Monday, March 22, 2010

Riverside -- what's the point?

The MBTA ought to be in the business of reducing car trips -- both number and mileage.

The single best thing that the MBTA can do to reduce car trips is to create dense, walkable, mixed-use communities around transit hubs. It's not just that many of the residents and on-site workers (including retail workers) will use the T to travel to and from work. It's also that a dense, walkable, mixed-use community has the potential to reduce the number of non-work car trips for the folks who live in the new residential development and for people who live nearby.

Done right, dense, walkable, mixed-use communities are an antidote to the car-centricity that is polluting our environment, clogging our streets, and ruining our health.

Park and ride, while it is better than ride and ride, doesn't offer nearly the same overall benefits. Park and ride, by its very definition, doesn't reduce the number of car trips. Each commute includes a to and a from drive, albeit a shorter ride than the alternative. And, park and ride is part of -- and enables -- a more suburban, car-centric lifestyle.

Between the two models, there is no question about what's the right approach.

But, what about the neighborhood? How should neighborhood concerns and desires play in the T's decision about how to develop the site?

There's another word for dense, walkable, mixed-use communities: urban. Not everyone who lives near Riverside is going to be delighted with an dense, urban outpost in the middle of what is a pretty suburban 'hood. But, the potential value of the right kind of development is bigger than objections to fundamental nature of the right development.

But, the neighborhood has a right to demand that the MBTA do the development right. And, maintaining a vestigial park-and-ride capacity and all of its traffic while adding the new traffic of eminently justifiable mixed-use development is simply unfair and unkind to Riverside's neighbors ... not to mention that clogging an already restricted site with a garage big enough to accommodate 1,000 park-and-riders seriously undermines the developer's ability to create the right kind of dense, walkable, mixed-use community.

Hey, MBTA. Do it right or wait until you're ready to do it right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to hear from someone who actually lives in the neighborhood as opposed to hearing Sean telling them what the right thing to do would be. And pointing to a stack of supporting documentation that just doesn't work for that area. It wouldn't be the first time there was mis-representation of neighborhood opinion.