Thursday, June 30, 2011

Follow up to Parking Question

I went to City Hall today seeking answers to my earlier question about the parking situation on Baga Toiruu. I couldn’t quite understand the logic behind taking away parking spaces on the road and figured there had to be a reasonable answer.

It seems that taking away spaces was actually a conscious decision made by the city, after recommendations by the Traffic Police. The Traffic Police believe that having less parking spaces will actually reduce traffic problems. Without places to park traffic will flow faster, they say.

I then asked, what happens if a car has to stop to go to a local business? There are tons of small shops and cafes on Little Ring Road and many would lose business if they don’t have parking. The answer was somewhat convoluted but essentially it breaks down like this:

The road engineer says that if businesses have fewer customers because they have less parking then they will have to figure out a way to make their own parking.

I said, how are they going to do that?

He said businesses should knock down the buildings and make new ones that have underground parking.

I then said, well, most of the businesses on Baga Toiruu are small mom and pop shops and cafes, they are not going to be able to knock down their buildings and build new ones with underground parking.

To this he says that those little shops and cafes should never have been built in the first place. He says they are ugly, unsafe and not designed for commercial space (OK, on this he does have a point).

He added that if the businesses get killed off because of this new road design, then the property prices will come down and developers will be able to go in, buy a whole building, knock it down and put up a new one.

He tells me -- those buildings have exceeded their lifespan, they should be torn down and replaced with newer, more efficient buildings.

He concludes by adding that if there are fewer parking spaces, people will use their cars less and will just walk around town. Thereby reducing traffic.

I must admit that I am perplexed by all of this, and somewhat astonished to hear that the city is actually trying to kill off local businesses as a way to get rid of the old Russian buildings.

Now, in conclusion, I ask if they are taking away the parking spaces, where does the city expect people to park in the near term. The answer, he says, it so build huge, multi-story parking garages around the city.

Whoa, I thought he wanted to limit the parking spaces? But now he says he wants to build big parking structures. I consider suggesting to scrap the idea of parking structures and just have street parking, but in the end, I give up.

So let us recap the plans for downtown UB:
*Less street parking
*More parking structures in courtyards
*Dead commercial space
*The eventual destruction of the most unique Russian-era building in the city.

If you can make sense of this, feel free to comment.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bye-Bye Parking

Baga Toiruu (Little Ring Road) is being totally overhauled and repaved. Drivers will soon be gliding along pot-hole free streets. But the city is strangely removing parking areas along this road. For example, in front of the Flower Center (where Peace Ave and Baga Toiruu meet) they have blocked off the parking area. The same has been done in front of the Golomt Bank up the road and other spots. Whether there is a logical explanation for this, or its just bad planning, is unknown. 

One explanation is that the planners may be trying to increase green spaces where parking areas once were. But even if there are more green spaces, the traffic pile ups caused by a lack of parking could make matters worse. Drivers will inevitably have to stop to do business here and they will end up blocking courtyard entrances or perhaps they will just stop on the road and block a lane. I am including two photos below. 

The first is the blocked off entrance to Golomt Bank. Now that customers cannot park here they are going to have to drive around looking for parking elsewhere, causing more cars on the road.

The second picture is what is think is better planning - a sidewalk, a small green area, and parking area. A good combination in a busy, commercial part of town.

The new road barrier blocks parking spaces in front of this bank. Customers may end up blocking a lane if they need to do business here. Or they are going to scramble around looking for limited parking in other areas, causing more traffic.
This example on Tourist Street (near Zanabazar Museum) is a good use of sidewalk, green space and parking. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Price Hikes at Children’s Park - Is There Any Free Public Space Left?

The Children’s Park is no longer free. Entry is Tg1000 per adult. Small kids still get in free. Prices for rides have also increased, now about Tg4000 per ride. Compared to other amusement parks in other countries, the prices are comparable. It is a private business running the park so it’s not surprising that they would try to increase prices to recoup their investment and try to make a profit. However, this is a worrying trend. As it stands now there is not a single park in central UB that is free and open to the public. This diminishes the quality of life for UB residents, especially low income families that cannot afford to visit the Children’s Park.

Although it does not seem like it, there are a few places around UB that the city could be turned into free, public open space. Along the Selbe River there are several open lots that could be turned into parks, for example behind Royal Castle apartments or next to the US embassy.

And lets not forget that around 70% of the old Children’s Park is still undeveloped. This space could easily be landscaped and opened for public use. I imagine this area could have playing fields for football, walking paths, gardens etc. I am pretty sure that private companies have rights to all these spaces but the government could (and should) use its powers reclaim this land and hand it over to the public to use as park space.