Insightful piece in Seattle’s Crosscut online mag: Let’s not fool ourselves about ‘walkability’:
Urban planners, often in a theoretical world by themselves, say they are attempting to create a more functional city. They talk about walkability associated with transportation planning while others point to creating sustainable high-density neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as much as urban planners and lawmakers bandy about the term, it still has meanings that change depending on who you ask, where you ask, and how affluent is the person you ask. …
Let me cite the example of how the City created the urban village of Fremont and the Urban Center of Ballard, hoping to create a business area with walkability where one could shop without a car. Then in their great wisdom they permitted a totally car-oriented Fred Meyer megastore halfway between to draw business away from the established shop keepers in the two business areas.
These planners reasoned that successful business would flourish if they created more customers with zoning and building codes, They didn’t come to grips with the reality that they can’t force a business to locate or thrive in these new areas. Most urban planners and most elected officials have never run a small business. They simply don’t understand what it takes to operate a retail store successfully. Compounding the problem, other divisions of government very often make it more difficult for the small business owner to succeed, piling on excessive license fees, regulatory functions, taxes, and prohibitive parking fees.
Complete article here.