JVH vs Tony – Part Deux


JVH vs Tony – Part Deux

My comments on the city of Portland and Tony Jordan and a parking deck expansion brought a storm of comments on Twitter but little here until Tony responded to my blog last night. You can read his comments attached to my blog below.

Tony is a bright guy and his words do tug at one’s heart strings. I stand corrected that it didn’t take him four hours to get to our offices, but only two. And I’m happy that his vacation was enhanced by the experience. But most of us see commuting as a way to get from point A to point B. and as Astrid has pointed out elsewhere, time is important.

I appreciate that Tony bills himself as a parking capitalist. But on one hand he says he would leave parking up to the developers in an area and on the other, he says he would rather not see the parking be built.

I agree with Tony 100% that the city should get out of the parking business and leave it to private enterprise. No, he should not be paying taxes to build parking spaces. I missed that little factoid when I read the original article. However, I don’t agree that the city should be taxing parking as a ‘congestion charge’. He claims not to be ‘against parking’ but wishes it to be taxed out of existence.

My experience has been when the government dips its toe into a situation, the law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head. In the UK, congestion pricing went into effect in London and congestion went down. Then within a few years, it was back to nearly the same place it was before, so they instituted a new type of tax on vehicles based on the amount of pollution they caused. What’s next when that fails. People who can afford a Range Rover or a Rolls can afford to pay the tax, and the less well heeled in our society get shafted.

As for my comment that he is ‘anti-parking’ and therefore ‘anti-car’, I base that on the presentation he and his team from the city of Portland made at PIE two years ago. I listened carefully and determined that the goal of this group, Tony included, was to rid the planet, at least around Portland, of the privately owned vehicle. I agree that parking reform is important, and a Shoupista approach is one way to tackle it. But only one way.

The problem is that Don Shoup has a three-legged stool – Market pricing, return money to the neighborhoods, do away with parking minimums. Most cities don’t have the courage to do all three and end up with a hodgepodge that one consultant told me “we consultants have to go in and fix.”

I feel Tony’s frustration that with all the bike lanes and light rail and buses, people still want to drive. And I have thought a lot about that. Yes some of the youth is moving into the central city and therefore don’t own cars, but at some point they do move to the burbs and need to get back into the city to work, play, shop, etc. The taste of the freedom to do that exactly when and where they want is related to the privately owned vehicle. Once they have a taste of that, its hard to go back to the train and bus schedule.

If somehow we could make the trains, buses, and bikes a convenient as cars, who knows. I have some comments on how to ‘re imagine’ our cities but that is for another day.

All the best Tony, keep up the good work in Portland.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. John,

    Not to be political – which means I’m going to be political – you dropped the F-bomb of all time in one sentence:

    “The taste of the FREEDOM to do that exactly when and where they want is related to the privately owned vehicle.”

    Freedom and the POV are as synonymous as politicians and tax schemes. Reduce traffic lanes, increase congestion, impose congestion pricing. Behavior and budget modification at work, courtesy of – as you call them – our betters.

    Freedom of movement and personal choice versus control of the same are at the very root of the mobility debate between two distinctly different world views.

    We can turn a lyric from Lee Greenwood’s signature song that expresses it all:

    “the CAR still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away…”

    And so the debate, struggle, fight, difference of opinion – whatever you want to call it – will continue. And in the end, that’s not a bad thing, really.

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