Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Undoing the Damage Done by Urban Freeways

The effort to remove or re-purpose existing freeways and heal the wounds they inflicted on cities continues with the near completion of park Madrid Rio in Madrid, Spain. Madrid Rio sits atop a six-mile stretch of tunnels that now house the old M-30 Freeway.

From yesterday's New York Times:
"All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created."
New York City master planner Robert Moses famously drove freeways right through neighborhoods until urban activist Jane Jacobs stood up to him. Now, one of his creations, the Sheridan Expressway through the South Bronx, is closer to being torn down.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Shopping Malls Using High Tech to Help You Find a Parking Space

During the holiday season, I start thinking a lot about retail parking. It is only during this time of year when the sea of asphalt around most malls and shopping centers fills up.

Meandering through a parking deck or lot trolling for a space wastes gas, causes pollution, and diminishes the shopping experience. With shopping centers earning 40% of their annual sales during the six weeks leading to Christmas, they have a strong incentive to make sure customers have a parking space when they arrive.

Malls are now using electronic signage, smart phone apps, and even Twitter to ease the pain of trying to find a spot.

Read about it in the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mass Transit Incentive to be Cut While Parking Incentive Stays the Same

Obscured in the debate over whether to extend the payroll tax cut is the possible loss of an incentive to take mass transit. If Congress takes no action (and it appears it won't), the tax-free fringe benefit for taking mass transit will be cut in half, while the benefit for driving to work stays the same. That sends a bad message.

Currently, your employer can give you up to $230/month pre-tax to cover your mass transit costs, the same as they can give you to pay to park your car. The transit benefit is set to go back down to $120 on January 1. That's where it was before the stimulus bill increased it to its current level. Granted, a monthly subway pass in many cities is less than $120 ($95 in Atlanta, $104 in New York City), but the monthly expense for commuter trains like the Long Island Railroad can run hundreds of dollars. The bottom line is cutting a benefit for commuting while leaving the parking benefit the same sends exactly the wrong message when policies should be encouraging people to leave their cars at or near their home.