Excellent Living on Earth piece this week about the “Complete Streets” movement, focused on Cambridge Street in Allston. The segment features an interview with then-deputy director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Stefanie Seskin, now Boston’s Director of Active Transportation. Also interviewed is Vineet Gupta, Boston Transportation Department head of policy and planning.
It’s been nearly 75 years since World War II ended, yet much transportation planning is still based on that obsolete paradigm. The Living on Earth piece concludes on a hopeful note that the pace of change is picking up:
SESKIN: Post World War II, we embarked in the United States and in many other countries, on a massive infrastructure investment to move goods really across the country. And that had a lot of really important and good changes to the way that we built our roads in terms of safety when you’re travelling at high speeds, when you’re thinking about trucks and how they move.
LUCAS: But Seskin says while wide lanes make highways and other high-speed roads safer for traffic using them, they were never meant for cities and town centers. And yet city streets were built the same way as those high-speed roads. Vineet Gupta of Boston’s Transportation Department says that post-war engineering mentality explains why Cambridge Street is so bad for pedestrians today.
GUPTA: In those days, all they cared about was moving traffic and making traffic flow more efficient, and really not focusing on what cities really are, and what makes them livable.
LUCAS: That’s where people-oriented complete streets are different.And the idea has been gaining traction around the country.The National Complete Streets Coalition says that the number of places with complete street policies leaped from 86 in 2008 to 610 last year. Stephanie Seskin has noticed.
We haven’t seen much of this progress yet in Roslindale. It’s our job to push both elected and appointed officials to bring Complete Streets to our neighborhood sooner rather than later. We should be leading rather than trailing.