Sunday, December 17, 2006

McClanahan, Chastain & Downtown

Tom McClanahan and I generally see things from opposite sides of the political spectrum. But our views on cities are very similar.

Cities are natural, organic forms of human organization and predate other political forms by thousands of years. Cities exist because of the innate human need for social and economic interaction. My views are shaped by years of study and by careful observation on the streets and public transit systems of the many cities around the world that I’ve visited while conducting my research on government auditing.

Tom’s column in Sunday’s Star was the best analysis I’ve seen about how to respond to the recent vote approving Clay Chastain’s light rail plan. He writes that Chastain “has transformed the local transit debate by making it undeniable that voters want light rail and are willing to pay for it.”

McClanahan articulates a vital point when he writes, “Think of the typical central business district as a prime-time TV show. Parking garages are like commercials: Too many can destroy the show’s value. Parking garages do not contribute to life on the street. Fewer garages and more people arriving by transit means less streetfront space must be set aside for parking, and more space is available for restaurants, shops and entertainment venues that contribute to vitality.”

There's been a lot of talk about the Downtown renaissance. That needs to happen but it hasn’t happened yet. We are building structures but we don’t yet have the volume of economic activity that we need to maximize the value of our investment. Two things will bring that economic activity. First, we need many more residents Downtown. Fortunately that trend is moving strongly in the right direction. Second, we need to bring much larger numbers of people in from the suburbs every day.

Excellent transit is the only way to get that done.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

You're right on, Mark, but what about East Village? They've halved the residential units for--that's right--more parking. This kind of flawed decision-making could destroy all the taxpayer investment in downtown's revival! Does the current leadership really understand nothing about cities? Are their taxpayer-funded trips to other urban centers all for naught?