Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Freeways to parks, Long Beach

The LA Times reported this morning that the City of Long Beach is thinking of turning a one mile stretch of freeway into a park. If the city were to carry out this plan, it would mark the first time that any section of the Southern California freeway system has been restored to other uses. More importantly, converting this stretch of road to a park might do a great deal to reduce the harmful health effects of smoke and other chemicals inhaled by children in the area (known as "asthma alley"). And in this case the arguments for maintaining this stretch of freeway are particularly weak since the need for it has been mostly obviated by the Alameda corridor project, and since it does not connect very well to the rest of the freeway system.

Nevertheless, opponents of such a project will undoubtedly claim that closing the freeway will send more truck traffic into the streets. The evidence shows, however, that when cities remove urban expressways and close street lanes, much of the expected traffic simply . . . disappears. No one really knows where it goes, but it seems to be a proven fact that when we make fewer accommodations for vehicular traffic, we end up with fewer vehicles. 

Perhaps the most important thing we could do to improve the quality of life in our cities would be to reduce the number of vehicles. Doing that reduces noise, reduces pollution, and makes the whole environment more pleasant to live in. One of the best ways to reduce the number of vehicles is to narrow streets and eliminate freeways. Such projects have been shown time and again to reduce traffic and reduce other ill effects of vehicles, and to return precious real estate to more productive uses. 

Let's hope the City of Long Beach leads the way to set this region on a better path!

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