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He raises a good point. Why should government be subsidizing parking facilities of any sort in the first place? If we really want to solve the traffic problems in the DC area which are mostly caused by cars), we should stop giving people incentives to drive in (and within) the city. The federal government has programs for its employees that allow them to pay for commuting costs with pre-tax dollars. This give people the incentive to live far from work, contributing to sprawl. Cycling advocates get caught up in this by asking for their fair share of the local transporation pork.

What does he think of on street parking on street that are built with tax dollars? Is that any different from a parking garage?

John, it's not unreasonable for an employer (in this case the government) to subsidize its employees transportation costs. Personally I agree that instead of just trying to subsidize all transportation equally, we should just tax parking benefits - but I think we all know the chances of that change happening.

Of course that isn't his point. His point is that governments shouldn't pay for parking to support a private enterprise. A point I actually agree with. But I just don't like that he lumps the Bike Station into that group or that he calls it a bike rack when he knows that is inaccurate.

It makes sense for government to tax/subsidize different transportation modes to capture externalities. Unfortunately, right now we subsidize driving by quite a bit, mostly through low gas prices, even though it has massive negative externalities. We subsidize cycling by far less, despite the possibility that it's positive externalities (health) might even outweigh it's negatives. The best option would be to stop doing subsidizing driving - and tax it to capture the true cost, but again, not likely. So the best doable option is to try to subsidize cycling to restore the natural order of things.

The DCUSA parking garage was an ultimatum: build it, or Target/BestBuy wouldn't come to the inner city. While it's clearly not utilized as anticipated, the shopping mall is still partly vacant, b/c the Whole Foods backed out and the other grocer can't get financing. Plus, the nearby condo projects are still vacant.

If DCUSA is a boondoggle now, it's partly due the economic cycle, and not the necessarily true when the space is fully leased. But, the DCUSA garage was a necessity for the larger goal of smart growth of bringing big box within walking/shopping distance of DC residents. Not to mention to bring those jobs and taxes to DC residents.

Compare that to the bike station, which may have transportation benefits, but, I think it's hard to find much economic impact.

Pricey little jewel, that bike station.

How about all the sports stadiums financed with tax dollars or afforded various and sundry tax benefits. You could build a lot of bikepaths with that boondoggle money.

It may be that DC acted rationally given the Target ultimatum. I wasn't in the room and I'm not sure that it really was a "build it or we walk" situation. My feeling is that there are other stores, so we shouldn't let anyone hold us hostage. DC has shown a complete unwillingness to walk away from the table. Have they ever? Target? MLB? Home Depot? No. They completely capitulate every time.

Clearly, Target was even dumber than DC though. If those millions were what DC was willing to pay, then they could have asked for something else and now have a useless resource.

Finally, everything is negotiable. DC could have worked out a deal that would lose Target nothing and possible save DC and Target money. Here's how:

1) An independent group produces sales estimates for both the big garage ($A) and the one DC wanted ($B).

2) DC offers to build the small one, saving $X and sets that money aside.

3) If in any year (a) Target sales ($C) are less than $A and (b) the parking garage spends more than 200 hours "full", the shortage is paid out of the money from $X in proportion to the shortage [If $C>$B, then $A-$C. If $C<$B then ($A-$B)*($C/$B)]

4) After 10 years any remaining money is split between the two.

Of course whether this works or not depends on the values for $A, $B and $X.

Why is this surprising? It's the CATO institute. They'd burn down the public library if given half a chance. Some of them are intellectually honest--many are not. This guy seems in the not category.

And as to the constitutional aspect--really? Really? Does anyone want to decide that this parking lot is unconstitutional, and this one is OK? The courts don't. They leave that to the legislatures under a test called rational basis. There is also no such thing as "taxpayer standing"--you dont' have a general right to complain as to how your tax dollars are spent (to a court, anyway). If you don't like it, vote them out. (Plus, DC is exclusively federal land--Congress has the same sort of general police powers here that the states have in their own borders).

I wouldn't take this too seriously. Looks like one of the interns got ahold of the keyboard and went surfing.

We subsidize cycling by far less, despite the possibility that it's positive externalities (health) might even outweigh it's negatives.

Ok - I'll bite on this one. What negative externalities from cycling do you have in mind?

I guess I'm thinking of the need for paved roads or trails; bike parking - and if you think about Amsterdam that can start to take up some real space; and minimal environmental impact of the bike construction, tires, chain grease. Looking at it, my feeling is that I was too conservative in my statement, but I try to avoid being definitive unless I can back it up with some facts.

The DCUSA site was vacant for more than 45 years, including 8 years AFTER the Columbia Heights Metro opened. You can claim pure clarity in hindsight, but the garage, in fact, was an ultimatum. And, no business was desperate to come, especially those like REI and Whole Foods that bailed out.

I'm glad its not a vacant lot like the old convention center.

And, I think your idea is interesting, but think about X, the cost of the smaller garage. You're talking about building underground in the heart of a city, next to a Metro station. Reducing the size 25% doesn't generate 25% cost savings. The big bucks are in trying to build underground in the first place, which is a lot more transit oriented than a huge surface lot.

I detest the righteous monday morning quarterbacking, but in the end, I think the neighborhood retail will fill out, and you're overall point, that we don't need so much parking, will be proven. But that should also should reduce the cost of this boondoggle.

Well, this is a little off topic for the blog but I'll go in a little more.

First, I don't know if a 25% decrease in parking would result in a 25% decrease in cost, which is why I didn't give any idea of the savings. But I do know that building a 20 story building is more than twice as much as a 10 story building because of the increased support features, elevators, stairs etc...The economies of scale actually work in the opposite direction. That's why people usually only build up where land is expensive - otherwise you build out. I would not be surprised if the rule was the same going down.

But to get to my Monday morning quarterbacking, in order to make the case that this was not a bad idea, you have to prove two points

1. That this deal would have fallen apart with anything less than 1000 parking spaces. You say that there was, in fact, an ultimatum, but I can't find a source for that fact. And really it's an unprovable point. If DC had said "800 and no more", we can't really know what would have happened. People do bluff while negotiating.

2. Nothing else as good or nearly as good would have gone there if the deal fell through The spot had been vacant for a long time, but the Metro stop went in only 6.5 years before financing was secured. 6.5 years is not that long. And they'd been negotiating for a while, so it seems like after the Metro, the area became quite desirable. In that same 6.5 years, work had started on 600 residential units, the historic Tivoli Theater had been renovated and the Giant supermarket had opened. Again, we can never know, but it certainly doesn't seem that they had to go begging. NCRC owned this land, and so it wasn't really "on the market" in the classic sense and that can explain some of the reason for the slow movement.

Frankly, I think both Target and DC made a mistake - and I would have said that at the time had I been paying attention. I said the same thing about the Nationals Park parking garages.

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