Tag Archives: quality of life

Widening a Road to Solve Congestion is Like Loosening Your Belt to Solve Obesity

By Dom Nozzi

Greenville is not “overcrowded.”  

There are not too many people. There are too many people in cars.

For there to be less “crowding,” we need more compact land use patterns. Counterintuitive, but true nevertheless.

True because the most important reason why most believe a community has become “too crowded” is that motor vehicles consume an enormous amount of space. Higher levels of per capita motor vehicle travel – levels that are highest when land use patterns are dispersed and low-density – are the primary cause of high levels of motor vehicle travel.

Compactness gives us better quality of life, less motor vehicle dependence, more transit use, more walking, more bicycling, more safety, better public health, better financial health for Greenville (and its small shops and its families), less air pollution, less car-crash deaths, and less climate change. Conversely, car-oriented development is a bankrupting Ponzi Scheme, because car-oriented development seems to produce attractive tax revenue up front, but actually fails to pay its own way, which bankrupts communities in the long run.

Oversizing for cars leads to a Greenville that is losing its desired “small town feel.”

Greenville has too much open space (most of us incorrectly think the reverse). We have excess open space because we over-allocate space for motor vehicles. Space for oversized roads, oversized parking, and oversized building setbacks needs to be replaced with buildings for a more human-scaled community. Two important ingredients for Greenville to be healthy: “agglomeration economies” (ie, clustered compactness), and slower speed vehicle travel. Indeed, there is a worldwide effort to create “slower-speed cities.”

Greensville needs to reduce excessive town center noise pollution to better promote compact development. Sirens are overused. We need emergency vehicle agencies (police, fire, medical) and trains to significantly reduce their siren use and decibels. There are several ways to reduce siren noise without compromising public safety. Greenville also suffers from an abundance of loud mufflers.

We can lower noise and improve safety by designing our streets to obligate motorists to drive slower and attentively. A healthy town center has no streets larger than three lanes, and almost never uses turn lanes. I count 14 oversized Greenville downtown roads over that size that need a road diet (removing excess lanes). Slower speeds also happen with priced on-street parking, and Greenville needs a lot more of that parking.

Greenville’s Main Street – formerly suffering abandonment, crime, and speeding – experienced the best restoration in the nation when it was road dieted. The diet for Main – what many call the pride of Greenville — makes Main a place that attracts people and brings prosperity due to human-scaled, slower-speed, community-building charm. There’s no reason we could not apply the same restorative medicine to the other 14 oversized roads. The first step? Take ownership of those roads from the South Carolina DOT.

A similar (and enormous) success: replacing the four-lane bridge at Falls Park with a pedestrian walkway.

It is untrue that a growing Greenville requires wider roads. Widening has failed worldwide to “solve” congestion for a century. Instead, congestion becomes worse – at great public expense.

Best congestion response? As the Beatles would say, let it be.

Congestion delivers many benefits if we don’t widen: less “low-value” car trips (such as driving at rush hour for a cup of coffee), more travel by transit, walking, and bicycling, more health for small shops, more financially healthy governments, more affordability for households, less air pollution, more compact development, less sprawl, and less deaths from vehicle crashes.

Congestion does not keep worsening if we let it be. By paying a “time tax,” travelers use roads more efficiently (less low-value motor vehicle trips, for example, and less rush hour trips). People also take alternative routes, drive at alternative times, live closer to destinations, or use transit, or walk, or bicycle.

That is, congestion self-regulates. If we let it be.

Congestion is inevitable because, like Soviet-styled economics, motorists don’t pay their own way – the gas tax is too low, roads are not tolled, and parking is underpriced). Congestion, as basic economics shows, is inevitable when you underprice something (such are road space). The Soviet Union failed because it ignored this. The result: long bread lines. In Greenville, the result is congested roads and overcrowded parking. Ironic that nearly all of us rightly oppose Soviet economics except for roads and parking lots.

Because motor vehicles consume so much space, it only takes a few motor vehicles to create congestion. Therefore, any city worth its salt has congestion. Instead of widening, we must create alternatives to inevitable congestion. Three examples: a congestion fee, making it easier and safer to walk, bicycle or use transit, and leveraging proximity with mixed-use infill development.

Consider what Greenville and South Carolina could do if, instead of spending millions of public dollars to worsen congestion, air quality, finances, and quality of life by widening roads, they opted for road diets. Taxes would stop rapidly increasing (or decrease!), and a lot of new money would be available for quality-of-life improvements such as sidewalks, bike paths, street trees, parks, and world-class transit – to name just a few items in dire need of public money.

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Noise Pollution in Greenville South Carolina

By Dom Nozzi

Noise pollution is one of the very few forms of pollution where our society is not only failing to make progress, but is actually losing ground.

While loud vehicles with loud stereo systems are an important source of noise problems, it is a relatively difficult problem to solve, and is actually causing far less noise pollution than public service vehicle siren noise pollution — a form of pollution that the City and County have direct control over (and can solve without spending taxpayer money).

The big noise offenders in Greenville are the police, fire, and ambulance vehicles (as well as the Amtrak train). The drivers are way over-using their sirens — particularly from midnight to 6 am.

There are cities that have effectively adopted policies that dramatically reduce excessive service vehicle siren use.

The City and County need to join them.

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We Have Reached the Point of No Return on Car Dependency

By Dom Nozzi

We have reached the point of no return on car dependency. There is no turning back, despite the persistent, passionate, hopeful efforts of myself and many other advocates for much-needed transportation reform.

Car infrastructure so thoroughly excludes other forms of travel (known by economists as “the barrier effect”) that it has become a powerful form of a self-perpetuating downward spiral.

Nearly all of us are obligated to make nearly all of our trips by car, which obligates us to demand our elected officials ease car travel. The more we ease car travel, the harder it is to travel in other ways, which, over the past century, has continuously increased the proportion of us who must drive everywhere. Any move away from extreme car dependence is understandably seen as a direct, existential threat to our way of life.

Since a car-dependent world destroys our quality of life, we are trapped in a tragic scenario in which we must always push our elected officials to hasten the degradation of our world in favor of convenience for our cars. We have, in effect, become our own worst enemies.

I’m convinced that the only way out of this trap is for there to be a catastrophic economic collapse on the level of The Great Depression.

I’m not sure which is worse: Continued extreme car dependence, or extreme economic misery.

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We Have Reached the Point of No Return on Car Dependency

By Dom Nozzi

We have reached the point of no return on car dependency. There is no turning back, despite the persistent, passionate, hopeful efforts of myself and many other advocates for much-needed transportation reform.

Car infrastructure so thoroughly excludes other forms of travel (known by economists as “the barrier effect”) that it has become a powerful form of a self-perpetuating downward spiral.

Nearly all of us are obligated to make nearly all of our trips by car, which obligates us to demand our elected officials ease car travel. The more we ease car travel, the harder it is to travel in other ways, which, over the past century, has continuously increased the proportion of us who must drive everywhere. Any move away from extreme car dependence is understandably seen as a direct, existential threat to our way of life.

Since a car-dependent world destroys our quality of life, we are trapped in a tragic scenario in which we must always push our elected officials to hasten the degradation of our world in favor of convenience for our cars. We have, in effect, become our own worst enemies.

I’m convinced that the only way out of this trap is for there to be a catastrophic economic collapse on the level of The Great Depression.

I’m not sure which is worse: Continued extreme car dependence, or extreme economic misery.

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Improving Streets in Greenville SC

By Dom Nozzi, Bike Walk Greenville Board of Directors

Butler Avenue from Pete Hollis Boulevard to Washington Street creates a number of significant negative impacts for the many homes that are near it, as well as those seeking to walk or bicycle along Butler. The primary problems are dangerous motor vehicle travel and extreme levels of noise pollution [see below for details about the health impacts of noise]. These problems are primarily caused by excessive motor vehicle speeds, excessive curb-to-curb highway design, and emergency vehicle sirens.

The three most effective tools for correcting these problems include:

  1. Sirens. The City should request that the County not use Butler as a primary route for emergency medical vehicles. The daily number of such vehicles is excessive, and the siren volume is ear-splitting. Alternative and likely faster routes such as the non-residential Academy Street are far more appropriate for such vehicles.
  2. USPS. The US Postal Service facility at Washington and Hudson streets has chosen to use Butler and Asbury to route a convoy of mail delivery vans twice a day to and from their facility. The vans are loud and often exceed the speed limit. The City should request that the USPS use the non-residential Washington and Hudson streets to route its vans to and from its facility, rather than residential Butler and Asbury.
  3. Credit Union Drive-Through. The four-lane drive-through for the Credit Union at Butler and Asbury funnels a large volume of motor vehicles onto Butler and Asbury day and night. These vehicles often exceed the speed limit, which is particularly dangerous because drivers are often distracted by filling out deposit or withdrawal slips while driving to the drive-through. The City should request that the Greenville Heritage Federal Credit Union reconfigure its drive-through so that vehicles enter and exit the drive-through from Washington rather than Butler and Asbury. This can be done quickly and inexpensively.
  4. On-Street Parking. On-street parking must be installed on both sides of Butler for nearly all of the distance from Pete Hollis to Washington. This is an exceptionally low-cost and quick way to significantly slow traffic to the lower speeds appropriate for a residential street. On-street parking does this by substantially reducing the width of Butler, and adding “friction” to the drive. On-street parking also reduces the need for excessive, undesirable off-street parking lots and spaces. Should the demand for on-street parking be too low to have at least 75 to 80 percent use of on-street parking spaces throughout the day and night, landscaped bulb-outs need to be installed to frame on-street parking spaces and permanently maintain the needed narrowed width of Butler even when on-street parking is not occurring. Because Butler is more narrow north from Asbury, there may not be sufficient width for both on-street parking and an in-street bike lane. Should there only be room for one of these features, the City should preference the installation of on-street parking on the more narrow sections of Butler.
  5. Raised, Landscaped Islands and Trees. Butler from approximately Asbury to Washington lacks the raised, landscaped islands found on Butler north from Asbury. This creates an excessively wide expanse of curb-to-curb asphalt from Asbury to Washington. This open, highway-like design from Asbury to Washington signals to motorists that they can safely drive at excessive, inattentive speeds (which, indeed, is precisely what happens). This problem can effectively be corrected not only with on-street parking, but also the installation of raised, tree-landscaped center islands on Butler south of Asbury (and several other low-speed geometry designs). Installing large canopy street trees on Butler is important not only for slowing vehicles, but also for beautifying an ugly street, and cooling a hot section of Butler. Equally important is the need to reduce the curb-to-curb distance on Butler south of Asbury by narrowing the travel lanes and turn lane, and shortening the length of the left-turn lane (I’m sure the overly long turn lane was installed due to lengthy queuing lines of left-turning vehicles, but sacrificing public safety and quality of life is in no sense justified simply to promote motorist convenience – particularly in this urbanized residential town center location).
  6. City Assumption of Ownership. The City needs to at some point assume ownership of Butler from the South Carolina DOT. Not doing so severely restricts the use of effective design tools for improving Butler to properly serve as the residential street it has evolved into.
  7. Turn Lanes. The double left turn lanes at Butler and Pete Hollis need to be replaced by a single left turn lane, as the double left is an inappropriate highway-oriented design that belongs in drivable suburbs rather than an urbanized location (I recognize that one of those two lanes is a dual left turn and straight ahead lane). Double left turns drastically increase motor vehicle speeds and inattentiveness. These problems and the significantly increased crossing distance the left turn lane provides create extremely dangerous conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians. The double left also significantly increases motor vehicle traffic volumes on Butler. Similarly, the right turn slip lane at Butler and Washington needs to be removed for the same reasons as noted above for the double left turn. Both the Butler intersection at Pete Hollis and at Washington are vastly oversized and must be necked down to reduce the crosswalk distance. Further amplifying this problem is the highway-oriented, high-speed, oversized turning radii found at both of these intersections, which not only increase the crossing distance but promote dangerously high-speed, inattentive turning movements by vehicles. These turning radii (and those for several driveways serving Butler) need to be reduced in size for safety because the high-speed geometries they employ are exceptionally dangerous. The left-turn lanes and oversized turning radii are extremely dangerous – they are particularly daunting for seniors, mothers with strollers, and children. Finally, on the topic of crosswalks, textured crosswalks such as brick have been shown to send a more visible, attractive, tactile, and audible message to motorists that they need to slow down for crosswalks.
  8. In-Street Bike Lanes. Butler serves as an important bicycling route and is capable of attracting significantly higher levels of bicycling. If installed between on-street parking and the travel lane, bike lanes should be colorized to provide an enhanced visual signal to motorists that they are driving on a more narrow, slower-speed street. Installing a bike lane between on-street parking and the curb creates “protected” bike lanes that are more inviting to less confident bicyclists (such as children and seniors). This “protected” design also provides the benefit of further slowing cars on Butler, as on-street parked vehicles will extend out further from the curb.

Note that on-street parking and raised landscaped islands on Butler are effective in reducing neighborhood noise pollution, because the lower motor vehicle speeds induced by these tools effectively reduce noise pollution.

Why Is Noise Pollution a Serious Public Health Concern?

The professional literature 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.

Creating Meaningful Pedestrian Safety on Stone Avenue

In response to a Greenville newspaper article discussing efforts to promote pedestrian safety on Stone Avenue, I posted the following:

Is the City serious about improved safety on Stone? The City will show it is not serious if it opts for what all cities have tried for the past century to “improve” safety. For the past century, all cities have opted for the same ineffective tactics that have suffered from extreme diminishing returns for several decades. I call them the “Five Warnings”: More Warning Lights, More Warning Paint, More Warning Signs, More Warning Education, and More Warning Enforcement. Stone Avenue will remain a car-only death trap — particularly for seniors, children, bicyclists, pedestrians, and the handicapped — unless the City assumes ownership of Stone from SCDOT and installs a road diet. Going from 4 or 5 lanes to three is a no-brainer. Dover-Kohl consultants had previously called for a road diet, and SCDOT rejected it. A road diet will quickly and cost-effectively result in (1) significant improvements for homes along and near Stone, (2) significant improvements for smaller retail shops along Stone, (3) significant improvements for cycling and walking along and across Stone, (4) significant improvements for children and seniors and the disabled using Stone, (5) a significant drop in crashes on Stone, and (6) a big drop in City maintenance costs (read: lower taxes). Important note: Going from 4 lanes to 3 does not reduce road capacity, despite the conventional wisdom.

My Credentials

I have 40 years of academic and professional experience in the field of transportation. I am a lifetime bicycle, walking, and transit commuter. I have a Master’s degree in town and transportation planning. I have been a bicycle commuter in nine cities. I was the lead planner for the Gainesville FL greenway transportation system. I was a member and Vice Chair of the Design Team for the Gainesville FL Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization. I wrote several land development regulations to preserve and enhance the livability of neighborhoods, including the Gainesville noise control ordinance. I have a high level of professional expertise in traffic calming, pedestrian design, and traffic safety. I have professional expertise in increasing the number of bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users. I wrote the long-range transportation plan for Gainesville. I served on the Board of Directors for Bike/Walk Virginia. I was a member of the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals. I am a nationally certified Complete Streets Instructor, which allowed me to co-host workshops throughout the nation. I have delivered 93 public speeches pertaining to transportation in cities throughout the nation. I have published two books on the topic of transportation. I served on the Boulder CO Transportation Advisory Board as well as the Asheville NC Bikes Policy Committee. I currently serve on the Bike Walk Greenville Board of Directors.

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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 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.


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Civility Needs to Go Viral

By Dom Nozzi

Civility needs to “go viral.”


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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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.


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 see 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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