Friday, August 20, 2010

McDonald's drive-thru on Needham Street

Let's start with the bottom line. There shouldn't be a drive-thru McDonald's on Needham Street.

As a general matter, a drive-thru McDonalds promotes driving and the eating of junk food. We want to reduce both. Arguably, the city shouldn't be in the business of regulating what people eat. But, unquestionably, the city has a role in discouraging bad transportation choices.

The more interesting questions involve the impact on Needham Street. It's troubling that there is no agreed-upon vision of Needham Street that would allow us to say, yes or no, a drive-thru is consistent or inconsistent with the vision. Without such a vision, a proposal like this gets addressed outside any context. And, it's context that makes a drive-thru more or less appropriate for Needham Street.

Drive-thru restaurants are inimical to a pedestrian-scaled, destination-type commercial district, with shared parking and clusters of walkable retail. A drive-thru guarantees a single restaurant surrounded by a sea of asphalt. The restaurant is permanently isolated from other retail establishments, making it unlikely that people will park in one place and shop in a few places. The traffic generated by a drive-thru will make the sidewalk less pedestrian-friendly. In short, a drive-thru restaurant, by design, can never be part of -- and discourages the transformation to -- a walkable commercial district.

To be sure, with a couple of minor exceptions, Needham Street is not a walkable commercial district. But, there is no reason it can't be. The immediate impact of adding a drive-thru is probably limited to additional traffic, provided that plans do not include an additional curb cut. After all, this McDonald's is already an island in a sea of asphalt. But, the long-term impact of a drive-thru is to postpone, probably for decades, any possibility that that stretch of Needham Street becomes a walkable commercial district. And, that's a shame.

Keep in mind this McDonald's neighbors: an enormous apartment complex to one side and an office complex to the other. This is an ideal part of the city for a bunch of dense retail. Imagine that, instead of this one McDonald's on this location, there were two restaurants, with a nice sidewalk (with seasonal outdoor seating) and shared parking. And, some retail in front of Avalon. And, ...

24 comments:

MindYourOwnBusiness said...

What ever happened to our freedom of choice. You liberals want to take away everything that YOU don't think is OK. You know what that means? Communism. Let people make their own choices and you mind your own business. No one is forcing you to go there.

LEAVE MY FREEDOMS ALONE COMMIE!

BichonFrise said...

I agree MOB.
I like to drive thru at MacDonald.
I get my $1.00 Coffe and my $1.00 Yogurt to bring to work.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with being liberal. It has to do with being self-righteous, opinionated and condescending. Traits that can be seen in many, if not all, other posts as well.

MindYourOwnBusiness said...

Said the liberal... "This has nothing to do with being liberal."

Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

OK.


If caring about my country and being smart enough to realize that McDonalds drive-thrus are not good for America makes me a Liberal- then....

Alright, I'm a Liberal.

Anonymous said...

McDonald's are bad for America? Really? Head down the Vineyard with your idol and watch America slowly fall off to the left. Enjoy the view.

MindYourOwnBusiness said...

That's not the point liberal. The point is, I'm not a fan of McDonald's either, but you know what? I DON'T GO THERE.

This is about my free will to CHOOSE if I want to go or not. I am all for you saying that you don't like it, but who are you to say that others shouldn't like it or for that matter aren't allowed to have it?

As you say, quote "It has to do with being... opinionated..." Your opinion is that you don't like to eat their food. Fine, don't go. Someone else may enjoy it... so please answer me this: who are you to say that it shouldn't be allow for anyone else because YOU don't like it?

I like my hamburgers medium rare, but you know what? I can't get them like that in the state of Mass anymore because of people like you. So I repeat... MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND LEAVE ME AND MY FREEDOMS ALONE!

Anonymous said...

How does a rambling post by an obviously self-important individual evolve into a name-calling, liberal vs. conservative exchange?

wlhmc said...

I think a drive-thru at that McDonalds is a great idea! Is is right down the road from where alot of families go to watch football practices and games. Nothing on that street is reallt "walkable" so why even use that as an arguement against a drive thru?

It is not like it is a pretty street and a drive thru will make it ugly. And as for the sea of asphalt around it...it is alreay there..just like all the other stores on that strip!

Not every single street in Newton can be picture perfect. America is about choice! and if some of us CHOOSE to eat there either for a treat for kids, or a quick meal for ourselves or whatever..then that is our right.

I'm so sick of living in the "land of the free" and seeing more and more of my choices taken away from me by people that think they are right about everything!

Sean Roche said...

Rambling? Ouch! Now that hurts.

Anonymous said...

"But, unquestionably, the city has a role in discouraging bad transportation choices."

It's a road.

Anonymous said...

Specious arguments...a drive thru is fine there

Anonymous said...

No the City does not have to discourage thru banning, they can discourage by the Police giving a ticket if you can’t drive and eat at the same time.

Please go away.

A Liberal will ban anything they don’t like for everybody, a normal person will choose for themselves. I.E> change the channel or don’t go there.

Anonymous said...

"self-righteous, opinionated and condescending" in the Newton/Needham area... big surprise.

McDonalds is ok for anyone... IN MODERATION. No one is saying people should make a habit of it.

Would love to see the reaction if you took away their carmel macchiatos at Starbucks... those things are just as unhealthy and no one is pushing to take them away.

Anonymous said...

This won't end until they have us in the rice fields, telling us exactly how much milk, water, and meat we can have.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, with all that's going on locally and in the world, a McDonald's drive-through is what you get your dander up about! Talk about another ludicrous and ridiculous "cause" by a highbrow, low common sense yuppie. As if any section of Needham Street will ever be a "walking zone" - come on now, seriously? Have you lived in the town for only 8 minutes?

Some suggestions: Drive past, don't drive through. Save your proselytism for your children or others who have no choice but to listen to your misguided chatter, muppet. But, let's play - the liquor store on Needham St. should be picketed, boycotted, and closed immediately because, let's face it - liquor is far more dangerous and deadly than even the most calorie laden Happy Meal. Shut down Eastern Mountain Sports on Needham St. also - mountain climbing is dangerous and Newtonites should be kept from accessing the dangerous equipment available to them at that location. Close the Needham St. Starbucks, because we can't have anyone burned by that scalding coffee. Are you hearing any of your own stupidity yet, Sean?

Anonymous said...

"Nothing on that street is reallt "walkable" so why even use that as an arguement against a drive thru?"

You have to start someone. Allowing more car dependent development means the next proposal falls into the same trap.

I dont see the blog calling to limit anyones freedom. The blog is calling to allow for a mcdonalds (freedom to chose junk food) BUT to not allow the drive thru aspect, which is full of negative aspects.

I dont think it's an attack on freedom to ask someone driving to park and walk inside and take their order to go.

Dave said...

MOB,

It's called Democracy McFly, and since when did wingnuts honestly give a hoot about "freedoms"? suspending Habeas Corpus, and restricting a woman's right to choose are fine, but zoning choices are where you choose to draw the line? Personally I don't care either way WRT a drive thru, but you could at least stick to an intellectually honest line of reasoning. Freedom is never absolute (nor has it ever been).

Steve said...

Chill people, it's McDonald's not a nuclear reactor. Live and let live

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a drive-thru. Please keep your own opinions to yourself.

Anonymous said...

I somehow don't see how having a Drive Thru will attract a whole horde of those evil cars. I am willing to bet most people assume there is a drive thru and just end up parking when they realize there isn't one.

The area was much nicer before cramming in all those condos. That's a bigger problem than the McD's. Large developments with no easy access to public transportation? And now a traffic light is needed to handle the additional traffic?

Sean Roche said...

Apparently, the McDonald's owner doesn't think a drive-thru will result in no fewer customers. Otherwise, why bother. What difference does it make to him if the customers drive through or park and walk in. Obviously, he thinks that a drive-thru is going to increase business, which means more cars.

Whether putting Avalon on the street was a good idea or a bad idea -- it's a 40B project, so the city didn't have much say -- it's there. It's changed what the street is and what it can be.

Transit on Needham Street is not just a good idea, it's completely doable.

Steve R said...

If all these commie-baters paid attention, they'd find out that people lobbying for Complete Streets want economic development, fewer and more sensible and business-friendly zoning laws, and measure success of Complete Streets projects by increasing numbers of customers and local profits (and by increased non-motorized vehicle access). Any Complete Streets plan that decreased business would be a Complete Failure.

How these goals have anything to do with abrogated freedoms or communism is a mystery to me.

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