Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Get rid of traffic to make a livalbe city

Cities need to figure out how to live without the pollution the traffic, & the crime. Restricting or getting rid of cars, with development by transit, and Transit Oriented Development will solve the first two. Removing the residential parking space requirement, allowing the transit agency to control streets and parking landuse decisions within a 1/4 mile of the transit center, and unbundling parking will solve this issue.

Eyes on the street via good development around a plaza will solve the third. By collecting streets into a public open space we can reduce the opportunity for anonymous crime that cities become plagued with. The plaza should collect the parking of Caltrain, Blockbuster, Walgreeen, and City Hall along with the already mentioned church and Safeway into one underground charged parking lot. Reducing parking and charging for the rest will allow us to free space for viable city development and extend the reach and viability of Twin Pines.

The incentive to do so is happening around us, driven by fuel prices. Last year a house on 6th street sold to a family from Tracy. They shortened their commute and saved on gas by moving to Belmont, near work. They have still not been able to sell their McMansion in Tracy. Another friend of ours say their fuel, insurance, and repair bill exceeded $1000/- last month for their commute car from Tracy to Cupertino. For most of us this is an affordable number which means that gas is still low and we need to do more as a city to deter driving.

And as discussed at the council last night, under Item 6C, cities need to be cautious how they give away crucial resources on local institutions. Carlmont and Norte Dame for example have statistically our worst drivers. Socially these students should be getting better grades to benefit our property prices- not spending their time earning money for gas and insurance and repairs. Creating pollution, traffic, and crashes within less than a half mile of the transit center is not good policy. Yet it was appalling to hear the Dean say that there was no alternative to driving and that we need to adjust to pollution, traffic, crime, and stressed out students.

Council Member Christine Wozniack was right on when she said we should stop making it easier for cars and in the process making it difficult for people to walk or bike. We got to make it worse for cars, like gas prices are presently doing, because that clearly benefits the environment, bikes, and peds.

The NY Times article goes on to say "In March, Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles on public roads than in the same month the previous year, a 4.3 percent decrease — the sharpest one-month drop since the Federal Highway Administration began keeping records in 1942.

Long before the recent spike in the price of energy, environmentalists decried suburban sprawl a waste of land, energy and tax dollars. Governments from Virginia to California have in recent decades lavished resources on building roads and schools for new subdivisions in the outer rings of development while skimping on maintaining facilities closer in. Many governments now focus on reviving their downtowns."

We should focus on a plaza downtown too and a systemic solution to traffic. We can't let the tide of history sweep us toward another untenable development.

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