I noticed a couple of articles today that caught my attention and I wanted to pass along and comment about. Matthew Yglesias at Slate gave a strong rebuttal to the notion that private transportation companies like Uber and Lyft are undercutting public transportation. Yglesias knows much more about the San Francisco situation than I do - when I've been there, I've found the BART to be a mixed bag - faster and a bit cleaner than the MBTA, but much harder for traveling within downtown districts. I agree with Yglesias - the access to more low-cost transportation options makes people less dependent on owning their own car in general. People take cabs transportation options when they need to get somewhere quickly
While this may bring calls about how we're killing the American automotive industry, these concerns seem to miss the mark - we're selling more cars than we have in years, and that includes domestic cars.
Instead, what's happening is more basic, and more positive. People are sorting themselves - those who prefer the suburban, two-car garage lifestyle are still buying cars, while those who prefer to live in the city and walk, bike, train, cab or rickshaw to work and play are more able to do so without the burden and expense of car ownership. That means that everyone wins - cities need to devote less public space to inefficient modes of transport, the costs of city-living decrease, the roads become less crowded, the environmental impacts are mitigated... everybody's happy! So everybody dance!
Sounds like an impossible dream, right? Not according to this graphic today on boston.com:
More people are living in the city, and less of them are driving. That's why policies like this (article is a stub - subscription needed for full access) are not so "counter-intuitive" and certainly not "galling." Space is expensive. For three-quarters of a century, it seems like city management has regarded kowtowing to driving/private car ownership as a necessity, while doing things like making sure the Red Line runs as some ideal. The need for the city to subsidize $30,000 to $50,000 per year parking spaces is a big reason we only see "luxury" units going up in the city - in order to recoup land price in such a dense, expensive area, that money ends up being part of the price of the living space. That "free" parking space with the 600 square-foot apartment isn't free. It's offensively expensive, and it makes smaller and medium-sized units horrifically overpriced. Since the units are already overpriced, developers make them into "luxury" units - if space is going to be priced out of most people's market, it makes sense to make them as high-end as possible to appeal to those for who money is less of an issue.
Companies like ZipCar and low cost livery services help to mitigate the fact that even people can't take public transportation everywhere. That's a positive step, and to think otherwise is crazy. People who choose to live in 21st century cities both need cars less and *want* cars less. Outdated city management policies that treat car ownership as a necessity are unproductive and result in higher prices. Give people the car-free housing that they want.