Lessons from North Texas

The parking situation disaster at Cowboys Stadium that I wrote about last week is actually teaching some valuable real-world lessons about design and transportation.

(from Wikipedia)

Here's the thing.. it's become such a expectation in Texas that parking be "free" everywhere (by free, of course I mean subsidized by someone else) that charging drivers directly for the privilege is seen as some sort of earth-shattering outrage. Take a look at this whiny and obnoxious piece from Drew Magary of NBC-DFW:
Parking. It’s one of those secret, forgot-you-were-going-to-have-to-pay-it-until-you-have-to-pay-it expenses that slowly drains your will to live and often keeps you from venturing outside of your house and into the greater world at large. I particularly despise parking because it comes at the end of your journey, when you have, in theory, arrived at your destination. Only you haven’t. You gotta find a spot, and you gotta pay dearly for it. And if you’re going to see the Cowboys this fall, you’re really going to pay dearly for it.

[There are] 115,000 potential people in place, at a stadium that has precisely 12,000 spaces on site, all of which cost up to $75 each. There are an additional 18,000 spots within a mile of the new digs, also costing between $50 and $75... You could carpool, but that’s for dirty treehuggers.
I imagine that this author might balk at the idea of public transit providing service to the new stadium. It's hard for anyone who would never use it to see any value. But there is value, potentially incredible value, both to those who would use the service and those who still prefer to drive and park. If a fraction of the Cowboy's fans took transit from Dallas to Cowboys games, that could shift the demand curve for parking spaces to the left (by how much I'm not positive), making life better (read: cheaper) for those who wish to drive and park. But they can't - Dallas cannot provide any transit options thanks to local politics.

Regardless, this is not an entirely far-fetched idea. People take DART to Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars games, even though parking is cheaper and (I believe) more plentiful (on a parking per seat basis). I know, I know.. football is a different beast than other sports, and I would never expect a majority of fans to take transit to an NFL game, especially not a Cowboys game, but even a fraction of total fans would be enough to make a difference.

The point can really be applied beyond sports to any city. How much traffic would there be in New York City if nobody rode the subway? How much more would parking cost in Washington, DC if everyone who worked there had to park a car? What would Portland look like if nobody rode a bike? The answers to these questions are unknown and counter-factual. But the point is this: if you are a driver in any one of those cities; never once use public transit or get on a bike or walk anywhere in your life, your experience as a driver would be a lot worse if everyone started living the same way.


    I take it biking to the game would be out of the question for that author?

    Here in Columbus, OH we have a local group-Pedal Instead-who provides free bike parking at area events, festivals and our college football games. It's a pretty easy model for other cities to emulate: just some scrap metal welded into frames, some plastic fencing to mark off the corral and some hardcore volunteers. Bike parking is always free for these events, with a tip jar to encourage small donations.

    On September 30, 2009 Dirty Tree Hugger said...

    Call the whaaambulance!

    The article says the city will provide extra parking but it's a whopping 1.2 miles away! (my six year old walks that far to return library books) Only dirty tree huggers could survive such a hike!

    On October 01, 2009 Anonymous said...

    Biking is out of the question for the overwhelming majority of people in the 9000+ sq miles of the DFW metroplex. Just too far on too many not remotely bike friendly roads.

    Both Dallas and Ft Worth have pretty extensive bus service and expanding light rail. But Arlington, which sits in the middle and is where the stadium is located, has to this point voted to not participate and doesn't have any kind of public transportation.

    So, while I agree that whining about walking a mile from a parking place is lame, there really is no other option to get there other than to drive.

    Not excusing, just observing as someone who lives in the area.

    On October 01, 2009 Anonymous said...

    The guy is a humor writer for Deadspin and KSK.
    An example of his work is a weekly column called the Thursday Dick Joke and Football Jamboroo.


    I don't think this author of this post should have taken what he wrote at face value.


    Let's not paint knuckle-dragging football fans with the same broad brush with which he paints us dirty treehuggers, here. Look at St. Louis - terrible, terrible football team for several years, rather conservative area politically; yet, thousands of Rams fans take the light rail to the game every week. If you build it, they will ride it. Yes, people still drive & tailgate; but the need for parking around the Rams dome is vastly less because of public transit; and people who never otherwise use transit use it on football Sundays. Some even decide they like it, and use it more frequently, due to their exposure to the light rail for Rams and Cardinals games.

    So even us NFL-loving troglodytes can appreciate transit, when it's in the right place at the right time.