Walking the Walk


Urban design from the front lines

Kevin Klinkenberg

Using urban design to make our lives more enjoyable and create wealth

This site is for all those interested in the making of cities and towns, and especially the lives of the humans that inhabit them. Kevin Klinkenberg is an architect and urban designer who's practiced from coast-to-coast. 

Traffic congestion is good for you

Well, maybe not you specifically. But, it's good for cities. In a long post, John Karras writes about the upside of congestion, and why we shouldn't do anything about it in cities. A few nuggets:

Traffic Truth #1- Bad traffic is just a symptom of your city’s economic success.

Traffic Truth #2- Traffic congestion is actually a good thing for urban vitality.

Traffic Truth #3- Efforts to reduce traffic congestion are counter-productive.

Traffic Truth #4- Ignoring your city’s traffic problems will help you create a more vibrant community.

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And what’s the result of all this highway spending?  More traffic!  Yes, that’s right.  And it’s not complicated, if you think about it.  Expanding the highways of a large, growing city to handle more traffic will simply allow the same highway to handle more traffic.

As your city grows over time, this increase in traffic will create more congestion.  Los Angeles is a perfect example of this.  LA has successfully created the largest, most expensive regional highway system in U.S. history.  And what does LA get in return?  The worst traffic congestion in the country.

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If you have bad traffic in your city, simply accept this as a fact of life and make the conscious choice to stop building more highways, expanding roads, and trying to speed up traffic.  Instead, save your efforts for more productive pursuits like expanding your city’s transit system and making investments that enhance your city’s walking and biking infrastructure.  In the end, fighting against bad traffic is not only futile; it’s actually counter-productive if you’re trying to make your community more vibrant.

He goes on to write about some specific cities and how they could spend their transportation dollars differently, if the amount spent on highways were more balanced with public transportation and other modes.  It's an interesting read, worth getting into the numbers.

 
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