The power of an elevated freeway to dominate and degrade a city’s streets is overwhelming. So much so that if you live near one it can be almost impossible to envision what the place might look like if it were gone, and the old patterns of the streets restored.
But in places where that has been done — like San Francisco’s Embarcadero and New York’s West Side — the result is exhilarating. Property values go up. People move freely along the waterfronts that were blocked off for generations. Traffic flows well. And suddenly it becomes impossible to imagine how these hulking concrete and steel structures were ever built to begin with.
That’s especially true because elevated freeways in cities don’t deliver on their central promise — that they can move traffic smoothly through downtowns. John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, makes that point in the latest video in the excellent “Moving Beyond the Automobile” series from Streetfilms.
Norquist talks about how cities from Seattle to Buffalo to New Orleans are thinking about tearing out the colossal failures of urban planning that have ruined so many American neighborhoods.
As Elly Blue pointed out in a recent “Bikenomics” piece for Grist on freeway removal, “We don’t need freeways in cities. And we can’t afford them.” Watch the video and see how that realization is spreading.