Seemingly everywhere there’s a crunch on housing and there’s a surplus of roads, so let’s change some car space to sleeping space. If we take away even just one lane of parking for cars we can create towers of housing for people. Cities can benefit from increased revenue since housing makes more money for cities than stationary cars. What’s more, when a developer wants to build and take away a lane then part of the development fees can be specified to increase transit and biking infrastructure.
He argues that highway conversions make more sense than using lanes on regular city streets for housing, at least in most cases. “Most street right-of-ways are can only be reduced by a lane or two, which can generate enough extra space for a bike lane or expanded sidewalk but not enough for the addition of housing,” he says. “Moreover, trading street width for a housing tract typically requires a public/private land swap. These are possible, but add enough red tape to only make sense when a significant amount of housing can be added.”
In Boston, Speck’s firm is working on a plan, now in its second design phase, to use excess road space in Kenmore Square to add new housing and public space. “The plan results in considerably more housing than originally conceived, plus a beautiful plaza,” Speck says. The plan would also more than triple the space available for pedestrians.
Market Street in San Fransico connects many communities within the city, yet using it to navigate from place to another was a slog. Until they got rid of cars last year. The removal of cars on the popular main street made getting around the city faster, easier, and healthier. Anyone who lives in a city knows how much space cars take up so it’s a logical thing to ban them from streets that are best serviced by public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians.
A renewed Market Street will anchor neighborhoods, link public open spaces and connect the City’s Civic Center with cultural, social, convention, tourism, and retail destinations, as well as Salesforce Transit Center, the regional transit hub. The vision is to create Market Street as a place to stop and spend time, meet friends, people-watch while sitting in a café, or just stroll and take in the urban scene.
During the the last century urban planners in North America built cities for cars instead of people. The 21st century is literally paying the costs of their misjudgement. Efforts to make streets for people we gaining popularity over the last couple of decades and the pandemic pushed that further.
We’ve seen cities close streets to cars, open new green space, and overall make the urban experience better. Modern urban planners are calling on everycity to not only keep the people-friendly infrastructure but to accelerate the development of more.
Our urban parks, streets, and various semi-public and private spacesâ€”from balconies to backyards and roof topsâ€”are critical to maintaining mental, physical, and civic health during quarantine. After the pandemic subsides, I doubt we will readily part from them. Beyond our rekindled love of parks, there is a thirst for a radically expanded and verdant public realm, from living streets to sky gardens. Exciting possibilities are emerging in the overlap of urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, and horticulture.
This is a fun video exploring how we currently design streets for cars and how the Netherlands dealt with drivers. It’s sadly common that drivers steer their vehicles into buildings (maybe the buildings need to wear reflectors like cyclists?) throughout North America, despite the billions spent on roadways. Thankfully there are solutions to make streets safer for all users, as outlined in the video above.
You would think that cars regularly crashing into buildings would signal a problem to most people, but a lot of Americans and Canadians just accept it as normal. This is extremely rare in the Netherlands, and it’s due to safer street design that has come from a very different approach to road safety.
Urban planners know adding streets won’t make traffic any better, indeed adding capacity for more cars does the opposite: it makes traffic worse. The problem is that the average person (and politicians) don’t know this little quirk of urban planning. As a result we still build sub-urban areas to cater to old notions of traffic design instead of letting urban planners implement smarter, better solutions.
So what’s a solution to bad traffic? Road diets.
Today, we now know that bigger roads and extra traffic lanes do nothing to solve congestion. In fact, it tends to induce even more traffic. So we didnâ€™t fix the congestion issues, and on top of that, we built wide roads that are relatively unsafe.
Transportation planners in the 21st century recognized that many of the roads that were overbuilt could be redesigned to calm speeding and add space for newer multimodal transportation options. And thus, the road diet was born.