be honest,” Raufeisen said.

Why?

“It’s money,” the developer said later in the meeting. The problem is that to accommodate a vehicle backing into a space as opposed to pulling in forward, the space needs to be wider, Raufeisen said — maybe opening it from about nine feet to about 10 feet. That means 10 percent fewer parking spaces in some areas, which lowers density, which raises the developer’s cost-per-square-foot to build.

Those numbers are estimates really, because Raufeisen acknowledged that he — and most developers — don’t even know how to design those spaces. And he’s not willing to take that risk in today’s market.

So is it a deal breaker?

“I don’t know,” Raufeisen said, but he’s not comfortable with what the city has asked.

Mayor Jerry Schweighart weighed in on the debate: he said just give the developer a waiver.

“The agreement over whether we’re going to back in or pull in, I certainly hope that’s not going to kill this project,” Schweighart said.

The proposal next goes to Schweighart and the city council. If a back-in parking space requirement were to pass, it's likely Raufeisen would ask for a waiver, which would also need city council approval.

Just curious: Have you ever seen or used a back-in angled parking space? What did you think?

Questions or comments? Please feel encouraged to post them below, e-mail me, or send me a message on Twitter.

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gcziko wrote on July 23, 2010 at 7:07 am

The title of this article is perhaps a bit misleading: "Developer calls Curtis Road parking rule risky." At first reading, it appears that the developer is saying that the rule will increase risk for users of the area. But on further reading we learn that it is "risky" only because the developer does not know how to design such parking. He should look at page 36 of the supporting material provided by the City of Champaign (see link to "this report" in the article) to learn how. What is really risky is front-in angle parking.

I've used back-in angle parking in Tucson. It is indeed is easier than parallel parking and provides great visibility when pulling out of the space. Another advantage for bicyclists is that it eliminates the possibility of getting struck by a driver opening the car door in a bicyclist's path. In addition to all of the advantages of back-in angle parking noted in the supporting materials, it also permits loading the trunk from the sidewalk and prevents children from running out into the street when they leave the car (the open door blocks this and makes them go to the sidewalk).

I trust that the Mayor and City Council will follow the advice of its planners and engineers as well as that of the MTD and require the developer do what is safest for all users of the area instead of what is best for his pocket book. We don't need preventable accidents at a "Wellness" subdivision.

The Real Luke wrote on July 23, 2010 at 11:07 am

I've used back-in parking, in Baltimore MD. I thought it was strange the first time I used it, but it really does work very well.

This was in a quirky old space-constrained neighborhood called Hampden (http://hampdenmerchants.com/), which is a few miles from Johns Hopkins University. Hampden is neat place, but space and traffic are both big issues -- so if back-in angled parking works there, it will certainly work here!

Patrick Wade wrote on July 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm
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Thanks for the comment. Were drivers at all confused by parking spaces they had never before seen?