The Economic Merits of Road Diets

By Dom Nozzi

“Road diets” are instances where a street is shrunk in size by removing travel lanes. Most commonly in America, this occurs when a four- or five-lane street is reduced to a three-lane street.

A common concern associated with a road diet is that such a road modification will be harmful to the economic health of the street, primarily because of the concern that the “diet” will reduce traffic volumes on the street.chicago road diet

Proponents of road diets point out, however, that such road modifications tend to be highly beneficial for economic, land use and safety reasons. Proponents note, for example, that reducing the number of travel lanes makes the street more of a “drive-to” destination (where motorists drive more slowly and attentively) rather than a “drive-through” corridor (where motorists drive faster and less attentively).

The “drive-to” nature of the road diet is based on the tendency of the lane reduction to create a calmer, slower, safer and more attractive venue – a “park once” place where the motorist is more likely to want to park, walk around, hang out, and enjoy the setting (this sort of newly-created environment also tends to make the street more inviting to residences, and makes the street safer).

The following studies and reports provide a sampling of information showing the economic (and other) merits of road diets.

Dan Gallagher, the Charlotte, North Carolina Transportation Planning Manager, led a study that looked at the “before” and “after” property values along a street in Charlotte which had undergone a road diet.

Gallagher’s staff evaluated property value information for the East Boulevard road diet in Charlotte in March 2013. Phase 1 of the diet occurred in 2006. Phase 2 occurred in 2010. The county property tax assessment re-evaluation was done in 2003 and then again in 2011. The non-residential tax value of properties fronting East Boulevard was $90 million in 2003. The non-residential tax values of properties fronting East Boulevard was $133 million in 2011 – a 47 percent increase. This increase occurred despite the 2008 “great recession” that affected Charlotte and the nation.Road-Diet

The corridor was pretty much “built out” before the road diet, which largely means that the value increased for properties that were not developed or redeveloped. The increase, in other words, cannot be attributed to value realized due to new construction.

The following is a bibliography on the economic (and other) merits of road diets

  York Blvd: Economics of a Road Diet. http://la.streetsblog.org/wp-content/pdf/york_blvd_final_report_compress.pdf

Going on a Road Diet.  http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/11septoct/05.cfm

Economic Merits of a Road Diet, by Dom Nozzi http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/2003/08/17/economic-merits-of-road-diets-and-traffic-calming/

El Cajon’s Road Diet. http://www.walkinginfo.org/library/details.cfm?id=3967

Safety and Economic Benefits of a Road Diet.  http://www.slideshare.net/choyle75/safety-and-economic-benefits-of-road-diets-5-10

Road Diets.  http://www.planetizen.com/node/44645

Franklin Ave Road Diet. http://www.thelinemedia.com/features/franklinaveexperiment102412.aspx

Orlando Road Diet. http://rickgellerforcc.blogspot.mx/2011/09/road-diets-economic-revitalization.html

“To Smooth Your Drive, Slow It Down, He Says”, by Keith Schneider. 10/27/04 New York Times.

“Guidelines for the Conversion of Urban 4-lane Undivided Roadways to 3-lane Two-Way Left-Turn Lane Facilities”, by the Iowa Department of Transportation. April 2001.

“Narrowing Federal in Delray a dream”, by Meghan Meyer, Palm Beach Post (Florida), 3/6/03.

“Pedestrian-friendly downtown works for Delray”, by Leon Fooksman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/6/03.

“Road Diets: Fixing the Big Roads”, by Dan Burden & Peter Lagerway, 1999.

“Traffic Calming: Some Urban Planners Say Downtowns Need a Lot More Congestion”, by Mitchell Pacelle, Wall Street Journal, 8/7/96.

“Automobile Dependency and Economic Development”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1999.

“The Costs of Automobile Dependency”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1999.

“TDM and Economic Development”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2001.

“Sustainable Community Transportation”, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1991.

“Lake Worth: Reclaiming a Small Downtown”, by Cynthia Pollock Shea, Florida Sustainable Communities Network, 10/28/98.

“Economic Benefits of Walkable Communities”, by the Local Government Commission. Center for Livable Communities.

“Traffic Calming Reference Materials”, by Ian Lockwood and Timothy Stillings, West Palm Beach FL. October 1998.

“Taking Back Main Street”, by Engineering News Record. January 1998.

“Vital Signs: Circulation in the Heart of the City — An Overview of Downtown Traffic”, by Gerald Forbes. 1998.

“Do New Roads Cause Congestion?” by Jill Kruse. Surface Transportation Policy Project, March 1998.

Stuck in Traffic (book), by Anthony Downs.

“Widening Roads Worsens Traffic Congestion”, by Tanya Albert. The Cincinnati Enquirer. 1/13/00.

“Evaluation of Lane Reduction ‘Road Diet’ Measures on Crashes and Injuries” by Herman Huang, Richard Stewart, Charles Zegeer. University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. July 2001.

“The 3rd Motor Age”, by Walter Kulash. Places. Winter 1996.

“Emergency Response: Traffic Calming and Traditional Neighborhood Streets” by Dan Burden & Paul Zykofsky. Local Government Commission. Center for Livable Communities. December 2000.

“Take Back Your Streets”, by Conservation Law Foundation. May 1995.

“Traffic Calming”, by Cynthia Hoyle. American Planning Association. Planners Advisory Service Report #456. 1995.

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Filed under Economics, Road Diet, Urban Design, Walking

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