"The teenagers and young people in Miami come in from the suburbs to the few town centers we have, and they come in like locusts. They make traffic congestion all night; they come in and take up the parking. They ruin the retail and they ruin the restaurants, because they have different habits than older folks. I have seen it. They're basically eating up the first-rate urbanism. They have this techno music, and the food cheapens, and they run in packs, great social packs, and they take over a place and ruin it and go somewhere else."
"I've known for 10 years about this destructive monoculture that's condensed in the suburbs. These people would normally be buying real estate by now. And we designed for them. We kept saying 'aha, these kids, between 24 and 35, will be buying real estate." But guess what? They aren't. Because they can't afford it. But they're still using the cities--they're renting and so forth. These gen-Xers also discovered the cities-they're buying in a proper way. The Millennials are the ones we're talking about. And they love cities desperately. And they're loving them to death."
Last fall, Scientific American made a splash with an article combining environmental biology with sustainable transportation ideas. (We're animals, after all, so this made a certain amount of sense.) Their fundamental point was that women on bicycles are an "indicator species" for the degree to which a city is bikable (and by proxy, livable.) For city planners, this yielded very powerful advice: if you want to improve your city's bike infrastructure, make it more female-friendly.
Although I don't have the extensive data at my fingertips that Scientific American did, I think there's a similar "indicator species" for the walkability of a neighborhood: tree grates. How can this be so? Well, let's look at the four basic levels of non-industrial development we see throughout most of Chicagoland. One is Urban Core. Here we have busy sidewalks and extremely tall buildings. There isn't nearly enough consistent sunlight at street level to support trees, and who wants them there, anyway? The shade trees provide is already taken care of by skyscrapers, and the views people come to Chicago for involve towering sheer faces of steel and glass, not leaves.
I want to start the discussion about parking in Chicago (mainly street parking). Those of you who lived in Chicago last summer are well aware of the day that Chicago gave a private company control of our street parking. It was a joyous day when all the electric meters/pay-boxes broke and remained broken for weeks. It made me so happy to drive to the beach and attempt to pay the meter, but instead have to write a note on my windshield asking the meter maid to spare my car a ticket because the pay-box was out of order. These types of annoyances, however, are the least of our worries regarding parking. The Chicago street parking system is a mess and needs major modification.
The main issue I want to discuss in our first post about parking is the need to raise prices. Many Chicagoans' first response to this idea is that parking is expensive enough, and in this economy it will be detrimental to make us pay more. Yes, parking is expensive, but raising prices will be very helpful for Chicago and its economy in the long run. We saw in 2008 that when gas prices rose, driving (and thus parking) was more elastic than Americans initially expected. As a country, we drove less, used public transportation more, and rode our bikes. This was great for political reasons because we were becoming less reliant on countries and people who hate us. It was great for environmental reasons because less carbon dioxide was emitted into the atmosphere. But it was also great because it limited congestion in our cities.
Congestion is a huge problem. When there are more drivers, there are more people on the streets. I believe that if it costs more money to park, there will be fewer drivers and freer streets. Freer streets will enable us to share-the-road more, allow for faster/more-reliable public transportation, and potentially decrease the number of accidents. In fact, street parking rates in Chicago have risen recently. However, I don't believe this is enough. Another option for revamping parking-payment is to do what New York has started to do, install a performance parking system. Performance parking enables the electric meters to increase and decrease parking rates at peak times and to manage demand, to ensure that there will always be about 15% of parking spaces available. The primary purpose of this is to eliminate all of the drivers that constantly circle the block looking for parking.
I'm a driver, and for my own financial reasons I don't want to pay more out of my pocket, but it's time for us to stop thinking about ourselves and instead think about the greater good for all Chicagoans. Raising prices will not fix the entire problem, but it will be the first step of many more to come