Since Friday's post was about neighborhood walkability, I thought maybe today, I'd talk about just the opposite.
The Virginia Transportation Board is creating new rules regarding Cul-de sacs. Like many suburban neighborhoods, many of Washington DC's suburban neighborhoods in Vriginia rely heavily on cul-de-sacs in their design. People in neighborhoods say they love the, because the lack of through traffic makes them save kids to play, and also help deter crime.
However, the flip side of cul-de-sacs is that it puts a lot of pressure on through streets because they become heavily travelled because all of the cul-de-sac streets feed into them. Because every trip that anyone takes from these neighborhoods requires entering out on the main road (work commutes, picking up kids from school, short grocery store trips), these roads become quickly congested and often require widening.
Because of this, recently, the US Census Bureau reported that the longest average commute in the country was in suburban Washington -- largely due to the overcrowding on jammed streets all fed by cul-de-sacs. This has also affected public safety as fire trucks and ambulances are getting caught in the congestion and have no back roads to turn to to get to their destinations earlier.
"When interstates got built and we all started driving cars, our development patern scattered. Rather than building grid streets, we built a main spine and everything came off of it," said Suffolk County City Council Member E. Dana Dickens. "Offices, houses, stores were separated. You put all your traffic on one main road and you choke everything off."
So the state is stressing that future developments that are more open, more walkable, and more pedestrian and bike-friendly. Where people can make a trip to their local grocery stores, schools and parks, without getting onto the main road. They are making these roads narrower to slow down traffic and to reduce storm water runoff -- and to save on maintenance costs. The idea is that long-term, they can reduce traffic, reduce pollution, and save money devoted to paving and plowing the roads.
"When you have 350 to 400 miles of new roads you have to maintain forever, it's a budgetary problem," said Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kain.
When it comes to development of newer neighborhoods, are we using the best in current thinking for land use and designing neighborhoods? Or are we still using 1960s ways of thinking about how we move people in our cities?