Thursday, September 8, 2022

Net Zero Roads for Richardson

Source: Aurecon.

Cities everywhere are trying to reduce their impact on global warming. The goals set are all variants of "Net Zero Carbon." Many of the actions needed to achieve that are outside the control of city government. They require advances in car battery technology, electric power generation (solar and wind), construction materials (steel and concrete). The City of Richardson should promote all such advances and take advantage when possible, but I'd like to see it adopt an idea that is not dependent on technological advances. It can be done today. It's under the control of the City. It offers benefits beyond its impact on global warming. It's a road diet for Richardson.

The City of Richardson should commit to a policy of net zero growth of the land devoted to cars in Richardson. Beginning now. That means whenever and wherever Richardson adds to our streets (new streets, new lanes, wider lanes), it balances that by converting concrete elsewhere to non-car usage (grass, sidewalks, bike lanes, maybe even commercial uses).

For example, when the City of Richardson added turn lanes at the intersection of Main Street and Greenville Avenue, it heralded the benefits to safety and traffic flow. The City could have balanced that with the narrowing of a street elsewhere that would calm traffic and increase safety. It could have, but it didn't. The overall result should have been net zero growth of the land devoted to cars.

The only way we can wean ourselves from our dependence on cars, which is the source of so many urban ills, to say nothing of their contribution to global warming, is to go on a road diet. Just like a diet for eating, we need a scale to measure the size of our problem. Not by number of cars, which the City can't control, but by the amount of land devoted to cars, which it can control. I'm suggesting the City adopt a scale that it has complete control over — the number of square miles we devote to road surfaces. Does anyone have any idea what that number is? Does anyone have any idea of how that number has grown year after year? Does anyone have any idea of how that number will grow in future because of plans being made now in the City's Capital Projects/Engineering Department and the City's Transportation and Mobility Department?

The lack of answers to those questions is a sign of just how bad our problem is. I suggest we figure out where we stand today and then keep the scale in balance from now on.

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