Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why did the chicken cross the 'stroad'?

The inventive Charles Marohn has coined, or at least well-publicized, a badly needed word for those paved places in most U.S. cities that you find where a city street ought to be but that are designed like highways: stroad. In this piece in Better! Cities & Towns (the video at the end about traffic engineering is highly recommended), he writes:

"A STROAD is a street/road hybrid; the futon of transportation alternatives. It functions neither as a road that moves people quickly between two places nor as a street that provides a platform for capturing value. As such, STROADs are the most financially unproductive type of transportation corridor that we can build; they cost a ton, but financially yield very little return for the governments that must pay to maintain them."

A quick Google search found several references to stroads, so I hope the term is catching on. It's a good, tongue-in-cheek way to make the point that U.S. cities and traffic engineers have confused the purposes of city streets and country roads. I wrote about this in 2009, after years of getting more and more fretful at the confusion between streets and roads.

So starting now, let's just call them Providence Stroad, Park Stroad, Rea Stroad, Colony Stroad (except for the actual street section where it starts in Myers Park). North and South Tryon Stroads and Eastway/Wendover/Runnymede/Woodlawn Stroads. Don't get me started on the corruption of "boulevard" and "parkway." (Don't believe me? See photo of Independence "Boulevard," above, for evidence.) Naming that freeway Billy Graham "Parkway" is truly Orwellian, in using a word that means one thing and applying it to something that's the complete opposite.
Marohn points to a new report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and a nonprofit group called TRIP, about the hazards found with an aging population and a driving-dependent transportation system. The report is Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans. North Carolina has 1,045,281 drivers 65 or older, ranking ninth in the U.S.  It ranks fifth, however, in traffic fatalities where at least one driver was 65 or older. And it was No. 3 in traffic wrecks where a driver 65 or older died. Those numbers should sober anyone worried about traffic safety as the demographic bulge that is the Boomer generation (OK, that includes me) ages.

The problems are real, of course, but as Marohn points out, the report misses a good point: One excellent way to give elderly people (and everyone else) mobility is to build streets and neighborhoods that people can walk on, with stores and other destinations in close proximity to housing.

Photo credit: Nancy Pierce.



Anonymous said...

Hence, the injustice of NCDOT converting Independence Boulevard (already a "stroad") into a hybrid arterial-expressway (even more of a "stroad").

Urban areas shouldn't even have roads. As a rule, cities should only have value-capturing streets (like East Boulevard) or mobility-focused highways (like Independence Expressway through Chantilly). A multi-way boulevard or reverse-frontage boulevard (like Providence Road) should be the only acceptable hybrid exception to that rule.

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