Community or Parking

04Oct07


Las Vegas parking lot, originally uploaded by kmhinkle.

There are two schools of thought about the future of UNLV and its community. On one side are those who want more parking, quicker and easier access to and from the school. On the other side are those who would like people to stick around. No need for parking since we don’t really want people driving to the campus from outlying areas, they should live nearby. We should create that whole “community” thing we’ve heard about.

It seems that this discussion has, in part, been taking place since the early days of the Strip. Robert Venturi published Learning from Las Vegas in 1972. The book is an appreciation not only of the unique architecture of the Strip but also of its extremely car-friendly nature.

On the other hand, there are plans for Midtown UNLV and other non-standard development models, but they only seem to showcase just how rooted our city is in automobile-dependent culture. In a recent Rebel Yell article, Gerry Bomotti compared Midtown (or at least its construction) to the District at Green Valley Ranch. This seems to show a fundamental misunderstanding of what Midtown is, or should be, about.

The District is hideous. It’s surrounded by parking lots, sits next to a giant overpowering casino and is surrounded by walled and gated suburbs. This is not the kind of future we want for UNLV. And so far it stands out as one of the best examples of fake urbanism. It’s basically an imitation of a very limited urban center.

I have not heard anything about a regional plan that addresses the concerns related to the Midtown Project, which is necessary. Transportation issues were touched on at the latest planning meeting but defered to the RTC (Regional Planning Commision). Midtown planners need to solve the transportation issue themselves. In order for this plan to succeed it needs to take the form of a transit village. Whether bases on bus-rapid-transit or the extension of the monorail from the MGM, which as planned sits alone on the west side of the Thomas and Mack Center, surrounded by parking lots. We need some sort of efficient mass transit system connected to the project in order to get people out of their cars. Unless Midtown’s planners seriously consider transportation, and the wider region surrounding the development and it’s associated zoning codes and limitations. We may just end up with another isolated version of the District.

Discussion about community at UNLV I think might be misplaced. All such discussion, which reaches out into the entire valley comes back to urban planning. More specifically, planning for cars, and lots of them. I took an urban planning class last semester and it was almost entirely centered on technical details. Legal requirements like numbers of parking spaces per square foot or sidewalk requirements, turning radius, all have their place, but miss the point of what urban planning (not rural) is. It’s planning an urban environment. One where people can walk around, create communities, feel comfortable. Not just drive somewhere, park, drive somewhere else, park and so on.

We don’t, as far as I’ve seen, plan our city much at all. Private developers do all the planning. The county just maintains the Super Grid. Pretty much everything in between the 8-lane arterials are the work of private developers, concerned mainly with quick financial turnover, not communities.

Sure you can have non-location based community, but i think that there is something in us, something genetic that makes us want to know the people in the next cave; to create casual networks of people, to organize ourselves into public forces. Can we do it in a world solely reliant on cars? I don’t know but I’d rather not take the chance.

I am not a fan of parking, I think if we eliminated all parking requirements and their associated lots, our cities would be a lot more interesting and lively. Planners and builders would have to create actual cities instead of groups of houses and strip malls. Lack of parking is more of a stick than a carrot but it will coax a few people into reconsidering their transit options.

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3 Responses to “Community or Parking”

  1. 1 jack, dude

    I got towed from Einstein’s parking lot last week. F the man, man.

  2. Interesting article.


  1. 1 Community or Parking? « Vegonian

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