Portland, Parking, and Climate Change


Portland, Parking, and Climate Change

The City of Portland, OR, is considering expanding an existing garage in one of its neighborhoods. It could add as many as 392 spaces to the 400 space facility. You can read all about it at parknews.biz.

Our friend Tony Jordan and his anti-parking group has opposed the expansion. Local residents want the expansion because, they say, construction in the area has removed many parking spaces and the additional spaces in the garage will actually have a net increase of zero. Jordan and Co. aren’t after a net increase of zero, they are after a decrease. After all Climate Change is going to destroy us all and cars cause Climate Change.

What frustrates Jordan, according to the article, is that despite decades of campaigning against the automobile and spending billions on rapid transit, there has been a less than 3% reduction in auto use in the Portland area. Here’s a quote from the Willamette Week:

“You could have a tax on downtown all-day parking garages, and that would effectively be a congestion charge for commuters into the city of Portland,” says parking reform advocate Tony Jordan. “Cars cause climate change, and cars need to park somewhere, and if you charge more and build less, fewer cars will park there.”

Can’t our Mobility Betters learn from history. One size doesn’t fit all. Simply telling people to ride bicycles or take the train and trying to force them out of their cars doesn’t work, never has, never will. If you want to reduce congestion, you need to provide reasonable alternatives.

When Tony visited our offices in Los Angeles a year or so ago, he was staying friends in San Pedro and was proud of the fact that he arrived at our LAX digs four hours after he left his friends home, having taken public transportation. At the time of day he came it was a 30 minute commute by car.

Using the Metro, bus, and foot links may have made him feel warm and cuddly, but it simply isn’t a viable alternative. And the people of Los Angeles, and yes, of Portland,  aren’t going to sign up for quadrupling their commute. The success of Uber and Lyft have shown that.

I’m all for Tony and his ilk to keep up the good work and succeed in reducing congestion, and smog for that matter, but they really need to take human nature into account.

Caution, JVH Screed ahead:

By the way, did you know that about 70% of greenhouse gases are water vapor, you know, clouds. Only 30% are potentially caused by man. So even if you believe that we are causing climate change, and that change will do something horrendous to the planet, twisting ourselves into pretzels to reduce what greenhouse gases we can isn’t enough to make much of a difference, particularly since the US has reduced its greenhouse gas emission more than virtually any other country on the planet while China and India are leading the way to increase their participation in the greenhouse gas race.

Just Sayin.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. Today, I have contributed to traffic in LA. I have contributed to green gases. I have contributed to congestion. And so much more. Today I took uber to my doctor appointment. For one, because parking was expensive and then time was limited so TNC ride was easier, especially after my friend offered to pick me up. It saved me time. But I congested the roads with my extra ride.

    And time is a challenge for me. So after reading JVH’s blog, I posted it on Twitter. With a picture time is of value. Something like that. As a twitter minder for Parking Today I saw responses from Tony Jordan and Portland Shoupistas and Paul Barter. I appreciate you all. Yet, I am surprised that you are are not writing here.

    Tony’s comments commenting on a relationship with JVH as Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant surprised me and got me curious? How? Why? When? Here is a man who on his own started a magazine and created an exhibition and albeit he pushes buttons, is most sincere and caring person I know, so why the boxing gloves Tony? Especially since Paul Barter brought up Fox News. Never mind the word “nasty.” Paul I am called a Communist in my family. I only watch MSNBC – regardless, I am curious. If you differ with another’s opinion must you bring politics to it and in my view mock them? Why aren’t you responding? Why are you Tony responding? Twitter is easy. Twitter gets lost in the myriad opinions. So why not here. Respond at the source. Create that “publicity” as you say Tony or in my view engagement.

    For me and I am with Socrates. I have fragile dying parents. My cancer might had come back. You betcha (now I am on a roll here – Sara Palin ) I want to save time. I will drive my car to my appointment or take Uber/Lift, thus increasing my foot print. Thus being selfish and not caring for environment. Thus, working my bum off and helping people who are in need as giving books to kids, giving money for their families and taking care of my own. I don’t have 4 nor 2 hours to take for a public transport. I want a car and I want a garage.

    Once again Paul and Tony, I know nothing but I know one thing: My nickname is Asti so now I want to be Nasty Asti. Because it might not all be about civilized discussion and as JVH said, one size doesn’t fit all.

    Thank you.


    Astrid Ambroziak astrid@parkingtoday.com

  2. I was happy to learn that Parking Today’s publisher John Van Horn wrote a post about my efforts to discourage Portland from spending tax dollars on a public parking garage expansion. I like a good argument. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have devoted some of my best years to promoting the unpopular opinions that parking should generally be a lot more expensive and we shouldn’t build any more of it.

    John wrote that when I visited their office, I “was proud of the fact that [I] arrived at our LAX digs four hours after he left his friends home, having taken public transportation.” This is an exaggeration and it says a lot about our different perspectives.

    I spent my first 18 years in San Pedro, once called the surliest neighborhood in Los Angeles and I visit my family often for Thanksgiving. It was during this trip on November 21st, 2017 I got to the bus stop at 1st and Gaffey in San Pedro at 9:13am. At 9:57am I arrived (via Silver Line) at the Metro Station at the 110 and 105. At 10:27am I got off a bus near Aviation Highway and Imperial Blvd. From here I could have taken any number of buses and arrived at Parking Today’s offices in about 15 minutes. But I had time to walk and I like to see what the infrastructure is like, so I walked along Aviation Blvd, took pictures of planes passing overhead, and arrived at the offices at 11am. I know all this because I took pictures along the way and have time and GPS stamps of the journey. The most difficult part of the trip was finding out how to get inside the Parking Today offices, you can only enter from the parking garage and there is no well marked pedestrian walkway.

    The trip took me less than 2 hours, I didn’t have to drive. I had a great conversation with some people on the bus. I got exercise. I took pictures of flowers, planes, and parking garages. Does it take longer to take transit, yes, but then I would have needed a car on vacation and I probably would have gotten lost trying to find the office (something that actually happened to someone at Parking Today *while* I was visiting).

    I know I’m more tolerant than many, I looked at it like an adventure and, yes, I am proud of not driving when I don’t need to. I don’t expect people to quadruple their commute either. Transit isn’t a viable alternative for everyone, but it definitely is a viable alternative for many trips that people take by car. I don’t want to force anyone to walk along Aviation Blvd. It’s pretty barren and the sidewalk disappears for stretches. But for every contractor whose truck is their business, there are several young, able bodied office workers who are driving along a bus line or protected bike lane, slowing the bus and endangering the cyclist.

    Those buses should have their own right-of-way and those able-bodied office workers should, at least sometimes, be taking transit or other modes, and when they do, both the contractor and folks like John Van Horn will benefit from fewer cars on the road. That’s just geometry, we can’t grow our population and keep making room for all these cars. If we prioritize these other modes, they will be more attractive, convenient, and viable.

    John also says that me and my “anti-parking group” don’t want this garage expansion because I’m frustrated that people keep driving even though we built light rail in Portland.

    I’m not anti-parking, I’m pro-parking reform and I want to see the current supply of parking supply utilized as efficiently as possible. I want to see the public ROW and public garages valued and used in ways that benefit the most people and advance civic priorities. I also think it’s a very bad investment for the public to spend $17 million on parking garages given the uncertainty surrounding transportation options and technology. You can call me a lefty radical about a lot of things, but I’m a capitalist when it comes to parking and I’m always surprised when someone like John seems to support parking socialism.

    At issue in Old Town/Chinatown in Portland is that there are “historic” buildings without parking that might depend on the surface lots. Now that there’s a big tax break for investing in this opportunity zone, the surface lots are getting redeveloped. A good capitalist solution here would be for the businesses needing parking to talk to the businesses developing the building and pitch in to build some parking if they want to take the risk at $50K, or more, per stall. I wouldn’t like to see that happen, I’d rather no parking be built, but I wouldn’t be organizing against it. Commuters won’t pay the $500 a month for 20 years that it would take to pay for the parking and I don’t want to pay the difference.

    Finally, my quotes in the Willamette Week article did focus on climate change and not fiscal responsibility. I do believe the science (and the observed state of our changing climate) are clear and conclusive, but I’m not going to change John’s mind. The fiscal argument is strong enough on its own and the climate argument is icing on the cake (or vice versa).


  3. JVH’s “just sayin” reflects that he, like many others around us, are not doing much ‘thinkin’ — and certainly many are not doing much ‘actin’ (to the extent that any of us can do anything now to remediate the worsening climactic conditions here and around the world). The impacts of climate change continue to be dire, despite Pollyannaish refusals to acknowledge mounted and mounting evidence that entire populations are skirting cliffside along a downward arc of catastrophic weather events. Admittedly, from the comfort of our homes (or our political agendas), we tend to avert our eyes from the daily scenes of devastation, in the conviction that the liberals, progressives and eco-extremists are, again, just blowing smoke, (or [some suppose]actually may be the ones causing the problems!). But the dramatic scenes will continue. Deniers will stop denying and start to ‘believe,’ when enough heat becomes intolerable, or enough flooding ravages local economies, or enough species die or flee to alternate land and seascapes. When they ask, you won’t be able to convince your grandchildren that you did not see it coming.

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