Sunday, December 30, 2012

End Radio Silence (also: the Jacobs/Norquist Conundrum)

I'm back.   That is, I've been gone.  You noticed?  No?  Nonetheless, I've been squirreled away for three nights at a business traveler hotel in Portland, where they charge a cheapo off-season rate, with  the same old everyday risible Internet charge.  Which prompted a command decision that the multitudes would just have to do without me for a few day; but it's over.  Now, where was I?

Actually, I have not the slightest notion where I was, but I can report one fascinating puzzle I picked up from my friend David as we searched for a parking place in and around Portland's Hawthorne Boulevard.   David explained that existing zoning laws make way for a fair amount of multi-storey, multi-use construction along the Boulevard, but with no provision for parking?

Say what?  This in one of America's most planning-conscious cities?  Well, yes, but remember the Jane Jacobs principle: if you build it they will come. No, not baseball diamonds, silly, but parking facilities: apparently the good and great decided that if they made it impossible to park, people would ditch their cars.

Yeh, well good luck with that.  Or more precisely: very likely the denizens of this quintessentially Portland  neighborhood do go light on cars and do invest themselves in bikes and Portland's super-convenient (but not cheap) mass transit.  On the other hand, it is likely that all but the most committed have at least one car, even if a Prius. And where do they go?  Hah, you guessed it: into the back streets, where you can so often see people creeping along like predators, only in this case just looking for a place to dump the wheels.

So, not as simple as that.  But then I thought of the foil for honest Jane: Grover ("starve the  beast") Norquist, who famously held that if you cut off the government's allowance.  Conscientious liberals have always thought that Grover's principle doesn't pass the giggle test--but aren't Jane and Grover saying the same thing?   If she is so manifestly right,  can he be obviously wrong?  Or (the horror) could it be that there is some merit in what Grover said after all?

Afterthought:  one corollary of Portland's high bike-to-people ratio--superb, febrile, baroque bike lighting.  You see stuff that glares, glows and blinks from virtually every part of the pedaler's vehicle and even his costume.


Ken Houghton said...

"aren't Jane and Grover saying the same thing?"

No. She is saying, "provide only what is needed; if parking isn't, don't." Which is what happened.

Norquist says, "don't charge people, and they won't expect it to be there." Strangely, you still expected to see parking spots.

As a matter of information, you know in advance that Portland, OR, is the most bike-friendly major city in the U.S., and that a Google search for "parking in portland oregon" produces (after the flurry of sales pitches that make Google bloody useless these days) realistic articles about Portland parking with quotes such as "[Dave Mullens of the Urban Development Group] He opened the Irvington Garden in a close-in Northeast Portland neighborhood last year. It’s 50 units with no parking places.

'The cost of parking would make building this type of project on this location unaffordable,' Mullens says....'Parking a site is the difference between a $750 apartment and a $1,200 apartment. Or, the difference between apartments and condos,' he says.

The residents are happy to save $5,400 a year in rent alone. If that inconveniences out-of-town drivers--in the same manner as, say, Cambridge, MA's neighborhood permits, or NYC's random fake fire hydrants--so be it.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

They're not saying the same thing.

Jane sez: People respond to incentives (Buce adding: although you might have to wait awhile for the response.)

Grover sez: Pols respond to which I choose to call incentives (Ebenezer adding: an artificial low tax base is no disincentive to a pol's spending habits.)

Anonymous said...

The daughter and SIL both bike to work. He downtown from the old black district Alberta and the daughter to closer. Both are also scooter nuts.