Sunday, March 20, 2016

Urbanism misfiring

Via Brian Stokle, check out this incredible example of the mindless application of trendy urbanism forms (in this case the roundabout):

Before:



















After:




















As Nate Hood from Strong Towns observes, the project's low-yielding adjacent land use suggests that the public investment at this intersection is wildly disproportionate to its surrounding private investment. Roundabouts are generally excellent because they're much cheaper and safer than signalized intersections. Similarly, intersections with crosswalks and sidewalks tend to be safer for pedestrians than those without any pedestrian-respecting design elements.

But this example clearly shows how a certain sense of macro-perspective can be lost when engineers try to apply the Platonic ideal of a 'complete street' at every opportunity. A more stripped-down intervention here likely would have been just as effective at reducing accidents, at a fraction of the cost. More importantly, this project does nothing to change the fundamental infrastructure and land use misallocation that pervades the US landscape.

Incredibly, a key objective of this project was to reduce congestion. Eyeballing the surrounding landscape, it's clear that this town is tiny and doesn't actually have traffic congestion problems in the typical, urban sense. However, due to the artificially low price of driving and car-centric land use, we often see effective preferences being skewed towards these sorts of infrastructure projects, which on the aggregate are financially ruinous for small towns.

Related: Chuck Marohn's commentary on a similarly-problematic diverging diamond interchange

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