When his turn at the mic came, Klein delivered a stirring encomium to bold action for a bike-centric city. “We can’t say we want to be more sustainable, but we also want to widen our roads and make it easier to drive, it just doesn’t work that way," he said. “I’ve wanted to be more aggressive over the last few years than we have been."When push comes to shove, people's emotional attachment to their cars is far, far to great to hear the truth. In a place like Washington, where basically everyone is a Democrat and at least nominally committed to "sustainability," there's an even greater attempt to square the circle than in places with a much less liberal population. We want to care about the environment and we want more livable, walkable cities, but we also don't want to be told that we can't own cars and that we have to pay more for parking. And it always comes back to parking! But, like Matt Yglesias points out, no one wants to engage in this kind of self-interested honesty:
Of course the real issue here concerns parking. Currently street parking is priced cheaper than what a free market would bring. That’s a regressive transfer of resources from poor people to rich ones. It also leads to parking space shortages. Rich people in Georgetown (and elsewhere!) would like to hold on to their regressive gains, but they also want to avoid a situation in which shortages become worse. Archer suggests that parking shortages “should be addressed by better management of on-street parking.”Anyway, I think that Klein is toast and that's sad, but maybe Gray will pick someone equally committed to the same goals and willing to push them just as hard.
And I entirely agree. Better management of on-street parking, i.e. market prices, would be a great idea. But while that does solve the scarcity it doesn’t really address the “I’m currently getting an unfair subsidy and I don’t intend to give it up” issue. I think the best path forward would be for reformers to simply acknowledge that people who have these subsidies feel that a right to benefit from bad public policy was one of the things they bought when they bought their home, and for the recipients of the subsidies to acknowledge that they just want what’s theirs and don’t actually care about the rest of it. That would clear the way to a solution, namely a big increase in residential parking permit fees that grandfathers all the incumbents in. That’s not optimal policy by any means, but it would let incumbents obtain their core demands at minimum cost to outsiders.