Another “Urban Myth” Bites the Dust


Another “Urban Myth” Bites the Dust

We have all heard the harbingers of doom who predict the end of our industry as we know it. Why? Because millennials are all forsaking their lives in the burbs and moving to the big city. In doing so they aren’t buying cars (don’t need em, live near work) so they don’t need any place to park them. Yikes.

However my buddy Brandy in Las Vegas sent me an article in the New York Times that puts the lie to this myth. You can read it yourself here.

It seems that with the exception of about 10 urban areas, folks ARE NOT moving to the cities but to the contrary, are living in the burbs. Urban planners and prognosticators live in large cities and see anecdotal information so they start down the road of the self fulfilling prophesy. However, ask the post office who is getting all that mail, and they tell a different story.

The graphs in the article show that although New York, Chicago, and Seattle downtowns are becoming more dense, places like Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Austin are not, and by quite a large margin. Folks in these cities and many more like them still need cars to get to work and yes, a place to park them.

When I least heard this myth it was being spread by a realtor in Chicago who said people and companies were abandoning those mid rise complexes around O’Hare and moving downtown.  So they could live work and play within walking distance.  The burbs were history.  And that was 10 years ago.

It may be true in Chicago, but it isn’t most everywhere else.

My sources tell me to ignore the doomsayers and believe the numbers. Might not be a bad idea.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. I agree 100%, this is one facet of planning and development that everyone is over reacting to, and getting absolutely wrong. Everyone thinks that Uber, tele-commuting, etc are having this huge impact on driving. They think that because the % of 16 year old’s that are becoming new drivers every year is declining that the amount of cars on the road are going to diminish significantly, or that everyopne is moving to a “walkable” environment. The FACT is that there were more new cars sold in 2016 than any year in history and, as mentioned above people are actually moving to suburbs. What everyone is missing is that while there is a drop in % of the population that is driving the overall increase in population far exceeds that % reduction, and the net result is an actual increase in the amount of driving. You can make statistics say anything you want, but raw numbers are what they are and there is no way around it.

    On parking and how it fits into development:

    Hines: “Parking will continue to be a major factor, although I see that there’s going to be more people that will use Uber and other means of transportation. I see it in New York. It’s very evident in these high (population) areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago. I think it will come to cities such as Jacksonville and Houston eventually. “

    Rummell: “I think that’s right. And one of the things I don’t understand is the impact of autonomous vs. Uber. What is car ownership going to be 10 years from now? So from a developer’s point of view how many cars do you have to build spaces for vs. just having room to pull up. “That has a massive impact on … the project we’re planning here (in Jacksonville) we’re building parking garages and you want to plan parking garages for conversion uses, and that’s expensive because you’ve got to do things up front. It gets very complicated.”

    They are correct in their assumption that it is very easy to over build parking, and 100% on target when they talk about the tremendous expense associated with that. What they are missing is that “capacity” (space counts) is not the key issue, the short and long term solution is “management”. There are a dozen ways to increase capacity by significant amounts without increasing development costs (shared parking, valet, stacking, shuttles, car pooling, split shift scheduling, etc.), but as long as the “creative” thought process only thinks in terms of “number of spaces” then this is what you’re going to deal with; we’re building parking garages and you want to plan parking garages for conversion uses, and that’s expensive because you’ve got to do things up front. Architects and consultants are the only ones who benefit from this line of thinking. It is much cheaper to design with the idea of modifications to “management/operations” than to design with the ability to modify the actual “use”.

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