Market Urbanism http://marketurbanism.com Liberalizing cities | From the bottom up Fri, 07 Dec 2018 20:56:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 https://i2.wp.com/marketurbanism.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cropped-Market-Urbanism-icon.png?fit=32%2C32 Market Urbanism http://marketurbanism.com 32 32 3505127 Market Urbanism MUsings December 7th 2018 http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/07/market-urbanism-musings-december-5th-2018/ http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/07/market-urbanism-musings-december-5th-2018/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 20:56:25 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10523 1. Recently at Market Urbanism: Two Cheers for PHIMBY by Michael Lewyn One alternative to market urbanism that has received a decent amount of press coverage is the PHIMBY (Public Housing In My Back Yard) movement.  PHIMBYs (or at least the most extreme PHIMBYs) believe that market-rate housing fails to reduce housing costs and may even […]

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1. Recently at Market Urbanism:

Two Cheers for PHIMBY by Michael Lewyn

One alternative to market urbanism that has received a decent amount of press coverage is the PHIMBY (Public Housing In My Back Yard) movement.  PHIMBYs (or at least the most extreme PHIMBYs) believe that market-rate housing fails to reduce housing costs and may even lead to gentrification and displacement.  Their alternative is to build massive amounts of public housing.

New and Noteworthy: Randy Shaw’s Generation Priced Out by Michael Lewyn

In Generation Priced Out, housing activist Randy Shaw writes a book about the rent crisis for non-experts.  Shaw’s point of view is that of a left-wing YIMBY: that is, he favors allowing lots of new market-rate housing, but also favors a variety of less market-oriented policies to prevent displacement of low-income renters (such as rent control, and more generally policies that make it difficult to evict tenants)

“Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities” Out Today by Nolan Gray

Alain Bertaud’s long awaited book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, is out today. Bertaud is a senior research scholar at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and former principle urban planner at the World Bank.

“Order Without Design”, a new guide to urban planning by Anthony Ling

This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. This is how Jane Jacobs opened her 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. It wouldn’t be an inappropriate opener for Alain Bertaud’s upcoming “Order Without Design”.

2. Also by Market Urbanists:

Nolan Gray‘s viral tweet critiquing local control of land use:

Emily Hamilton at the Washington Post: “Amazon’s arrival requires smarter housing in Arlington

Alain Bertaud and Nobel Prize winner Paul Romer discuss Alain’s new book.


3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Matt Robare at New UrbsHyperlocal Zoning Can Reset London—and American Politics

Randy Shaw wroteWill Cities Learn from the Ghost Ship Tragedy?

Matt Robare wrote: What’s next for the MBTA?

Roger Valdez at FREOPExpanding Housing Supply is a Civil Rights Issue

Tom Burroughs states: “One reason I dislike the land tax idea is that it plays on the idea that we only really own land at the sufferance of the state.”

Via Joe Wolf: Developer’s plan for riverfront would change St. Paul skyline

Via Carl Webb: Cities Can Save $17 Trillion by Preventing Urban Sprawl

Via Bruce Powell Majors: How Local Housing Regulations Smother the U.S. Economy

Via Michael Hamilton: The US Housing Boom is Coming to an End, Starting in Dallas

Via Brian David: Pay Toilets Are Illegal in Much of the U.S. They Shouldn’t Be.

Via Fred Foldvary: America’s Urban Land is Worth a Staggering Amount

Via Anthony Ling: A Fifth of China’s Homes Are Empty. That’s 50 Million Apartments

Via Len Conly: Car Culture Cements Suburban Unsustainability

Via Carl Webb: Capitalism Can’t Give us Affordable Housing

Via Michael Burns: Exclusive: Airbnb will start designing houses in 2019

Via Mark Frazier: What’s Really Happening to Retail?

Via Joe Wolf: Uber is Headed for a Crash

Via Adam Zielinski: Don’t Blame California’s Poop Crisis on Capitalism

Via Roger ValdezSeattle is flirting with disaster” with mandatory affordable housing

4. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

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“Order Without Design”, a new guide to urban planning http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/05/order-without-design-a-new-guide-to-urban-planning/ http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/05/order-without-design-a-new-guide-to-urban-planning/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 10:33:27 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10542 This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. This is how Jane Jacobs opened her 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. It wouldn’t be an inappropriate opener for Alain Bertaud’s upcoming “Order Without Design”. While Jacobs was an observer of how cities work and a contributor to new […]

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This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. This is how Jane Jacobs opened her 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. It wouldn’t be an inappropriate opener for Alain Bertaud’s upcoming “Order Without Design”.

While Jacobs was an observer of how cities work and a contributor to new concepts in urban economics, Bertaud goes a step further. His book brings economic logic and quantitative analysis to guide urban planning decision-making, colored by a hands-on, 55-year career as a global urban planner. His conclusion? The urban planning practice is oblivious to the economic effects of their decisions, and eventually creates unintended consequences to urban development. His goal with this book is to bring economics as an important tool to the urban planning profession, and to bring economists closer to the practical challenge of working with cities.

Maybe you have not heard about Alain Bertaud before: at the time I am writing this article, he has only a few articles published online, no Wikipedia page or Twitter account, and some lectures on YouTube – and nothing close to a TED talk. The reason is that instead of working on becoming a public figure, Bertaud was actually doing work on the ground, helping cities in all continents tackle their urban development problems. His tremendous experience makes this book that delves into urban economics surprisingly exhilarating. As an example, Bertaud shows a 1970 photo from when he was tracing new streets in Yemen using a Land Rover and the help of two local assistants who look 12 years old at most, a depiction of a real-life Indiana Jones of urban planning.

In this book, mainstream urban planning “buzzwords” such as Transit-Oriented Development, Inclusionary Zoning, Smart Growth and Urban Growth Boundaries are challenged with economic analysis, grounded on empirical observations on how cities work in real life, despite what planners aim to create. Frequently mentioning about the unavoidable effects of supply and demand, Bertaud reminds us that command economies such as the USSR or China have failed many years ago and embraced markets for the allocation of resources, but for some reason that has been ignored by the urban planning field. “Planning future land use while ignoring the predictable land value based on location makes no more sense than trying to ignore gravity when designing an airplane” is one of his many claims in this direction.

According to Bertaud, markets are efficient in the production and allocation of private buildings such as housing and commercial real estate. From regulating minimum building standards to “masterplans” for urban growth, the attempt to “design” a city is not only futile but also have the worst consequences for the poor. Scrap masterplans that are only revised every 10 years with old databases: urban planners should become city managers that track urban KPIs on a daily basis, such as prices and quantities of housing, population density and speed of different modes of transportation. The role of planners should then “be limited to fixing streets rights-of-way and designing transport systems that serve the shape and densities created by markets.”

As authors such as Sanford Ikeda and Nolan Gray have pointed out, “Death and Life” and the work of Jane Jacobs was mostly a description of the emergent order of cities, and maybe a prelude to Bertaud’s new book. Unfortunately, current urban planners have interpreted “Death and Life” as a design manual: for example, Jacobs said that she viewed mixed income buildings as contributors to urban life, so we ended up with regulations mandating or incentivizing mixed income buildings. Thanks to her work, many planners today stopped designing strict zoning between commercial and residential or advocating for rent control, but adopted “lighter” but still pervasive regulations on “mixed use” or “inclusionary zoning”. “Order Without Design” makes the point of the emergent order of cities clearer and more defensible, and I hope that in the next fifty years it is able to be as relevant as “Death and Life” was from its release until today.

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“Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities” Out Today http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/04/order-without-design-how-markets-shape-cities-out-today/ http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/04/order-without-design-how-markets-shape-cities-out-today/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 17:15:18 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10532 Alain Bertaud’s long awaited book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, is out today. Bertaud is a senior research scholar at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and former principle urban planner at the World Bank. Working through a pre-release copy over the past few weeks, I can confidently say that the book is an instant […]

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Alain Bertaud’s long awaited book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, is out today. Bertaud is a senior research scholar at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and former principle urban planner at the World Bank.

Working through a pre-release copy over the past few weeks, I can confidently say that the book is an instant classic of the urban planning genre, and will be of significant special interest to market urbanists in particular. Rare among writers in this space, Bertaud brings an architect’s eye, an economist’s mind, and a planner’s experience to contemporary urban issues, producing a text that is theoretically enriching and practically useful.

Alain and Marie-Agnes—his wife and research partner—have lived in worked in over a half-dozen cities all over the world, from Sana’a to Paris to San Salvador to Bangkok. For the reader, this means that Bertaud can speak from experience, supplementing data and theory with entertaining, real world examples and war stories.

Order your copy today!

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New and Noteworthy: Randy Shaw’s Generation Priced Out http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/20/new-and-noteworthy-randy-shaws-generation-priced-out/ http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/20/new-and-noteworthy-randy-shaws-generation-priced-out/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 19:05:52 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10500 In Generation Priced Out, housing activist Randy Shaw writes a book about the rent crisis for non-experts.  Shaw’s point of view is that of a left-wing YIMBY: that is, he favors allowing lots of new market-rate housing, but also favors a variety of less market-oriented policies to prevent displacement of low-income renters (such as rent […]

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In Generation Priced Out, housing activist Randy Shaw writes a book about the rent crisis for non-experts.  Shaw’s point of view is that of a left-wing YIMBY: that is, he favors allowing lots of new market-rate housing, but also favors a variety of less market-oriented policies to prevent displacement of low-income renters (such as rent control, and more generally policies that make it difficult to evict tenants).

What I liked most about this breezy, easy-to-read book is that it rebuts a wide variety of anti-housing arguments. For example, NIMBYs sometimes argue that new housing displaces affordable older housing. But Shaw shows that NIMBY homeowners oppose apartment buildings even when this is not the case; apartments built on parking lots and vacant lots are often controversial. For example, in Venice, California, NIMBYs opposed “building 136 supportive housing units for low-income people on an unsightly city-owned parking lot.”

NIMBYs may argue that new housing will always be for the rich. But Shaw cites numerous examples of NIMBYs opposing public housing for the poor as well as market-rate housing for the middle and upper classes.

NIMBYs also claim that they seek to protect their communities should be protected against skyscrapers or other unusually large buildings. But Shaw shows that NIMBYs have fought even the smallest apartment buildings. For example, in Berkeley, NIMBYs persuaded the city to reject a developer’s plan to add only three houses to a lot.

On the other hand, market urbanists may disagree with Shaw’s advocacy of a wide variety of policies that he refers to as “tenant protections” such as rent control, inclusionary zoning, increased code enforcement, and generally making it difficult to evict tenants.   All of these policies make it more difficult and/or expensive to be a landlord, thus creating costs that may either be passed on to tenants or discourage entry into the housing market.

In addition, I wish Shaw had included a little more data.  He does cite a useful statistic here and there,* but I wish he had included some sort of table comparing high-cost cities’ levels of housing construction to those of cheaper cities.

*My favorite: the San Francisco area added over 500,000 new jobs during the 2010s but only 76,000 housing units.

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Two Cheers for PHIMBY http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/20/two-cheers-for-phimby/ http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/20/two-cheers-for-phimby/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 16:18:06 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10497 One alternative to market urbanism that has received a decent amount of press coverage is the PHIMBY (Public Housing In My Back Yard) movement.  PHIMBYs (or at least the most extreme PHIMBYs) believe that market-rate housing fails to reduce housing costs and may even lead to gentrification and displacement.  Their alternative is to build massive […]

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One alternative to market urbanism that has received a decent amount of press coverage is the PHIMBY (Public Housing In My Back Yard) movement.  PHIMBYs (or at least the most extreme PHIMBYs) believe that market-rate housing fails to reduce housing costs and may even lead to gentrification and displacement.  Their alternative is to build massive amounts of public housing.

On the positive side, PHIMBYism, if implemented, would increase the housing supply and lower housing costs, especially for the poor who would be served by new public housing.   And because there is certainly ample consumer demand for new housing, PHIMBYism would be more responsive to consumer preferences than the zoning status quo (which privileges the interests of owners of existing homes over those of renters and would-be future homeowners).

But PHIMBYism is even more politically impossible than market urbanism.

Market urbanists just want to eliminate zoning codes that prevent new housing from being built- a heavy lift in the political environment of recent decades.  But PHIMBYs want to override the same zoning codes, AND find the land for new public housing (which often will require liberal use of eminent domain by local governments), AND find the taxpayer money to build that new public housing, AND find the taxpayer money to maintain that housing forever.  And to make matters worse, the old leftist remedy of raising taxes on the rich might be inadequate to fund enough housing, because the same progressives who are willing to spend more money on housing also want to spend more public money on a wide variety of other priorities, thus making it difficult to find the money for housing.

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Market Urbanism MUsings November 16, 2018 http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/16/market-urbanism-musings/ Fri, 16 Nov 2018 15:38:59 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10443 1. Recently at Market Urbanism: Three Policies for Making Driverless Cars Work for Cities by Emily Hamilton To avoid repeating mistakes of the past, policymakers should create rules that neither subsidize AVs nor give them carte blanche over government-owned rights-of-way. Multiple writers have pointed out that city policymakers should actively be designing policy for the driverless […]

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Long Island City – One one of the locations Amazon chose for HQ2

1. Recently at Market Urbanism:

Three Policies for Making Driverless Cars Work for Cities by Emily Hamilton

To avoid repeating mistakes of the past, policymakers should create rules that neither subsidize AVs nor give them carte blanche over government-owned rights-of-way. Multiple writers have pointed out that city policymakers should actively be designing policy for the driverless future, but few have spelled out concrete plans for successful driverless policy in cities. Here are three policies that urban policymakers should begin experimenting with right away in anticipation of AVs.

Rent Control Makes It Harder to Vote with Your Feet by Gary Galles

devolving political power to lower level governments does not serve citizens’ rights when it comes to rent control, because rent control paralyzes owners’ ability to escape imposed burdens by voting with their feet.

2. Also by Market Urbanism writers:

Nolan Gray at Citylab: Voters Said No in California, but Other States Have Rent Control Battles Looming

Michael Lewyn at Planetizen: The Lincoln Park Story (On Daniel Hertz new book on the gentrification of the Chicago neighborhood)

Michael Lewyn at PlanetizenNew Urbanists and New Housing (about the friendly-but-troubled Market Urbanist/New Urbanist relationship)

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Roger Valdez for Forbes: How To End The ‘Housing Crisis’

Roger Valdez for Forbes: HQ2 Frontlash Begins: The Answer Is More Housing, Some Built By Amazon

Isabella Chu asks: Are people equally concerned about how to bring jobs to the once flourishing and housing rich older cities of the northeast?

Anthony Ling asks: What are your thoughts on Richard Florida’s petition against Amazon HQ2’s “auction”?

Via Joe Wolf: Seattle’s Most Influential People 2018: The YIMBYs

Via Mirza Ahmed: Paid parking could be coming to Tacoma Dome Station

Via Elizabeth Connor: Why we should pay more for parking

Via Robert Wilson: At “Eleventh Hour,” City Rejects Tiny Home Village Plan to Relocate to TAXI Campus

Via Sandy Ikeda: The Irresistible Urge to Build Cities From Scratch

Via Rahul Kanwar: Florida Mayor Accused of Requesting Sex in Exchange for Speed Bumps

Via Carl Webb: Re-Habit: Transforming Abandoned Big-Box Retailers to Housing for Homeless

Via Michael Lewyn: Why’s the Rent So High for New Apartments in Seattle?

Via Tom W. Bell: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – NIMBY

Via Mirza Amhed: Prop. 10: California rent control expansion defeated

Via Adam Hengels: Why road pricing is inherently equitable: Faster buses

Via Len Conly: For a More Walkable City, Replace Signals with All-Way Stops

Via Lachlan Holmes: No, rent control doesn’t always reduce the supply of housing

Via Adam Hengels: The myth of revealed preference for suburbs

Via Eric Fontaine: 81 Percent of Homes in the San Francisco Metro Area Are Worth More Than $1 Million. That’s Not Normal.

5. Stephen Smith‘s Tweet of the Week.

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Rent Control Makes It Harder to Vote with Your Feet http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/16/rent-control-harder-vote-with-feet/ Fri, 16 Nov 2018 13:00:09 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=9355 One advantage of a federal system is enabling people ill-treated by one government body to “vote with their feet” toward less abusive jurisdictions. That escape valve is one rationale for reserving some political policy determination for state rather than national government, or to local rather than state government. However, devolving political power to lower level […]

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One advantage of a federal system is enabling people ill-treated by one government body to “vote with their feet” toward less abusive jurisdictions. That escape valve is one rationale for reserving some political policy determination for state rather than national government, or to local rather than state government. However, devolving political power to lower level governments does not serve citizens’ rights when it comes to rent control, because rent control paralyzes owners’ ability to escape imposed burdens by voting with their feet.

Virtually every rent control story focuses on local government policies. Less well known, however, is that a majority of states actually ban or restrict local governments’ power to impose rent control. And currently, in at least four states (California, Oregon, Washington, and Illinois), those restrictions are under attack. Municipalities want power they are currently denied so they can impose rent control, supposedly to give local citizens “what they want.” That raises the question of whether rent control policy should be vested at the state level or the local level.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Local Governance

In many circumstances, the option to vote with your feet favors local governance. It is generally less costly to leave a small local government jurisdiction whose benefits are not worth the cost, than it is to leave a similarly bad state government jurisdiction. By the same token, it is less costly to leave a state than it is to leave the country. The enhanced exit options provided at a more local level may better protect citizens’ rights.

Citizens’ ability to cheaply leave smaller jurisdictions more tightly limits government’s ability to use them as cash cows rather than serve them better. This is true of sales and income taxes, for example. Dissatisfied residents can avoid those burdens by going somewhere with lower tax rates. However, the same is not true of rent control.

Rent control is immune from owners’ escaping by voting with their feet, which is the usual basis for preferring local political determination. Owners can move away, but if they maintain ownership of their property, they are still forced to bear the reduced earnings caused by government interference. If they sell their property, they bear the burden of a lower sales price. Consequently, even selling your property and leaving the jurisdiction provides no escape from its burdens.

Why would we expect to see rent control in majority-renter cities? Renters greatly outnumber rental property owners, so they have the votes to determine majority outcomes. Many of the far-outnumbered rental property owners cannot even vote on the issue. By stripping owners of much of their properties’ value, local majority power can provide renters with the greatest wealth transfer possible – often involving several hundred or even thousands of dollars in rent each month as compared to free-market prices. And given that rent controls give residents virtual tenure for as long as they choose to stay, that wealth transfer can reach well into six digits for a renter.

So, imposing rent controls in majority-renter municipalities targets the property rights of owners who cannot protect themselves by voting with their feet, and transfers very large monetary gains to the only group that benefits – people who are renting when price controls are adopted. Current renters get to vote, but prospective future tenants, who will be harmed by the reduced supply of available rental housing that results, obviously cannot vote. This is also true of renters in neighboring jurisdictions whose costs rise due to the reduced regional supply of rental units.

In other words, rent control guarantees that current renters in a municipality can vote themselves huge amounts of money out of outnumbered owners’ pockets, while the far larger number of those harmed – renters in nearby areas and those who will search for housing there in the future but find no vacancies – cannot even vote on the issue. It is piracy by local plebiscite.

State Governance Is the Right Governance

Those who would be harmed get to vote at the state level.

That is why, unlike many other areas of governance, state-level determination of rent control policy may protect citizens’ rights and well-being better than local determination. Those who would be harmed get to vote at the state level. State-level determination allows owners who face robbery to more effectively unite against it. Even government officials outside the local municipality who face falling tax revenue from the reduced construction and income that results from rent control’s disincentives get a voice, rather than being ignored under local determination. The result is that citizens may be better served by making it harder for local renters to form a political juggernaut that can steamroll others’ rights and well-being at the state level.

It is important to note that state determination is no guarantee of appropriate rental housing policy. After all, a state could impose rent controls on every municipal area in the state. However, a statewide ban on rent control is perfectly consistent with the essential job of government – to protect individuals and their property against force and fraud. State prohibition of grand theft auto, regardless of the municipality, better protects residents. So would state prohibition of the grand theft, housing, which rent control represents.

Gary M. Galles


Gary M. Galles

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Three Policies for Making Driverless Cars Work for Cities http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/06/three-policies-for-making-driverless-cars-work-for-cities/ Tue, 06 Nov 2018 17:20:01 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10257 Some urbanists have become skeptical about the future of autonomous vehicles even as unstaffed, autonomous taxis are now serving customers in Phoenix and Japan. Others worry that AVs, if they are ever deployed widely, will make cities worse. Angie Schmitt posits that allowing AVs in cities without implementing deliberate pro-urban policies first will exacerbate the […]

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Some urbanists have become skeptical about the future of autonomous vehicles even as unstaffed, autonomous taxis are now serving customers in Phoenix and Japan. Others worry that AVs, if they are ever deployed widely, will make cities worse. Angie Schmitt posits that allowing AVs in cities without implementing deliberate pro-urban policies first will exacerbate the problems of cars in urban areas. However, cars themselves aren’t to blame for the problems they’ve caused in cities. Policymakers created rules that dedicated public space to cars and prioritized ease of driving over other important goals. Urbanists should be optimistic about the arrival of AVs because urbanist policy goals will be more politically tenable when humans are not behind the wheel.

To avoid repeating mistakes of the past, policymakers should create rules that neither subsidize AVs nor give them carte blanche over government-owned rights-of-way. Multiple writers have pointed out that city policymakers should actively be designing policy for the driverless future, but few have spelled out concrete plans for successful driverless policy in cities. Here are three policies that urban policymakers should begin experimenting with right away in anticipation of AVs.

Price Roadways
Perhaps the biggest concern AVs present for urbanists is that they may increase demand for sprawl. AVs may drastically reduce highway commute times over a given distance through platooning, and if people find their trips in AVs to be time well-spent, when they can work, relax, or sleep, they may be willing to accept even more time-consuming commutes than they do today. As the burden of commuting decreases, they reason, people will travel farther to work. However, the looming increase in sprawl would be due in large part to subsidized roads, not AVs themselves. If riders would have to fully internalize the cost of using road space, they would think twice before moving to far flung suburbs.

Now is the time for cities and states to implement congestion pricing policies to manage the demand for scarce road space. Congestion pricing programs in Virginia and London provide potential models. And Singapore provides a model of using congestion pricing not just for highways, but arterial roads as well. Broad-based pricing for road space would encourage a ridesharing model rather than individually-owned AVs, allowing riders to spread the cost of road use over multiple passengers.

In downtown areas, the arrival of AVs will mean a from curbside parking to curbside loading zones. And just as underpriced curbside parking contributes to congestion by causing drivers to cruise for parking, passengers getting in and out of cars will cause traffic if curb space is priced too low. City policymakers should begin exploring options for reallocating curbside parking to loading zones and pricing curb space for short stops. Washington, DC has already started a trial program.

Donald Shoup’s principles for managing curb parking apply to pick ups and drop offs as well; policymakers should set prices high enough so that there’s at least one available pick up/drop-off spot on each block at all times. Since taxis, rideshare vehicles, and delivery trucks are currently the primary users of short-term curb services, cities could begin enforcing prices just for these vehicles using a payment mechanism like EZ-Pass.

Adopt Shared Streets
The adoption of driverless technology presents an opportunity to reform policies designed to support car traffic in dense urban areas at the expense of other road users. Stephen Smith pointed out years ago that AVs will struggle to move in areas that are crowded with pedestrians because walkers will lose their fear of being hit if they step out into slow-moving traffic. Without drastic changes to pedestrian traffic rule enforcement, pedestrians may take over the streets in areas where sidewalks are crowded and in places where there’s a steady stream of people crossing streets. And that’s wonderful! It provides an opportunity to return busy city streets to multi-use spaces that are safe for all types of road users.

Absent policy intervention, driverless cars — or just widespread automatic braking — could turn streets with lots of pedestrians and cyclists into de facto woonerfs. A key promise from AV boosters is that time spent in AVs can be time spent working or doing something fun, so there should be less need to speed AVs through urban areas relative to cars today. AVs are not yet at woonerf-level navigation ability — they would probably come to a complete standstill in a crowded woonerf rather than moving at a walking pace. But testing in San Francisco and Tokyo shows that more difficult environments for navigation may not be far behind.

Cities should ramp up experimentation with shared streets and pedestrian-only streets now to begin determining how to adapt their bus systems to having some streets where traffic moves at a walking pace. Solutions could include grade-separated bus lanes within otherwise shared streets, or rerouting buses to major arterials that have lower pedestrian density.

Most potential woonerfs are in large cities or vacation destinations, and they’re disproportionately in Manhattan. New York policymakers in particular should continue their woonerf and car-free pilots and should plan to adapt public transit accordingly. Places that should begin experimenting with woonerfs outside New York include Georgetown and Chinatown in DC, the French Quarter and Marigny in New Orleans, and State Street in Chicago.

The vast majority of American streets do not have crowded sidewalks or even a steady stream of pedestrians. Without drastic changes to land use, they won’t be reasonable candidates for woonerfs. In these places where pedestrians are sparse, today’s traffic laws may continue working fine even with widespread adoption of driverless cars. Without high pedestrian density, AVs will generally be able to proceed when they have the green light.

Eliminate Parking Requirements and Auction Public Parking
Parking is one of the biggest obstacles to walkabiltity in American cities. With AVs, it will be possible to dramatically reduce car storage in urban areas. Rather than parking when not in use, autonomous ridesharing cars can continuously drop off and pick up passengers. Individuals who own AVs can send them home while they’re at work or to a far flung parking lot that doesn’t take up space in an urban core. Simultaneously eliminating the dead space in parking lots and parking garages and adding more urban residents and destinations would dramatically increase walkability.

Parking requirements — ill-advised at any time — are particularly damaging in a time when it’s foreseeable that parking cars in center cities will continue becoming less important. Now is the time for municipalities to eliminate parking requirements and to sell off city-owned parking for potential redevelopment. Requiring new buildings, with lifespans of several decades, to include space for car storage in places where real estate is valuable is mandating an enormous waste of space and resources as demand for parking decreases.

The private sector is already developing podium parking that is designed to be converted to indoor space once their buildings require fewer parking spaces. Developers are aware that their customers in center cities will increasingly use transportation options other than driving their own cars, and they are building space with the hope of being able to take advantage of reduced parking requirements in the future.

Eliminating parking requirements and selling off government-owned parking lots and garages is the simplest change cities can make right now to for adaptation to a world with less parking and much less center city parking. The introduction of AVs will give policymakers another shot to get this right when they’ll face less constituent pressure for convenient parking.

Driverless Politics
There are a few reasons to believe that the switch to driverless will move politics in a pro-urban direction. The legal system will likely take deaths, injuries, and property damage caused by autonomous vehicles much more seriously than it takes those caused by human drivers. Courts have failed consistently to hold drivers responsible for killing other road users through negligence or reckless driving. Because most judges and jurors drive cars, they can easily imagine themselves in the position of having injured or killed a pedestrian or cyclist. As a consequence, drivers rarely face criminal charges or even traffic tickets for their actions, and victims and their families rarely receive the type of compensation they could expect if their injuries came from a negligent corporation.

While autonomous vehicles are forecast to be much safer than human drivers, some rate of collisions will remain inevitable. But judges, juries and policymakers will be unlikely to show software or car companies anything like the leniency they’ve shown human drivers. After an Uber test car in autonomous mode hit a pedestrian in Phoenix, Arizona state policymakers banned the company from further testing. If a human had been at fault, they likely would have faced no consequences.

Similar politics may help deprioritize the speed of AV traffic in densely populated areas. When drivers are no longer behind the wheel, or even in their own car, politicians and citizens will likely be more open to ideas to level the playing field between cars and other forms of transportation. Cliff Winston and Quentin Karpilow point out that during the period of technological upheaval, when many people will be transitioning from paying for their own car to paying for ridesharing, is a politically opportune time to introduce congestion pricing with the least opposition.

Regardless of the AV industry’s progression, there’s little to now downside risk in pricing roads, trying out woonerfs, and eliminating parking requirements. With these policies in place, AVs present an opportunity to move toward urbanist goals and more walkable cities.

The post Three Policies for Making Driverless Cars Work for Cities appeared first on Market Urbanism.

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