Monday, December 22, 2008

Gas Tax and Downtown Development

Making up for lost time over the past week and probably into the next week. Here is a proponent to drop the payroll tax and raise the gas tax, which I agree with. When gas hit $4 this year, Americans did two things: 1) got out of their cars or 2) showed a willingness to pay a great deal for gas.

With gas at a fraction of that cost, I believe it is time to increase the gas tax (at least to something approaching real market rates - see: European prices for Petrol). When in doubt, tax consumption (heavily) and reduce taxes on labor and wages, IMO, which leads me to this thought:

The more car-dependent a place/property/neighborhood/city is (defined by what the local market rate for parking demand would suggest) will ultimately hold back some regions/cities as we begin to dig out of this recession (depression? my alcohol tab would certainly suggest as such) rebuild our cities in a more sustainably urban and walkable fashion.

Why? This stems from one of my thoughts I've harped on for a while, but also associate with downtown Dallas moving forward. A major cost/barrier to entry (as in 20% of total construction budget) is spent on parking, in dense cities (or at least in places that dream of density like Dallas - but wish to hold onto our status symbols, I mean cars) this means garages which build at a minimum of about 12,000 to 15,000 dolla dolla bills y'all per space.

Yet, with that said (and as I'm proving that in Dallas, owning a car is not necessary, or even a satisfactory existence!) the local zoning mandates a certain amount of parking per unit/or bedroom for private development. This requirement will HAVE to be repealed if Dallas is to in anyway approach the necessary 30,000 residents in downtown that is suggested (and needed - see this post about a similar sized (or smaller) area in lower Manhattan that has doubled in population to 50,000).

I'm guessing that few, if any, developers will be able to deliver the residential units DTD needs whilst coerced into paying to construct its own parking, despite the demand not nearly equal to the requirement. My garage was half full at most, until spaces were outsourced to a local valet company which has become its own nightmare - see below.

Coincidentially, years ago as part of their redevelopment process, the City of Portland built four large public parking facilities and waived the private parking requirement, one of the major factors to that city's redevelopment and increase in downtown residential population. Furthermore, this allows for improved maintenance and control of parking spaces...and if everybody dares mention the simplistic dogma that private side always does it (in the fanatics' view (business schools where Herman Daly doesn't teach) = anything) better and more efficiently, read the posts about what is happening to my building; its parking garage, under new management.

Sadly, I moved into this building when it had the highest approval/recommendation rating in all of downtown (and much of the city of that matter) at 80%. It has plummeted to 51% in the past two weeks.