I admit I was happy to see the dreadful City Market Parking garage demolished. It sat like a giant concrete machine gun battery right in the middle of one of Savannah’s busiest commercial and entertainment areas. And I’m excited about the plans for Ellis Square.
Still, I can’t help but note the figures reported by local media about the cost of the project. The price of the underground garage? $30 million. The price of the square that sits atop it? $1 million. From these figures, I think we can infer something about our priorities as a community. Namely, storage of private automobiles is somewhere around 30 times more important to us than public space that could serve as a place for social gatherings, a venue for recreational activities, a stage for cultural events, or simply a shady refuge on a hot day.
Yes, I know the project has generated around $100 million in nearby investments. Yes, I know parking spaces were lost when the old garage was leveled. Yes, I know downtown merchants demand more parking.
Still, 30X. I’m just saying.
This local project to stimulate car trips in and out of the Historic District is in keeping with national trends, as noted yesterday on Slate in an article by Daniel Gross called “Highways Paved with Gold” (Subtitle: “You think the government is wasting a few billion a year on mass transit subsidies. But what about those huge subsidies for cars and trucks?”):
What hasn’t been acknowledged is that the automobile is supported by a government subsidy that dwarfs anything provided to mass transit. How big is the subsidy? By my (admittedly extremely crude) calculations, it could total nearly $100 billion per year. Americans can drive so much because there is an extremely extensive system of (largely free) roads for us to use.
I wonder how Gross’ figures would change if he added public parking garages into his admittedly extremely crude calculations.