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The price of parking
December 29, 2011 9:24 PM   Subscribe


 
And something of a critique from Peter Frase, author of Towards an Anti-Star Trek.
posted by latkes at 9:26 PM on December 29, 2011


Really, why should cities even have streets?
posted by XMLicious at 9:34 PM on December 29, 2011


XMLicious: "Really, why should cities even have streets"

Are you suggesting canals? Or just a single mass of buildings right next to each other, where you either have to get to your destination by helicopter, or find your way through a maze?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:41 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe they shouldn't have paved Paradise.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:42 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


“For 5,000 years,” says Cole, “we built cities around people, and they worked well. For 50 years we’ve built them around the parking lot—a ridiculous use of land, of money, and an intrusion into the intimacy of human scale. Now we’ve painted ourselves into a corner. The saving grace is that the first 5,000 years might come back again.”

This makes sense to me. Those sprawly strip-mall and office park development landscapes are incredibly unfriendly and anti-human, and yet we not only force development into that pattern but often subsidize it.
posted by Forktine at 9:42 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


The FPP pull quote makes it seems like the article will identify differences between men and women's views on parking, but that is not what the article is actually about, it's just a weird non sequitur.
posted by Kwine at 9:45 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]



Are you suggesting canals? Or just a single mass of buildings right next to each other, where you either have to get to your destination by helicopter, or find your way through a maze?


Or, you know, pedestrian malls and walkways and bike paths and below- and above-ground public transit.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:49 PM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Vancouver itself isn't so bad but I tend to forget how quickly it gets out of hand as soon as you venture into the suburbs.

Recently I drove a friend about a half hour out of the city to pick up two cats she was adopting off Craigslist, and the destination turned out to be one of those sprawling complexes of condos, apartment buildings and trendy shops. I drove a ways into it before realizing I wasn't on a road but rather a bike/walking path, and when we came out with the cats and all their stuff the guy giving them away pointed out that I had actually parked in the middle of a basketball court. I had no idea.
posted by mannequito at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Actually, I was thinking that all city-dwellers could be subjected to bites from radioactive spiders and get around by swinging from building to building making little "thwipp" sounds as they shoot their webbing-vines. That way, no sidewalks needed either.
posted by XMLicious at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also in that scenario you could also make all of the buildings without any doors.
posted by XMLicious at 9:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Canals would be totally awesome, but I've always been partial to the Walled City of Kowloon.

Seriously, though, the requirements of automobiles drives much of urban and suburban design in the United States, creating places that are literally unwalkable. 'Free' parking really isn't.

Also, you may be interested in Dr. Shoup's website
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:58 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well yeah, pissed about the high price of parking in Manhattan? That is the point.

Bloomberg has spent the last few years making driving in Manhattan even less attractive. Shut down swaths of streets, narrow avenues. But we need to expand public transportation with the proposed crosstown trolley, new subway lines and new busses. If we can make it easier to take public transportation than to drive we will have it made. Those who need to drive into the city, like the hypothetical family bringing their baby for specialist treatment, will find clear streets and hopefully cheaper parking, once we move to market dependent prices.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


After 36 years, Shoup’s writings—usually found in obscure journals

Is this true? I saw Shoup speak once at a college for urban planners. He was a rock star. Granted, that was among urban planners. But his reputation reminds me a bit of Edward Tufes.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:02 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I only know about him because Atrios was always going on about The Hgh Cost of Free Parking.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:05 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


“I truly believe that when men and women think about parking driving, their mental capacity reverts to the reptilian cortex of the brain,”
posted by Jimbob at 10:09 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's an interesting article, but I stalled on one sentence: This year Shoup’s 765-page book, The High Cost of Free Parking, was rereleased to zero acclaim outside of the transportation monthlies, parking blogs, and corridor beyond his office door in UCLA’s School of Public Affairs building.

There are parking blogs??

Yes! There are!

As best I can tell, not being an expert on parking blogs, here are some of the best blogs that have to do with parking:The internet needs more parking blogs.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:12 PM on December 29, 2011 [23 favorites]


It was easy to build cities around people when there weren't so damn many of them and they had to cluster in walkable communities to survive, and when the land that produced the food those people ate was also in walkable distance.

In my experience, parking is only a competitive sport for those who spend obscene amounts of money on cars as genital extensions. The rest of us view it as an awful, occasional necessity. Walking to my destination is wonderful and I'm happy to do it from anywhere within striking distance.
posted by SakuraK at 10:24 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


This really struck me having spent Christmas at home in the western US after living in Edinburgh for the past two years. It is a pain in the ass to drive in Edinburgh and parking is even worse. To top it off, fully half of the pedestrians on any given street are parking enforcers, so you're going to get a ticket if you're parked illegally. As a result barely anyone I know owns a car. We all walk whenever we can (40 minute walking commutes are not uncommon) and take the bus at a push. And you see the benefit around the city, tons of storefronts on every street that seem to be doing well. Lots of people out an about any time of night. I pass by hundreds of parents and kids walking to school when I commute in the morning. I though about what it would take for my US hometown to have that kind of feel and concluded that it's just too late. You need a car to get around because the parking lots spread the town out so much and you need parking lots for the cars. Once the stuff is built there's very little chance to turn back.
posted by nangua at 10:25 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Just incidentally, it really annoys me when people talk about 'reptilian cortexes' and 'lizard brains'. There's no solid evidence linking any part of out brains to those of lizards, and that silly metaphor gets trotted out and misused every time someone wants to act like people are being savage or stupid.
posted by koeselitz at 10:36 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am a member of the choir to whom this article is preaching. I would add, the combustion engine and the steering wheel should be removed from commuter vehicles.

(40 minute walking commutes are not uncommon)
Sounds idyllic.
posted by fartknocker at 10:40 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you suggesting canals? Or just a single mass of buildings right next to each other, where you either have to get to your destination by helicopter, or find your way through a maze?

Flying cars, duh.
posted by LordSludge at 11:02 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was easy to build cities around people when there weren't so damn many of them and they had to cluster in walkable communities to survive, and when the land that produced the food those people ate was also in walkable distance.

Well, no, I don't think so. There was no shortage of people in cities before cars arrived on the scene. And the land that produced the food they ate was hardly in walkable distance, either. "Too many people" isn't a problem for making walkable communities-- it's a problem for making drivable ones.
posted by alexei at 11:02 PM on December 29, 2011


See also my previous post on Donald Shoup and the cost of parking.

The internet needs more parking blogs.

Here's one written by someone who does research on parking policy: Reinventing Parking
posted by parudox at 11:34 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, no, I don't think so. There was no shortage of people in cities before cars arrived on the scene. And the land that produced the food they ate was hardly in walkable distance, either. "Too many people" isn't a problem for making walkable communities-- it's a problem for making drivable ones.

About as many people live in London proper now as lived in all of England in 1801. The thing about walkable communities is that they really do need a lot less people.
posted by kafziel at 12:16 AM on December 30, 2011


That was a pretty terrible critique. One of the two main attacks was that Shoup's approach sounds a lot like establishing an arbitrary target (one stall per block open) and that this sounds a lot like Soviet Russia. (I wish I was making this up.) The other argument is that this is redistributive, in that it charges a premium for a service and thus hurts the poor disproportionally.

Taking the idea of one empty stall per block as the ideal target, it's not an arbitrary politburo devising this; if the price were set to have more empty stalls, then the redistributive effect is even worse (since it's even more of a premium being charged). Additionally, parking spaces are not something you can stockpile; if a space goes unused for an hour, that opportunity is gone. So there's no benefit in having loads of empty spaces. On the other hand, having the block fully parked means that you are likely to have a deadweight loss, since the actual market-clearing price is likely higher than whatever you have set it to. Also, as Shoup likes to point out, if the block is full, then you have additional congestion from cars circling to find empty spaces.

(Obviously, "one stall per block" is not a dogmatic command, so much as a goal; it's shorthand for "as many of the stalls are in use as possible while ensuring drivers don't have to cruise, looking for empty stalls". It looks like in the San Francisco pilot, rates are being adjusted to hit 60-80% occupancy, so not entirely one stall per block, either.)

I'm a lot more receptive to the redistributive argument; higher parking charges do disproportionally hurt the poor. Of course, the money raised from these programs can be put into transit improvements and other transportation projects that disproportionally help the poor. Additionally, depending on the actual parking market, I don't know that it's so badly regressive. For instance, San Francisco is piloting demand-responsive parking in several neighbourhoods. Taking the convenient example of parking in Fillmore, the metered parking started at $2 everywhere in the spring of 2011. The prices now range from $1.00 to $2.75; in most cases, even where the price went up, if you walk a block or two, there's parking for the same price as before or even cheaper. In the Marina, parking on Chestnut went up 75 cents, but parking on Lombard, all of 300 feet south, went down a similar amount. If the market is dictating a premium for removing a block or two from someone's walk, that seems more like a luxury tax, and a lot less regressive.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:38 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course, the money raised from these programs can be put into transit improvements and other transportation projects that disproportionally help the poor.

Yep, charge up the wazoo for parking and subsidize the shit out of transit. Parking in urban centers needs to be priced as what it is: a luxury.
posted by mek at 12:49 AM on December 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


My local municipal government charges up the wazoo for parking, and for public transport. Also, even if public transport is free, unless it is extremely well designed or you are extremely lucky in your journey plan, it will incur a high time cost. Walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, waiting on the bus while it stops every few blocks, and walking from the bus stop to the destination all eat up time.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:01 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, waiting on the bus while it stops every few blocks, and walking from the bus stop to the destination all eat up time.

I think this highlights the fact that there are three different worlds.

The small town world, where you can walk anywhere, drive anywhere, it's all cheap and easy.

The big city world (New York, London, Sydney, Berlin, whatever) where there is public transport to take you anywhere, and you can avoid a car if you're smart.

And the in-between world where I live, that no-one gives a shit about. Too big to walk around or find a park. Too small for a subway or frequent public transport. If I were to take a bus to work, it would take me 1.5 hours there, and 1.5 hours back, in the BEST possible scenario, assuming I don't miss a bus and the bus gets through traffic well. If I drive there... 1 hour 15 minutes each way instead. And this is just to get me to work. Factoring in dropping my 5 year old off at school on the way... it makes the car the only viable solution, which I hate. Really. I want to dump my car, hand in my license, ride the public transport, despite how shitty and slow it is, but it just. isn't. possible.

Not looking for solutions, really, just having a rant and wishing my town would make itself livable. Fuck you, Tasmania.
posted by Jimbob at 1:11 AM on December 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Just incidentally, it really annoys me when people talk about 'reptilian cortexes' and 'lizard brains'. There's no solid evidence linking any part of out brains to those of lizards

..but by god I won't let my past surgical failures daunt me. One day, SOON, the grafts will take and my army of sauronic brain golems will RULE THE WORLD! Bwaaaahhahahahahahaaaa!
posted by FatherDagon at 1:40 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I were to take a bus to work, it would take me 1.5 hours there, and 1.5 hours back, in the BEST possible scenario, assuming I don't miss a bus and the bus gets through traffic well.

But isn't that the way it is in these big cities too? Like, if you work in Manhattan or central London, unless you're rich you'll easily spend that much time getting to work and back depending on where you live, right? My experiences visiting and working in in Manhattan have led me to find the phrase "a New York minute" completely incongruous because it seems like just about the slowest, most laid-back place I've ever been. You and everyone else spend all of your time waiting for elevators, waiting in line (or "on line", as they insist on putting it, because they are ever so posh and cosmopolitan there ;^), waiting for the crosswalk light to change, etc.

On the flip side, I'm a Texas-scorner with the best of them but damn if Houston isn't the most fabulous city for getting around in. Except for the rush hours, which seem to be fairly well-managed as those things go, I could get anywhere in the city in a few minutes, park blocks from the downtown for a couple of bucks (though with varying price options if you wanted to park right next to your destination, sort of like Homeboy Trouble is talking about) but with lots of parks too that were near enough to walk to at lunch, and one of those networks of underground pedestrian tunnels like Montreal's Ville Souterraine if you don't want to have to deal with crossing the street to get places on foot. No subway system but people who commuted by bus didn't seem to have it any worse than people in other cities I've talked to, and at least had the feasible option to drive in or get a ride from a coworker or neighbor in a pinch. (And vice-versa, get home in a timely fashion if need be.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:57 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


About as many people live in London proper now as lived in all of England in 1801. The thing about walkable communities is that they really do need a lot less people.

Where this rather falls down is that the rate of car ownership in London is lower than in any other area of the UK; while the number of people and number of journeys is increasing, the rate of car ownership is stable and the amount of private car traffic is decreasing. London may not be 'walkable' but it really doesn't need a car (unless you have mobility problems, as most tube stations aren't accessible and buses can only take one medium wheelchair). This TFL report (pdf) is two years old but has lots of interesting info in it about how people get about London.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:07 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


About as many people live in London proper now as lived in all of England in 1801. The thing about walkable communities is that they really do need a lot less people.

We must be using very different definitions of a "walkable community". Mine is more-or-less what you find here, or what makes for a high "walkscore". It's a place where you can walk to get your groceries, to a restaurant, to social and recreational opportunities, and to transit lines which take you to other places you might want to go. And it's important that you should be able to do this in comfort, in safety, and with dignity.

This is possible in a town of 5,000 and it's possible in a metropolis of 5 million. I'm fairly sure large parts of London today do fit the bill.

Also, even if public transport is free, unless it is extremely well designed or you are extremely lucky in your journey plan, it will incur a high time cost.

If you take a random pair of points that you're traveling between, this is most likely true: the auto will win the race by a comfortable margin. However, if you then build a city with every person driving, the parking lots and roads required will force destinations further apart, and the resulting traffic congestion will create delays such that the time savings disappear. In the same way, a city which has grown around transit will see its popular destinations clustered around the places with the best access to transit. The resident of which city spends on average more time in transit each week: Hong Kong or Los Angeles? (I don't know myself.)

And, of course, the costs can't be overlooked: the costs to the user, to the government (and people affected by government regulation), and to the environment.
posted by alexei at 2:35 AM on December 30, 2011


But isn't that the way it is in these big cities too? Like, if you work in Manhattan or central London, unless you're rich you'll easily spend that much time getting to work and back depending on where you live, right?

Well, the point is that you have a feasible alternative, not that it would be much quicker. I live and work in London. I could drive to work but I take the bus because it doesn't take much longer (ten minutes?) and I don't have to worry about parking. When I lived and worked in surburban Kent, I drove, because parking was free and it was a 25-30 minute drive as opposed to a 10 minute walk to the station, 20 minutes on the train, 10 minutes wait for the one bus that went out to the place I worked, 10 minutes on that bus, and it probably cost more in bus fare and train fare than it did in petrol. And that bus went once in the morning and once in the evening and if I missed it I was screwed.
posted by corvine at 2:44 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


twoleftfeet: "The internet needs more parking blogs"

streetparking.com is parked.
parkingparking.com is parked.
badparking.com is parked.
goodparking.com is parked.
freeparking.com is about parking domains.
posted by idiopath at 3:00 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just incidentally, it really annoys me when people talk about 'reptilian cortexes' and 'lizard brains'.

Yeah. Chimp brains would be closer. A couple of days ago, a respectable looking middle-aged man in a 4x4 threatened to "come and poke my eyes out" when I asked him not to park blocking access to the pedestrian side street we live in. What level of chimpy territorial primitiveness does that well up from?
posted by raygirvan at 4:28 AM on December 30, 2011


Yep, charge up the wazoo for parking and subsidize the shit out of transit.

That sounds great but local governments aren't often setup to move money around like that. Parking and transit are run by different authorities and there's no easy way to move money between one and the other. Transit's usually regional while parking is municipal.
posted by octothorpe at 4:47 AM on December 30, 2011


A couple of days ago, a respectable looking middle-aged man in a 4x4 threatened to "come and poke my eyes out" when I asked him not to park blocking access to the pedestrian side street we live in. What level of chimpy territorial primitiveness does that well up from?

I dunno, I think that sounds as if he was being an arsehole for being-an-arsehole's sake rather than acting out of some kind of territorial imperative, and I'm not sure whether it's fair to blame that on the chimps as it seems a rather human trait.
posted by reynir at 5:46 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Flying cars, duh.

Please, I beg you, can we stop this? Look around you (well, if you are inside, go out to a corner and look around; I'll wait). I can almost guarantee within a few minutes you will see proof that many, if not most, humans have failed to master the process of driving in two dimensions, much less three. You flying car people are as bad as Hollywood; you keep chanting "3D, 3D, 3D!" as if it will eventually become a good idea. You will need to breed the magical ponies that eat traffic accidents and poop driving skill first....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:53 AM on December 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


This makes sense to me. Those sprawly strip-mall and office park development landscapes are incredibly unfriendly and anti-human, and yet we not only force development into that pattern but often subsidize it.

Have you ever been on an airplane coming in for landing and looked out your window upon the city below? It's always striking to me the sheer amount of area taken up by parking lots in strip malls and shopping centers. I suppose you can do the same thing with Google Maps, but it's always worked best for me from an airplane.
posted by indubitable at 5:58 AM on December 30, 2011


GenjiandProust: I read a pulp sci-fi novel from the fifties or sixties that painted a future where cars had been replaced with moving walkways, like the kind they have at airports, even for coast-to-coast travel. For long-distance there would be graduated walkways where you'd get on starting with one going at walking pace and then step over to faster and faster speeds until you were on one going 200mph.

An event in the plot was a catastrophic accident where a mechanical failure in the high-speed walkways killed hundreds of people, and of course all the characters were absolutely shocked that something like that could happen.
posted by XMLicious at 6:07 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Xmlicious, I think that's The Roads Must Roll by Heinlein.
posted by dejah420 at 6:13 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]



Have you ever been on an airplane coming in for landing and looked out your window upon the city below? It's always striking to me the sheer amount of area taken up by parking lots in strip malls and shopping centers. I suppose you can do the same thing with Google Maps, but it's always worked best for me from an airplane.


The aerial view of the built form is both terrifying and beautiful. There was an FPP recently with some great images; Dolores Hayden's Field Guide to Sprawl is also great, with both ground-level and aerial imagery.

I don't have links handy, but people have done neat comparisons (mostly using GIS) comparing how much area is given over to the automobile. In addition to the safety and convenience questions, there are also huge environmental impacts in terms of increased impermeable area and flood issues.
posted by Forktine at 6:19 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I say this as someone who has walked, biked or taken transit to school or work for my entire life, net of six months in 1994, but the extent to which car haters are permitted to influence transportation policy never fails to astonish me -- it's like a steakhouse owner hiring a vegan to design his menu. If there's one thing which unifies the vast majority of Americans, transcending race, ethnicity, gender, or political party, it's that they love to drive and regard public transit as suited only for those who can't drive due to disability or poverty, or who must commute into the downtown business districts of a dozen or so cities around the country.
posted by MattD at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think you have to be a car hater to want to reduce the degree to which communities are planned around "people with cars" instead of people. The former is wasteful of resources in the long run, as population density grows.
posted by zennie at 8:41 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


The FPP pull quote makes it seems like the article will identify differences between men and women's views on parking, but that is not what the article is actually about, it's just a weird non sequitur.

Yes, you're right. I wanted to use the anecdote about the Disney center having to have a certain number of concerts to justify the existence of/pay the debt on their parking lot, but it was too long. Probably should have given up on using a pull quote.
posted by latkes at 9:06 AM on December 30, 2011


This will all be an academic discussion 20 years from now when all of our cars are self driving. Essentially we will have free valet service everywhere we go. The car will drop us off at our destination then go and find parking. When we are ready to leave, we'll buzz it and it will be waiting for us.

At this point parking can be much farther away from destinations instead of under or in front of it. This will change how cities are built.
posted by euphorb at 10:02 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Essentially we will have free valet service everywhere we go.

Because designing expensive auto-navigation systems will beat out paying people minimum wage to do the same thing?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:18 AM on December 30, 2011


I read a pulp sci-fi novel from the fifties or sixties that painted a future where cars had been replaced with moving walkways, like the kind they have at airports, even for coast-to-coast travel.

Asimov's Caves of Steel?
posted by straight at 10:27 AM on December 30, 2011


Nope, dejah420's got it, it was The Roads Must Roll. I read it quite a long time ago so I got the details wrong: according to Wikipedia it was written by Heinlein in 1940, the roads moved at 100mph, and the crash was caused by sabotage.
posted by XMLicious at 10:45 AM on December 30, 2011


This will all be an academic discussion 20 years from now when all of our cars are self driving. Essentially we will have free valet service everywhere we go. The car will drop us off at our destination then go and find parking. When we are ready to leave, we'll buzz it and it will be waiting for us.

At this point parking can be much farther away from destinations instead of under or in front of it. This will change how cities are built.


I'm not saying this is wrong, but 20 years? My car is 15 years old, so unless the self driving cars are being invented right now, I'm guessing it will be more than 20 years before everyone has one. Even longer to start radically redesigning cities.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:02 AM on December 30, 2011


I'm really looking forward to not having a car when I move to San Francisco in a month. Driving takes so much away from me and causes me so much stress.
posted by mike3k at 11:54 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


There has long been a debate in planning circles ( to which, sadly, I belong) around the need to de-emphasise the ... importance? role? ... of private vehicle use when designing and developing not just town centres but housing estates and down to even quite small redevelopments.

The article talked about parking standards and their apparently arbitrary nature - in the UK we used to have national planning policy guidance documents of which PPG13 covered issues around parking, transport and the need for integration between land use planning and the transport systems and infrastructure that served it.

Long story short, it was for each local planning authority (who may or may not have also been the transportation / highways authority) to set their own standards, not only for levels of parking for each type of land use but also in terms of how they were to deal with on-street controls (up to a national maximum set out in PPG13).

I'm not a transport planner, but it seems to me the problem comes from both sides - you have developers saying that the people who buy their houses or occupy their commercial premises want easy, accessible and relatively high levels of parking, which makes economic sense to some degree (for example, sufficient parking for a commercial or industrial development is going to make it easier for those premises to be rented and thus for the embodied new jobs they represent to be realised), and you have a situation where the increased numbers of private vehicles on the roads are making environmental improvements much more difficult to achieve.

You could argue consumer choice is at work - people could choose to use public transport but don't - or you can point to the efforts made to improve public transport links or incorporate green travel plans into new developments and argue that the onus is on local authorities, developers and the public themselves to support the reduction in car use. But as pointed out above, there aren't many cities (certainly not in the UK outside London - there's a Metro service in the West Midlands for instance that's well-used but not geographically comprehensive enough) with the sheer concentration of population to allow for a truly integrated public transport system without significant investment by either the public sector or commercial self-interest. The solution is to provide a proper working alternative to private car use, but that takes money and a significant degree of commitment from all sections of the community. And it'll be a solution of the urban centres only, not more remote locations where car use is the only option for many people.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:21 PM on December 30, 2011


...unless the self driving cars are being invented right now, I'm guessing it will be more than 20 years before everyone has one.

Actually, they are being invented now. The current obstacles are more of a legal and societal nature than technical.

The median age of cars on the road is about 10 years. For half of the cars on the road to be driverless in 2032 would mean that all of the new cars sold in 2022 be driverless. That assumes that no existing cars are retrofitted to be driverless.

According to the vice president for R & D at GM they plan "to test driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars on the road around 2018."
posted by euphorb at 1:09 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really need to get better pictures of the horrible strip mall near my office. This doesn't really do it justice. Huge swaths of almost entirely empty parking lot, with big chunks of empty lot between them. (That spot behind the sign? Still nothing there, 3 1/2 years later.) At least the built-up parts of it are finally mostly occupied.

And downtown parking was a HUGE part of a recent city council race around here. I actually decided my vote on one council position, where the two candidates sounded fairly similar, after seeing one of them say very firmly that parking downtown had to be free; I think she even talked about taking out old meters. Needless to say, I didn't vote for her.

The city almost ended up with new (centralized, sticker-style) meters that wouldn't actually be used, because (IIRC) some of the anti-meter people got elected after the meters were mostly installed, but before they'd started charging for parking. Good times.
posted by epersonae at 2:03 PM on December 30, 2011


I think that even if they don't fly, the obvious solution is a George Jetson style car that folds into a briefcase to carry with you. I love my car and I love driving it, but I go into DC a lot, and the most irritating and time consuming part of that is just finding somewhere, ANYWHERE to put the damn thing.

It gets to the point of imagining myself like Superman, and being able to just pick up my car and put it on the roof or something, which is obviously silly because if I were Superman, my options would be so myriad as to obviate owning a car altogether... maybe if my car were a sort of Mecha, like a body suit I could park on the roof, or in the alley, hell, on the sidewalk, because it'd be biometrically activated, so it's not like anyone could really mess with it at least; would it have to be street legal, with turn signals and such? would I have to follow the freeways? I guess if I didn't it would be considered an aircraft, and then I couldn't take it into DC... maybe if there were a superficial "wheel" on the bottom so there was technically contact with the mech and the road? And what about safety standards? Would I be cited because it doesn't have seatbelts, despite it being an armored extension of my body, wired into my very consciousness? That's not even considering the weapons systems...

These are the things I have ample time to think about when trying to find parking in any city or college campus or shopping mall anywhere ever.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:34 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


kafziel: "About as many people live in London proper now as lived in all of England in 1801. The thing about walkable communities is that they really do need a lot less people."

This seems really backward to me. High population density should logically lead to less need for driving a car (and indeed, car ownership is generally lower in big cities). Public transportation is easier to make work because there are lots of people to use it everywhere, local shopping and services makes more sense because there are more people nearby, and so on.

I think the key is decentralized urban areas. That is, very dense urban areas where services and shopping are distributed more or less evenly throughout. It's possible we need to change how we think about zoning to make this work. Building more old-style apartment buildings with ground floor storefronts might be a good start.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:43 PM on December 30, 2011


We must be using very different definitions of a "walkable community". Mine is more-or-less what you find here, or what makes for a high "walkscore". It's a place where you can walk to get your groceries, to a restaurant, to social and recreational opportunities, and to transit lines which take you to other places you might want to go. And it's important that you should be able to do this in comfort, in safety, and with dignity.

Clearly we are. Your definition of "walkable community" is whether you, personally, can walk everywhere you need to go. Mine is whether the community can function without a truck-powered transport industry. Which no part of London can. Or New York. Or any major first world city.

You can walk to get your groceries and to the restaurant? Goody for you. How does the food get there? If you want to subtract cars from urban life, you need to solve that problem.
posted by kafziel at 2:49 PM on December 30, 2011


kafziel: "Mine is whether the community can function without a truck-powered transport industry. Which no part of London can. Or New York. Or any major first world city."

I think you're using a definition that no one else is using. It's pretty obvious that while "every inhabitant owns a car and drives it everywhere" creates huge congestion and parking problems, "on average one delivery truck per store per day needs to circulate" is a much smaller and more manageable one. I've never heard anyone applying a "two legs good, four wheels bad" philosophy until now.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:54 PM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Everyday as I sit in traffic for about an hour each way to and from work I like to look at the other drivers creeping along with me and imagine each of them imagining themselves cruising an open road in the countryside with the wind sweeping through their hair. And I imagine that they're dreaming this with glazed eyes staring straight ahead, chanting I love my car and I love driving it.
posted by fartknocker at 2:57 PM on December 30, 2011


I say this as someone who has walked, biked or taken transit to school or work for my entire life, net of six months in 1994, but the extent to which car haters are permitted to influence transportation policy never fails to astonish me -- it's like a steakhouse owner hiring a vegan to design his menu. If there's one thing which unifies the vast majority of Americans, transcending race, ethnicity, gender, or political party, it's that they love to drive and regard public transit as suited only for those who can't drive due to disability or poverty, or who must commute into the downtown business districts of a dozen or so cities around the country.

It's almost like people who have devoted their careers to researching and analyzing the merits and drawbacks of different transportation modes frequently come to different conclusions than do the general public.
posted by threeants at 3:03 PM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm a lifelong car-lover from the rural Southern US, but after working in Vancouver, BC for about a year and commuting daily by rail, I'm *completely happy* with the concept of driving for entertainment rather than for daily transportation. It's downright liberating not being reliant on a car for the daily commute, considering dealing with traffic, having to maintain/fuel the vehicle, etc.. And being able to go out, have a few drinks, and hop the train home safely is just fantastic!
posted by LordSludge at 3:19 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clearly we are. Your definition of "walkable community" is whether you, personally, can walk everywhere you need to go. Mine is whether the community can function without a truck-powered transport industry. Which no part of London can. Or New York. Or any major first world city.

Jeez, can you imagine how silly alexei must feel, using "being able to walk" as his definition of a walkable community? Rather than insisting that -- obviously -- the only two possible choices are business as usual with more cars for the car god or the complete and total banning of all motorized transportation, with no alternative in between.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:32 PM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


My favorite two examples of suburban-influenced contradictory parking attitudes:

Our zoning laws in Philly require all new-construction homes to provide off-street parking expressly to alleviate the shortage of street parking. Even if the builder is doing a row of several houses, they'll usually go for individual sunken first-floor garages rather than create a back parking lot, as it's considered more attractive to the buyer. But even if everyone with a garage parked their car in it, it still removes a parking spot from the street, and most people store crap in their garage and just park in front of "their" garage entrance. No-one else can park there because they'd get towed, so the spot often goes utterly wasted for hours of the day when it could have been useful for short-term street parking, thus contributing to the lack of street parking, thanks.

At one point several years ago, during a boom of downtown tourist-friendly construction, the hand-wringing started over whether or not enough parking garages existed. I can't find it now, but some clever group superimposed a map of a local shopping mall and its parking options atop a map of Center City attractions and parking lots to show that no-one was being asked to walk any farther than they do to get to a popular destination store in the middle of a mall. Related: people attending baseball games will put up with hours of sloooowly crawling out of the lot rather than parking in Center City and taking the subway, which would cost about the same and get them to their car in 15 minutes flat.
posted by desuetude at 10:56 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Boy, I visited Philadelphia last winter (from San Francisco) and it was interesting. In a lot of ways it was an ideal pedestrian environment, with narrow streets and a lot to see. Good transit (seemingly-- I didn't use it, getting around by bike), and a classic intercity station near the center. But then there were also some parts which were pretty bad-- a surprising number of large parking garages and empty lots in the center of the city, and I stayed near some new construction with nothing but garage doors on the front. What I read of new developments wasn't that encouraging-- the city government pouring hundreds of millions into building a massive parking garage a block from the central station(!) in the vain hope that it would encourage private investment. And the traffic-- gridlock took on a new meaning for me.

My impression was that Philadelphia was hit a lot harder than SF by "inner city problems", and that a lot of the transportation decisions were still being driven by a desire to connect to the suburbs at any cost.

But there were clearly a lot of beautiful old buildings, and a classic pedestrian-friendly layout. I loved the narrow streets-- something I really miss in SF, where 40 feet is about the minimum.
posted by alexei at 4:18 PM on December 31, 2011


Mike Konczol riffs further on the themes of privatization, market competition, and parking.
posted by latkes at 10:16 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


More on parking lots in the New York Times.
posted by latkes at 7:50 AM on January 9, 2012


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