I have touted the "Shoupista" approach to parking, over the last year. And will continue to do so. Not because of what I think is its underlying reason for existence, but because I think it uses time honored and proven principals of the free market to reach its ends.
There’s an article in today Wall Street Journal which points out that many city planners are attempting to move people back into the central city and "do away" with urban sprawl, which they feel, in their pointy head approach to the world, is bad. Living in a $4000 a month three room apartment in Manhattan is good, living in a $3,000 a month 3 bedroom house on 6,000 square feet of your personal dirt is bad.
The latter breeds pollution, eyesores, and "shudder" Conservative thought. But enough of that.
In the end, the Don Shoup approach to parking will, in his theory, bring people back into the cities as there will be more room to build less expensive housing (See this month’s Parking Today for an example), the evil vehicle which is destroying humanity will drop from the horizon, and we will all live together in urban utopias holding hands and singing kumbya.
Well, lets see – why do people move to the ‘burbs. First, its a better place to raise kids. I don’t care what anyone says, kids like to play in their yard. Its safe, its fun, they can have a dog and when they skin their knees, its not on cinders in the playground, its on grass.
Second, you have a feeling of ownership. Lets face it, when you live in the city, what do you own. Your TV? Your Sofa? Your Clothes? The rich live in the country or own apartments or condos in the city. The regular Joe doesn’t. The egalitarian approach to decide just what’s best of each of us that is done in our major institutions of higher learning doesn’t cut it for me.
So we have a dichotomy. Many people think that living in the city is great, and in fact many boomers (whose kids are now grown), are moving back into the cities. They are selling their suburban houses to young families who are attempting to raise kids in a safe, green environment, and who want to own a piece of the pie.
I suggest that this isn’t at all a bad thing. What is bad, and as Don points out, is that the government at all levels is attempting to push their values on society by "planning" the way people should live and work.
I think that underlying the Shoupista approach is a feeling that if one reduces the number of automobiles, then the urban center will be the only way to go, since if its not in walking distance, you won’t be able to get to it. But you know what, I still don’t care, even though I don’t necessarily agree with the concept.
Why? Because the approach relies on the free market. Frankly, if the free market says that people live in cities, then great. And if it says that people want to live in the burbs. So be it. What will happen in the free market Shoupista scenario is that people will do what they want. The market will mean that it will be expensive to drive into the cities so if they want to be in a city during the day and in the ‘burbs at night, they will either pay a lot, or take some type of public transportation.
If they don’t want to ride the train for an hour, more affordable housing will be available to them in the core areas and they will live there if they choose. However, if they don’t want to do so, they can live in the ‘burbs, telecommute, or work at the businesses that are moving out of the city into the suburban areas. Its their choice.
Portland has a ‘plan’ where they have non development zones surrounding the city to prevent suburbs from forming. What the result was that housing costs in the city skyrocketed, and the ‘burbs simply moved further out. People want their 6,000 square feet of dirt. So the result of the great idea in Portland was that only the well to do can afford to live in the city, and the commutes of suburbanites became longer — or the businesses that need workers moved out of the city to where the workers live.
Take a look are the "inland empire" area of Southern California — a desert around Riverside, San Bernardino, and the Temecula Valley. Literally hundreds of thousands of people are moving to this area. And so are businesses — not just retail, but light manufacturing, biotech, blue and white collar companies. Why, because that’s where the workers are. All of this is happening because the free market is working.
At the same time, central cities are coming back. I was in Milwaukee the other day and my host told me that this rust belt city is back in spades. New offices, lofts, tony shops, and the like are streaming back into the city. Why? Because boomers are moving back. They have raised their kids, and want a different life style. The free market did this, not all the planning in the world.
The Shoupistas are using the free market to try to reinvigorate the central city and reduce pollution, suburban sprawl and the like. I don’t think I care what the result is, although logic says that it will make a huge difference in the look of central city neighborhoods, all to the good.
What I care about is that its the market that is going to decide. Left unfettered, the free market will do the right thing. It make take a bit of time, and the first pass might be less than perfect, although in the long term it does a better job than forced regulation and government planning — every time.