President Bush's proposed budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might reduce the number of dredging projects, which in turn would decrease the number of accessible waterways. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Some of the nation’s ports could be unusable for transporting commerce if a Presidential budget proposal goes through. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports:
Some of the nation’s ports could be unusable for transporting commerce if a presidential budget proposal goes through. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports:
President Bush has suggested cutting about half a billion dollars from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget. If that happens, the Corps says it might cut dredging projects for the nation’s smaller ports. Dredging removes sediments that naturally collect in waterways.
The process makes them safe for cargo-carrying ships to pass through. Wayne Schloop is the Corps’ chief of operations in Detroit. He says economies in this region depend upon healthy ports.
“I believe it would have a negative effect on the economies because there’s a lot of harbors along the Great Lakes whose local economies are sort of tied into the marine industry and shipping and navigation.”
Schloop says ports that transport less than a million tons of goods a year could be affected. He says that includes about half of the more than 60 commercial ports in the Great Lakes.
Around this time last year, President Bush signed an order to establish the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force and now, a newly-formed coalition wants to help. (Photo courtesy of
Last year, President Bush called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help coordinate clean-up of the Great Lakes. Now a new coalition of conservation and environmental groups says it wants to help with this latest government effort. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has
Last year, President Bush called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help coordinate cleanup of the Great Lakes. Now a new coalition of conservation and environmental groups says it wants to help with this latest government effort. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
The new group calls itself The Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition. It’s headed up by the National Wildlife Federation and the National Parks Conservation Assocation.
Members say they’ll be closely involved in the government’s process of drafting a plan to preserve the Great Lakes. Andy Buchsbaum is a co-chair of the Great Lakes Coalition.
“This is our chance of a decade, and if we don’t get the planning process right this time. It could be another decade before the Great Lakes have a chance to recover from some of the damage that they’ve sustained.”
Last May, President Bush created the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force. It’s composed of federal agencies, as well as state and local authorities. The task force will develop a plan this year to address problems like invasive species, pollution, and coastline damage.
Buchsbaum says for the plan to be a success, Great Lakes preservation needs to become a national cause, not just a regional one.
The Great Lakes Restoration and Protection Strategy is being drafted, but some worry that the meetings being held are more conducive to talking than actual planning. (Photo courtesy of the EPA)
Last year, President George W. Bush ordered federal agencies to work with Great Lakes states, towns, and tribes to design a strategy to restore and protect the Great Lakes. An inter-agency task force is planning a summit this summer to release its plan. But some members of Congress are skeptical. They see the regional collaboration meetings as another chance for government to talk about a problem rather than do something about the problem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Last year, President George W. Bush ordered federal agencies to work with
Great Lakes states, towns, and tribes to design a strategy to restore and
protect the Great Lakes. An inter-agency task force is planning a summit
this summer to release its plan. But some members of Congress are
skeptical. They see the regional collaboration meetings as another chance
for government to talk about a problem rather than do something about the
problem. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
All the different agencies and people are working on the draft of the Great
Lakes Restoration and Protection Strategy right now. It’s scheduled to be
released in July.
When the former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Mike Leavitt
first started talking about the regional plan last summer, he outlined it as
a way to spend tax dollars better.
“We have 140 different programs right now and I’m interested to make certain
we know how those dollars are being spent and that using to them to the maximum
efficiency, then we’ll have a plan, I hope, regionally, as to how to move
But, in the meantime, major funding for some projects has been put on hold. Rahm Emanuel is, to say the least, skeptical of the process. Emanuel is a Member of Congress, a Democrat, from Chicago. He wonders what good this task force ordered by the President will do.
“Well, look. At least there’s an acknowledgement that the Great Lakes, Lake
Michigan and the other Great Lakes, need a focus and a strategy. But, we
know today everything that has to be done and it’s going to require
But President Bush says he wants to coordinate the efforts of the federal
agencies so there’s less duplication and conflict between agencies, the
states, the cities and the tribes. Congressman Emanuel says that’s fine,
but there have already been lots of meetings, lots of studies and strategies
“My flashing yellow light here is I don’t want to waste more time on more
studies, more time on more talk when Michigan knows what it needs to do,
Wisconsin knows what it needs to do its part, and Illinois and Indiana know
what they got to do.”
Emanuel says everybody pretty much knows the job at hand. The problem is
money. And that’s where he thinks the Bush Administration is playing games.
“Are we doing this to stall, and not as a way of avoiding the hard, hard job
of putting resources toward proven strategies?”
Environmentalists are gearing up to make sure than the strategy to protect
and restore the Lakes isn’t just another piece of paper. They want the
federal, state, and local governments to draft a real plan, then
follow through, including finding the money that can actually make
something happen in the Great Lakes.
A new book says that much of the space covered by parking lots is only designed for use for the holiday rush, and is unused for the rest of the year. (Photo by Lars Sundström)
A growing number of city planners say we’re building more parking than we really need. They say the fact that nearly all parking is free, makes the situation worse. Their ideas are turning nearly fifty years of urban planning on its head. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has this second report in a two-part series:
A growing number of city planners say we’re building more parking than we really need. They say the fact that nearly all parking is free, makes the situation worse. Their ideas are turning nearly fifty years of urban planning on its head. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has this report:
If you had to pay for a parking space, would you think twice before making a frivolous trip, say, to a convenience store for a candy bar?
City planning researcher Donald Shoup bets you would stay home if you had to pay, or maybe you’d walk instead. That’s a point he makes in his recent book, The High Cost of Free Parking. In it, he tries to show that free parking entices us to waste gas. He says paved lots also compete for better uses of land, like parks or housing. Shoup says the problem’s very real – but to see it, you need to step out of your automobile.
“Any view of suburbia from the air will show you a lot of parking lots and a lot of these parking lots will have empty parking spaces.”
I decided to take a look at what’s Shoup’s talking about in Lincolnwood Illinois, a Chicago suburb. I cheated by skipping the air fare, though. Some new Internet sites can provide satellite photos of your area. I joined two of Lincolnwood’s city planners, Tim Clarke and John Lebeque, in their office to get a birds-eye view of their home turf.
Clarke: “The plus is closer.”
Allee: “Right, and go ahead and see if you can find… There it is. Lincolnwood.”
Allee: “So find a retail strip.”
Turns out, Donald Shoup was right. Within a minute, we find a popular grocery store, with a huge parking lot. Tim Clarke recognizes it.
“It’s probably one-third filled. I’m not sure when this aerial was taken. I’ve never seen the parking lot full.”
So why should a busy store’s parking lot be two-thirds empty most of the time? Shoup says it’s the cities’ fault. Cities make the rules. They say how many spaces each new business, house, and apartment building must provide.
By his estimation, city government does a poor job at guessing how much parking we really need. Shoup says governments force businesses to provide enough spaces to meet peak demand, such as the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year.
“Everyone understands the advice, don’t build your church for Easter Sunday, but we build our parking for the week before Christmas.”
In other words, cities tell stores to build parking for the year’s busiest two weeks, even if most of the spaces are empty the rest of the time. He says, without city pressure, a lot of businesses would create smaller lots or they’d sell off parking space they don’t need.
Tim Clarke, the Lincolnwood planner, says suburbs do err on the side of too much parking, but they’re often planning for future growth. He gives an example of a small Lincolnwood dental practice that had 7 examination rooms, but only used three of them. The dentist wanted to build fewer parking spaces than the village required, because it was small and family-run.
“But one could imagine that that family at some time in life would sell that business and someone would come in and want to use all 6 or 7 examining rooms at one time.”
So city planners have to look at the long term use of a building.
Many of Lincolnwood’s largest retailers actually build more than they need to. Bob Johnson runs a Lowe’s Home Improvement store built in late 2003. He says stores like his don’t gamble with having too few spaces.
“I think customers are going to shop, again, where they feel most comfortable and what’s convenient for them. The key word there being convenience. If they’re inconvenienced, they might drive another couple blocks down the road.”
Shoup says that’s a calculation that businesses have to make. He says market forces can help decide how many spaces should be built, but government should not force retailers to have too many spaces. Nor should it force them to offer only free parking.
In fact, Professor Shoup says cities, especially suburban cities, could use land more efficiently if businesses controlled demand for parking like they control everything else: by setting the right price.
“I’m just saying that cities should not force anyone to provide more parking than drivers are willing to pay for.”
Killing our appetite for cheap, abundant parking could be difficult, but Shoup says pressure’s building for change. He says, as suburbs grow, space gets tight. And that raises prices for all land uses.
“I think most people now are focused on the high cost of housing. I think we’ve got our priorities wrong if housing is expensive and the parking is free.”
In his battle against too much parking, Shoup says the most effective weapon might be a little comparison shopping. Free parking might not seem so cheap once it’s compared to the cost of other needs.
"Meter cruising" is when people drive repeatedly around the block to find an open curbside parking meter. A new book says that not only is meter cruising a waste of gas, but a symptom of a larger urban planning problem. (Photo by Shawn Allee)
Finding a free parking space on the street is sometimes a big hassle. But cheap parking is beginning to be viewed as an environmental problem. A growing number of city planners say free parking isn’t really free. It just shifts the cost to taxpayers and society at large. In the first of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has a report on this new view of the ongoing search for a parking space:
Finding a free parking space on the street is sometimes a big hassle. But, cheap parking is beginning to be viewed as an environmental problem. A growing number of city planners say free parking isn’t really free. It just shifts the cost to taxpayers and society at large. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has a report on this new view of the ongoing search for a parking space.
If you’ve ever played the board game Monopoly, you’ve probably crossed your fingers as you approached the spot called “free parking.” If your token lands there, it doesn’t cost you anything.
But a researcher says there’s really no such thing as “free parking,” at least not in the real world. UCLA Professor Donald Shoup has spent 20 years dispelling the myth that free parking is good for everyone.
In his latest book, titled The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup tries to show that empty cars are taking the public and the environment for a costly ride.
“Bad parking policies are connected to a lot of other problems we have in society, but people haven’t been able to trace them to parking, and I think I’ve tried to do that.”
Take one of the biggest traffic issues facing large cities: meter cruising. That’s when drivers circle a block again and again, waiting for a curb-side meter.
“The average time it took to find a parking space was about three minutes. That doesn’t seem like too much for an individual to spending hunting for a free parking space, but it adds up if everybody else does it.”
Shoup says meter cruising wastes millions of gallons of gas every year. It also creates a lot of traffic congestion and pollution. Meter cruising’s common to downtowns, but even neighborhood shopping areas face the cruising problem.
Here’s an example. Devon Avenue is a bustling commercial strip on Chicago’s far North Side. There are lots of Indo-Pakistani restaurants, Muslim book stores and Jewish bakeries there. On a typical Saturday, the area’s so popular that only a handful of parking meters stay open for more than a few minutes. And it’s no wonder. Parking at the meter only costs 25 cents per hour.
The situation’s made worse by neighborhood parking permits. That’s a policy that keeps nearby residential streets off-limits to shoppers and restaurant-goers. Walking down the sidewalk, Grace is toting several shopping bags that heave with fresh fruit and Indian condiments.
“I went on the side streets and found a place about six blocks away without a need for a permit and took it and walked in. It’s one of the first really beautiful days of spring, so it wasn’t a hardship.”
If it hadn’t been such a nice day, Grace might have been circling the nearby blocks, wasting gas, trying to find a space at a parking meter.
Local shop owners say too many customers don’t like the parking situation. So the store owners complain to the local alderman, Bernard Stone. Seated in his office, Alderman Stone says no politician can afford to ignore demand for cheap parking. So he’s come up with a solution.
Stone: “If you look over your head, you’ll see a drawing of a new garage that’s gonna be built at Devon and Rockwell.”
Allee: “When’s that gonna be up?”
Stone: “Well, it should be started very shortly, I’ve been working at it for ten years.”
Developers for that project promised to create 200 low-rate parking spaces. It’s a deal they’ve struck in exchange for free city-owned land where they want to build. But the expert on parking, Donald Shoup says as politically appealing as that type of solution is, it doesn’t work. It really doesn’t keep cruising in check.
Well, he takes a page from both the free-marketeers and grassroots activists. First, he says raise the price for metered parking. A lot. He says how much takes a little calculating.
“We could call this the Goldilocks principle of curb parking prices. The price is too high if too many spaces are vacant and too low if no spaces are vacant. If about fifteen percent are vacant, the price is just right.”
Traffic engineers say keeping fifteen percent of spots open stops meter cruising. To save money, people leave their parking spots sooner and everyone can find new spots faster. Next, make higher parking prices politically attractive to shop owners by letting the neighborhoods keep the meter money. Critics say that’s a hard sell because many times, people worry the money will go to city hall instead.
But Shoup says it works. He points to some California towns, where the money goes to repair streets and even hire security guards. Professor Shoup’s supporters say he might be too optimistic about the prospects for change in our impulse to hunt for the closest, most perfect parking space.
Shoup says he wants to be remembered as the first who showed, unless you’re just playing games, there’s no such thing as free parking.