Some Reasons Why Charging for Parking Is Preferable to Gas Taxes or Higher Cost Gasoline


By Dom Nozzi

June 21, 2001

I agree with parking guru Donald Shoup that the fuel tax (and high gas prices) are not an effective way to meaningfully reduce auto dependence.

Compared to the enormous sunk cost of owning a car, and the big benefits of driving one, a drive across town is, by comparison, a tiny cost — even if gas prices or gas taxes were high. As an aside, another reason high gas prices or gas taxes don’t have much effect these days is because of the relatively high fuel efficiency of cars today.

Shoup argues (and I agree) that if we really want to substantially influence the driving imagesbehavior of motorists, it is essential that we go after free parking that nearly every non-big city motorist enjoys nearly always. If a motorist is hit with a parking charge of, say, $5 each time she/he drives, it is a much more noticeable fee than the cost of gas for a single trip.

Other benefits of charging for parking: Local governments have a fair amount of control over parking prices, compared to gas prices. In addition, it is much easier, politically, to charge for parking than to increase the gas tax or establish toll roads.

Furthermore, charges for parking can be calibrated for types of trips easier than the crude gas tax. EVERYONE gets hit with a gas tax, regardless of whether they drive during rush hour or not, what streets they drive, or what location they drive to. By contrast, parking can be customized to be charged only in places where we especially have problems with people arriving by car (such as spillover parking in residential neighborhoods), and the amount of the parking charge can vary based on time-of-day to account for heavy use periods.


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Filed under Economics, Politics, Transportation2

Using Plain English

In my on-going, never-ending campaign to get the regulations,  ordinances, plans, and what-language-is-he-speakingpresentations from local government to use “plain English,” I’ve found this listing from the Internet to be useful.

The phrase on the left contains a lot of useless deadwood that we commonly see. Following it is a more succinct, understandable use of words.



a majority of – most

a sufficient amount of — enough

according to our data — we find

accordingly — therefore, so

after the conclusion of — after

along the lines of — like

as is the case — as is true

ascertain the location of — find

at such time as — when

at the present time — now

at this point in time — now

be deficient in — lack

be in a position to — can, be able

by a factor of two — two times, double, twice

by means of — by

come to a conclusion — conclude

despite the fact that — although

due to the fact that — because

during the time that — while

equally as well — as well, equally well

fewer in number — fewer

for the purpose of — to, for

for the reason that — because

for this reason — thus, therefore

give consideration to — consider, examine

give indication of — show, indicate, suggest

happen(s) to be — am/is/are

has been proved to be — is

if conditions are such that — if

in a number of — several, many

in all cases — always

in case — if

in close proximity to — near

in excess of — more than

in large measure — largely

in many cases — often

in most cases — usually

in no case — never

in order that — so that

in order to — to

in some cases — sometimes

in terms of — in

in the amount of — for

in the case of — for

in the event that — if

in the field of — in

in the near future — soon

in the neighborhood of — near, about, nearly

in the vicinity of — near

in this case — here

in view of the fact that — because, since

is capable of — can

is found to be — is

is in a position to — can

it has been found that — (nothing)

it has long been known that — (nothing)

it is a fact that — (nothing)

it is evident that — (nothing)

it is interesting to note that — note that

it is noted that — (nothing)

it is our opinion that — we think

it is possible that — perhaps

it is well known that — (nothing)

it may be said that — (nothing)

make inquiry regarding — ask about, inquire about

manner in which — how

not with standing the fact that — although

on the basis of — from, because, by

on the order of — about, approximately

present in greater abundance — more abundant

prior to — before

provided that — if

put an end to — end

reach a conclusion — conclude

serves the function of being — is

subsequent to — after

the question as to — whether

there can be little doubt that — probably

utilize or utilization — use

with reference to — about

with the exception that — except that


Another kind of deadwood is needless repetition of the same sense in different words. Phrases like the following are easily cut in half:


adequate enough — adequate (or enough)

advance planning — planning

appear(s) to be — appear(s)

basic essentials — basics (or essentials)

close proximity — proximity

consensus of opinion — consensus

cooperated together — cooperated

definite decision — decision

elongate in length — elongate

first priority — priority

future predictions — predictions

general rule — rule

green colored — green

increase in increments — increase

initial prototype (model) — prototype

joint cooperation — cooperation

major breakthrough — breakthrough

modern science of today — modern science

most optimum — optimum

necessary requirement — requirement

outside periphery — periphery

rate of speed — speed

resemble in appearance — resemble

true facts — facts

twelve in number — twelve

usual rule — rule

very unique — unique


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Different Types of Open Space

By Dom Nozzi

October 22, 2001

In my opinion, it is crucial that a distinction be made between rural and urban open space. Open space requirements are based on where the open space appears on the rural-urban community transect.transect_0

At the rural end of the transect, open space design is less formal, more curvilinear, more natural, more focused on environmental protection and habitat, more picturesque and random in landscape layout, and less defined — space-wise.

In other words, NATURE is the design imperative in rural areas on the transect.

At the urban end of the transect, open space design is more formal, more aligned in straight lines (particularly with trees, sidewalks, streets — think plazas and squares), more intensively maintained, more hardscaped with concrete and brick, and more defined — space-wise — with fronting streets and buildings.

In other words, THE PEDESTRIAN is the design imperative in urban areas on the transect.

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Urban Creeks: Protecting Water Quality AND Urbanism


By Dom Nozzi

November 9, 2001

As an urbanist, I often make the point that “the pedestrian is the design imperative” within the urban core zones of the rural to urban community transect.

A crucial way to deliver a walkable, high-quality urbanism is to use modest, human-scaled dimensions.

Unfortunately for this design objective, environmental scientists (and arborists) often call for relatively large dimensions to achieve environmental conservation objectives (big stream setbacks, large tree planting areas, etc.).

The objectives obviously clash.

I enthusiastically support efforts to design walkable cities, and argue that successfully doing so results in better long-term regional environmental conservation, because designing great cities reduces the desire to flee the city in order to buy a home in remote residential subdivisions in sprawlsville. For this reason, it seems reasonable to me that those strongly seeking environmental conservation should buy into the urban-rural transect concept — the pedestrian/human is the design imperative in the core zone of the transect, and “the trout” (nature) is the design imperative in the rural conservation zone of the transect.

A dilemma here is that water in streams is flowing water — sometimes from the urban zone to the conservation zone. If the water is degraded in the urban zone with its pedestrian imperative, it can degrade the conservation zone when it reaches that zone, thereby harming the trout imperative. Nature often does not respect transect boundaries…

In my humble opinion, we should strive for a middle ground. That is, a stream within the urban zone needs to respect the pedestrian imperative by not creating pedestrian barriers. Yet the stream cannot be significantly degraded to the point of harming outlying conservation zones.

Must urban zone reaches of streams be “piped” or “paved over” to be walkable? Will they inherently suffer from ugly littering and dumping if they are not covered up? I don’t believe so.

Seems to me that a middle ground design would be to leave narrow, vegetated banks along the streams, and include a paved, hard-surface path along side it, as well as fairly closely urban-creekspaced pedestrian bridges over the creeks (say, every 200 feet, as we often call for such cross-access distances within a block).

By doing so, we achieve at least two things: First, the stream is walkable and does not create meaningful inconveniences to the pedestrian. Second, by establishing a hard-surface path nearby, we encourage a regular flow of pedestrian traffic along the stream. Such pedestrians become “eyes on the stream,” so to speak. They end up providing regular monitoring and voluntary clean-up when littering or dumping occur (or the “pedestrian police” will call city hall and demand that the clean-up be done). Greenways built around the nation have demonstrated the effectiveness of this form of citizen surveillance. A sense of stream/path ownership by path users typically results in clean up of litter problems that has sometimes persisted for decades before the path was installed. The key is that a formerly hidden, neglected stream is now visible to people on a daily basis, which means that we’ve created a chance for knowing about and caring for the stream. “Piping” or “paving over” a stream creates “out of sight, out of mind” problems, not to mention externalities that we would be blissfully unaware of…

Finally, I believe that the urban stream design I recommend above, while not creating a pristine water quality filled with healthy trout, will at least minimize exporting environmentally harmful water to outlying conservation zones.


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Filed under Environment, Urban Design, Walking

The Forgiving Road


By Dom Nozzi

January 23, 2002

Why does it seem that Americans have such poor driving skills?

I believe I have at least part of the answer.

For several decades we’ve been designing streets and roads and highways to be forgiving. The “forgiving road” is one that “forgives” the driver if the driver commits a driving error. That is, being reckless, or high-speed, or inattentive no longer is followed by the “punishment” of consequences such as crashing into something. We’ve done enormous forgivingwork pulling buildings, parked cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, trees and other “obstructions” out of the way so that even an unskilled motorist can travel at high speeds without crashing into something.

This was thought to be a way to promote “safety.”

The hidden agenda for many, I believe, is to promote high speed travel by large volumes of car traffic.

Of course, what many of us now realize is that such a design promotes reckless, high-speed, inattentive driving because human psychology is such that a person tends to drive at the highest speed that still feels safe.

Since we tend to be busy and in a hurry, forgiving roads deliver lots of motorists who drive as fast as they can and multi-task while driving (drink coffee, talk on the cell phone, read, etc).

The result is an increase in crashes due to speeding, inattentiveness, and recklessness. Ironically, motorist safety declines, because the forgiving road condition motorists to be less attentive.

Is it any wonder that we are seeing what I believe is a growing number of inept American motorists throughout the nation?


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Flawed Design Gives Compact Development a Black Eye

By Dom Nozzi

March 25, 2002

What stuns and scares me about so much of the recommended policies we hear from citizens these days is that so much of it is precisely OPPOSITE of what we should be doing to avoid a sprawling, auto-dependent, low-quality -of-life hell.

Such policies allegedly seek to avoid such a fate, yet call for strategies such as lowest possible densities (especially if it involves students), almost no infill, HUGE setbacks, HUGE parking lots, wide roads, aggressive regulatory protection of the most trivial, degraded wooded areas, NO mixed use. And on and on.

Excuse me, but such strategies will ENSURE that our quality of life in our neighborhoods will be ruined, our per capita car use will be extremely high, our taxes will be sky-high, our families will be financially struggling, and our cops will be overburdened.  These are EXACTLY the sorts of “solutions” that Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Houston, LA, Phoenix, and Detroit tried. Is there some reason why it destroyed those cities but will help ours? Am I missing something here? Oh, I forgot. “We’re different than them.”

Yes, let’s be irrational about this…

Tragically, it is common that a many proposed, higher density residential projects with conventional, car-dependent design are looked upon by many of NIMBY groups as a “model” of infill, walkable density, connectivity, mixed use, and new urbanism when, in Phoenix-Gated-Communityfact, such projects are nothing of the kind. The NIMBYs point to such projects and say, “See, those ideas don’t work!”

Flawed higher density projects that strive to make cars happy too often end up giving compact development a black eye because they build an in-town project in a very suburban, auto-oriented way, and use NONE of the quality urban design ideas, except being in-town instead of in sprawlsville.

We desperately need high-quality, on-the-ground models so that people can see, with their own eyes, that quality urban design delivers a pleasant outcome.

What really annoys me these days is the disingenuous, absurd argument that the walkable urbanist design tools I recommend will “chase people from the city and therefore promote sprawl.” If that is true, why do millions happily vacation in Charleston, Savannah, European cities, and other walkable towns, and growing millions across the nation seek to flee suburbia — a suburbia which contains the elements our NIMBYs seek: Big roads, big parking lots, big setbacks, low densities, no mixed use, no transit, no neighborhood sociability, no nightlife, no sidewalks, no bike paths?

Is Atlanta the model our NIMBYs aspire to, or is it Charleston? How many of our NIMBYs vacation in Atlanta to enjoy the walkable urbanism of that city?

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Filed under Sprawl2, Transportation2, Urban Design

The Ruin of Frontage Roads


By Dom Nozzi

April 19, 2002

I’m getting ready to lead a transportation and land use “revival” in a coastal Florida town this weekend. Those folks are apparently drowning from sprawl and auto dependence, their elected officials don’t “get it” (as is true everywhere), and some of their activists have invited me to speak at a big growth management forum there to see if I can to open their eyes before they continue on their road-to-ruin path.

Should be a lot of fun. Say hallelujah!!

A friend recently asked what I thought of “frontage roads.” (roads paraldownloadlel and flanking a larger, typically strip commercial road designed to keep local shopping trips from slowing more regional trips on the main road).

The following is what I told her.

Walter Kulash – a traffic engineer who strongly shaped my views over much of my career – briefly addressed frontage roads in a famous speech he gave a number of years ago. He didn’t say much about them in the speech, but did indicate that he thought they were a bad idea.

I told her I didn’t have anything else in my files about frontage roads, but I did know enough o warn her that from an urban design and transportation perspective, frontage roads must be avoided at all costs.

For the uninformed, they seem like a common sense, obvious solution to avert a congested strip commercial future. But as I will say until I am blue in the face, we cannot build our way out of congestion!

In fact, trying to add more capacity to hopelessly try to avoid congestion (which is an important justification for frontage roads) will lock us into a downward spiral of accelerated suburban sprawl, extreme auto dependence, unbearably high taxes, declining in-town (and locally-owned) businesses, a miserable quality of life, bankrupted households and local governments, a loss of a unique community identity, a loss of civic pride, higher levels of congestion (which is helpful in a town center but generally a problem in suburbia), less walking/bicycling/transit, and worsened safety conditions.

From an urban design perspective, frontage roads are a disaster. To be convenient for bikes/ped/transit and to promote a quality ambience, buildings must be as close to facing buildings across the street as possible. Frontage roads spread buildings further apart, destroy any sense of human scale, and make it impossible to cross the “street” to go from one building to a building across from it. Every trip where you have frontage roads and big parking lots in front of buildings set way back from the road MUST be by car.

The inevitable result of frontage roads, like every single other urbanizing or strip commercial area where they have been tried, is worsened transportation and quality of life. It is impossible to EVER build enough capacity to handle the demand for car travel in any place besides a declining rural farm town with no growth foreseen. In fact, adding more road capacity with frontage roads will INDUCE car trips that would have never occurred had the capacity not been added.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy: Traffic engineers urge more road capacity. When the capacity is added, the widened road induces new car trips above and beyond the number of trips before the widening. The result is that the widened road quickly gets choked with car gridlock, and the engineers say, “See! We told you! It was a good thing we widened or the traffic would be ‘worse’!!!” Actually, what would really happen without the widening is that there would be a lower demand for car trips — congestion regulates itself unless we let road widening short-circuit the process…

In sum, frontage roads are a wonderful way to spend millions of public dollars to destroy a community. What a bargain! We are essentially bankrupting ourselves to foul our own nest. Have we lost our minds?

Work to stop the frontage road idea at all costs.

Hope that helps, and hope you are well.



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Filed under Sprawl2, Transportation2