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dbigtex56

The High Cost of Free Parking

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I had good intentions of reading and reviewing this book.

Unfortunately, the Houston Public Library doesn't own one single copy, and I'm too cheap to go buy it on my own. Here's the Amazon.con editorial review:

American drivers park for free on nearly ninety-nine percent of their car trips, and cities require developers to provide ample off-street parking for every new building. The resulting cost? Today we see sprawling cities that are better suited to cars than people and a nationwide fleet of motor vehicles that consume one-eighth of the world's total oil production. Donald Shoup contends in The High Cost of Free Parking that parking is sorely misunderstood and mismanaged by planners, architects, and politicians. He proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking so that Americans can stop paying for free parking's hidden costs.

Seems like a worthy topic for Houstonians, and as soon as I get my hands on a copy, I'll broach the subject.

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Sounds like a good topic. Car culture is so ingrained in our psyche that the mayor can say that there is no mass transit access to Ziggy's when a Metro bus route stops directly in front of it and nobody bats an eye. Its time to do away with these mandatory parking lot requirements that are making our city less walkable.

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Sounds like a good topic. Car culture is so ingrained in our psyche that the mayor can say that there is no mass transit access to Ziggy's when a Metro bus route stops directly in front of it and nobody bats an eye. Its time to do away with these mandatory parking lot requirements that are making our city less walkable.

I don't think parking lots should have the entire blame in making our city less walkable. People in Houston choose to take the bus or train, or walk or bike instead of drive every day. Nobody's putting a gun to their head demanding them to use a parking lot. I also think that doing away with parking lot requirements entirely is not the right way to reach the goal of making Houston more walkable. Our car centric metro area is the result of what happens when you have the following factors: A young city in a hot and humid subtropical climate which boomed in population during the 50s and 60s. Other factors include the car and hub-spoke freeway systems being king during the population boom, white flight which drove new home construction from the current inner loop areas near downtown and out to the master planned communities along the then brand new freeways and extended boulevards, don't forget, oil was (and is) one of the top industries in the region (and cars run on?), and public transportation began to decline in quality and in areas served.

New York, Boston, and other similarly aged cities on the East Coast and abroad have infrastructure that's friendly to walkers and to those who use public transportation, because their population increases took place when walking, the carriage and public transportation via trolleycar were the main modes of local transportation. It's been hundreds of years and while they have cars, parking garages and freeways as we do, those cities are still walker and public transportation friendly in their central districts. I know many here don't want to hear it, but many years from now, I suspect the car will still be the king of Houston despite more rail lines being built, despite expanded bus service, and despite the efforts of those who plead with developers to build more walkable buildings.

As some have pointed out in other threads, this is just typical of many southern, relatively newer cities and it's what works best for us at this point.

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I don't think parking lots should have the entire blame in making our city less walkable. People in Houston choose to take the bus or train, or walk or bike instead of drive every day. Nobody's putting a gun to their head demanding them to use a parking lot. I also think that doing away with parking lot requirements entirely is not the right way to reach the goal of making Houston more walkable. Our car centric metro area is the result of what happens when you have the following factors: A young city in a hot and humid subtropical climate which boomed in population during the 50s and 60s. Other factors include the car and hub-spoke freeway systems being king during the population boom, white flight which drove new home construction from the current inner loop areas near downtown and out to the master planned communities along the then brand new freeways and extended boulevards, don't forget, oil was (and is) one of the top industries in the region (and cars run on?), and public transportation began to decline in quality and in areas served.

New York, Boston, and other similarly aged cities on the East Coast and abroad have infrastructure that's friendly to walkers and to those who use public transportation, because their population increases took place when walking, the carriage and public transportation via trolleycar were the main modes of local transportation. It's been hundreds of years and while they have cars, parking garages and freeways as we do, those cities are still walker and public transportation friendly in their central districts. I know many here don't want to hear it, but many years from now, I suspect the car will still be the king of Houston despite more rail lines being built, despite expanded bus service, and despite the efforts of those who plead with developers to build more walkable buildings.

As some have pointed out in other threads, this is just typical of many southern, relatively newer cities and it's what works best for us at this point.

I don't think anyone is saying that parking lots should receive the entire blame. Of course a lot of factors contributed to Houston's dependence on the auto. And I agree with you that the car will be king for many years. Still, does that mean that we are at some optimum state? Could things not be improved? It seems entirely logical that an excess of free parking contributes to cities being built more for cars than people. I've said before on this board that a tax on parking places would help reduce the economic incentive to leave land sitting as surface lots, and as the cost was passed on to drivers it would provide an extra incentive to not drive. I'm not advocating eliminating cars here, just giving a nudge in the other direction.

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I had good intentions of reading and reviewing this book.

Unfortunately, the Houston Public Library doesn't own one single copy, and I'm too cheap to go buy it on my own.

Interlibrary Loan

When you set up an account, you can specify a default branch library to have your ILL requests delivered to, which makes it even more convenient if you live near one of the branches.

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I don't think parking lots should have the entire blame in making our city less walkable. People in Houston choose to take the bus or train, or walk or bike instead of drive every day. Nobody's putting a gun to their head demanding them to use a parking lot.

No, the gun is to the head of the business owners who are required to have a parking lot even if they wish to cater to bicycle and pedestrian customers rather than cars. And as a result the city is made less walkable because we have parking lots where we could have another business providing a service, and even our inner city is bloated with parking lots when it could be more dense with actual businesses and homes.

I also think that doing away with parking lot requirements entirely is not the right way to reach the goal of making Houston more walkable. Our car centric metro area is the result of what happens when you have the following factors: A young city in a hot and humid subtropical climate which boomed in population during the 50s and 60s. Other factors include the car and hub-spoke freeway systems being king during the population boom, white flight which drove new home construction from the current inner loop areas near downtown and out to the master planned communities along the then brand new freeways and extended boulevards, don't forget, oil was (and is) one of the top industries in the region (and cars run on?), and public transportation began to decline in quality and in areas served.

New York, Boston, and other similarly aged cities on the East Coast and abroad have infrastructure that's friendly to walkers and to those who use public transportation, because their population increases took place when walking, the carriage and public transportation via trolleycar were the main modes of local transportation. It's been hundreds of years and while they have cars, parking garages and freeways as we do, those cities are still walker and public transportation friendly in their central districts. I know many here don't want to hear it, but many years from now, I suspect the car will still be the king of Houston despite more rail lines being built, despite expanded bus service, and despite the efforts of those who plead with developers to build more walkable buildings.

As some have pointed out in other threads, this is just typical of many southern, relatively newer cities and it's what works best for us at this point.

Yes, we know how we got here, but the question is why do we need to require businesses to provide parking? We're simply reinforcing that car culture to the detriment of others. Plenty of other cities do fine without requiring businesses to have a parking lot.

Edited by kylejack

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I'm not sure (auto-centric parking lot cities) is something that can be fixed, it has to be designed in. There is no way in hell a tax or a law or some fines are going to change the way everyone in Houston goes about their lives. I wish it could, I think it would be a change for the better. For now, the public transit system couldn't handle everyone (getting better) and far too many people have such a negative view of riding the bus they'd sooner move than be required to ride one. Welcome to the south, where we litter wherever want and buses are only for poor dirty minority criminals.

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Welcome to the south, where we litter wherever want and buses are only for poor dirty minority criminals.

LOL! People in Pearland would have a heart attack if the #30 Cullen was extended to FM518. They really think someone is going to rob them and make a quick getaway by going to a bus stop, waiting 15-30 minutes for the bus, getting on and stopping every 1 mile or so at breakneck speeds of 35 mph on a fixed route. :rolleyes:

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I'm not sure (auto-centric parking lot cities) is something that can be fixed, it has to be designed in. There is no way in hell a tax or a law or some fines are going to change the way everyone in Houston goes about their lives. I wish it could, I think it would be a change for the better. For now, the public transit system couldn't handle everyone (getting better) and far too many people have such a negative view of riding the bus they'd sooner move than be required to ride one. Welcome to the south, where we litter wherever want and buses are only for poor dirty minority criminals.

But does one just throw up one's hands and say "'Twas ever thus, 'twill ever be!"? I wasn't saying that we could change the way everyone goes about their business, but certainly changes could be made at the margin so that providing free parking is a less attractive option. We oughtn't fall into the trap of thinking that we arrived where we are by destiny and that therefore nothing can ever be changed.

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But does one just throw up one's hands and say "'Twas ever thus, 'twill ever be!"? I wasn't saying that we could change the way everyone goes about their business, but certainly changes could be made at the margin so that providing free parking is a less attractive option. We oughtn't fall into the trap of thinking that we arrived where we are by destiny and that therefore nothing can ever be changed.

I wish we could just wipe the city design clean and start over, that would be great. But since you can't, it won't die until the automobile dies. I think the incremental changes that could be put in place would be slow to change the culture, possibly even slower than waiting for the car to die. I do think that one day civic historians (do these exist?) will look back on the sprawling auto-designed cities of the 20th century as a low point in city structure and design.

Edited by 20thStDad

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No, the gun is to the head of the business owners who are required to have a parking lot even if they wish to cater to bicycle and pedestrian customers rather than cars. And as a result the city is made less walkable because we have parking lots where we could have another business providing a service, and even our inner city is bloated with parking lots when it could be more dense with actual businesses and homes.

Yes, we know how we got here, but the question is why do we need to require businesses to provide parking? We're simply reinforcing that car culture to the detriment of others. Plenty of other cities do fine without requiring businesses to have a parking lot.

Back in the 70's and 80's before new office towers were required to have accompanying parking, market forces resulted in south and east Downtown being decimated as the highest and best use of land transitioned to surface lots. Now that towers must self-park, there's less impetus to create new surface lots...even as we've consumed dozens of blocks for parks, stadia and convention facilities. Moreover, because there are more parking spaces and more jobs downtown, there are also more people; more people facilitate more businesses; more businesses downtown facilitate a more diverse, complex and interactive streetscape such as is conducive to greater pedestrian activity. We have more car traffic AND pedestrian traffic in the downtown area than ever before.

Win-win. Not every negotiated outcome is distributive.

And this shapes my general attitude towards how the relationship between cities and suburbs ought to work in big metro areas. A central city shuns the preferred lifestyle of the vast suburban middle class at its own peril.

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Alright, but perhaps giant towers and small 1-2 story businesses should be treated differently. A little restaurant is not likely to build a parking structure.

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Alright, but perhaps giant towers and small 1-2 story businesses should be treated differently. A little restaurant is not likely to build a parking structure.

If we're talking about suburban locations, then the little restaurant from your example will most likely fail without parking...either that or customers will just use on-street parking, pissing off neighborhood residents in the process. The issue is politically moot. Experienced commercial developers do not under-park their projects, whether the City will let them get away with it or not.

The only way in which developers really lack a choice in the matter is when the 25-foot setback from major thoroughfares forces them to place parking in front of the development rather than to the rear or at least off to the side. That's kind of aggravating because it forces a time-consuming (and hence, expensive) variance process the end result of which might still be ugly.

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Sounds like a good topic. Car culture is so ingrained in our psyche that the mayor can say that there is no mass transit access to Ziggy's when a Metro bus route stops directly in front of it and nobody bats an eye. Its time to do away with these mandatory parking lot requirements that are making our city less walkable.

Every one of your posts is about making Houston more walker and biker friendly at the expense of the car. It would be great to have the aesthetic improvements of less concrete and less parking lots, but Houston is way too hot for people to bike and walk to work. You are living on another planet if you think people will drop their air conditioned cars and get on a bike to goto work.

1/2 of 1% probably walk or ride their bikes to work, and that may be over stated. 99% of midtown people who work downtown still get on the bus...its not b/c its too far to walk, or because they dont have a place to park their bike...its b/c 90% of the time in Houston is so hot that if they walked or biked to work, they would have to shower once they got there, and another 5% of the time its raining. Your scenarios of wonderful green walking and biking are just flat out unrealistic. People in Houston are not going to give up air conditiong to and from work. Nobody wants to change clothes 3 times a day and take 3 showers just to save $2 in gas.

The walker/biker group of people in Houston are a very good example of a very vocal super minority, yelling so loud to get their the way at the expense of everyone.

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1/2 of 1% probably walk or ride their bikes to work, and that may be over stated. 99% of midtown people who work downtown still get on the bus...its not b/c its too far to walk, or because they dont have a place to park their bike...its b/c 90% of the time in Houston is so hot that if they walked or biked to work, they would have to shower once they got there, and another 5% of the time its raining. Your scenarios of wonderful green walking and biking are just flat out unrealistic. People in Houston are not going to give up air conditiong to and from work. Nobody wants to change clothes 3 times a day and take 3 showers just to save $2 in gas.

Marksmu, in order for someone to ride a bus, they must first walk to a bus stop and then walk from where the bus drops them off to their place of employment. [facepalm]

.

.

.

.

.

99% of statistics are made up on the spot.

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Marksmu, in order for someone to ride a bus, they must first walk to a bus stop and then walk from where the bus drops them off to their place of employment. [facepalm]

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.

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99% of statistics are made up on the spot.

The bus stops are usually much closer together. I lived in midtown and worked at 515 rusk. I rode a bus. The stop was a few feet from the apartment. nearly everyone in the apartment complex got on that bus if they did not pull out of there in a car. I hardly consider that a face palm....They also had to walk out of their bedroom, and through their front door, to the parking lot, and then out to the street....I left the obvious walking out b/c it seemed pretty common sense. I guess I should have made it more clear.

I made up the stats to make a point. Its too hot in Houston to walk or ride a bike any real distance. Its not a big deal to walk a block, you will be hot, but you wont be drenched in sweat. It is a big deal to walk 1-2 miles. You will be drenched in sweat, and smell to all get out when you arrive. You either have to shower again, or just annoy every single person in the office with your BO, or in the alternative overdo it with the perfume/cologne. Im not sure which is worse.

Biking/Walking in Houston is unrealistic. It will not happen. Its either buses, trains, cars, or some other air conditioned form of transportation. Its too dang hot, and rains way to frequently to be realistic.

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If we're talking about suburban locations, then the little restaurant from your example will most likely fail without parking...either that or customers will just use on-street parking, pissing off neighborhood residents in the process. The issue is politically moot.

I'm talking about inner loop and I'd rather not get into the "what is a suburb" debate again, but anyway, it should be the business' problem. They will fail? Fine, let them fail if they wish. Maybe their business model is a good idea and maybe it isn't. Perhaps they can get enough pedestrian traffic and perhaps they can't. Let the market sort it out. If there's a problem with street parking, the city can post signs prohibiting parking on the street and I'm sure the wrecker drivers won't mind patrolling the street hoping to hit the illegal parking jackpot.

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It would be great to have the aesthetic improvements of less concrete and less parking lots, but Houston is way too hot for people to bike and walk to work. You are living on another planet if you think people will drop their air conditioned cars and get on a bike to goto work.

I do it, so can others.

1/2 of 1% probably walk or ride their bikes to work, and that may be over stated. 99% of midtown people who work downtown still get on the bus...its not b/c its too far to walk, or because they dont have a place to park their bike...its b/c 90% of the time in Houston is so hot that if they walked or biked to work, they would have to shower once they got there, and another 5% of the time its raining. Your scenarios of wonderful green walking and biking are just flat out unrealistic. People in Houston are not going to give up air conditiong to and from work. Nobody wants to change clothes 3 times a day and take 3 showers just to save $2 in gas.

If you're not going to cite a study I'm going to assume you made all these figures up, since many of them strain credulity.

Edit:

I made up the stats to make a point.

Oh. Well that was a disappointing surrender.

Edited by kylejack

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I walk about 2 miles a day to and from the bus right now. I figure that I save about $300 a month by taking the bus. I anticipate parking downtown and spending that $300 a month around June. Avoiding Houston heat is worth $300 a month to me. So that's an added $300 a month that it costs me to work downtown during the summer. This figure will be on the calculator when the job market comes back and I get an offer from a company that's not downtown. Making parking more expensive would make it even more attractive for me to not work downtown or come down here for any other reason.

I do it, so can others.

You're right but it doesn't matter. Very few people want to do it.

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I do it, so can others.

You are among a SUPER minority of people who do it. Your confusing what is fine and convenient for YOU, for what is convenient for EVERYONE else.

If you're not going to cite a study I'm going to assume you made all these figures up, since many of them strain credulity.

I see no study at all that you have cited that says people would bike/walk in HOUSTON or another similar climate if they had the opportunity - not some other city in the North, or the West Coast, where they don't have BOTH 90 degree temperatures AND 85% or higher relative humidity. I can tell you that I personally do not know a single person who would be willing to walk much of a distance in this Houston heat and their business suits.

People would walk and bike if our climate was friendlier. Its not friendly. During the summer its 85 degrees by 7:30am, its 90+ degrees at lunch, and we have almost daily afternoon storms. The temperature is sweltering, and its just flat out uncomfortable. Just b/c it can be done does not mean that people will do it.

A typical day in Houston for a biker - would be wake up about an hour earlier than a non bike riding person...pack a bag to get dressed at the office. Bike to office, sweat profusely on the way there. Once at the office, and assuming the office has a shower (big assumption b/c mine doesn't), take a shower and get dressed. Have your day, get undressed again at the end of the day, put sweaty clothes back on, or have a 3rd change of clothes ready for the return ride home....bike back home, get hot and sweaty again....once home, shower and change clothes a third time, then go about your evening. That seems like an awful huge inconvenience to save a few dollars in gas.

I live in town and work outside of town, I drive 17 miles a day and its only about $3 each way in fuel for me and I drive a diesel guzzler....no way in heck Im trading off that $3 for all that inconvenience.

Oh. Well that was a disappointing surrender.

I hardly feel its a surrender. You are simply in a dream world if you think people would bike/walk in Houston. Its not going to happen. The vocal few, are just yelling alot louder than the rest of the people who happily get in their car and drive to work every single day in the AC. Would everyone love a faster, cheaper, air conditioned form of transportation? Yes they would, but until its here in whatever form it takes, biking/walking is not going to end up being the answer. The heights is as biker/walker friendly as any area of town, and the parking lots at every place are packed full of cars....the bike racks always have a few bikes on em, but its nothing compared to the cars.

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You're right but it doesn't matter. Very few people want to do it.

When I lived in Montrose and worked downtown, I rarely walked to work though it was hardly inconvenient. I did it on occasion, but more out of need than want. The heat didn't bother me, I just liked that driving took me no more than ten minutes to get from my apartment door to my office door. I'm not lazy, I'm just a bad morning person. Every extra second I can sleep makes me a happier camper for the remainder of the day.

People would walk and bike if our climate was friendlier. Its not friendly. During the summer its 85 degrees by 7:30am, its 90+ degrees at lunch, and we have almost daily afternoon storms. The temperature is sweltering, and its just flat out uncomfortable. Just b/c it can be done does not mean that people will do it.

I don't know if it's the heat or the humidity so much as the time thing I mentioned above. Any self-propelled transport takes longer than a car or a bus. People regularly walk or bike around town in Central America and it's just as hot and wet in the lowlands there as it is Houston in the summertime. I guess sweaty is more socially acceptable there than it is here though. That said, I know people who get up early, bike to the Downtown YMCA, work out and shower there and then head to the office. They make their bike commute part of their morning exercise routine which makes the whole sweaty thing far more palatable.

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Hoo boy, here we go with the statistics again.

Good fact based rebuttal. I have lived in Houston, for lets see....26 years, and in a normal summer we have an almost daily afternoon shower. Last year bucked the trend with the serious drought, but a typical year has lots of afternoon showers. Its an observation, not a statistic....Although you dont have a single statistic to show that people in Houston would bike/walk as a form of transportation if it were easier/safer to do so. I suspect you do not provide the statistic, b/c it does not exist. I also suspect it does not exist b/c there are not enough people willing to do it because it is a huge inconvenience, so its easier to not make the study that would fly in the face of the agenda you are pushing.

You clearly support biking/walking as a viable form of transportation...that is your right, and I am not in any way trying to prevent you from doing so, but the majority of people wont do it, and tax dollars should be spent to accommodate more people for the money, not less....developers, well, I think its pretty obvious what the private sector believes will work....The newer the development, the easier it is to park.

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I see no study at all that you have cited that says people would bike/walk in HOUSTON or another similar climate if they had the opportunity - not some other city in the North, or the West Coast, where they don't have BOTH 90 degree temperatures AND 85% or higher relative humidity. I can tell you that I personally do not know a single person who would be willing to walk much of a distance in this Houston heat and their business suits.

People would walk and bike if our climate was friendlier. Its not friendly. During the summer its 85 degrees by 7:30am, its 90+ degrees at lunch, and we have almost daily afternoon storms. The temperature is sweltering, and its just flat out uncomfortable. Just b/c it can be done does not mean that people will do it.

So you've covered your feelings about summer, but what about the other three seasons? It must be great biking to work in Chicago or Boston in the middle of January. You're also making an assumption about business attire. How many people still wear business suits to work these days?

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Not to drag things too far off topic but the last 6 months or so have been the most amazing riding weather I've ever seen in Houston, for the most part. The last 2 weeks especially were just gorgeous.

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So you've covered your feelings about summer, but what about the other three seasons? It must be great biking to work in Chicago or Boston in the middle of January. You're also making an assumption about business attire. How many people still wear business suits to work these days?

Only the executives in the biggest companies. Everybody else seems to be wearing khakis and polos.

BTW, we average 81 days of rain per year. That's one in four. It's no small amount (though lately it seems only to happen on weekends when I can actually enjoy the outdoors).

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We had about 3500 people at my last employer. I worked there for 15 years. There was only one person that I know of that regularly biked to work. It was quite an awkward situation when he would change clothes and clean up in the bathroom. No one talked to him much... :)

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There are plenty of people that ride their bike to work at NASA and Boeing. And there are bikes you borrow once you get here to ride from building to building on campus. I rode on occasion when I lived in Clear Lake (though I am not a morning person so time was my limiting factor). People talk to me. I admit I won't do it from June - September but the rest of the year its great other than a few winter days.

When I lived in St Louis I chose to drive rather than bike most of July and August, as well as December through February. I had less options for biking due to weather than I do in Houston.

I agree the heat is hard to deal with, but that's just part of the year. The problem is the mentality.

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I agree the heat is hard to deal with, but that's just part of the year. The problem is the mentality.

What mentality is the problem?

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Not to drag things too far off topic but the last 6 months or so have been the most amazing riding weather I've ever seen in Houston, for the most part. The last 2 weeks especially were just gorgeous.

I agree, it has been awesome since November or so. But still, no way I could do it to work unless it was a mile or less. Not in work clothes. I do wear suits once per week or so, and the rest of the time it's sleeves and a collar. Even in 50 degree weather I'd be swamping up the drawers after 10 minutes on the bike, and it's not feasible for people to change clothes at most workplaces where there isn't a locker room. I'll bike anywhere I can on the weekend though.

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What mentality is the problem?

The lazy mentality. Here you can drive and park right in front of your destination, for most situations. I was raised in Houston with that mentality, until I spent a lot of time in NYC and Chicago it remained. I have friends in midtown that drive 6 blocks to CVS, when its 65 degrees and sunny out.

People here think I'm crazy when I want walk somewhere. Luckily my gf lived in Boston for 4 years, so now I have company.

I know this isn't everyone, but the percentage of people with that mentality is really high in Houston.

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The lazy mentality. Here you can drive and park right in front of your destination, for most situations. I was raised in Houston with that mentality, until I spent a lot of time in NYC and Chicago it remained. I have friends in midtown that drive 6 blocks to CVS, when its 65 degrees and sunny out.

People here think I'm crazy when I want walk somewhere. Luckily my gf lived in Boston for 4 years, so now I have company.

I know this isn't everyone, but the percentage of people with that mentality is really high in Houston.

It doesn't matter where you live, most people take the path of least resistance. Though differing infrastructures, costs, and climates result in different outcomes in various cities, the principle is just as true for NYC or Chicago as it is for Houston.

It's just as plausible that you've picked up a bad habit as that you broke one.

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Not to drag things too far off topic but the last 6 months or so have been the most amazing riding weather I've ever seen in Houston, for the most part. The last 2 weeks especially were just gorgeous.

It is, isn't it? The last two weeks... even the azelia's know: this is the time of year, it is nice.

And they bloom. Sooo nice....

And then... the flowers fall off.

In about a week or two.

...and for the rest of the year: hell on Earth. Until Oct.

I have to hand it to Marksmu. He's added some needed balance to this topic... and others.

Edited by BryanS

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It doesn't matter where you live, most people take the path of least resistance. Though differing infrastructures, costs, and climates result in different outcomes in various cities, the principle is just as true for NYC or Chicago as it is for Houston.

It's just as plausible that you've picked up a bad habit as that you broke one.

i disagree, with my sampling of friends I went to college with, it was vary evident on their mentality depending on where they were from. All things being equal, people from Texas (and other places) would just automatically walk to a shuttle, wait for it, and take it to the grocery store. People from Chicago would walk there and it would take the same amount of time. Depending on the amount of groceries they would take the shuttle back. The grew up taking the train in to the city and walking around all day, and they enjoyed it. This is just one example, but its just so apparent that people from certain cities look at me crazy when I want to walk somewhere.

I know it goes both ways, we don't have a good environment to walk in here (not weather, but just the way things are laid out) nor do we have necessity. So I shouldn't complain. I'll continue to walk and ride my bike everywhere I can, even though I'm often alone. Hopefully they'll put more bikes racks out someday (River Oaks Kroger and Heights Target!).

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i disagree, with my sampling of friends I went to college with, it was vary evident on their mentality depending on where they were from. All things being equal, people from Texas (and other places) would just automatically walk to a shuttle, wait for it, and take it to the grocery store. People from Chicago would walk there and it would take the same amount of time. Depending on the amount of groceries they would take the shuttle back. The grew up taking the train in to the city and walking around all day, and they enjoyed it. This is just one example, but its just so apparent that people from certain cities look at me crazy when I want to walk somewhere.

I know it goes both ways, we don't have a good environment to walk in here (not weather, but just the way things are laid out) nor do we have necessity. So I shouldn't complain. I'll continue to walk and ride my bike everywhere I can, even though I'm often alone. Hopefully they'll put more bikes racks out someday (River Oaks Kroger and Heights Target!).

I observed the same patterns at UH, except that the shuttles took less time. I enjoyed my ability to sleep in more than I cared about stinking up a classroom with my BO, so I usually hoofed it at a fairly rapid clip. I walked because I was lazy (and inconsiderate), not in spite of it. And that was the point that I tried to make in my last post. If I lived in NYC or Chicago, I probably wouldn't want to drive and park in the urban core, either. But I don't live there, and as we've already established...I'm lazy. So in Houston, I drive most places. So do most other people, and for good reason. Walking or biking to inconvenient places (or along dangerous routes) is a bad habit, like smoking.

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Back in the 70's and 80's before new office towers were required to have accompanying parking, market forces resulted in south and east Downtown being decimated as the highest and best use of land transitioned to surface lots.

The market forces which shaped the neighborhoods south and east of downtown had nothing to do with economic forces demanding more parking.

The economic forces were due to the EPA demanding that Houston clean up the filthy condition of its waterways. Because of inadequate sewage treatment, Houston was effectively barred from new development. However, existing sewer permits were transferrable; therefore, developers could purchase properties in decaying neighborhoods (i.e., what's currently known as Midtown), and transfer the sewage permits for use in new development. Greenway Plaza owes its existence to this sleight of hand.

Since the existing 'old' properties were essentially useless without sewer access, the buildings were demolished. Most of the property remained vacant; in the 1980's Midtown was a weird, bombed-out No Man's Land. Under the Whitmire administration modern sewage treatment facilities were built, and Houston was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 20th Century. Personally, I have no nostalgia for seeing intact human feces floating down Buffalo Bayou. If you missed it, be glad.

Yes, some blocks were converted to surface parking. Better to have a little income than none. But let's be clear; your premise is historically and logically incorrect.

Also, please stop misusing the phrase "highest and best". It means precisely the opposite of what you think it does.

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So in Houston, I drive most places. So do most other people, and for good reason. Walking or biking to inconvenient places (or along dangerous routes) is a bad habit, like smoking.

I still haven't heard the good reason. Regarding driving 10 blocks in good weather when walking will take a little more time and strain.

And who said anything about dangerous? By not having a good environment I meant the sidewalk ends and you have to walk on the grass.

Obesity is a bad habit too.

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The market forces which shaped the neighborhoods south and east of downtown had nothing to do with economic forces demanding more parking.

The economic forces were due to the EPA demanding that Houston clean up the filthy condition of its waterways. Because of inadequate sewage treatment, Houston was effectively barred from new development. However, existing sewer permits were transferrable; therefore, developers could purchase properties in decaying neighborhoods (i.e., what's currently known as Midtown), and transfer the sewage permits for use in new development. Greenway Plaza owes its existence to this sleight of hand.

Since the existing 'old' properties were essentially useless without sewer access, the buildings were demolished. Most of the property remained vacant; in the 1980's Midtown was a weird, bombed-out No Man's Land. Under the Whitmire administration modern sewage treatment facilities were built, and Houston was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 20th Century. Personally, I have no nostalgia for seeing intact human feces floating down Buffalo Bayou. If you missed it, be glad.

Yes, some blocks were converted to surface parking. Better to have a little income than none. But let's be clear; your premise is historically and logically incorrect.

Wow, we've talked about the history and economics of surface lots in various topics on HAIF for years and this is the very first time I've heard of sewage being a factor. I'm not saying that you're necessarily wrong--you actually lived here at that time and I wasn't even born--but it does seem an unlikely explanation considering the sheer volume of space (and sewage output) was added during that period of time. It doesn't seem plausible that there would've been enough old buildings to knock down in the first place. ...unless of course the sewage permits were based on developed acres, but the City and the EPA would've had to have been chock full of mind-blowingly incompetent ninnies to do that.

Also, please stop misusing the phrase "highest and best". It means precisely the opposite of what you think it does.

What does it mean, then?

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I still haven't heard the good reason. Regarding driving 10 blocks in good weather when walking will take a little more time and strain.

You just stated it. Time, strain, and the presumption of good weather.

And who said anything about dangerous?

Mile for mile, being a pedestrian or cyclist is more dangerous than being a driver.

Obesity is a bad habit too.

A bad habit is an activity that one engages in that has deleterious consequences. Obesity is the consequence (not a habit) of taking in more calories than are expended on a consistent basis. Overeating is the bad habit in your example and it is not pertinent to our discussion.

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Wow, we've talked about the history and economics of surface lots in various topics on HAIF for years and this is the very first time I've heard of sewage being a factor. I'm not saying that you're necessarily wrong--you actually lived here at that time and I wasn't even born--but it does seem an unlikely explanation considering the sheer volume of space (and sewage output) was added during that period of time. It doesn't seem plausible that there would've been enough old buildings to knock down in the first place. ...unless of course the sewage permits were based on developed acres, but the City and the EPA would've had to have been chock full of mind-blowingly incompetent ninnies to do that.

My understanding is that much of the demolition of older buildings in Midtown came about in the 1970s, when the EPA ordered the city of Houston to stop issuing new sewer permits due to the lack of sewage treatment facilities. A that time many neighborhoods (including River Oaks) simply dumped their raw sewage into Buffalo Bayou.

However, existing permits were transferable, so developers bought low-cost properties in Midtown and reassigned the sewage permits to new buildings. Because the existing buildings were useless without sewer hookups, they were demolished wholesale.

By the time I moved to Houston (1981) Midtown was already pretty much a vast wasteland.

You're welcome.

What does it mean, then?

"Highest and best use" means that an asset is being used to benefit the greatest number of people over an extended period of time; the opposite of a get-rich-quick scheme.

For example: Memorial Park could be exploited for the short term gains of a few greedy people by allowing oil wells to be drilled, or forests to be cleared and the land converted to surface parking. The higher and better use for that land is its current one - a recreation area, open to all, in the middle of a large city that's tragically park-poor.

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You're welcome.

"Highest and best use" means that an asset is being used to benefit the greatest number of people over an extended period of time; the opposite of a get-rich-quick scheme.

For example: Memorial Park could be exploited for the short term gains of a few greedy people by allowing oil wells to be drilled, or forests to be cleared and the land converted to surface parking. The higher and better use for that land is its current one - a recreation area, open to all, in the middle of a large city that's tragically park-poor.

I realize that the planning and permitting process in Houston has come a long way since the boomtown days, but it is unfathomable that a new sewage permit for a new 75-story building could be substituted with an existing sewage permit for an old one- or two-story building...just like that. Can you cite any articles? Can anybody else on this forum back you up, at least?

As for "highest and best use", we were already on the same page, just that I think that you're projecting your high-minded opinions onto the vast population of average joes whose value systems are very different. For instance, the average joe probably wouldn't mind if a barely-utilized sliver of Memorial Park's western boundary were used to accommodate a few extra lanes of freeway. A lot of my preferences get plowed under by cost-benefit analysis, too, but that tends to happen when your goal is pareto efficiency.

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I realize that the planning and permitting process in Houston has come a long way since the boomtown days, but it is unfathomable that a new sewage permit for a new 75-story building could be substituted with an existing sewage permit for an old one- or two-story building...just like that. Can you cite any articles? Can anybody else on this forum back you up, at least?

As for "highest and best use", we were already on the same page, just that I think that you're projecting your high-minded opinions onto the vast population of average joes whose value systems are very different. For instance, the average joe probably wouldn't mind if a barely-utilized sliver of Memorial Park's western boundary were used to accommodate a few extra lanes of freeway. A lot of my preferences get plowed under by cost-benefit analysis, too, but that tends to happen when your goal is pareto efficiency.

I've anticipated your reasonable request for proof of (what I've believed to be the truth) the EPA's role in Houston's development in the late 70's - early 80's. Unfortunately, I haven't kept a copy of every publication I've ever read; at times like this, I kick myself.

The article I read seemed persuasive and well researched; I forget if it was published in the Houston Press or Public News. I've sent an email to HP, and hope that this article can be found among their archives. PN is, unfortunately, defunct. There even exists the possibility that I'm wrong, although that seems unlikely. :D

Speaking of same, mea culpa. According to online sources, your use of "highest and best" is in agreement with realtor/development types. Point goes to you. Let's just say that the phrase "highest and best" applies to real estate and city planning the way that "fair and balanced" applies to Fox News. The purpose of its use is to mislead.

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I've anticipated your reasonable request for proof of (what I've believed to be the truth) the EPA's role in Houston's development in the late 70's - early 80's. Unfortunately, I haven't kept a copy of every publication I've ever read; at times like this, I kick myself.

The article I read seemed persuasive and well researched; I forget if it was published in the Houston Press or Public News. I've sent an email to HP, and hope that this article can be found among their archives. PN is, unfortunately, defunct. There even exists the possibility that I'm wrong, although that seems unlikely. :D

Speaking of same, mea culpa. According to online sources, your use of "highest and best" is in agreement with realtor/development types. Point goes to you. Let's just say that the phrase "highest and best" applies to real estate and city planning the way that "fair and balanced" applies to Fox News. The purpose of its use is to mislead.

Thanks. If you're able to find anything, I will concede that my mind has been blown.

There are two ways that the term "highest and best use" gets used. One is the economic definition where an objective is typically pareto efficiency, and the other is the financial definition where an objective is profitability. In each case, highest and best use can be validated by a comparison of net present value between various scenarios. Neither form of use of the term is misleading; it's just context-sensitive. When I talk about "highest and best use" on HAIF, I'm usually talking about the economic meaning. And I certainly was this morning--although both meanings certainly had applicability IMO.

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The article I read seemed persuasive and well researched; I forget if it was published in the Houston Press or Public News. I've sent an email to HP, and hope that this article can be found among their archives. PN is, unfortunately, defunct. There even exists the possibility that I'm wrong, although that seems unlikely. :D

Perhaps you are referring to this article from the first issue (Aug 1982) of Cite?

http://citemag.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/TradingToilets_Neuhaus_Cite1.pdf

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Note the link above. Cite archives from all but the most recent two years are now available online. This is news to me, and very cool.

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Perhaps you are referring to this article from the first issue (Aug 1982) of Cite?

http://citemag.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/TradingToilets_Neuhaus_Cite1.pdf

I'm amazed that this kind of system ever had to be implemented, however by my reading of the article, there were quite a few factors at play.

1) Toilets had to be traded out one-for-one.

2) The trades had to be compatible with existing line capacities, making it difficult for trades to happen that were too geographically separated.

3) Downtown was exempted by decree. Most of the remainder of the Inner Loop was not exempted.

4) The article made it seem like the most impacted neighborhoods were Montrose and the Binz. Dbigtex56 also mentioned Midtown and Greenway Plaza as being significantly impacted (or impactful). That is significant because all of those neighborhoods (except for a part of Montrose) were served by the Sims Bayou plant rather than the Northside plant that serves downtown.

To be clear, I've never argued that parking revenues were behind the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods like Midtown. And in light of this evidence, I wouldn't be willing to say that the trading of permitted sewage capacity had no impact on the preponderance of surface parking in east and south downtown. However, given that east and south downtown were so completely flattened and parked even though they were geographically removed from restricted high-growth areas served by the same treatment plant, it's hard for me to buy into the argument that this was the proximate cause of their demise. The area that got wiped out was already in decline, shiny new office towers weren't required to self-park, and as evidenced in horrifying aerial photos from the mid-80's, there obviously was a tremendous amount of demand for parking.

Furthermore, if the trades really were toilet-for-toilet (as opposed to a modern metric like ESFCs), then I'd expect that a disproportionate amount of trading and demolition would occur with respect to multifamily properties. Commercial and light industrial buildings such as were characteristic of east and south downtown have relatively few toilets per square foot of either enclosed area or land area and would've offered more expensive toilet-based trades.

Surely the article left many things unclear. In fact, it seems that a lack of clarity was part in parcel with the subject matter. So I'm hesitant to take a definitive stance. But the article made no mention of downtown as a cause or a target of sewage trading and it didn't actually mention with specificity that trading was linked to demolition activity (it suggested instead that property owners that had traded away their sewage permits hoped to eventually get them back by one means or another...which is what ultimately happened).

An old wrinkle of Houston's developmental history has been brought to light, and perhaps it was a contributing factor. But I'm sticking to the "highest and best use" argument as being the proximate cause of our downtown surface parking.

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