Free Parking Is Not Free

Free Parking Isn’t Free. Turns out those parking lots, while sometimes handy, are actually pretty gnarly, if your goal is to build a nice place to live:

Throughout the 1940s and 50s, as automobile use became prolific in the United States, parking became a problem, congesting streets and overflowing into neighbors' lots. In response, most municipalities instituted off-street parking minimums requiring developers to provide all the parking that the residences or shops would need on-site. This seemingly sensible notion has created a cascade of problems. It encourages sprawl by spreading buildings apart to make room for more parking (requirements usually demand more area for parking than the building it supports). It also weakens urban design, as urban buildings are torn down to make room for desolate surface lots, and hulking parking garages sprouted in downtown areas. It discourages revitalization of existing historic buildings, since developers have trouble meeting modern parking requirements in neighborhoods that were built before auto dominance. And the requirements drive up the cost of development: parking spaces can cost between $10,000 and $50,000 – typically more than the cost of the car that occupies it. High parking requirements can raise the price of homes and apartments by $50,000 to $100,000, a serious challenge to affordability.

When I have more money that I know what to do with, I’m going to start buying up parking lots and turning them into parks. It’ll be my little way of sticking it to people who drive over-large cars.

Compare and contrast

*Compare*. “Suburbs built on top of military/industrial complexes”:http://infranetlab.org/blog/2009/01/student-works-suburban-defense/ – intriguing yet awful. Quirky and cute – “people re-enacting Far Side comics”:http://www.flickr.com/groups/farside/pool/.

*Contrast*. Assaf Arkin notes that the current “recession may bring us more apps that put function over form”:http://blog.labnotes.org/2009/01/15/rounded-corners-219-%e2%80%93-browser-oriented-architecture/. Hopefully this means we won’t hear about Rich Internet Apps (blech!) for a while. On the other hand, hopefully we _will_ see more apps that leverage “game mechanics”:http://bokardo.com/archives/game-mechanics-for-interaction-design-an-interview-with-amy-jo-kim/.

American demographic inversion

Trading Places:

In the past three decades, Chicago has undergone changes that are routinely described as gentrification, but are in fact more complicated and more profound than the process that term suggests. A better description would be “demographic inversion.” Chicago is gradually coming to resemble a traditional European city–Vienna or Paris in the nineteenth century, or, for that matter, Paris today. The poor and the newcomers are living on the outskirts. The people who live near the center–some of them black or Hispanic but most of them white–are those who can afford to do so.

A fascinating read for those who like to think about how our cities evolve.