Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Life Imitates Me

A couple of years ago, I took a bus from Manhattan to D.C.  As we were just about to go under the Hudson River, I noticed that all the cars around us were like us: taxis, buses, delivery trucks.  There were no private cars.  At that moment, I had a brilliant idea: What if you closed off a city to all traffic except for certain licensed vehicles, like public transportation or taxis and delivery trucks?

I still think about the idea, most commonly when I’m commuting home from work.  (I imagine the press conference, with an almost-chic young reporter standing on the steps of city hall, “Thanks, Tom.  I’m here at Baltimore City Hall where---just today---the city council voted . . . “)  Tonight, I opened up my Baltimore Sun and saw some evidence that other people have had the same idea: “D.C.-area planners crack down on parking: Capacity cut, costs raised to get people out of cars.”  The article concludes by noting that Federal City has reduced its minimum parking requirements in recent years from 4 spots for every 1,000 square feet of retail space to just 1 spot.

I’m generally a fan of public transportation, but I think there are two things to keep in mind.  First, public transportation is either really good (e.g., New York City subway system) or really limited (e.g., Waco, Texas, bus system), and it takes a lot of time and money to get a really good system.  And second, like the right to own property, the right to physically move about (mostly) freely is one of the cornerstones of liberty.  I’m just saying.

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