Tag Archives: quality of life

Should We Fear Niwot’s Curse?

By Dom Nozzi

In Boulder CO, according to local lore, Chief Niwot said, “People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.”

This is known as Niwot’s Curse.

One of my Boulder friends wholeheartedly subscribes to this adage, and regularly laments the nearly monthly ranking of Boulder as the city with the highest quality of life in the nation. She worries that Boulder being top-ranked for quality of life on a regular basis will mean evermore people will move to Boulder and ruin its stellar beauty.

I chide her by letting her know that it appears her dream is to have Boulder regularly ranked as having the LOWEST quality of life in the nation.

The fact is, I inform her, that to this day, Boulder is nearly always ranked number one for being the best city. This is exemplified by the rankings and the crazy high housing prices – which happens to be a very reliable indicator that Boulder is experiencing anything BUT “destruction.”

After all the “destructive” growth over the past 20 or 30 years, Boulder is a much more pleasant city today than it was 20 or 30 years ago: More and better restaurants, more and better retail, more and better trails and paths, better urbanism, more people on sidewalks and bicycling, and more and better cultural events.

In its misguided obsession with stopping “growth” or “density” or “tall buildings” and easing car travel (thinking, wrongly, that doing that is the key to protecting quality of life), what Boulder is failing to do to protect itself is to guard against the REAL threats: enlarged roads and intersections, and land development regulations that continue to allow various and sundry modernist crapola (ie, hideous buildings that no one loves and everyone wants to see demolished as soon as possible).

And it is not just Boulder. All cities have failed to do this since about the 1940s.

If Boulder Council gained the wisdom and leadership to do the effective things I cite above, it would put those protections in place. By doing so, it would not matter one bit that top rankings were inducing more and more to move to Boulder. Indeed, a lot more in-migration would dramatically improve the city quality of life when coupled with such development regulations.

I’d go even further. Having more and more moving to Boulder would actually help Boulder quality even WITHOUT those protections, as we know from city growth around the nation. All cities that become more compact due to growth see less per capita car trips, more small and locally owned shops and restaurants, more intellectual firepower, better transit, and better culture. This has not only been shown throughout the US, but much more clearly in countless European cities – cities that are FAR more dense — and yet have far higher quality of life.

A common worry: people not liking the idea of Boulder “losing its small town feel” and seeming more like a “congested big city” if its population doubled or tripled? I and millions of others agree that “small town” is better than “big city.” But losing “small town feel” and feeling like a “big city” does NOT come from population growth. It comes from the consensus in Boulder and nearly all other cities that we must widen our roads, enlarge our intersections and replace historic charm with butt-ugly modernism.

In sum, if Boulder put its many big, oversized roads and parking lots on a diet; shrank its oversized intersections; eliminated the requirement that requires new developments to provide parking; used remote, electronic parking meters to price nearly all free parking in Boulder – particularly on-street parking; kept new residential and commercial growth in human-scaled, compact, mixed-use patterns; and replaced its blighting modernist buildings with lovable traditional design (not to mention adding a requirement that all new buildings must use traditional design); it could have four or five times more people and still be loved by the entire community because it is thereby able to retain its small town feel. It’s traditional charm. It’s romantic human scale.

This is not rocket science. All we need is the political will. Which, tragically, is likely to only come from a HUGE crisis like a staggering economic depression, a massive housing affordability crisis, a crushing medical obesity epidemic, or a major roadway death epidemic.

Sadly, none of these will likely be significant enough to give Boulder a huge, much-needed kick in the ass in our lifetimes.

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Siren Noise Reduction Strategies

By Dom Nozzi

Emergency vehicle sirens (such as firetrucks and ambulances) have become an enormous source of town center noise pollution. So much so as to have created a 24/7 “war zone” atmosphere which is so intolerable that it chases untold numbers of otherwise interested town center residents to suburban locations. Such sirens are, of course, highly detrimental to the quality of life of those who remain in the town center.

Siren noise pollution has grown exponentially in recent times in part because of the ever-higher decibel levels of the sirens, the absence of leadership in elected office throughout the US (in this case exemplified by elected officials not having the wisdom or courage to control excessive siren use), and the growth in the number of events that lead such vehicle occupants to deploy sirens.

Another important factor that leads to siren overuse is the “safetyism” sickness. “Safetyism” is a term used by sociologist Jonathan Haidt to describe the concept of extreme suboptimizing on safety that we see particularly in the US. So extreme that in important ways overemphasis on safety has – ironically – undermined safety (for example, by reducing natural human defense/immune systems) and so destroyed community peace and quiet that it has severely degraded quality of life.

An important reason why sirens are used excessively in our communities is that almost none of us think we can do anything about it (or that we think doing so will harm public safety).

In fact, many communities have shown that it IS possible to limit siren noise to tolerable levels, and that doing so has no impact on public safety.

Emergency vehicles can use alternating high pitch/low pitch sirens, as is done in much of Europe.

Government regulation can obligate a reduction in the maximum allowable decibel level for sirens (decibel levels are much higher now than they were in the past), or set an upper limit on how loud sirens can be.

Local government policy can require that no continuous siren use is allowed during the entirety of an emergency vehicle run. Sirens are only allowed when there is a vehicle ahead which is obstructing the emergency vehicle, or when the emergency vehicle is approaching a red light at a signalized intersection.

Local government policy can require that no siren be used by an ambulance when transporting a patient that does not have a medical emergency.

Local government policy can require that emergency vehicles are only allowed to use major access routes when such routes contain few or no residences along the route.

To create disincentives for emergency vehicles to overuse their sirens, local government policy can require that emergency vehicles have siren decibel levels be as high inside the vehicle as outside the vehicle.

If there is insufficient leadership in elected office, a half-step toward siren sanity is to keep the status quo, but implement some or all of above tactics between 10 pm and 6 am.

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Greenville’s Impressive Transformation Faces a Severe Challenge

By Dom Nozzi

Greenville SC — the city we moved to in June 2021 — was brought back to life over the past decades. Before 1980, Greenville’s oversized main street had led to many abandonments, much crime, a lot of drug and prostitute activity, many vehicle crashes, and an overall flight of citizens away from what had become an awful town center. Since then, the downtown has seen an astonishing rejuvenation — so impressive that the City has won several national awards and those selling property in or near downtown boast about the property being near main street.

This, in sum, is the story of how an American city can be brought back to life by reversing its century-long design direction: Designing primarily for people walking and bicycling rather than designing for happy cars. In large part, this meant undoing the century of damage done to the city by the engineers and planners the City had hired — ironically — to “fix” problems.

In 1968, citizens and community leaders commissioned a downtown development plan to help direct efforts to revive a struggling business district. The plan recommended what is now a key element of downtown — making Main Street a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Max Heller, who is known as the “Father of Modern Greenville,” was the 29th mayor of Greenville for almost a decade from 1971-1979. The sidewalk and café-lined downtown enjoyed in Greenville today is a result of Heller’s vision for the city and his European heritage. Under his guidance, Main Street was converted from a four-lane thoroughfare to a two-lane oasis complete with trees, streetlights, flowers, and green spaces.

In 1979, implementation began on a new streetscape plan, which included narrowing Main Street from four lanes to two and creating angled parking. Trees and decorative light fixtures were also added, and sidewalks were widened to 18 feet, providing space for outdoor dining. The streetscape was extended from South Main into the West End and the improvements were completed in 1981.

While the framework for revitalizing downtown was in place, in 1987 community leaders contracted with Land Design/Research, Inc. (LDR) to identify additional development opportunities and create a Downtown Development Strategy. The LDR plan recommended focusing development efforts in three key areas, including the Reedy River Falls area. This was the first time the often ignored Reedy River and Reedy River Falls were identified as significant assets for downtown. The plan further suggested that future developments should open to and engage the riverfront, and removal of the Camperdown Way Bridge was mentioned as a way to highlight the distinctive natural feature of the falls. In the ensuing years, these ideas would come to fruition and help create what is now a centerpiece of Greenville’s downtown.

A transportation consultant and colleague of mine gave me additional insight into the history I provided above. He noted that while the main Street is a great story, there are 10 large parking garages on the downtown grid, within 3 blocks east or west. The “B” Streets feeding these garages, he noted, are very slow to mature into even average walkability. When will the parking demand diminish, he asked?

Hearing these thoughts, I let him know that I am fully and painfully aware of how Greenville has a long, long way to go to engage in an essential reform of its transportation system.

The City — while taking bold steps that nearly all other US cities are unable to take due to lack of wisdom or political courage — has barely scratched the surface on crucial reforms needed. After moving here, I immediately noticed that while main street has wonderfully walkable urbanism, it is a tiny sliver of urbanism in a downtown that has been excessively given over to enabling motor vehicles — thereby degrading walkability, bikeability, retail health, and residential health.

As my colleague indicated, the City does not get it regarding parking. I’ve spoken with the mayor and a number of residents, and while the mayor openly supports road dieting for near term and long term projects, he seems opposed to on-street parking (a great many streets suitable for on-street parking do not have it) and he also seems to strongly oppose — tragically — priced on-street parking.

There are many roads in town center Greenville that are oversized “stroads” (oversized roadways that also try to be streets, but fail as both a road and a street).

Each is in crying need of a diet: Augusta, Pete Hollis, McDaniel, Dunbar, Academy, Stone, Buncombe, Wade Hampton, Rutherford, Richardson, Poinsett, Pleasantburg, Laurens, Mills, and Church.

A significant obstacle for all South Carolina cities is that the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) owns nearly all roads, and SCDOT has only two objectives: maximizing motor vehicle speeds and maximizing motor vehicle volumes – such objectives are deadly for the health of a city.

Given the above, I’d say the top three transportation objectives for Greenville are taking ownership of many roads owned by SCDOT, road diets for the 14 oversized stroads, and Shoupian parking reform (which emphasizes properly priced on-street parking).

I have a growing sense, however, that like nearly everywhere else, even Greenville has passed the point of no return on transportation. Barring an unprecedented economic collapse, there is no turning back on the self-perpetuating downward spiral we’ve spent several decades getting ourselves in regarding transportation.

https://domz60.wordpress.com/…/17/the-point-of-no-return/

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Civility Needs to Go Viral

By Dom Nozzi

Civility needs to “go viral.”

Why?

Because in my experience, there has been a steep decline in civility in American society for several decades. And civility is one of the most essential elements for a culture that seeks to survive and thrive into the future. Without civility, a culture is on the road to collapse.

The first and most powerful step in restoring a reasonable level of societal civility in American society is to put our “stroads” on a road diet. This is necessary in several instances for every city in America.

 A “stroad” is a delightful term coined by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, and refers to those dangerous, multi-laned thoroughfares you encounter in nearly every city, town, and suburb in America. They’re what happens when a street (a place where people interact with businesses and residences, and where wealth is produced) is ruinously also designed to serve as a road (a high-speed route between productive places). They are enormously expensive to build and, ultimately, financially unproductive. They’re also very dangerous. And they are the futon of transportation” because, just as a futon is neither a particularly good bed nor a particularly good couch, a stroad is neither a particularly good road or a particularly good street.

Greenville makes this step obvious. Motorists are obligated to drive 15-25 mph smoothly on appropriately road dieted Main Street. This is contrasted with the 45-55 mph speeds motorists are allowed and enabled to drive on Greenville’s many stroads. Of course, on a stroad a motorist is not driving at those higher speeds smoothly. Instead, the stroad inevitably forces motorists to engage in “jack rabbit stop and go” travel, where motorists engage in short bursts of excessive speeds followed by frequently repeated stops and slow downs.

Despite the fact that nearly everyone expects a slow speed road to be frustrating and unpleasant to drive on (“WE ARE VERY BUSY AND NEED TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE FASTER!”), driving on Main Street in Greenville versus driving on the Greenville stroads leads to far better and more enjoyable motorist experiences.

On slow speed Main Street, nearly all drivers are more courteous, more calm, more relaxed, more happy and smiling, more polite, more well-mannered, more patient, and filled with civic pride.

The drive, even though slow in speed, FEELS like it goes by relatively quickly. This is because the drive is more aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. Some drivers don’t want the driving experience to end.

On higher speed stroads, by striking contrast, drivers are more hostile, angry, stressed, impatient, hot-tempered, and enraged at any fellow citizen who DARES to get in the way by driving or turning too slowly, and ashamed to live in a city with such an oversized, strip-commercial roadway blight (this is exemplified by the fact that no one in Greenville takes their out-of-town guests to show off the higher speed stroad, whereas many show off Main Street to their guests).

The drive, even though higher in speed, FEELS like it takes a relatively long time. This is because the drive is ugly, frustrating, and stressful. Drivers can’t wait to get off the stroad.

The unpleasant, stressful, angering, impatient, hostile, uncivil, short-tempered emotions induced by stroads spills over into the stroad-driving motorist’s life beyond the unpleasant stroad experience and into the realm of family life, work life, social life, and interactions with fellow neighbors and other citizens.

Stroads in Greenville include – but are not limited to – the following:

Augusta Avenue

Peter Hollis Boulevard

McDaniel Avenue

Academy Street

Stone Avenue

Buncombe Street

Rutherford Street

Richardson Street

Poinsett Highway

Pleasantburg Drive

Laurens Road

Mills Avenue

Church Street

In sum, converting stroads to streets is an effective way to substantially promote civility (and happiness!) in American society.

We start doing that by removing excessive numbers of lanes on stroads. In other words, treating the failing stroad with a life-giving road diet.

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Should We Fear Niwot’s Curse?

By Dom Nozzi

In Boulder CO, according to local lore, Chief Niwot said, “People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.” This is known as Niwot’s Curse.

One of my Boulder friends wholeheartedly subscribes to this adage, and regularly laments the nearly monthly ranking of Boulder as the city with the highest quality of life in the nation. She worries that the top ranking will mean even more people will move to Boulder and ruin its stellar beauty.

I chide her by letting her know that it appears her dream is to have Boulder regularly ranked as having the LOWEST quality of life in the nation.

The fact is, I inform her, is that to this day, Boulder is nearly always ranked number one for being the best city — as exemplified by the rankings and the crazy high housing prices – which happens to be a very reliable indicator that Boulder is experiencing anything BUT “destruction.” After all the “destructive” growth over the past 20 or 30 years, Boulder is a much more pleasant city today than it was 20 or 30 years ago: More and better restaurants, more and better retail, more and better trails and paths, better urbanism, more people on sidewalks and bicycling, and more and better cultural events.

What Boulder is failing to do to protect itself from declining – which nearly all cities in the world have failed to do since about the 1940s — is that in its obsession with stopping “growth” or “density” or “tall buildings” and – significantly – easing car travel, is to guard against the REAL threats: enlarged roads and intersections, and land development regulations that continue to allow various and sundry modernist crapola (ie, hideous buildings that no one loves and everyone wants to see demolished as soon as possible).

If Boulder Council got its head out of its wokster ass, it would put those protections in place. By doing so, it would not matter one bit that top rankings were inducing more and more to move to Boulder. Indeed, a lot more in-migration would dramatically improve the city quality of life with such development regulations.

I’d go even further. Having more and more moving to Boulder would actually help Boulder quality even WITHOUT those protections, as we know from city growth around the nation. All cities that become more compact due to growth see less per capita car trips, more small and locally owned shops and restaurants, more intellectual firepower, better transit, and better culture. This has not only been shown throughout the US, but much more clearly in countless European cities – cities that are FAR more dense with population growth and yet have far higher quality of life.

A common worry: people not liking the idea of Boulder “losing its small town feel” and seeming more like a “congested big city” if its population doubled or tripled? I and millions of others agree that “small town” is better than “big city.” But losing “small town feel” and feeling like a “big city” does NOT come from population growth. It comes from the consensus in Boulder and nearly all other cities that we must widen our roads, enlarge our intersections and replace historic charm with butt-ugly modernism.

In sum, if Boulder put its many big, oversized roads and parking lots on a diet, shrank its oversized intersections, eliminated the requirement that requires new developments to provide parking, used remote, electronic parking meters to price nearly all free parking in Boulder – particularly on-street parking — kept new residential and commercial growth in human-scaled, compact, mixed-use patterns, and replaced its blighting modernist buildings with lovable traditional design (not to mention adding a requirement that all new buildings must use traditional design), it could have four or five times more people and still be loved by the entire community because it is thereby able to retain its small town feel. It’s traditional charm. It’s romantic human scale.

This is not rocket science. All we need is the political will. Which, tragically, is likely to only come from a HUGE crisis like a staggering economic depression, a massive housing affordability crisis, a crushing medical obesity epidemic, or a major roadway death epidemic.

Sadly, none of these will likely be significant enough to give Boulder a huge, much-needed kick in the ass in our lifetimes.

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Fire Trucks Are Contributing to the Destruction of Our Cities

By Dom Nozzi

Fire departments tend to suboptimize on fire safety. That is, they tend to make all city objectives secondary to fire suppression objectives to the detriment of overall city health.

Because fire safety is a subset of life safety, the narrow Fire Department focus on fire safety results in a net increase in community injuries and deaths.

A key leadership achievement for local government is to establish a policy that limits and reduces the size of emergency vehicles and service vehicles (ie, fire trucks and buses, among other vehicles) bought and owned by local government.

Why?

Because oversized emergency and service vehicles obligate a city to oversize its roads and intersections, which induces dangerous speeding, a higher level of motor vehicle crashes, a reduction in a sense of place due to loss of human scale, and therefore a substantial reduction in quality of life.

When I was writing long-range transportation plans for Gainesville FL many moons ago, I drafted a purchasing policy for the city that would do such a thing. The policy was, of course, removed. Dan Burden notes, unfortunately, that we are losing the battle to restrict the growing size of such vehicles. Those purchasing such vehicles continue to ruinously believe the “bigger the better.”

As Andres Duany notes, such specialists cannot seen the forest for the trees, and their ignorance of the severe negative impacts of their decisions to buy larger fire trucks and buses is destroying the safety, quality of life, and financial health of cities.

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My Town Is Being Ruined Because Too Many People Are Moving Here!

By Dom Nozzi

One of the most common fears I hear expressed by friends and family about the state of affairs in their community is that “there are too many people moving here!”

The seemingly self-evident assumption that underlies this all-too-common lament is that “too many people” will destroy quality of life.

But the influx of more people is not the problem in these places.

The problem in nearly all cases is the influx of more people into a place with development regulations that deliver car dependency.

Therefore, the solution is not to stop the influx of people. Indeed, most all cities – particularly in America — can benefit from a big influx of people. The solution is to adopt development requirements that produce compact, lovable community design that meaningfully reduces car use.

The good news is that we already know the development (and transportation) regulations that effectively bring us a lot less car use. The Dover-Kohl urban design firm has shown the way for many years.

This is not rocket science.

While I agree an influx of people can negatively affect economic issues such as affordable housing — particularly if we design for walking — the problem of affordable housing is manageable with proper urban design. So manageable that the substantial benefits of a larger number of residents to a community far outweigh the downsides of a loss of affordable housing.

This is true as long as community development regulations obligate much of the new housing that may be needed for such new residents be designed in compact, walkable patterns.

 The problem and tragedy is that for the past century, we’ve thrown away the timeless tradition of designing our communities for happy people. Instead, for that past century, we have conducted a ruinous experiment (increasingly out of obligation): designing to make cars happy.

Since cars and people have different – in many ways opposite — needs and objectives, we inevitably foul our own nest by focusing on accommodating cars.

That means pretty much all our cities are dying from gigantism, being spread too thin, being infested with massive roads and parking, suffering from increased transportation-related danger, a loss of a sense of community or sense of place, a loss of beauty, a loss of affordability, a loss of human scale, a loss of civic pride, a loss of sustainability, and a loss of travel independence for those who cannot drive (mostly seniors, disabled, kids).

Nearly every city (particularly post-1940 sections of cities) is a dreadful place that no one can love (except, perhaps, inside our privatopian house and motor vehicle cocoons).

We COULD have spent the past century building compact, walkable communities that humans have always loved (old Siena, old Paris, old Key West, old San Francisco, old Florence, old Venice, old Frankfurt, old Assissi, old Innsbruck, old Bologna, old Milano, old Barcelona, old Croatia, old Zurich, old Bonn, old Amsterdam, etc.).

Instead we are left with cities that should mostly be demolished so that we can rebuild them the way we did prior to about 1940. We have left the worst legacy of any generation in world history.

Even though we are the most wealthy generation in history.

Someday I hope we regain our sanity.

But for the past century we have lost our minds. And as Kunstler says, we have wasted trillions of dollars engaged in building the catastrophically-failed car-dependent experiment.

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Noise Pollution Assaulting Our Greenville SC Home is Intolerable

By Dom Nozzi

I’m sorry, but I’ve had it with the house we bought a few weeks ago in Greenville SC. The noise pollution coming from nearby Butler Avenue is three times higher than any I’ve ever experienced in all the places I have lived. And the fact that we have emergency vehicle sirens screaming down Butler multiple times a day makes an already unacceptable noise problem SIGNIFICANTLY worse. The unbearable noise is degrading the property values of all homes near Butler. Complaints have arisen from more than one of my neighbors about the sirens. My stress level is skyrocketing. The unending noise is making me short-tempered, hostile and a generally unpleasant person to be around. I find myself angrily screaming at my partner Maggie on many occasions. And I have been obligated to wear ear plugs in several instances – that is, when I cannot suppress the stubborn desire to sit on my front porch to read.

I did not sign up for this.

The professional literature, as an aside, shows a clear connection between noise pollution, and a number of medical and societal maladies such as high blood pressure, heart disease, mental illness, depression, inability to engage in conversation, foul mood, fatigue, loss of sleep, anger, poor concentration, productivity losses at the workplace, cognitive impairment, tinnitus, hearing loss, and failed relationships.

We also know from many studies that excessive noise leads to a substantial decline in residential and retail property values. One inequitable, downwardly spiraling aspect of this are studies showing that homeowners abandon their porches and other rooms near the roaring roadway and incrementally migrate toward rooms as far from the inhospitable, anti-urban road as possible – in other words, a flight from the front of the house to the back of the house.

To add insult to injury, I must also mention that every afternoon we have a high-speed, very loud convoy of 25 to 35 USPS vans racing down our street to get to the big USPS facility down the street from us. The mail delivery employees are racing to end their shifts for the day. I have gone to the USPS facility five times and requested that I be able to speak to the postmaster about having the vans redirected one block off of our street so that they use two larger roads – two non-residential, commercial streets – instead of our residential street. Each time I’ve spoken to staff at the USPS, I am told it is not possible to redirect the vans off of our street, even though this is clearly possible. And clearly called for, given the noise pollution and safety hazards posed by the speeding vans. Each time I ask to speak to a supervisor and each time I am assured I will get a call back from the postmaster. I have still not gotten a call.

Maggie and I have started to place our garbage carts near the middle of our street in a “tactical urbanism” effort to slow down speeding vehicles (it is not just the USPS vans) on the street to slower, safer, quieter speeds.

A few days ago, I met a Greenville elected official for the first time, and complained to him about the out of control siren use in the city by emergency vehicles. I’m sure that went in one ear and out the other.

Yesterday I posted a note to the neighborhood Nextdoor email list that I would like to hear from anyone that knows of a house in the neighborhood that will be listed for sale in the future. My quest is to move to a home that is not being severely degraded by noise pollution the way my newly-purchased home is being degraded.

As an aside, I believe that like the requirement that new homeowners be warned that they are buying a home affected by such natural hazards as a floodplain, it should now also be required by law that homebuyers be warned that they are buying a home that is being regularly subjected to extreme levels of noise pollution.

I have professional and academic expertise in noise control, as I have advanced degrees in town planning, transportation, and environmental science. This led my former employer to have me prepare a noise control ordinance for a city with a larger population than Greenville. I am very well aware of the fact that those living in or near a town center need to expect a higher ambient noise level. That is a basic, understandable trade-off for living in a town center that offers the convenience of many nearby destinations.

On the other hand, I am also well aware of the fact that our society has far higher levels of noise pollution than are necessary for a city. Levels that have been worsening severely over the past several decades (my research has led to me to learn that noise pollution is one of the very few forms of pollution we are losing ground over). It is simply not true that a functioning, healthy city must accept the ever-worsening levels of noise pollution that city dwellers are now subjected to.

Healthy cities, in fact, can and do function much better with far lower levels of noise pollution. For starters, it is well known that public safety and economic health are in no way jeopardized by a reduction in the deafening roar of ever louder and almost continuous emergency vehicle sirens. Nor is city health in any way compromised when we install effective traffic calming tools to slow speeding motor vehicles (motor vehicles are by far the leading source of urban noise pollution). Effective tools? On-street metered parking. Road diets. Landscaped bulb-outs. Raised medians. Chicanes. Canopy street trees. Shorter signal lights, signs, and street lights. Smaller turning radii.

As I understand it, a number of homeowners in our vicinity (likely including the former owners of our home) were not able to continue tolerating the noise and danger problems associated with motor vehicles. Rather than do what most all citizens do – which is to decide “there is nothing that can be done about noise pollution, so we will continue to accept lower and lower quality of life expectations” – some in our vicinity have opted to sell their homes so they can move to a place without a 24/7 roar. I have learned both academically and professionally that countless citizens either leave a home in or near a town center, or never consider living in such a location due to their (accurate) perception that cities are failing to do anything to stem ever-worsening noise pollution, vehicle danger, and oversized, unsafe roadways that are (unnecessarily) severely degrading our town centers.

Across the street from us, the City inexplicitly allowed a financial institution to install a four-lane, 24-hour-a-day drive-through. The parking lot on the other side of the bank is a vast, sea-of-asphalt parking lot that dwarfs the size of the bank, and as Donald Shoup says (see his The High Cost of Free Parking), artificially breeds far more car trips than would have occurred had there not been such an oversized, free-to-use parking lot. This highway oriented breeder of day- and night-long car traffic in front of our home pumps toxic fumes onto our front porch all the time. It has produced queues of cars hundreds of feel long in front of our house. And it regularly brings in drivers completely distracted, as I see many filling out their deposit or withdrawal forms as they approach the drive-through. This is particularly unsafe when the driver is in a hurry. Or when seniors or children are on the sidewalk. The design of the financial institution is much better suited to a 10-lane suburban strip commercial roadway than a neighborhood and what should be its safe and quiet streets. Indeed, there is very little that is more UN-neighborly than the design of this bank.

I do not at all believe it is unreasonable to expect to be able to live in a half-million dollar house (or even a more modestly-priced house, for that matter) that does not suffer from deafening roadway noise 24/7. In fact, such an expectation is a basic, fundamental human right. A right that is being unceasingly violated – mostly by a failure to control dangerous, noisy suburban design in the urban area.

All of this is unacceptable.

For a number of days now, I’ve started looking online for houses for sale in the neighborhood. By far my leading criterion for a house to buy is that the home is at least one or two blocks away from a major car sewer highway. It is not just the high-speed freeway near our home. I have also learned there are other roads in Greenville acting like dangerous, deafening interstate beltways: Academy, Pete Hollis, Buncombe, Augusta, McDaniel, Stone, Rutherford, Poinsett, Pleasantburg, and Laurens.

I need to be able to find a home at least a block or two from all of these ruinous highways. Countless other homeowners and renters in Greenville have arrived at the same conclusion. The long-term result of the creation of these monster roads – besides inducing large numbers of deadly crashes and ramping up the number of trips that must be made by car – is a decline and residential abandonment of homes in neighborhoods near these over-sized roadways.

Each time such roads are created, their effect is not unlike the impact of aerial bombing runs on the nearby neighborhoods. Each time elected officials make a decision to install such highways, they are in effect destroying nearby neighborhoods that have the misfortune to be close to such roadways, and are also condemning their city with a future of declining property tax revenues, a growing number of motor vehicle crashes, increasing noise pollution, a decline in walking, bicycling and transit use, and an increasing levels of motor vehicle use.

In sum, such decisions show that these elected officials are engaged in serious malfeasance as elected officials, and should be removed from office.

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Controlling Noise Pollution

By Dom Nozzi

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) vehicle sirens are an enormous noise pollution problem in cities and it is getting worse all the time. Motor vehicles (not just EMS) are the biggest source of noise pollution in cities.

Motor vehicle noise pollution goes way down when car speeds are lowered using traffic calming design for streets.

Studies show that neighborhoods tend to notice traffic being a problem far more if motor vehicle speeds are high compared to car volumes being high. In other words, high car speeds are much more of a nuisance and danger than high volumes of cars.

Controlling sirens, unfortunately, is extremely politically difficult. Which elected official, for example, wants to be seen as being in favor of babies dying in burning buildings? Some communities, however, have been fortunate to have elected true leaders who successfully demand their fire chiefs and cops and medical service administrators reduce the frequency and volume of sirens, and the type of calls that require use of sirens. This essential and growing need to reduce excessive high-volume siren use is particularly important at night and in residential areas.

Failure to establish policies that create a more tolerable (ie, more modest) level of siren use is essential for protecting quality of life in a city.

Flashing lights should be seen as sufficient in most of the mileage traveled by EMS vehicles. Controlling the size of fire trucks and buses, by the way, is also very important for improving community safety.

With excessive, high-volume siren use, a community can seem to be in a war zone, and it is probably not be a coincidence that “war zone” siren use helps artificially amplify citizen perception that crime and fires and medical emergencies are extremely rampant and out of control. By artificially inducing this sort of citizen hysteria, elected officials are more likely to feel the political pressure to pump ever more government revenue into these emergency service departments to contend with what is likely to be seen as a widespread and growing number of emergencies that seem to be raging in the community.

This all-too-common response tends to lead to a self-perpetuating downward spiral of ever-increasing allocation of public dollars to address what appears to be an intractable and substantial public safety concern – a concern that tends to be disconnected to real-world safety concerns because it is based more on excessive siren use than on actual safety issues.

It might very well be the case that controlling siren noise in the ways I suggest above is not feasible for the foreseeable future in a society that has gone overboard on safety. Ironically, going overboard on public safety tends to REDUCE overall public safety in several ways.

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Why I Prefer Greenville SC to Asheville NC

By Dom Nozzi

My girlfriend and I moved from Boulder CO in 2020 due to the extremely high cost of housing in that city. After quite a bit of research and comparison of what we believed were desirable cities to move to, we opted for Asheville NC. However, after a few months living in that city, we discovered that there are a number of important downsides for living in Asheville and a number of important upsides for living in Greenville South Carolina.

We decided there are too many interstate highways in the Asheville urban area. Partly due to these highways, we decided there is too much noise pollution in Asheville. The noise pollution problem is also created by an unusually large number of very loud motor vehicles in Asheville, as well as an out-of-control fire department in that city.

Speaking as someone who is mostly on the political Left, I came to learn that there are too many “Regressive Left” zombies in Asheville (ie, “wokesters,” “cultural Marxists,” “Social Justice Warriors,” “Black Lives Matter” virtue signalers).

Greenville, by comparison, is more bike friendly and walk friendly than Asheville — particularly in the town center.

Housing is more expensive in Asheville than in Greenville.

Greenville has had sufficient leadership in elected local office to have removed a highway bridge that obscured a waterfall, and accomplished the nation’s best road diet transformation of its main street. Asheville does not seem to have the leadership to do those things.

Greenville is less infected with “safety-ism” than Asheville. Asheville has a concern for safety that is so extreme that it degrades quality of life.

Greenville has more traditional architecture in its town center and more Craftsman homes than Asheville. This is true both for homes built decades ago, as well as new-build homes and other buildings.

The cost of living is lower in Greenville.

Finally, Greenville is served by passenger rail. Asheville is not.

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