Comment 71783

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 01, 2011 at 18:55:16

It seems, to me, like this author is really trying hard to spin things to fit their agenda (whatever that may be).

When the author says...

Today, the area where the Embarcadero once stood has evolved from a forbidding dead zone to a bustling waterfront and tourist magnet. Standing there now, you'd never guess it was once the site of 16 lanes of through-traffic.

...I picture a highway with no parkland around it replaced by waterfront parkland and something like a walking shop-village with next to no traffic around it. Am I the only one?

The truth is that the old, double decker highway was replaced with a 4-6 lane (plus turning lanes and on street parking lanes in some sections) single level highway with an additional 2 lanes for public transit. The thing is still 8 lanes wide (in some spots). There are even sections that are.... one way!

I don't want to be perceived as thinking the old highway was better than the new one. I'm all for more parkland and getting rid of highways if they're not needed, but the spin that the author puts on the "facts" doesn't seem genuine to me. To me, it sounds like the author is trying to make it sound like it's no big deal to get rid of major streets.. only good things can come.

It seems to me like Ryan is suggesting that what San Francisco has in the current Embarcadero is something that we should emulate. Well, the current Embarcadero is wider than King, Main, and Cannon. It may even be wider than 2 of the formerly listed roads combined in some sections. There are elements in the Embaracedero that I think would be nice to have such as wide sidewalks with nice trees, surrounding park land, and nice streetscapes, but my point is that San Fransisco has all these things around a major, very busy street. It is repeated, here, so often that all those things are not possible around busy streets. The above example proves that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

If anything, this article shows us that we should consider ourselves lucky that we don't have a major highway running through our downtown. We have a few busy streets just like San Fransisco does that we can make better without having to worry about without drastically reducing the number of lanes for cars. We don't have to tear down a major highway and start from scratch. We've got the framework already in place.

I'm not well read on the studies that apparently "show that, in most cases, removing a freeway adds only a few extra minutes to commute times". I could be wrong, because as I said, I'm not familiar with the studies, but a few potential problems come to mind. For example, one possibility is that the highways which were removed/studied were removed because they weren't really needed. As a result, the commute times naturally didn't change much.

Another potential problem is that the studies may be looking at commute times in the surrounding area of the highway which was removed, but ignoring the commute times of those on nearby highways or those who live far away from alternatives. For example, if Montreal was to remove the Trans Canada highway which runs through it, someone who lives close to the airport might not notice much of a change in their commute times. Someone commuting from Kirkland or Beaconsfield on the other hand may notice a major change.

Like I said earlier, I'm all for more parkland and improved public transit, but let's not kid our selves about needing (or not needing) roads to support vehicle traffic.

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