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Monday, April 9, 2012

Seattle Times: Regulations Are Bad, Except Regulations That Require Subsidizing Our Car Culture

Posted by on Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Okay, now that we've established that Americans are voluntarily driving less—especially young Americans (i.e. future older Americans)—it's time to address the Seattle Times editorial board's arguments against loosening parking requirements for new construction near bus stops and light rail stations:

It is utopian to think that many people will abandon their cars. A few will, but the vast majority who can afford market-priced housing in Seattle will have a motor vehicle, now and always. If they have a vehicle, they will park it — somewhere.

Shorter Seattle Times: "The way things are are the way things always have been and always should be." You know, because they're old and wise, or something. Or maybe just old.

Jesus. Actually, people would certainly drive less if we didn't subsidize it so much, and such "market-priced housing" would surely cost less without the added up-front cost of these parking requirements (or if it doesn't, that's because the market values proximity to transit over off-street parking). I mean, I hate to get all Adam Smithy, but if people love their cars as much as the editors say they do, won't the market demand off-street parking in areas where on-street parking is inadequate? Isn't that how the market works?

I'm all for making Seattle more family-friendly (hence my support for building a downtown elementary school), and I freely admit that my daughter is my number one excuse for keeping my own car. But with adequate density and transit, it is possible to raise a family without a car—many people choose to. And it's not like car dependent families won't have other options.

Indeed the bigger obstacle to raising a family in Seattle is not the scarcity of parking but rather the scarcity of affordable multi-bedroom apartments. Given the choice between a private parking space and a third bedroom, many families (though not all) would surely choose the latter. You know, given the choice.


Comments (32) RSS

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So bonkers of the Times. I've lived downtown many years without needing a car of my own or a parking space for it - Zipcar rocks. Those Blethen kids need to get off Mercer Island more.
Posted by gloomy gus on April 9, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
Interesting that Goldstein is fine with the much more expensive subsidizing of mass transit....

Check out the costs of a train ride from Kent or Everett to Seattle versus the cost of a ticket (over $100 per trip versus $5 per ticket, so there's that) or the costs of a bus ride versus the fare. Yes we subsidize cars, but not nearly as much as the freeloaders using mass transit. However, perenially broke Seattle will be installing $186,000 in bike racks. So that should help the half of one percent who use bikes as commuter vehicles! Good on you dimwit McGinn!
Posted by Seattleblues on April 9, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
So, Goldy, people should give up their cars, except for you? Uh-huh.

There are loads of people in Seattle living in affordable apartments who have absolutely crappy bus service; most Seattleites have crappy bus service, in fact, even in town, and even more so when their full nexus of travel is considered; the majority of workplaces, the majority of homes, the majority of schools, the majority of shopping, the majority of extracurricular activities: all have crappy bus service.

For just one example, when the 358 is taken away and replaced by the Rapid Ride line down Aurora, my nearest bus stop, right in town, goes from four blocks away to ten blocks away, and the stops I would need to use likewise disappear. This bus is already grossly impractical -- my work journey is currently close to 45 minutes by bus, versus 30 minutes by foot and 8 minutes by car. This isn't Maple Valley; it's a mile north of the Ship Canal.
Posted by Fnarf on April 9, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
Where are the helicopter landing pads that the Times used to advocate for so strongly?
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM · Report this
Everyone needs to remember that the proposed change is to remove the ordinance that forces developers to add parking spots. It doesn't forbid them from putting as many parking spots as they want.

If people are right, and it's absolutely positively impossible for any right thinking person to live without a car, what kind of idiot developer would create housing without parking spaces. Wouldn't the free market deter them? I mean, after all, those buildings would be empty, wouldn't they?
Posted by SLCamper on April 9, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 6
@2- You do realize that every subsidy for buses is also a subsidy for car drivers, right?
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on April 9, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Report this
Martin H. Duke 7
Fnarf @3,

Just because Goldy can't make it work doesn't mean no one else will. No one has to "give up their cars;" those who choose to will no longer have to pay for a space they don't need.

I agree that the bus system has manifestly failed to provide reasonably rapid trips for most people, which is why I'm a huge rail booster. But one of the key steps to making the bus system less agonizingly slow is to eliminate the stops that have low usage or require time-consuming diversions, one of which is what's presumably happening here.

If you like where you live and feel you need a car to get around there, more power to you; but we simply cannot provide good service everywhere and need to focus more on the dense nodes to make transit viable for the people who are willing, or required, to depend on it.
Posted by Martin H. Duke on April 9, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Report this
meanie 8
@fnarf nice anecdote but what exactly does metro and rapid ride have to do with a city regulation getting loosened?

Change is incremental I don't know how people forgot that, but both sides of this have been complaining this is a bad idea, because we aren't currently a transit utopia and this would somehow ban driving and make everyone move or be sad.
Posted by meanie on April 9, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 9
@5- Yeah, in a perfect world full of completely rational people, sure.

In reality, builders will leave it up to owner's to figure out what to do with their cars OR charge a whole lot extra for a space in the building. When everyone is forced to build adequate parking, then there's adequate parking. When it's up to the market, they create a scarcity.

The free market is a stupid beast, shambling around smashing into things and overgrazing it's pasture.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on April 9, 2012 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Martin H. Duke 10

Would you really move into a new home not knowing what you were going to do with your car? If a parking space is important to you, PICK A HOME THAT PROVIDES PARKING.
Posted by Martin H. Duke on April 9, 2012 at 2:09 PM · Report this
"The free market is a stupid beast, shambling around smashing into things and overgrazing it's pasture."

this is a good quote.
Posted by paulus on April 9, 2012 at 2:31 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 12

They will know what they'll do with their cars. They'll park them on the street, screwing over nearby businesses and homeowners who lack garages (who comprise a large number of homeowners in this city, certainly in neighborhoods like Ballard).
Posted by keshmeshi on April 9, 2012 at 2:36 PM · Report this
Martin H. Duke 13
@12, I see. So if I'm a longstanding business or homeowner who didn't think to provide my own parking, and am reliant on the use of city ROW, then that's fine. But for newcomers, screw'em; make'em pay for it if they need it or not. Because the incumbents have the inalienable right to that city property now and forever.
Posted by Martin H. Duke on April 9, 2012 at 2:44 PM · Report this
@12: Seattle is full of narrow garages and narrow walled (often steep) driveways where one's hard-pressed to park even a Civic and open the doors. I'm baffled by what developers where thinking when these houses were built in the 50's. Unless everyone was driving a Nash Metro.

Plus, everyone's garage seems to be full of junk, not their cars. Hence, people parking 2+ cars per house on the city streets and regarding it as their inalienable right. That's not going to last.
Posted by tiktok on April 9, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
internet_jen 15
isn't the requirement that the transit has to have runs every 15 min for 8hrs a day 6 days a week plus daily service of at least 18hrs a day?

Who gets to have busses every 15 min on Saturday?
Posted by internet_jen on April 9, 2012 at 3:02 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 16
@15 everyone in Fremont, Ballard, and the U District.

Sucks to be u.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 9, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 17

You're the one claiming that people will just up and get rid of their cars if they choose to move into buildings without parking. I'm not talking about inalienable rights; I'm talking about predictable behavior. You keep living in fantasyland.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 9, 2012 at 4:48 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 18
Plus, if you require everyone to buy a parking space, next thing you know you'll be requiring them to buy broccoli.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 9, 2012 at 5:01 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 19

Maybe Seattle would choose to pay for good bus service (and grow a pair and tell Metro to get fucked) if the alternative were paying the real market rate for parking.

Right now, everyone is first forced to buy parking and then after that you try to talk them into letting it go to waste riding the bus. Who would do that? If they law says I have to pay for a parking space I might as well take advantage of it.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 9, 2012 at 5:05 PM · Report this
By all means, remove parking space requirements on appartment/condo developers, but only if we are going to stop providing those properties with taxpayer-subsidized street parking spaces. Any developmer should be able to build with whatever number of parking spaces per unit he wants (0, 10, whatever) if neighboring streets have either no street parking or metered street parking.
Posted by David Wright on April 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
Martin H. Duke 21

Are you seriously disagreeing that there isn't some segment of the population that lacks the desire and/or the means to own a car?

Somehow, Capitol Hill, the U-District, and other neighborhoods get by with less than 1 space per adult without armageddon. Business is fine. So what are you afraid of?
Posted by Martin H. Duke on April 9, 2012 at 5:54 PM · Report this
Teslick 22
10: Developers look to cut EVERY corner they can. Just ask the former residents of the McGuire building. Builders go to the minimums, and no more.
Posted by Teslick on April 9, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 23

So what you're saying is, all new apartments, all of them, no matter have swank, have only one bathroom?

Derp. I di'int think so.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 9, 2012 at 7:43 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 24
@2 - I wonder what this Kent to Everett trip would cost to travel by car if you actually included the cost of building and maintaining the roads. You say driving is less subsidized than transit, and you may be right, but I'd like to see data to prove it, which you forgot to offer.

Also, $200K for bike racks costs the same as 4 INCHES of the Seattle car tunnel. So I can see the outrage.
Posted by Free Lunch on April 9, 2012 at 8:11 PM · Report this
Teslick 25
23: Yes, you're right, developers are well known for going above and beyond in design, materials, and amenities in building.
Posted by Teslick on April 9, 2012 at 8:43 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 26

Could it be just a teensy bit more complicated than either silly extreme?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 9, 2012 at 9:54 PM · Report this
litlnemo 27
@22: "Developers look to cut EVERY corner they can. Just ask the former residents of the McGuire building. Builders go to the minimums, and no more."

Except up here on Beacon Hill, the folks building the apartments (soon) at 17th and McClellan, where NO parking spots are required (because it's in a light rail station zone), said at a neighborhood council meeting last week that they can't build without parking -- because they can't get financing if they do, and they need to provide *some* parking.
Posted by litlnemo on April 10, 2012 at 1:10 AM · Report this
My family lives in an old house with no garage. We park on the street. Does that make us free-loaders? We knew the house didn't have a garage when we bought it. We reckoned that we would park on the street. Most days, there isn't anyone who wants to park in front of our house but members of my family. Some days we have to park in front of a neighbor's house because someone else is parked in front of ours. It's less than tragic.

There are no businesses on our street - or even close to it - so the only competition for street parking is among local residents and their guests. Most of the other houses on our block do have garages but there are a lot of cars parked on the street. In twenty years of living here we have never failed to find parking on our block.

I have my doubts about whether people buy what developers build or if developers build what people buy. Do people living in the suburbs really want to cut themselves off from their community as completely as they do? They never seem to spend any time in the public space. People in my Seattle neighborhood are in the public space all the time and that leads to a lot of serendipitous interactions and contributes to a sense of community. Are people consciously trading community for privacy or are they just buying what developers build?
Posted by Charlie Mas on April 10, 2012 at 8:08 AM · Report this
@28 I used to live in Seattle, and your post reminded me that at least in a couple of places, home owners seem to feel that they have first dibs on that spot right outside their home. One such place was on NE 62nd just west of 15th Avenue. The houses are only on one side and Ravenna park is across the street. This one old guy actually called the city to tow a car that was in front of his house, and that car belonged to his neighbor who had just moved in the day before. And this was even though there was always plenty of parking across the street at the time. Seattle is the only place I've lived where some people feel that the street space outside their home belongs to them, and this silly law about builders needing to build parking for new developments seems to reinforce that implicit understanding. Also, the city will come and tow away cars parked in one place for more than 24 hours or something. At least that's how it was.
Posted by David from Chicago on April 10, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 30
@29- When I first moved to Seattle I had a crazy woman next door who had that feeling about her spot. (this is when my ex an I were sharing a car) She had a garage she always parked in and a driveway that could accommodate two more cars, but if there was someone parked in front of her house (not blocking the driveway, there was plenty of room) she flipped out. Sadly for her, a number of the houses on the block did not have driveways or garages. She shouted at me and almost all of our neighbors at one point or another in the six months I was there. She tried to claim I wasn't entitled to street parking because I rented instead of owning.

What an unpleasant woman she was.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on April 10, 2012 at 10:42 AM · Report this
@30, I knew someone else like that up in north of the U district, too. My boss, who lived there, told me to never park in front of that guy's house when I came over. I just checked and the culprit is the 72-hour on-street parking ordinance. This is intended to clear abandoned vehicles, but I'll bet there are hundreds of batshit people monitoring the spaces outside their homes and calling the number. That guy on 62nd told me that HIS neighbor called the city on him after only a day and he went out and found his car in the process of getting towed. Maybe he didn't remember the timing or maybe the crazy neighbor told the city that the car had been there for several days. But at least people don't "save" their parking spaces with chairs after snowstorms like they do here in Chicago.…
Posted by David from Chicago on April 10, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
litlnemo 32
They normally don't tow you unless they have marked your car and then come back 72 hours later to see that it hasn't moved yet. (It used to be 24 hours.)

This happened to me, once, also when a neighbor called it in. The car hadn't moved for about 4 days because it broke down in front of my house, and in the confusion of trying to figure out what was wrong in the dark, I had lost my key. (Old car, had two keys -- one for the door, one for the ignition. The ignition key was lost.) I had a friend coming over later in the week who was going to hotwire it and try to fix it, and if the key didn't turn up by then, I was going to get a new one. But it got towed the morning he was going to show up, because a neighbor (who had FIVE cars and therefore parked four of 'em on the street) called it in. Knowing, probably, that the car belonged to one of his neighbors, because I regularly parked it on the street.

As it turned out, when I paid to get it out of Lincoln Towing, my friend then hotwired it on the street outside the tow office and we determined the poor car was never going to run again. So I left it on THAT street overnight, then gave it away to be a parts car for my boyfriend's aunt. I'm still pissed at that neighbor, though.
Posted by litlnemo on April 11, 2012 at 4:04 PM · Report this

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