Monday, October 19, 2009

With thanks to "Anonymous"

Anonymous from Nashville (maybe?) was reading the archives of STL Rising and posted an update to a post about dispersing traffic through local street networks. It is an important policy read:

"But where will the traffic go?"

1 comment:

Jon said...

it's a good read, but flawed on a number of issues. While investors, government agencies, etc... all can profit from the modern-day social engineering project called "urban planning" - what happens to those who don't have the money to reinvest in their properties? Home prices, and thus property taxes would no doubt increase, possibly forcing people to sell their homes just so they can afford their taxes. This is something which happens to rural farmers as suburbs spread, and it happens to urban dwellers as gentrification spreads. Apparently, the solution is to push the poor away from the cities and into the country where they have to expend more resources on personal transportation, and thanks to "urban planning" would be forced to spend more time traveling to work.

On a slightly different note, I find it amusing that they use Kansas City for examples of "successful" urban planning. Sprawl in Kansas City is significant along the I-35 corridor. Even with the "successful" planning of midtown and downtown KC, a majority of residents live north of KC along I-29 and I-35, East of KC along I-70, and Southwest of KC along I-35. And that drive from midtown KC to Olathe, KS along I-35 easily takes 40 minutes. Not the 15-20 minutes that the "policy document" would lead you to believe.

Even with gentrification, The Paseo (outlined as a good, tree-lined boulevard example) is ironically a part of town that few suburban residents would ever choose to live along. Even after living in Midtown KC 4 out of the past 5 years, I would still not live along that boulevard. Moreover, The Paseo sees very little commuter traffic until you hit the Missouri river bridge. What a horrible example.

The next example given - Ward Parkway - is a long 35mph speed-trap. The wealthy community that lines Ward Parkway does make good use of the road, and there are neighboring streets which have a lot of businesses making the area heavily traveled. Of course, Ward Parkway during rush-hour isn't allow carrying traffic North-South from the Suburbs to downtown. Wornall, Oak, State Line Road also see very heavy traffic at these times - making commutes somewhat quicker than I-35 and US69 which carry at least 95% of the Suburban traffic, but not much.

A major fact that modern day urban planners choose to frequently neglect is that social engineering can only go so far. The desire to live in suburbs instead of "reinvesting" in urban communities is partially due to safety and cost. Suburbanization, thanks to highways, drove down the average cost of living and allowed more Americans to own property. If you're wealthy, or have wealthy parents (which, from what i can tell, most "urban planners" do), the financial cost of higher taxes and home prices isn't an issue. For the urban poor, this is a big issue which urban planners seemingly refuse to take seriously or dismiss altogether.