Thursday, May 27, 2010

What if they're both right?

A Globe account of the Real Property Re-use discussion of the proposed development of the so-called Fireman's Triangle describes Lenny Gentile's traffic's-too-bad-already assessment as in conflict with Deb Crossley's more-housing-is-good vision. They really aren't.

Adding residential density to Newton Centre will make it more vibrant and will be a significant environmental good. It will also exacerbate an already bad traffic situation. We can't let the traffic challenge foreclose desirable development*. And, we can't ignore the traffic problem just because the development provides other benefits.

There are a lot of traffic questions, each with potential solutions:

  • Can Newton Centre bear any more traffic?
  • Can flow be significantly improved?
  • Is there a structural cap on the volume of traffic in and out?
  • If traffic hits a ceiling, will cut-through traffic seek other routes? Will cut-through traffic seek other forms of transportation?
  • How should we balance the direct needs of Newton Centre v. cut-through traffic? What are our priorities?
  • Will development of Newton Centre decrease car use by new residents and neighbors, easing some traffic locally and elsewhere?
  • How do we better manage things for pedestrians and bicyclists?

They are good, tough questions. Let's wrestle with them before we through up our hands and say traffic's the reason we can't have more density.

*Acknowledged that there is not universal consensus that development is good, independent of potential traffic problems.

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