Tuesday, January 06 2015 @ 09:12 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
By Robert Steuteville, Better! Cities & Towns
Traffic engineers and transportation planners are aware of the research favoring walkability, they know that complete streets work, and yet many are unwilling to face the logical implications: Their long-held practices need to change.
We need more than a few good transportation engineers.
Janette Sadik-Khan was a rare Department of Transportation official, under former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who challenged long-held practices. She pushed hard to make the city's streets and public spaces better for people outside of motorized vehicles.
Knowing the futility of finding better solutions that way, Sadik-Khan was clever. When a big change was warranted, she proposed the idea as a temporary test. Traffic studies are notoriously unreliable—they often overestimate traffic substantially, contributing to the design of larger, faster streets and roads that discourage walking and induce more traffic. The system is guaranteed to confirm conventional practice. Traffic studies often delay projects for years and raise costs.
A temporary test project, instead, generates real-world data in real time. When these tests worked, the city made the changes permanent. Then new changes were proposed.
In that way Times Square and many other places in New York City were substantially improved. Half of the space in Times Square is now given to people to enjoy. Business is up, safety is improved, and the traffic still flows. One of the top three tourist attractions in the world now has better transportation balance. Using the old system, such a result is hard to imagine.