By Dom Nozzi
July 3, 2018
Eliminating parking requirements – and not just for smaller and more affordable housing – is being done by a large and growing number of cities, as doing so is a powerful way to achieve quite a few very important community objectives: walkable and compact urban form, much higher levels of transit/walking/cycling, achieving climate change goals, stormwater management, ecosystem protection, community equity, affordability, and safety…
It is incredibly unfair that the less wealthy subsidize the more wealthy – not to mention subsidizing motorists.
Shame on Boulder for dragging its feet on converting minimum parking requirements to maximum parking requirements. This parking reform should have been done at least 15-20 years ago. Even Gainesville FL – MUCH more conservative than Boulder – did so 20 years ago.
I am so disappointed and surprised by how much Boulder remains in the Dark Ages regarding transportation.
Much lip service is paid in Boulder about retaining small businesses or providing affordable housing. But the fact that Boulder has dragged its feet for so many years without taking such a no-brainer action makes it self-evident that Boulder is not serious about meaningfully striving to retain small businesses or correcting the extreme affordable housing crisis. Many in Boulder talk about these things but are not willing to take effective action to address.
Because required parking is often extremely costly to provide – particularly for smaller, more affordable properties, and particularly in Boulder, where land is crazy expensive, requiring parking as a condition for development approval is, in effect, a “poison pill” that makes the provision of affordable housing technically “legal” but in the real world financially impractical.
This state of affairs exemplifies a lack of leadership and a lack of being serious about promoting travel choice, affordable housing, and small businesses.
By Dom Nozzi
May 14, 2001
As a general point, low density locks everyone into extremely high levels of car dependency. Transit, walking, bicycling and carpools become nearly impossible.
A sense of community is non-existent. Auto-dependent communities suffer because there is no “there there.”
Seniors and kids lose their independence because they are forced to rely on others to get around.
Suburbs are more dangerous than walkable in-town locations because the risk of a car crash is much higher than “stranger crimes” like murder, mugging, rape, etc.
Car dependent designs are not only unaffordable for all levels of government. They are also unaffordable for households, since the average car costs the equivalent of a $50,000 home mortgage, and nearly every family must now own more than one car.
Low-density, disconnected street patterns create congestion even at very, very low levels of car trips because all trips are forced onto one or two major roads. Disconnected roads therefore create the misperception that things are “too crowded,” even when we are talking about “cow town” numbers.
The naive, misguided knee-jerk “solution” is to fight for lower densities, which, of course, simply makes things worse. Note that increasingly what this means is that people who should know better (liberals, intellectuals, greens) are urging “no growth” and “no change”, and fighting against smart growth tactics — thereby unintentionally aligning themselves with the black hat sprawl developers.
By Dom Nozzi
October 15, 2017
There are people in Boulder who regularly state that the City Council has turned a blind eye/ear to neighborhood concerns. That they are not concerned about “protecting neighborhood character” (which is a transparent euphemism for NIMBYism) in their allegedly corrupt rush as Council members to ruin Boulder with rapid, uncontrolled growth.
The NIMBYs also make the bizarre claim that this “out of control” Council will lead to environmental degradation and loss of affordable housing.
But I utterly fail to see how the positions of the NIMBY people will achieve these worthy objectives if, as is clear to anyone paying attention, their positions result in a big jump in car travel and a perpetuation of rapidly rising housing costs.
If you oppose, as nearly all of these NIMBYs do:
Smaller lot sizes
More neighborhood mixed use
Less parking (and the conversion of existing parking to housing)
Buildings over one or two stories
…you are thereby calling for more per capita car trips, more carbon/air emissions, much higher housing costs, a continuation of neighborhood character being changed by the in-migration of much more wealthy residents, and sprawl into outlying towns.
By Dom Nozzi
July 25, 2017
Way back in 1989, Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy showed that traffic congestion REDUCES air emissions and gas consumption at the regional level. This is in part due to the reduction in low-value car trips caused by the time tax that congestion imposes.
The compact development pattern that can result from more housing being built in Boulder would reduce the PER CAPITA trips made by car. Since Boulder currently has very low-density, dispersed patterns of development (and WAY too much free parking), per capita car trips are very high.
Boulder is way better off — and is much more affordable and equitable — if the City successfully encourages more compact development patterns through the construction of more housing.
It would mean a lot more Boulder residents can choose to travel by walking, bicycling, or transit.
Environmental quality goes way up when per capita car trips go down. And Boulder will be a much friendlier and happier and healthier place, as healthier, more enjoyable, sociable interaction is much more likely when using transit, when walking, or when bicycling.
Boulder has made a huge tactical error over the past several decades by thinking that minimizing population growth and reducing density was the way to reduce car trips. Instead, that tactic has put too many Boulder residents in cars, made it much more difficult to travel without a car, and has made Boulder a lot less affordable.
By Dom Nozzi
February 21, 2010
How can we improve transportation in Boulder, Colorado? Here are some of my ideas.
I prefer the efficiency of pricing as a lever to achieve GHG emission objectives, rather than land use policies.
I am convinced that we need to address the enormous problem of travel externalities.
Most all of the roads and parking in the Boulder area are either un-priced or underpriced. That means we have an enormous number of low-value car trips in the metro area. Since the costs of motorized travel is largely (exclusively?) externalized, we are experiencing an excessive number of motorized trips.
We need to institute and then calibrate road and parking pricing more comprehensively. We still have excessive GHG emissions, so those prices need to be ratcheted up until motorized SOV travel is reduced sufficiently. Revenue from the pricing needs to be exclusively dedicated to non-SOV travel (transit, bicycle, pedestrian), and perhaps toward assisting local governments to pay for the work needed to prepare new policies and regulations.
I recognize that pricing can have negative social impacts on other worthy community objectives, such as the need to allow lower-income groups to affordably live in the area, or commute to lower-pay jobs from remote locations (where false economies are assumed – but which often do not pan out when added travel costs are factored in). I therefore support travel pricing rebates or travel subsidies when lower-income people can provide sufficient evidence that they are low-income. Part of this affordable housing issue is the need to have the City provide adequate quantities of housing that is situated in mixed-use, relatively compact neighborhoods, so that the household can own less motor vehicles and devote more of the household income to housing instead of a second, third or fourth car.
By the way, while living in Richmond VA, I noticed that while the city has way too much free parking in the metro area, there are quite admirable road pricing strategies (via toll booths found on a number of metro roads and highways). I say this not because Richmond is an example of a city that has used pricing tactics to avoid sprawl (indeed, it has sprawled more than most any city in the US over the past few decades), but because the city shows that such road pricing is politically and financially feasible.
By Dom Nozzi
November 22, 2002
A common criticism of “smart growth” is that it is relatively unaffordable to buy a home in a smart growth community.
There is too often an issue that is so very easy to sweep under the rug in these sorts of “affordability” debates.
Dumb, sprawl growth is, almost by definition, auto-dependent. Smart growth, conversely, creates transportation choice — when done in-town, over the long term, or both.
While it may seem, superficially, that a house in a remote location is “more affordable” because it has a lower purchase price than a house in a walkable location, a lower-income family that is forced to own 2-4 cars in that remote location will often find that such a “bargain” house is more of a financial strain than the in-town house (where, say, only 1 or 2 cars might be needed).
The lower transportation cost of houses in smart developments is why, in some markets, Fannie Mae has adopted the location-efficient mortgage, which recognizes that (smart) locations rich in transportation choices are locations where households have more income available to pay for such things as the mortgage (because less income is being spent for transportation).
By Dom Nozzi
In my opinion, there are three things that are primarily creating the extreme opposition to right-sizing Folsom Street in Boulder, Colorado.
- When people travel inside huge metal boxes, they inevitably are slowed down on roads, even if there are only a few other metal boxes out there (because the boxes take up so much space). The result is that pretty much every time a person drives a car, they are frustrated by being slowed down, so for their city to deliberately slow them down even MORE is an outrage!
- The local newspaper has spun this project to make it seem like there are only trivial, inappropriate reasons to do the right-sizing: slightly widen existing bike lanes, and FORCING EVERYONE to stop driving and start biking. This spin understandably provokes rage, as the benefits seem minor and only benefits a tiny number of people. But doing so ignores the many other benefits: far fewer crashes and near misses, far less speeding, calmer traffic, less air emissions, better environment for businesses and homes, safer for walking, discretionary car trips are reduced, and more space for beautifying the street. The newspaper also runs a steady drumbeat of letters by folks who are SCREAMING about the catastrophic, 24/7 gridlock (I have been on the street all days of the week and all hours of the day and have seen no real congestion). The result is that many who read the letters are convinced that there IS 24/7 gridlock and therefore conclude that the project is an utter failure (and state they are no longer driving the road to patronize businesses).
- We lead extremely busy lives these days, so losing even 30 seconds on the road is utterly unacceptable.
In Boulder, I have learned that nearly everyone (including those who should know better) has made the tragic mistake of equating free flowing car travel and easy parking with quality of life. That helps explain why opposition to density and tall buildings is so severe here (such development will crowd streets and parking, which therefore is a degradation of our quality of life).
Forgotten, of course, are the many awful impacts of happy driving and happy parking. Happy driving delivers more sprawl, higher taxes, more strip commercial “sellscapes,” more injuries and deaths, reduced travel by walking or bicycling or transit, less affordability, more air pollution due to more of us driving, more huge parking lots and huge intersections and huge roads, and more noise pollution.