360 State’s “Green” Garage Opens

Allan Appel PhotoOne day Bruce Becker would like to see more bikes than cars parked at his green-oriented 360 State Street apartment tower. One day, he hopes, he even might turn the north side of the fifth level of his new garage into a tennis court.

Meanwhile, he’s opening a new garage with high-tech extras aimed at saving energy and encouraging drivers to pedal their way or take the train to work.

For now,few people even know about the garage has opened to the public. Few know about its nifty features, like digital signage telling you how many spaces are open and on which of the five levels.

On Wednesday Becker plans to correct that when the garage “officially” opens to the public. By way of promotions, the 500-car garage will be absolutely free to all parkers in the last week of January.

The new 500-apartment 360 State complex is the current poster building in Connecticut for transit-oriented development, the idea of building compact, mixed-use projects near trains and buses. But some people still drive and need to park their cars; hence the garage. In the interest of promoting alternatives to driving, Becker is offering a full month’s free parking at his new garage for possessors of a monthly Metro North commuter ticket .

You also get a month free if you sign up for the Elm City Market, the food co-op scheduled to open on the tower’s ground floor this summer.

After that, you pay $159 a month – not for a designated spot but any slot that’s free; or you can use the garage on a daily basis.

Plastic For Parking Only, Please

Oh, and it’s credit card only for every transaction.

During a Becker-guided tour of the relatively empty green garage Friday, Paul Corriveau pulled up to one of the check-out kiosks.

Corriveau (pictured) got out of his scarlet colored Toyota, read the digital message, and declared, “I don’t have a credit card. How the hell do I get out of this place!”

Becker introduced himself . Because the young West Havener was having an exceptionally bad day, having spent four hours at court filing for Chapter Seven bankruptcy, 360 State Street’s top guy gave him a free voucher to insert into the slot instead of a card.

According to Bob Fleece (pictured with Becker) of LAZ Parking, which manages the garage, there are only perhaps two incidents a week like Corriveau’s, in which case an attendant, reachable through the intercom, comes to the rescue and takes cash.

With only two such instances a week, does it make sense to have a salaried person in a booth accepting stealable bills? Becker asked rhetorically.

Becker was asked whether, even with all the “green” amenities and efforts to steer people to public transit, adding so many new parking spaces to downtown in fact promotes more car travel. His response:Ultimately he’d like to see all the residents being without a car, and the garage used by daily transient parkers as ended. Meanwhile, the complex wouldn’t be able o bring in a (needed) downtown grocery without parking attached.

Becker said that ultimately the garage’s priorities serve two groups: Monthly parkers and those who will be shopping at the soon-to-arrive Elm City Market.

Monthly parkers get an electronically read decal on their windshield which automatically opens the gate. “It’s similar to EZ Pass,” Becker said.

Elm City Market users will have free parking and validation. Whether you have to be buy a certain amount at the market and whether there will be a time limit, those details are to be worked out, Becker said.

The double-sized elevator at the western end of the garage (in the back of this photo) will rise directly up from the street-level market and should hold two shopping carts and about a dozen people, Becker estimated.

TOD Working?

Thus far with 180 leases signed at 360 State, Fleece reported to Becker that 145 residents have signed up as monthly parkers. (For them it’s $100 a month; it’s $159 for outsiders.)

Since 15 of the 145 are two-car families ,that means the building has already attracted 50 people without vehicles.

“Fifty people living downtown who determine to have no car,” Becker said, with evident pleasure.

In addition to a bicycle storage room, which appropriately is behind Devil’s Gear Bike Shop on the Pitkin Plaza side of 360 State, the complex’s ground level has room for 100 bikes. An outside corridor extending off it has room for 100 more. This space also houses a pedicab or two, which ultimately will be delivering groceries for the market, Becker suggested.

There are two Zipcars in residence as well.

For those who do the deed of driving, Becker said he is proud of the garage’s features, including the neon lights on the perimeter of each level. They automatically go off through a sensoring and motion system that saves 60 to 75 percent of what would be spent for electric energy.

That and all the other systems get their juice through the building’s pioneering fuel cell, which will also provide free electrical charges at up to six charging stations, yet to be installed.

“There’s a lot of technology here,” Becker declared.

Signs Save Gas

He pointed to the digital display telling you how many spots are available on each level. The number of slots available is also readable on displays on the ramps ascending the levels.

So that if level four is filled, no need to go exploring; you stay on the ramp to the next level where there’s a spot.

“Think of all the gas we’ll save,” Becker said.

He argued that an additional value of that feature is if you’re rushing to make a train at the State Street train station, those minutes you save might make all the difference.

After he gave Paul Corriveau his free voucher (Corricvau had parked at 360 State previously with a credit card, and termed it excellent), Becker also took in the new traffic signal on State Street and the median cut below.

The additional light on State between Court and Chapel now allows a left turn going north on State into the garage.

“That’s a million dollars,” he said. The investment includes a video sensing device that tells the left turn arrow to go on if it sees a car approach.

Think of the hundreds of people who will now not have to drive an extra half mile around to come down State and access the garage from the north, Becker said.

More gas saved.

Metro-North increased the number trains starting out toward Grand Central from the little station across State Street from the complex to two an hour during rush hour, in part due to a campaign waged by Becker. However, the printed schedule has not caught up with that available online.

He thinks word about that needs to get out better for his garage to do what it’s intended for.

“It’s better for merchants” if while waiting for the train, people park and then they can buy coffee and a paper [in the 360 State Street neighborhood],” he said. “There’s not much down by [Union] station.”

“Every time I go to a Town Green Special Service District meeting, I hear there is no parking in New Haven,” Becker said. “And, look, this garage is mostly empty.”

When word does get out, will other customers push out the priority parkers, the shoppers and monthlies?

”While anyone who wants to park here can, if we’re overwhelmed, we’ll adjust our rate structure. We may raise the rate $5, and there will be fewer [daily] parkers. Market will drive demand,” Becker said.

As to tennis with a view, it just happens that the dimensions of the fifth level of the parking garage on the north are 120 feet by 60 feet, that of a tennis court, Becker said.

For more information on rates, discounts, promotions, or mixed doubles on the roof, the contact is Bob Fleece at LAZ Parking; email him .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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posted by: anon on January 17, 2011  4:22pm

Unfortunately, the city’s new intersection was installed with zero pedestrian infrastructure, despite being across the street from a major grocery store, a busy train station, and a massive residential tower. 

This is what happens when you let your city be designed by people who drive everywhere, even if it is a city, like New Haven, where the vast majority of residents do not drive to work every day.

posted by: streever on January 17, 2011  6:13pm

I’m glad to see what Becker is doing, and feel the same disappointment Anon does with the design of the intersection there. New Haven can do better. That is a major area for walkers/bus riders/train riders, and there is no need for it to look like a freeway.

posted by: Mitchel Heller on January 17, 2011  8:09pm

Anon, strever, the rest of your gang, be happy somebody has done something for you and your anti-car bike lobby will ya?  the city can put in $150k of spraypaint “icons” create bike lanes, try to plan public projects earmarking millions for you few percentage of the population, and you still complain.  typical.
better streets without mammouth potholes, better planning on traffic patterns, wider, well maintained sidewalks.  that’s what we need.  the bike lobby is siphoning off time, money and intellectual energy from the real needs of those of us in new haven.  i for one, like a growing number of my neighbors are sick of it.

posted by: metro north shut-out on January 17, 2011  10:28pm

Mr. Becker,  How about using your clout for an AM, inbound Elm City train that arrives early enough for an individual who has to get to work by 7:30 AM….Presently, the earliest arrival is @ 7:45 AM (about 1/2 hr. too late for the above, aforementioned scenario).  thx/jmch.

posted by: anne sommer on January 17, 2011  10:37pm

The parking fees are very expensive! They are based on 1/2-hour increments, making the rates about twice those of the typical new haven parking garage. Is this necessary? Is this meant to deter folks from driving?

posted by: William Kurtz on January 18, 2011  11:32am

You are looking at the wrong siphon.  The $115,000-120,000 won’t even pay for one year of Assistant Chief Melendez’s outrageous pension.  It’s small change, relatively speaking, but has a lot more impact.

posted by: anon on January 18, 2011  2:44pm

Mitchel, nobody here mentioned bicycles. I’m glad you want wide sidewalks, but in this case, as was pointed out above, ANY sidewalks or crosswalks would be an improvement. The intersection was designed with absolutely no pedestrian infrastructure. 

You have to take what you can get. Sidewalks would be a start. We can all forget about bike lanes or other simple improvements like that—bikes aren’t even a consideration in this city, and even if they were, bike lanes or sharrows aren’t the right way to create a transportation network that encourages people to bike (other than a tiny proportion of young men). 

In addition to paying attention to pedestrians, which are the basic unit of any successful city, other cities are rapidly building out massive bike networks and will therefore have a huge advantage in the global economy.  That’s still at least 20 years out in New Haven, so let’s at least start with pedestrians.

Also, exactly who earmarked “millions of dollars” in money for a few percentage of the population? Last time I checked, there were hundreds of millions of dollars going into vehicle infrastructure (such as the two billion for the Q bridge and I-95 improvements, or the $20 million for Route 34), and almost nothing going towards pedestrians, bus riders or others, even though most New Haven residents do not drive to work every day. 

New Haven plays lip service to the poor majority of the city’s population (including youth) that does not drive, but then spends almost nothing on it.  Designing new roads that allow drivers to speed around all parts of downtown at 35 miles per hour, as the city is currently doing, doesn’t count when the evidence is clear that people only prefer to walk, bike and take transit when they can be more comfortable than that.

posted by: Our Town on January 18, 2011  3:12pm

Becker’s contention that since only 145 spaces were leased to residents, 50 people don’t have cars is not substantiated by evidence. Possibly these people have found alternate places to park.

posted by: gill on January 18, 2011  10:37pm

I’m glad Mr. Becker is trying to make a positive change.  I’m also glad he spoke with Shoreline East about more frequent State Street stops. 

A little off topic….

Why does LAZ Parking control all lots in New Haven?  Did they win a bid?  The downtown parking situation is awful.  LAZ is very expensive.  The City couldn’t run the lots? Creating jobs and adding revenue? This building is $20 a day. So it’s basically $20 for 5 or more hours?!  The LAZ spot on top of the old Coliseum is $14.

posted by: annex resident on January 19, 2011  11:39am

I agree to a large extent with mitch.  my feeling towards the new haven bike lobby have gone from positive to “will you please just stop complaining”? 
please put into perspective what the rest of the city is going through - lay offs, foreclosures, loss of income, just trying to make our collective ends meet!  your requests, at least at this time, don’t just seem frivolous and somewhat out of touch, they are.  be happy you got something from someone.  and in the meantime, while the struggling working people of new haven try to put our lives back together, if you want something done - don’t use the money from our piggybank, don’t cry for more regulation, just do it yourselves.  please.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 19, 2011  3:08pm

annex resident,
During tough economic times - when families are struggling to pay bills - is the best time to advocate improved transit service, and new and improved alternative transportation infrastructure like bike lanes, bike racks, and pedestrian accommodations. Making walking, biking and transit use more efficient, pleasant, and viable for primary transportation use would allow many families to sell one of more of their cars. The AAA conservatively estimates that a standard sedan costs the average American family $10,000 per year to own and operate. Transportation costs for families, most of which own more than one car, represent an enormous portion of a family’s annual budget.
Even if transit, biking and pedestrian use are only viable for certain trips, improvements would allow an individual or a family to use a zip car rather than owning a car.
Additionally, for those people who cannot possibly rely on alternative transit primarily or even substantially, by others opting to walk, bike and use transit means fewer single occupancy vehicles on the road, which reduces traffic congestion, decreased air pollution, lowers demand on the city’s parking infrastructure, and many other positives.
Promoting viable alternative transportation infrastructure also contributes to a healthier public, which lowers health care costs for everyone due to improved health.

posted by: Eli Antonio on January 19, 2011  11:31pm

I disagree with mr. hopkins, in fact i also think it’s time for the cycling community to seek an image change, because to the vast majority of us regular folk, you do come off as snobby and frivolous. 
Reality dictates for us that we mortal car owners deal with real life situations like work school and such that require us to transport our family in snow, en mass, and distances of more then five miles- in the here and now.
those of us who are not fortunate enough to live downtown, or within a few miles of our ultimate daily destination - which is most of us- need our collective monies spent on reality, not some urban planning students’ ideals or unproven utopian gobilitygook.  more money for road improvements now.  if you can squeeze in a pedestrian walkway for the same money, all the better.  i get more and more turned off every posting i read from the philosopher kings of the cycle caste.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 20, 2011  9:32am

In 1970, 50% of school children walked to school. Today, less than 10% even have the option available to them to walk to their school.
It is true that many American families live in places that are not walkable, provided with adequate transit service, and demand an extremely high standard of living regardless of the actual quality of life. However, many people live on major thoroughfares, or a block or two off of a major thoroughfare and would benefit greatly from having more generous pedestrian and bike amenities along with improved transit service.
You are confusing that very practical application to transportation diversity advocacy with some imaginary totalitarian effort to force every citizen to walk, bike and take a bus to and from daily needs.
In the long run, it probably makes sense to begin to reorganize the living arrangement of many suburban communities by introducing some mixed uses, a wider housing type choice, and pockets of density that would support a transit line connecting to job centers and other communities. That is an extremely long process, however, that would evolve slowly and incrementally, but one that is likely necessary in the face of “reality”.
Unless geologists discover a new Saudi Arabia in Texas in the next 25 years, the American automobile culture of the 20th century, will likely be over in a few decades, so we best plan for it.

posted by: anon on January 20, 2011  2:57pm

Eli, it is quaint that you think of yourself among the “regular folk.” 

Unfortunately, the fact is that the vast majority of Americans - upwards of 90% in many studies - do not support continued oil dependency, and heavily favor the idea that our society provide alternatives to the automobile - particularly for those who are too young, too old, too poor, or otherwise unable to afford or drive an expensive private automobile.

If you would like to start a breakaway society of people who you consider “regular folk,” I’m sure that there are places which would welcome you with open arms.

posted by: Ben Berkowitz on January 20, 2011  9:59pm

Is the bike parking free? Can us SeeClickFixers use the garage for bikes?
None of us drive.