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Misguided thinking destroying urban grid

November 21, 2015

Good points in your column on the goofy restriping of Pennsylvania Street in downtown Indianapolis [Morris: Downtown no longer good for cars, Nov. 16 IBJ].

At core in this continuing disruption of vehicular traffic is an unstated but widely held pair of beliefs of these “innovators” who are destroying our urban grid: 1) the city and its grid are hated things, to be made more suburban/winding; 2) cars are bad, and if we make it hard for cars, demand for light rail will increase to the point that it is inevitable.

These assumptions undergird all of the decorating that is going on in our Indianapolis city streets. Traffic lanes are being removed, willy-nilly, for use as planters, parking lots, feel-good-about-being-green drainage swales, sidewalk “bump-outs,” suburban-style winding “trails” and who knows what else is next.

A look into the future shows only more vehicular traffic as the answer to our mass transit needs.

Ride sharing will proliferate, especially as Uber grows and is then disintermediated by direct trust-negotiation apps that connect rider and driver without the middleman (you heard it here first). And then next up is driverless cars. So we will need our streets to be able to carry traffic. But the last two mayoral administrations—accelerating fast under Ballard—have aggressively diminished the ability of our streets to carry vehicular traffic.

There was a time—when Wendell Phillippi ran The Indianapolis News—that Indy sought to optimize traffic flow in and out of downtown. It was not unrelated to the needs of an afternoon newspaper’s trucks to get the papers out, through rush-hour traffic. But the result was a highly efficient traffic flow.

All that is now being trashed by folks who come from cul-de-sac land and who hate the city and are destroying perhaps the most key piece of infrastructure, one removed lane after another, by decorating in the streets.

Bicyclists don’t need these goofy lanes. We really don’t. Just give us a wide right lane and then work to create a culture of bicycles being respected in traffic.

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Richard Sullivan
Monomedia Inc. president

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