Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why does Alderman Baker love traffic (and developers)?

In Alderman Baker's proposed changes to the draft Comprehensive Plan, he not only took a tire iron to the pedestrian and bicycle provisions, he did a number on the traffic-controlling provisions as well. (The previous post describes the timing of the proposal and the status of the draft Comprehensive Plan before the Board of Alderman.)

Here are some of the things that Alderman Baker wants to do to the traffic-reducing provisions of the draft Comprehensive Plan:

  • Remove consideration of the overall transportation effect of new development (page 3-6)

  • Weaken policy against roadway widening (page 4-12 and 4-21)

  • Put off making transportation performance standards, transportation access plans, maintaining traffic conditions city policy (page 4-20)

Regarding the first bullet, Alderman Baker wants to cut two words that will change the standard from positive transportation effects from new development to a positive overall effect from the project. That we want — and will insist on — an overall positive effect of a project is a given. The point of the provision in question is to require a positive transporation effect in addition.

There ought to be a bumper sticker: Road widening is for car lovers! More road, more lanes = more traffic. Count on it. It's called induced demand. We have enough roadway capacity in Newton.

Alderman Baker claims that "roadway widening may be of some value in specific contexts to relieve congestion". I'd like to see some examples. As for me, I think this sentence he'd like to cut from the Comprehensive Plan states the issue better:

A strategy of "roadway widening avoidance" will not result in substantive changes in the amount of growth that Newton can accommodate, but it will have an impact on the form that future growth takes by directing development towards areas where it will have the best access to transit while having the least impact on traffic.

The third bullet refers to three transportation standards that the draft plan proposes to impose on developers. Alderman Baker doesn't alter the substance of the standards, he just kicks implementation down the road by changing "requiring" to "consider requiring." You'd think that after years of work on the Comprehensive Plan, the city (including Alderman Baker) had considered it.

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