Monday, December 27, 2004

LA Disease

The Everyman is unlikely to have opinions on particle physics but in many areas that involve public policies, opining is widespread.

Urban planners have little resistance to this and are, unfortunately, as likely to go with the platitudes as with common sense, let alone well-crafted research.

Having, for the most part, eschewed rational road (or parking) pricing, planners will try anything else to "get people out of their cars", even signing on to the fool's errand of reshaping the built environment to impact auto use.

Auto uses are below average in Manhattan but it is unlikely that planners will ever design another one of these. Yet, serious people still espouse "downtown revitalization" and justify the costs with talk of less auto use.

This morning's LA Times reports: "Give Up the Suburb? Yes. Give Up the Car? No Way ... When urban planners first talked about the new residential boom in downtown LA, they conjured up idyllic streets where pedestrians -- their cars sold to ex-neighbors in the suburbs -- strolled happily to work along streets lined with cafes and bookstores ... People are moving downtown, all right. But this is LA. So they're bringing their cars with them."

Yes and no. Some people are moving downtown. They do so mainly because planners caused highly subsidized office space to be over-built and the lack of demand for all of the bare space (and more subsidies) induced some people to live downtown. These are mainly singles or young people without children.

And there is no way that people can get along in downtown, let alone Greater LA, without a car. And, outside of Manhattan, this is all standard operating procedure.

Nevertheless, the myths hang on and we are left with some sort of weird "LA disease" bottom-line to the Times' very belated discovery of the obvious.