Matt Yglesias has been on a roll lately with the urbanism posts, all of which have a heavy “market urbanist” slant, but it’s this post about parking reform in/around Boston (riffing off of this Boston Globe article) that seals the deal for me:
Regulators pushing developers to build less parking than they want is much, much, much better than the near-universal practice of regulators mandating minimum levels of parking. But I do think the message is clearer and the potential political coalition bigger if parking reformers just stick to the idea that this should be left up to the market. Cars are useful, and people who have cars need to park them. So there’s nothing wrong with building parking. But urban space is expensive, and parking spaces take up space, so people should weigh the costs and benefits of building/buying more parking against other possibilities. Getting to market-determined levels of parking construction and parking space pricing would be a huge victory, and it’s not particularly necessary to go beyond that.
I guess the only thing I’d have to add is that while I think these sort of parking maximums and general density-forcing rules are of minor import compared to the massively anti-density status quo, they do give rhetorical ammo to people like Randal O’Toole and other self-proclaimed libertarian types who like to claim that what planners really want is to banish cars entirely from cities. The sad truth is that they’re right – New Urbanism/Smart Growth might have some libertarian issues at heart, but at the end of the day, they’re out to put us all on trains/buses/bikes/our own two feet, not to set the market right. Now again, I think that O’Toole & Co. vastly overestimate the influence of density-forcing regulations, but they do have somewhat of a point.
As a bonus, Matt also reposted an interesting chart that claims that federal housing incentives (mostly subsidies and tax deductions) are massively regressive, acting as a tax on households earning less than $30k/year and a subsidy for those earning more. I can’t vouch for the methodology though – perhaps a commenter could offer some more insight?