While we’re in California (below), let’s check in with San Francisco to see how it got rid of Doyle Drive, an elevated freeway leading to the Golden Gate Bridge. In other words, a viaduct:
Michael Alexander, the coordinator for SFU’s City Conversations (and a past board member of SPUR, a San Francisco public policy organization), tells the story of how it happened in “From Doyle Drive to Presidio Parkway: How a Landscape Architect Reinvented a Road.”
After 22 years, a vision SPUR fought hard for was finally underway: the transformation of Doyle Drive from a clunky and dangerous artifact into a graceful entryway to the city. When the $1.1 billion project is completed in 2015, cars and traffic noise will no longer dominate many key landscapes of the Presidio national park.
Better yet, check out the video here:
Best of all, Michael offers some Lesson Learned:
Question received wisdom. Traffic engineers shot down many of SPUR’s and Painter’s novel ideas as dangerous because they weren’t what drivers expected to experience. While it’s undeniable that drivers are creatures of habit, they can still adapt. Near the end of the negotiations, SPUR asked to see the literature on driver expectations. At a subsequent meeting, we asked again. A senior engineer quietly confessed, “There isn’t any.” So much for the scientific basis of policy.
Question traffic models. Computer modeling errs on the side of more, not less. Because the models encourage overbuilding, which attracts more traffic, they are often self-fulfilling. But because they carry the aura of certainty, you need professionals to challenge their results.
Public consultation easily goes off the rails. Fear of change can raise the most bizarre and unexpected concerns. The noisiest and most persistent community members often dominate the debates, escalating reasonable concerns into impossible-to-satisfy demands. Successfully taking a community’s real temperature is a skill, usually not taught, that planners must learn to master.
Alexander, Painter and SPUR spent over a decade working on this project, with their vision ultimately prevailing. Michael is now a resident of Vancouver, and is repeatedly amazed (despite some Vancouverites’ perceptions) at how it’s possible to achieve a civic consensus and to move forward quickly – as the story of the Georgia and Dunsmuit Viaducts illustrates.Read more »