Wednesday, January 28, 2009

If Traffic is Bad, And Freeways Cause Urban Traffic...

Why don't we remove the freeways?

Yesterday I pointed out a great article in Scientific American documenting the plain, simple reality that removing freeways improves traffic flow in urban areas. That article leads with the example of an elevated freeway in Seoul, Korea that was removed, and the improvement in traffic flow that resulted.

Reading up a little more, I found an excellent website devoted to real-world examples of urban freeways that have been nixed. The Preservation Institute of Berkeley, CA tells the whole story of the Cheonggye Freeway. From river to freeway and back again in less than half a century, the Cheonggye is a remarkable case, but freeway removal in cities around the world are strikingly similar.

Here in SF we have two good cases where freeways were closed and the sky remained firmly up. The Embarcadero and Central Freeways were removed after much hair-pulling and hand wringing, and replaced with surface streets that have proven to be wildly successful.

View Larger Map

Here's a little map of the scars across San Francisco caused by elevated freeways. Blue represents extant freeway, green represents those removed.

These monstrosities cut off neighborhoods and blight the area for blocks around. This map doesn't even highlight those traffic sewers that some of our city streets have been turned into in a vain effort to whisk people on and off these concrete octopuses. Streets like Alemany Blvd, San Jose Ave and Division St.

If we can see that these misguided structures cause tangible problems, and we know that removing them improves traffic flow while eliminating those problems, then why the hell don't we tear them all down?


Sarah H said...

Exactly. This is the only real answer to the ongoing Market and Octavia crisis. But it's the only one nobody will mention.

I have to walk under a highway to get to work. Several months ago, one side of the highway was torn down, leaving a glorious view of the hills of san francisco. For about a week, it was a pure delight to walk through this construction zone every morning. Then the highway was promptly built back up, the view obscured, the dank darkness of the underpass restored, and the governor attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to... celebrate? wtf.

Greg said...

isn't it weird to think that at one point they wanted to drill a freeway under the panhandle?

Pedestrianist said...


not under, over!