Tuesday, April 18, 2023

#108 / Remote


Jane Margolies reports, in the March 8, 2023, edition of The New York Times, that cities are "Awash in Asphalt and Mindful of Societal Woes." Because our cities are, indubitably, "awash in asphalt," as Margolies tells us, cities are "rethinking" their parking needs. Margolies is definitely talking about a real issue in land use planning and decision making. It's a big issue, too - and the controversies surrounding efforts to reduce parking requirements for new development have come to my own hometown, Santa Cruz, California. If The Times' paywall lets you do so, the Margolies' article outlines the issues quite well.
There is no doubt in my mind that we do, particularly at the local level, need to pay attention to what sort of provisions for automobile parking we should demand, as new development projects are approved. As I have opined before, I do think changes are needed. We need to reduce the use of single-occupant vehicles (even if all the vehicles could be transformed into "electric" vehicles - as opposed to our current fleet of hydrocarbon-burning autos, which are accelerating the global warming that is putting our human civilization in peril). 

That said, the decisions are not easy ones. Simply providing for many fewer parking places, while allowing new development to proceed otherwise, which is what some advocates are urging, may not really work out very well in real life. It's a "chicken and the egg" kind of problem. If we did the right thing by building 15-minute cities, and if we moved from a system that assumes that every resident will have a personal automobile to convey that one person around wherever she or he wants to go - if we provided real alternatives - then vastly reduced parking requirements in new developments would be a "slam dunk." However, we are not, actually, anywhere near doing that, and development is proceeding apace. To repeat myself, the decisions are not easy ones. 

In her article, Margolies quotes Priscilla Barolo of Carmel, California. Barolo works for Zoom, and she isn't going to need a parking place at her work, she says - or maybe anywhere else, either. Barolo's assertion is that "Remote is going to be my future."

We could build our cities on the basis that "remote" is going to be everybody's future. No one will ever have to travel to some place where they will physically meet with other people. Everything will be "remote." 

Just a caution, here! Zoom, of course, has an economic interest in making sure that we all stay home and stare at our screens, instead of going to work, or going to class, or speaking at a city council meeting - or even when we need groceries (though Zoom hasn't gotten into that market yet, at least as far as I know). 

Do we really want a society that solves our parking dilemma by turning us all into "remote" individuals, isolated individuals, individuals who don't actually have to run across each other in real life?

I say: "NO."

Let's work on the parking issues that confront us. They are very real. But let's not try to solve that problem - or any problem - by eliminating direct, human-to-human contact as we pursue our individual lives. That's both a temptation and a real danger. 
Think about it!
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