(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.