Tall Buildings Don’t Cause Congestion, Parking Garages Do

There’s a big development project happening in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood on the site of a former hospital. The developer has proposed some senior housing, some retail and a luxury housing complex — along with 194 parking spaces to go along with an existing 850-space garage nearby.

This plaza, proposed as part of a major development in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Image: ##http://transitized.com/2014/01/14/density-equal-car-traffic/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Transitized+%28Transitized%29## Transitized##
Not pictured in this developer rendering: all the new parking and the traffic it will generate. Image: Transitized

Some of the typical concerns about traffic were bantered about at a recent public meeting attended by Shaun Jacobsen of Network blog Transitized. Jacobsen says the folks who complained have it backwards:

One woman said that “with buildings at that height, you’ll be creating so much traffic!” I understand the intention, but I want to reiterate: tall buildings don’t create traffic. Cars create traffic. If we want less traffic on the streets, we need to build less capacity for them, we need to invest in alternatives; generally, we need people to need cars less. As the developer pointed out, “let us not forget we are close to 3 ‘L’ lines and 5 bus routes.”

The developer cannot predict how the future residents will use their cars, how they make their daily trips, how its employees will arrive, or the use hours of the retail (e.g. coffee shops may generate more morning traffic). We can encourage more people to use public transportation, in part by making it reach more destinations (as an extension of the #74 bus would do) or highlighting the fact that the nearby Fullerton station is just a few minute’s walk from the development. We can also encourage more bicycling, which the developer is “still working with CDOT on,” but nothing noteworthy was planned. Most importantly, the amount of parking has to be reduced. The developer stated that many of the senior residents just like having a car but don’t drive it often (no source). It’s no wonder. In this neighborhood, local grocery stores and everything necessary for daily life is within walking distance. There is certainly enough demand to live here that the development could do without all of the proposed parking. If a car is something nice to have, but not used often, perhaps it would be in the developer’s interest to market car share services.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn says the state of Minnesota needs a “no new roads” pledge. The Alliance for Biking and Walking’s People Powered Blog offers four ways that bike lanes boost business. And Cycling Solution considers the proposed elevated bike highway in London.

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