On Monday night, City Council took another step in its plan to tear down Guadalajara and Lucky 7 and build an $8.5 million, 300-car parking garage on Market Street, just a few blocks from an existing parking garage .
The move is part of a larger project to keep the county courts downtown, in which the city agreed to add 90 parking spaces for courthouse use. How the other 210 parking spaces got into the mix (or around 150 if you subtract existing spaces) is less clear—a study by “nationally recognized transportation consulting firm Kimley Horn” suggested the 300-car design “based on the dimensions of the site, traffic volumes in the area, and existing zoning.”
In other words, the thinking seems to have been, if you’re going to build a parking lot, why not make it as big as it can be?
The city’s proposed capital budget for 2021 includes almost $5 million for the garage,
while cutting the amount for new sidewalks from $400,000 to $100,000 and eliminating funding for bicycle infrastructure entirely.
That this might be in opposition to the climate goal this same City Council passed only months earlier (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050), seems not to have been considered.
But projects like these don’t operate in a vacuum. Transportation accounts for roughly 27 percent of our local greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2016 report. Investing in car infrastructure while cutting funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure is moving in exactly the wrong direction.
Last week, the U.N. released its annual Emissions Gap report, which “measures the gap between what we need to do and what we are actually doing to tackle climate change.” Greenhouse gas emissions are still rising worldwide, despite pledges to curb them. Clearly, Charlottesville City Council is not alone in being unwilling to connect the consequences of its daily decisions to the climate promises it has made. But that isn’t an excuse.
As Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists put it, “We are sleepwalking toward a climate catastrophe.”
It is well past time to act, and every decision matters.