a class-based parking system (16)

Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past and current director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

(16th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

Gadfly, Thanks for your attention to this ongoing issue. I have one point of clarification.

When Mr. Stellato asked where the 124 cars would go, and the response was a nearby garage, there are two options that come to mind. First, the top floors of the garage behind Maginnes Hall are currently reserved for students, and I think they plan to eliminate the student parking there so that the entire lot can go to faculty and staff.

Second, there is oodles of space in the new Benner Garage on New Street. I’m talking about the garage for which there was not a demonstrated parking demand, but which was built anyway with publicly backed bonds, in order to accommodate Dennis Benner’s desire to have parking for his new building at the corner of 3rd and New Street, which is now attached to the garage by a glass walkway built over a public greenspace. Now it would appear that the garage was built in part to accommodate Lehigh University’s need for new parking spaces. Of course, none of this was admitted at the time, although the University never opposed the construction of the garage, which is oversized and attached to an oversized building — completely out of scale with the Historic District.

So as long as you are trying to determine the impact of the new parking scheme on low-income folks, you really need to consider the imposition of a poorly located garage attached to an oversized building that has really just destroyed a key gateway to the south side, making it look like an ugly institutional setting rather than a historic city. And the developer continues to ignore the restrictions put on the building, backed by 5 members of city council who will apparently let him get away with anything, and a mayor who is willing to take the blame for anything the guy does wrong.

This garage, which will likely be at least half full of Lehigh University parkers, brings a lot of traffic right into the heart of downtown Bethlehem. It has created a canyon effect on the New Street and on the greenway, and because it has its own fancy restaurant (a destination in itself) and coffeeshop on site, it does not appear to be helping the local businesses much at all. Why would people leave the building when they can get everything they need on site and then take a glass walkway to their cars in the new garage?

As you know, the Bethlehem Parking Authority went into significant debt to build this garage for Benner and (apparently) Lehigh. The consequence is that everyone’s parking rates and fines will be raised. We knew this at the time and argued that the primary user of the garage should pay for it, since the parking study did not convincingly show demand for it. The inequity starts there.

In order to address the problem you raise, of the remaining need for parking pushing lower income people at Lehigh to the north side lot, parking fees at Lehigh should be attached to salary, so it is just as easy as my department coordinator to pay for a spot in the garage outside her office as it is for me.

Leave it to Lehigh to cook up a class-based parking system, rather one that is equitable.

Best, Breena

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