Its Starting to Tick me Off…


Its Starting to Tick me Off…

(I asked Mark Rimmer of Realistic Tranportation Alternatives to join me periodically on the Parking Blog. Here is his first effort. JVH)

I was reading this article the other day which was yet another attempt at trying to explain away the downfall of the urban environment as the center of American life by trying to correlate the decline in someway with parking. Seems like I read at least one of these every week where the Author is claiming the cause of urban decay is either too much parking, not enough parking, too much free parking or customers having to pay for parking. And they always seem to have pictures to “prove” their point. Frankly, it’s starting to tick me off.

Let’s face it, downtown’s started dying off because it was too cost prohibitive to revamp older buildings to meet new safety/fire codes, retro-fit them for newer HVAC systems, re-wire for newer lighting, remediate things like lead paint and asbestos, update them to meet new ADA rules and to redesign the interiors to fit the ever changing needs and desires of the consumer. It was much more affordable to simply build a new store, office building or apartments than to update the old.

Once you boil the debate about who/what killed downtown to a simple dollars and cents discussion it’s easy to see what happened. There was an excellent, and fairly short article written by a gentleman named Malcolm Gladwell a few years ago that appeared in the New Yorker entitled “Annals of Commerce: The Terrazo Jungle“) that makes more sense about why we saw the commercial core shift from the urban to the suburban environment than any of the countless papers, dissertations and studies I’ve read trying to explain it with or blame it on everything from parking to elevated roadway construction.

Maybe someday parking will no longer be the “go to” issue when trying to find fault for a city’s ills, but I doubt I’ll live to see it.


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. The laws of nature and evolution apply to both living organisms and Cities. While flying on a red-eye from one coast to the other on clear night, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the outlines of the city lights below me and those organic growth under viewed under a microscope.
    Adaptation and re-use are critical to survival in nature and nonetheless so for our urban cores. Those “downtowns” that were built up around a single purpose (i.e. the automotive industry, the steel industry, the coal industry, etc.) will inevitably wither and die unless they adapt to their new reality. Mark’s own city of Jacksonville has re-invented itself many times, from fort to paper and textiles, movie making, banking, etc. Adapt and survive or cling to the past and perish.

  2. Look at Pittsburgh, that may be one of the best examples of a city that had to reinvent itself in order to survive. The entire Region/Metropolitan area had to find a new identity.
    Interesting that parking was never looked at as one of the issues that caused Pittsburgh’s fall, but it is currently being looked at as it’s “knight in shining armor” coming to save the day.

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