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Of course, no one is suggesting an overnight ban. I do see an alarming level of support for engineering a steadily increasing scarcity of parking, high tolls, and a deliberately under-provisioned road network in order to degrade the experience of driving until it sucks just a little worse than transit/cycling.

I think we should address the reasons people live far from their destinations, rather than the mechanisms which let them lead reasonable lives while doing so. "It's too easy" isn't the reason. "The alternatives are too hard" is the reason.




Why should we deliberately under-provision transit, and subsidize driving, to degrade the experience of transit until it sucks a little worse than driving?

People live far from their destinations, because there are so many darn parking spots in the way.


Does the space used for parking even register compared to height limits and other NIMBY policies? My routes take me through quite a bit more empty vertical space (single family homes, and apartments of maybe 4 stories max) than horizontal parking space. Most parking is underground or in ~4 story garages a block or two off the main pedestrian corridors, whose entrances are 1-2 storefronts wide.

It'd take a staggering amount of low-rise to compensate for just one 40-story high-rise killed over the neighbors' concerns about shadow.

We shouldn't underprovision public transit, we should make it better than driving is today.


I can't remember the link, but there was an article that took satellite photos and showed how much land was taken up by parking lots. It was something close to a third or a half, using places like downtown houston as an example. Also many roads sacrifice 2 lanes to street parking. A townhouse I lived in pretty much sacrificed %80 of one floor for the 2 car garage.

I agree the NIMBY policies are pretty horrible. 8 story apartments should of been a by right development type ages ago. European cities who take up the parking lane with huge sidewalks are very nice, all of this space for outdoor seating.


If they were using Houston then the study was either an internal study for the city, or someone cherry picking their study area to make sure they got the results they needed.

Houston is either the worst place in the world to live, or the best depending on who you talk to. They have almost no zoning laws at all, which has resulted in endless sprawl. The place is literally where you go to study the effects of unbounded urban and suburban growth of a city.


I read a study about Houston recently that actually had another perspective on that. There's not "zoning" laws per se - you can build whatever you want - but there are minimum lot sizes and parking requirements that effectively limit the density of the city to the point where cost effective public transit is impossible. It's not really all that free. I think this was it. [ http://austinzoning.typepad.com/austincontrarian/files/ssrni... ]


Or a really nice good ole boy network where to build some stuff you need to be able to call in some favors.


The example wasn't just houston, it was other cities too with zoning.


"In L.A., 60 percent of our land area is devoted to streets and parking lots"

-http://www.citylab.com/commute/2012/03/los-angeles-seeks-ped...

Or, when your city is hit by a parking bomb:

http://theoverheadwire.blogspot.ie/2010/02/parking-bombs.htm...


Is LA a fair example?


> Does the space used for parking even register compared to height limits and other NIMBY policies?

you're thinking of dense urban centers, like midtown Manhattan. Think more about what horizontally sprawling cities look like. or suburbs, for that matter. in the suburb I grew up in there was a 3 to 1 ratio of parking lot to buildings in all of the major shopping centers and housing complexes.

in addition to that building was basically restricted only to areas that were suitable to construct huge parking lots on. i.e. it had to be very flat, and have easy access to the large highways nearby.

the way we build our cities has been utterly warped and distorted by cars being much too cheap.


And in those dense urban centers where not much space is used for parking, there is still an extraordinarily large amount of money spent on parking. Underground parking garages like you will frequently find in dense urban centers often cost close to $100k per parking space.


> It'd take a staggering amount of low-rise to compensate for just one 40-story high-rise killed over the neighbors' concerns about shadow.

It isn't either or.

Imagine how much parking would be needed for everyone in a 40-story high-rise to put their car there.

And using multi-level parking garages is often prohibitively expensive because the upper levels have to be built to support the weight of the cars.


Generally, the load requirements for parking garages are smaller than the loading for space where humans can crowd.

Cars just aren't that heavy compared to people.


A typical car park is about 2.5m wide and 6m long, so 15 sq m. A typical car weighs about 1.5 tonnes, so the load on the floor of a car park is 100 kg per sq m.

I think it would be hard to exceed that with people, without breaking the fire code.


Design loading for human occupancies come in in the range of 100psf, which is something like 500kg/m2. That's roughly one 200lb adult per 2sf.

You can pack a _lot_ of humans into a small space.

Cars are about half that, because they don't pack well.

Of course, libraries are even worse, sometimes you're looking at 300+ psf design loads there.


Last I checked, my car weighed more than me, and all my posessions, combined.


Is it also a lot bigger than you?


> Imagine how much parking would be needed for everyone in a 40-story high-rise to put their car there.

About as much as many 40-story high-rises already have underground.


I've never seen a 40-story high-rise that had enough underground parking for more than a small fraction of its occupants. They build them in places that have transit links and set the cost of parking spaces at a high enough level that most don't bother.


> About as much as many 40-story high-rises already have underground.

It isn't about where you put it, it's about how much it costs.


Hugely so— much of the density of Japan's cities today, and many traditional cities worldwide, comes from small single-family homes and apartment buildings. They just don't have parking lots and huge roads between them.

High-rises aren't necessarily very dense, especially if they're surrounded by a lot of open land— for example, NYC's high-rise housing projects are often less dense than the low-rise apartment buildings they replaced.


Agreed. Glad that Scott Weiner got elected to state senate, as he is a force for building dense housing around transit stations - exactly the combination we need. Now if only Bay Area politics around housing development didn't move at a snails pace...

As for that statistic about the use of parking lots, I think that also included road space and other forms of car storage; I do think parking lots are good candidates for construction, as doing so doesn't displace anyone, and I would also like to narrow lots of streets in San Francisco (SOMA is basically a giant freeway grid), but I also agree that densification of neighborhoods is potentially more impactful.


The other hand is what happens when parking lots get developed...

Portsmouth, NH has made their downtown completely unvisitable by allowing three or four lots on the edge of the old downtown to be developed into mostly unoccupied luxury condos and hotels. The one municipal parking garage is constantly filled, and on-street parking has gotten cutthroat.


Portsmouth is a community of 20ķ and from a cursory look on Google maps relatively small area wise. .

If parking downtown is that in demand, has the city investigated things such a bus circulator, demand-based pricing to fund parking improvements, improving bike amenities and connections or negotiating public parking agreements with private lot owners? There's a lot of potential solutions here, but paving over business districts doesn't make sense.


It sounds like there's a lot of demand for parking and some land mistakenly allocated to condos and hotels, as evidenced by the low occupancy you cite! This could be a great opportunity for the enterprising business to put parking in place of that housing and charge market rate for it!


Or, if people won't pay market rate for land to store their car, maybe there actually isn't a shortage, and that land is already being put to better use by people who _are_ willing to pay.


This, of course, assumes that people are perfectly rational actors when it comes to things like paying for parking. I would submit that years of free or extremely cheap parking have made us not.


>I do think parking lots are good candidates for construction, as doing so doesn't displace anyone

I have strong anecdotal evidence against that. In Richmond, VA, nearly the entire neighborhood of Monroe Ward was leveled to provide parking for skyscrapers downtown.


I think he's saying the opposite - it makes sense to build on sites that are currently parking lots.


> Why should we deliberately under-provision transit

No one is suggesting that. Make transit great. I'll pay more in tax if need be.

I just don't want to be told that I have a choice between shitty transit or a deliberately shitty driving experience.

Honestly, the only reason why this is an argument is because people know that taking the bus sucks. I took the bus to work one day to see how it was (this was when I was debating takign my car, right after I started). It was slow, hot, uncomfortable, cramped, a guy fell asleep on me, and I felt sick by the end (motion sickness). So the only option is make driving shittier.


I'm not sure the data support the claim, at least in the US, that we under provision transit. We slight subsidizing driving, but not by much, and I agree that that should stop. Here's the numbers. http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=12133


The data in there is incredibly misleading. They're comparing total highway miles driven to total transit miles, even though transit is disproportionately skewed towards dense urban areas where everything is more expensive (and I suspect that highway miles are skewed the opposite direction).

Plus it completely ignores any non-highway driving subsidies, like tax revenue going to local roads and public parking areas, government regulations that mandate parking minimums, etc.

AND it ignores how valuable the land is that roads exist on, that could potentially be used for something else. Now obviously we do have to set aside some land for transportation purposes, but with cars, you have to set aside a lot MORE land, so you have to factor in that subsidy as well. E.g. if the city could, by switching to denser transportation modes, lease out a bunch of land to private companies and earn a million dollars a year, then that's a million dollar a year subsidy.


>We slight subsidizing driving, but not by much

Must also factor in the untold billions used by the military to ensure cheap oil.


That's sort of fair, but only if the "stop subsidizing cars" money comes from reducing what we spend on the military, not some attempt to rebalance things by imposing a regressive tax on driving without doing anything to make driving-alternatives more viable.


I don't know about your city, but availability of transit generally seems to be well over demand where I live.


> I think we should address the reasons people live far from their destinations

That's the point: It's artificially cheap to do so, because driving is heavily subsidized in the US. What you interpret as the deliberate sabotage of the time/money cost to driving is, in fact, an attempt to make driving reflect more of its true cost. As things stand, those costs -- in terms of poorer physical and mental health, environmental degradation, maintenance, material, space, etc -- are socialized, borne disproportionately by people who would, in fact, benefit from more density and fewer cars.

In places where people have to pay even a fraction of the true costs of rural/suburban living, they overwhelmingly vote with their feet.


> It's artificially cheap to do so, because driving is heavily subsidized in the US.

That's part of it. But it's also just cheaper to live outside of cities. If you live in a place where land is plentiful, you can have a big house, a garage and a big box store a few miles away. You can get to places on interstate highways (which are not going away because of their economic necessity). This is, for many people, an appealing way to live and a way that requires a car. Where I live it wasn't until mandatory parking in the city that people started to drift back downtown to live.


Unless the interstate highway goes right to your door, you're still using roads overwhelmingly funded by urbanites. And the gas in your car? Subsidized at all levels. Hell, we even bailed out a terrible automobile company with federal funds, subsidizing the losses on the manufacture of a generation of shitty cars!

But it goes beyond just subsidizing roads and fuel and SUVs. The federal and state governments subsidize rural and suburban power networks, water distribution, waste disposal, schools, police, firefighters, doctors, telecommunications... a whole host of things that drive down living costs in rural and suburban areas.

Yes, it's cheap to live outside of cities (in the US). Nobody's debating that. Nobody's saying it's not an appealing lifestyle for lots of people. We're saying that the reason it's cheap is because it's subsidized. It's basic economics. There are precious few places in the world where "it's just cheaper to live outside of cities" without strenuous government intervention.


The federal and state governments subsidize rural and suburban power networks, water distribution, waste disposal, schools, police, firefighters, doctors, telecommunications... a whole host of things that drive down living costs in rural and suburban areas.

Power generation, water distribution, waste disposal and the like are typically done outside of urban centers because the denizens would cry NIMBY about the effects.

Those supply networks exist to service the urban centers, it would be wasteful to not use them for the suburbs that they necessarily have to pass.


Perhaps the "car culture" is subsidized. But it's short sited to say urban living is not. Zoning laws raise the price of urban property because they push "undesirable" things out of the city (agriculture, industry, etc.). In countries where local governments do not have the power to enact strong zoning, residential, commercial and industrial will coexist. In countries where its cheaper to live in cities, that's often because of the industrial presence. That creates jobs, but also undesirable living conditions. Wealthy people will live outside of the city (this was especially true in Africa, at least in my experience). We've reversed that in the US.

Additionally, cities pull in food, power, water and other things from rural and suburban areas that exist to support cities.

I do not support commuter culture, but this is a far more complicated issue that car subsidies. There's a huge interconnected web of incentives at play. Any disassembly needs to be done carefully.


It's artificially cheap to live in cities because their daytime populations are not all competing for beds close to downtown. If residents of downtown condos had to pay the true cost of sharing minuscule housing stock with an entire city's worth of labor force, we'd have a lot fewer middle class people living in cities than we already do.

I'm sensing an implicit assumption that cutting out driving would result in building more density. But suburban commuters don't write land use policy for urban cores - their existing residents do, and they don't want it, because of noise, shadow, undesireables, etc. They already don't need to drive. Turning the screws on suburban commuters won't change urban NIMBYs minds on what they want their neighborhoods to look like.


> degrade the experience of driving until it sucks just a little worse than transit/cycling

And so because transit and cycling both suck in unavoidable ways compared to driving, these anti-car advocates end up creating a world that's worse overall just so that people who drive cars can't have some comfort. This kind of conspicuous self-flagellation is not how to advance as a society.


How do they suck in unavoidable ways? Try spending time in a city with actually good transit like Hong Kong, Tokyo, or many places in Europe; and try checking out a place like Copenhagen with world class bicycle infrastructure. They make American car-based cities feel like the Stone Age.


To be fair, bicycling is simply not a valid option in many American cities. Think of Minneapolis for example: it's simply not safe to ride a bike in -40 temperatures. Of course, this does raise the question of why a city exists in a place that cold.

Western European cities have the enviable advantage of decent weather year-round, just like the US west coast. The central US does not have this; it's more like Moscow: bitterly cold in the winter. And the east coast has a lot of extreme weather too.

Now this doesn't excuse not having good public transit like Tokyo either; it's certainly possible to build that in places like Minneapolis and DC, but they don't (or they simply can't, because the US culturally is unable to).


Yet Minneapolis is one of the US' best bicycling cities, and one can bike all winter if dressed sensibly. Likewise, truly-cold Edmonton is building out an extensive bike lane network: http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/council-approves-...

Cycling is most popular in Northern Europe, which has far worse weather than southern Europe.


I'll admit I haven't actually been to Northern Europe, but if you're talking about places like Copenhagen, my understanding is that the climate there isn't that much different from, say, Seattle. It's not warm like Italy of course, but it's not a tundra like Minnesota. The southern Scandinavian cities of Malmo and Oslo are not like the northern reaches of their respective countries, which truly are cold.

And as a cyclist myself, I seriously question how you can claim it to be feasible to bike all winter, in -40 temperatures no less, no matter how you're dressed. I get serious wind-chill problems on my face, head, and hands as soon as the temperature drops below freezing, and that's with a skull-cap covering my ears and some cycling gloves. I do have heavy winter gear I can wear when the weather's cold, but there's no way in hell I can shift the gears on my bike with heavy ski gloves on, and ski pants would probably cause me to wreck. Furthermore, I'm still young enough to not have circulation problems; try telling some 70-year-old to go cycling in -40 temperatures with wind blowing.


Copenhagen is definitely colder than Seattle, with lows below freezing all through the winter.

It's definitely harder to ride a bike in cold winter weather— but the same is true of walking and driving. One mostly needs cleared roads/paths (as drivers and pedestrians do) and warm, windproof gear (as a pedestrian and skier does). The right bike for city cycling year-round isn't a road bike designed for warm weather high-speed recreation, either.

I wear normal clothes and just add a nice wool 'Buff' scarf for face/neck coverage and good gloves for cycling around NYC in winter weather. I also use snow tires for safety, just because the city doesn't do a great job clearing snow from all the bike lanes, and the bike lane network isn't yet extensive enough that I can avoid mixing with car traffic.

And when it's really cold— even Minnesota closes schools and businesses, anyways: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/01/06/school-closure-crit...

So— cycling in cold weather is perfectly possible, and, in any case, most people don't live in places where it regularly gets cold enough for cycling to be truly difficult.


Cycling in 25F temperatures is one thing; cycling in -40(F or C) temperatures is another thing entirely. I completely object to the idea that cycling in -40 is feasible for the vast majority of the population. -40 isn't that abnormal in places like Minnesota or Edmonton.


I both drive and cycle and must admit, cycling is a nasty experience in various ways. compared to driving. It's physically an ordeal due to exertion and bad weather, whereas driving is more comfortable, and quicker. Gotta say driving wins hands down, for me.


Electric bikes are becoming popular. They are fast and need almost no exertion.


9/10ths of the issues riding in the city are not solved with motors.


Alright, so we should continue to support engineering for socializing loss due to pollution, disenfranchizing the poor or cyclists or others and subsidize it?

That's the entire point of the linked article, less demonization, more letting those who take pay the just price for what they take.


As long as people who don't take transit don't have to subsidize it, you have a deal.


Transit improves thing for all road users, even the ones who never use it.

Roads have to be in better condition to take the buses and coaches. Increased transit usage reduces numbers of vehicles on the roads, decreasing congestion and improving travel times. Pollution is decreased.

If you like driving you should heavily push for more public transit, and persuade everyone to use it, while you continue to drive your car.



>Transit improves thing for all road users, even the ones who never use it.

There is zero transit where I (and many other people) live. The nearest bus is over a hundred miles away. Street cars? Been on a couple in my life. As far as I can tell, tax dollars ear-marked for transit go into a black hole.

I don't mind contributing to "the greater good" or "global society", but don't expect me to both subsidize transit and pay a premium for my only mode of transportation. Local problems need local solutions, but there's so much NIMBYism.


If life sucks for every generation just a little bit more, people eventually move away from the area. This solves the problem of parking and driving, because no one is there anymore anyways.

Or if this happens on a national scale a civil war erupts.


So uh, you're just gonna bury your head in the sand on all the problems associated with the utter dependence on the car?


I'm not sure where you got that impression.

You propose to degrade people's lives by eroding their access to something they depend on.

I propose to erode the reasons people depend on it, so that demand falls naturally and an eventual lack of access will not hurt.

Are you going to bury your head in the sand on the problems of crowded housing markets?


Until you provide proper transit and stop expanding roads and parking (which surely will degrade driving experience) and make new neighborhoods walkable (see above) demand for driving will not fall even if it becomes more expensive. Only the poor will be hurt.

There are many roads overbuilt for the kind of traffic they face. Cutting them down to size is an excellent idea. Providing light and heavy rail is also great. Buses have limitations and still require expensive infrastructure for high level of service.


Your attitude seems to be that it's up to others to somehow 'fix' modes of transportation until the somehow compete with driving in terms of convenience, because your convenience is apparently much more important than considerations like the planet. And I guess if other modes can't compete well, apparently then driving must be inherently better, right?

The main reason other modes of transportation suck is bad development patterns, centered all around driving. Unless you fix that, other modes won't be able to effectively compete. So discouraging driving is part of the multi-approach strategy to slowly change mode share and development patterns.

Your attitude is reinforcing the broken status quo.


>centered all around driving

Are they centered around driving?

First, the development pattern of suburbia was centered around white resistance to racial desegregation [0]. Suburbia wasn't "about" the car, it was about opting out of certain societal changes and rejecting the premise that humans could or should figure out how to live in close proximity in units larger than the nuclear family.

Now that that's fallen out of fashion among many, we're still stuck with it because:

a) Wealthy urban residents have gotten used to things being uncrowded, wish to protect their property values, light, and air, and see preventing dense development in the neighborhoods as critical to doing so.

b) Poor urban residents and their liberal allies across the income spectrum wish to keep rents affordable for the people left behind in cities during white flight, so they pursue policies to keep these people in their homes (rent control, requiring a percentage of units to be below-market-rate and allocated by lottery to those below an income threshold, blocking luxury construction on the belief that it will keep neighborhoods from gentrifying, etc) with the side-effect of slowing down middle-class reurbanization. (If you're a professional but not oligarchical white dude with particularly leftist friends, expect to be called out as a gentrifier if you move to any dense neighborhood you can afford).

The car is just the mechanism that lets us cope with low density. You might think that if the coping mechanism is gone, we'll be forced to find a real solution, but the people who rely on driving are, far as I can tell, a different cohort from the people who control the planning commissions that block construction in major cities.

>Your attitude seems to be that it's up to others to somehow 'fix' modes of transportation until the somehow compete with driving in terms of convenience, because your convenience is apparently much more important than considerations like the planet.

Yeah, basically. We need to fix driving too - public policy kicks towards smaller, more fuel efficient, hybrid, and now fully electric vehicles are critical. Getting people to step down to the minimal motor vehicles that work for them is also great - for example, California got me out of my 28mpg car and onto a 150mpg motorcycle for most trips through the composition of the BART parking lots.

It's always a balance. If we valued the planet above our own lives without limit, the only rational action would be suicide. We would certainly not be having this discussion with manufactured computers sipping generated electricity. It's good that people are pushing the balance further towards the planet's favor, but there are always going to be tradeoffs we're not willing to make.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight


Nobody suggested that. They suggest that if they depend on it, they should be paying fair price for it.




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