Saturday, May 7, 2011

Peds vs. Scooters

The Taipei Times reports that DPP city councilors are upset that the city government isn't making up for scooter parking lost to expanding sidewalks for pedestrians. One city councilor claims to support improving the pedestrian environment while still criticizing the reduction in parking space. While superficially reasonable, the councilor's position is as contradictory as saying you support peace but wouldn't mind bombing Iraq.
This is because space is a limited resource, and its use is zero-sum. Sure the city could build off-street parking lots, but any space used for parking lots is space not used for apartments, stores, and offices-- in other words, off-street parking lots will increase rents because the supply of space available for non-parking uses will decrease. The DPP councilors further argue that parking is a "right", but I see no reason why that should be so, especially since it negatively effects the
lives of Taipei's many non-drivers, including poor people who would be able to move just a little closer to Taipei's city center if more space was given to apartments. More space devoted to parking will also lessen sprawl, since there will be less need for people and businesses to locate further from Taipei's center.
Furthermore, the areas where illegally parked scooters are being ticketed are all close to MRT stations and innumerable bus lines, and will only become more accessible as the MRT opens several major extensions over the next five years. Many of the people driving scooters into these areas could probably just as well take public transit for at least the last leg of their journey. In fact reducing parking as public transit expands is exactly what Taipei should do: new public transit lines makes public transport more convenient for a large number of drivers, and will replace the transportation capacity lost with the reduction of parking places.
Finally, reducing parking is better for the environment and public health. Providing free parking subsidizes
driving, since one of the major costs of driving is space for storing vehicles. If you provide free parking it will become more cost-effective for some people to drive, which will in turn increase air pollution- oh, and quicken global warming. Providing more space for walking (and biking!) makes walking and biking safer and more pleasant, which in turn makes both more appealing to more people. While it might seem that walking can't replace scooters, walking is a necessary complement to public transit- you have to walk to stations before you can get on the bus or train.
I look forward to seeing widened sidewalks not blocked by scooters. Hopefully someday they'll get to Shida Road, and I won't have to be forced into the street and worry about the 74 slamming into my back when I return home on weekend evenings.


Boyd R. Jones said...

Hmmm.... It seems that some DPP politicos are not enlightened progressives... Sometimes I wonder if there is much difference at all between the KMT and DPP.

J said...

Politics in Taiwan is so focused on national identity that each party's position on other issues is either unclear or unstable. That said these DPP politicians probably think they're protecting the interests of common people, much like suburban pro-car Democrats in New York.