Monday, December 22, 2008
I mentioned parking before, so it seems like a good time to discuss the issue more. Matt Yglesias has been hammering at the decision by Washington D.C. to offer free parking every Saturday afternoon and for the inauguration. He does an excellent job exposing the irrationality behind this system, which only increases traffic while simultaneously not achieving its goal, increasing shopping.
It gives me a chance to stress one of my core tenets - cities need to be proud and confident; they aren't suburbs, so don't try to emulate them. It's sickening to me to see ideas like free parking, parking lots, driveways, big box stores catch on in urban centers. Cities can't compete with the suburbs on these concepts; you can't plunk down these massive malls and parking lot islands into the city without killing everything that makes cities perfect. These things destroy walkability, they destroy small stores and economic diversity and lead to the homogenization that makes every suburb look the like every other one.
Cities need to go the opposite direction and stress the things that make them unique. Density! Pedestrians! Bike paths! Public transportation! Sidewalks! I think after decades of disinvestment and flight, cities developed a shook personality, like a great fighter who's taken a few bad beatings in a row and he's lost all confidence and sense of what made him successful. No one knew how to stop the decline nor stop the suburban ascension, so many people assumed, if we can't beat them, let's join them. This mentality is a disaster, at best bringing in people who don't really appreciate urban living, at worst destroying the fabric of the city.
Cities are great and need to believe that finally, especially as the flaws of suburbia become more and more obvious (and these communities begin to adopt more urban planning strategies). The time for acting apologetic about our cities and what they bring are past; those days were for our parent's generation, the ones who ran, this is a new day. I hope that we can be a leading voice on this front, as I have no intention of apologizing. Let's do this city people!