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Traffic Planning Begets More Traffic

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Photo by VirtualEm via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

An Urban & Environmental Planner friend of mine in New York City believes that when you build bigger and beefier streets, all you do is build increased traffic congestion. "Build it and they will come," he would say. Today, Steve Hymon in his weekly Road Sage column explores the subject by extension of the Pico/Olympic plan, where city officials are planning to begin adjusting the two busy arteries to act like one-way streets starting March 8.

While Hymon suggest that acting now on the issue is a good thing in some ways, he also questions "what is the role of our streets? Do they exist to move a lot of traffic? Or should they be the spine of refurbished, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods? Can they do both?"

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He then later contrasts the quick move by the city with City Planning head Gail Goldberg, who seems less than enthused about the project: "One way you can move toward less congestion is if you provide people better accessibility and walkability and more pleasant streets. But as a city we're not ready for that conversation yet."

The story is chock full of other great quotes about community and commute to ponder about: "Plans like this just take us down the same old path where we're trying to make more space to move more cars at the expense of every other community objective," says Ryan Snyder, a transportation planner on the Westside.

And Chris Morfas of Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District: "If you design streets for traffic, you'll get lots of traffic. If you design streets for people, you'll get people."

One of many questions we have here at LAist is this: Once, and if, the 'Subway to the Sea' is completed, will that reduce some of the Olympic/Pico traffic? All proposed routes for the Westside Extension include a stop in or next to Century City, where Olympic Blvd. hits on the south end of the neighborhood.