Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Riding along in my automobile...

There is a good post up over at Howard County Blog #2 about the road network in the draft master plan for downtown Columbia. He raises some good points, particularly about the viability of the grid network as a traffic dispersion device and the proposal to make Broken Land and Little Patuxent Parkways four lanes instead of six. Of course, this network is still subject to a traffic analysis, making it difficult to say what the downtown driving experience will be like.

While I share some of his concerns about the road network, I think the focus on intra-Town Center traffic is misguided. The emphasis on vehicular traffic is, after all, why we have a mess of a Town Center now. Massive surface parking lots, a six-lane divided highway, and intermittent sidewalks are all products of a car-centric focus for downtown that have become barriers to making it anything more than that. Many spoke at the Charrette about improving pedestrian access and public transportation in Town Center, but the emphasis still seems to be on designing everything around personal cars.

It would be better, in my mind, to look at the whole people-moving picture. To be sure, getting people into Town Center should be important (and not onerous), but getting people around Town Center should be the focus, and the solution shouldn't be so heavily weighted in favor of cars. The "park once" ideal that I heard several times in the Charrette should guide this; that is, shoppers, workers, concertgoers, restaurant patrons, and everyone in between should be able to leave their cars in one spot and get around either by foot or public transportation -- like in real cities.

Also, a little traffic isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it's nice to be able to cruise at 55 mph from Broken Land Parkway to Rt. 175, but is that the type of downtown we really want, one where pedestrians cower as speeding cars barely notice their presence?


HoCo Exile said...

I think one of the keys to making this traffic plan work is to divert cross-town traffic out of the Town Center core and onto the Broken Land to Gov Warfield to 175 path that will remain a multi-lane divided road. Today both routes through down town (either above or LPP passed the lake to Broken Land) are similar roads. The plan would be to divert cross-town traffic onto the Gov. Warfield route and only traffic that is coming into or out of the TC attractions (mall, lake , or Merriweather) on the LPP route.

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