Road Diets Are Changing American Cities for the Better

If it can work on Edgewater Drive in Orlando, it can work anywhere.

Orlando's Edgewater Drive after a road diet: safer and more active. Image: ##http://www.pps.org/reference/rightsizing-edgewater-drive-in-orlando-florida-for-safety-gains-and-to-promote-alternative-transportation/## Project for Public Spaces##

This road diet — or “street rightsizing” — removed one traffic lane on a four lane road through 1.5 miles of the city’s College Park neighborhood. Since then, traffic collisions are down 34 percent. Pedestrian activity increased 23 percent and cycling rose 30 percent.

Virtually none of the problems opponents predicted have materialized. Immediate property values have held steady with regional trends. Nearby streets haven’t seen a major increase in traffic. And because the project was a simple striping, the road diet cost the city only an additional $50,000 over a basic resurfacing.

So why doesn’t every city in America get busy “rightsizing”? A new guide from Project for Public Spaces seeks to make that possible. PPS’s Rightsizing Streets Guide highlights case studies and best practices from Philadelphia, Seattle, Tampa, Poughkeepsie, and elsewhere to show jurisdictions how they, too, can right-size their streets.

Philadelphia took a unique approach. “The Porch” project outside 30th Street Station removed only parking and replaced it with a wide sidewalk, seating, and public gathering space. This new destination, featured last year on Streetfilms, seats 250 people and is home to regular events like yoga and farmer’s markets, and it is a favorite spot for West Philadelphia workers to eat lunch on nice days.

Philadelphia's "The Porch" replaced underused parking with one of the city's more popular public spaces. Image: ##http://www.pps.org/reference/the-porch-transforming-underutilized-parking-into-premier-public-space/## Project for Public Spaces##

During a seven-month period last year, nearly 25,000 visitors enjoyed The Porch — all the more impressive when you consider the space formerly served a maximum of just 23 drivers. Traffic and parking snags have been nonexistent, PPS reports. In fact, high use of The Porch, coupled with low demand for nearby parking, suggest that further auto space should repurposed for Philadelphia pedestrians and transit users.

Another role model PPS points to is the city of Poughkeepsie, New York. Poughkeepsie’s treatment for Raymond Avenue involved the removal of one traffic lane in each direction and the addition of three roundabouts. The city also added a center median with pedestrian refuges, to facilitate safer crossing.

That project led to a 50 percent decrease in traffic collisions and the opening of several new businesses in the area. Since it was installed in 1999, it attracted the attention of the neighboring town of LeGrange, which is now in the midst of a similar project.

  • Jake G

    Road diets are probably one the best ideas ever for making “complete streets”; the real estate is already there, the only thing to be done is to remake the street from a cars-only zone to one conducive to multiple (and preferably non-auto) modes of transportation. Traffic calming is a huge boon to pedestrians and cyclists and helps make neighborhoods more livable.

    I hope this idea spreads all around the country. We could use a lot more of it in Texas.

  • Anonymous

     thanks for writing about my neighborhood! it’s the best in Orlando because of our vibrant, safer main street.

  • Michael Morris

    “Traffic Calming” excactly Jake, when cars are the only show in town they’ll go as fast as they possibly can, just look at LA. But you you take out a lane you likely slow down traffic, and that slower speed will mean walkers and bikers feel safer. And also three cramed together lanes with faster traffic are more dangerous for drivers that two bigger lanes with slower speeds.

  • Anonymous

    If they are reducing the number of lanes or taking out parking, they should build physically separated bike lanes between the curbside and the first car lane (or parking if any), not smack bikes between the parked cars and the moving lanes!

  • Readmylipstick

    They’ve done this in my area.  The only time it negatively impacts traffic is when there is a bus on the road — the cars behind the bus have no way to pass while the bus is stopped, and things can get really backed up.

  • Mom2LilyR

    The city has just completed a project like this where I live.  It’s beautified the area and there was no negative impact on traffic.  Great idea.  Hope to see more projects like ti.

  • Wanderer

    Complete streets means means a viable travel system for all modes, including transit, which is usually buses. But often road diets fail to make adequate provision for buses. The buses get stuck in traffic, go more slowly, and become less attractive to passengers–exactly the opposite of a real complete streets approach. Buses are in fact slowed down more than cars, because they have to move into and out of curbside bus stops. These conditions make buses less reliable–recent research has confirmed that transit passengers value reliability even more than travel time.

    Some streets don’t have bus lines, other streets have enough surplus capacity that buses can still proceed reasonably after a road diet. But there are other streets–often key transit streets–where road diets have degraded transit service. If road diet proposals are truly going to support complete streets, they need to acknowledge and mitigate this problem.

  • Njonge

    Goes to reinforce Penalosa’s assertion. Cities are for people. The more space there is for people to interact the more friendly the street. We could do with a lot more space for pedestrians and cyclists in Nairobi.
    I do not think the utilization or not of parking spaces ought override the greater benefits that stand to be derived from the conversion

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