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CityTank: Gridlock is Cool

By Josh Feit May 12, 2011

I've always believed that the reason we don't have better rapid mass transit alternatives in Seattle is because our supposed gridlock isn't gridlock enough.

Until people are truly in traffic hell, the demand for solutions has the luxury of lolling in Seattle process without actually coming up with anything—thus the belly aching over light rail and monorail that provided so much entertainment during the 90s and 2000s.

In his latest post over at CityTank, Dan Bertolet upgrades this point to its logical conclusion:
Stay with me now, because regarding so-called “gridlock,” here’s a reality that all of us city-boosters need to come to grips with: a dense city without heavy traffic congestion is like a unicorn. That is, it doesn’t exist.

Tunnel or no tunnel, if Seattle densifies to the degree necessary for achieving significant sustainability benefits, all of our key roads are going to become jammed with cars. Road networks have inherent spatial limitations, such that in any urban area with a high density of homes and jobs, the demand for auto trips is guaranteed to swamp the capacity of the roads. It is as close to a mathematical certainty as you’ll ever find in the unpredictable realm of cities.

Once this inevitable end is recognized, the only sane path for moving forward becomes clear: Stop throwing away precious public funds on roads, and instead invest in solutions that give people transportation alternatives. And it just so happens that that path is also one of our most promising strategies to address urban sustainability, and for Seattle, climate change in particular.

Yes Seattle, expect more gridlock in your future (driven on Denny Way on a weekend lately?). It’s coming, whether or not we spend billions on a deep-bore tunnel in a flailing attempt to avoid it.

But that doesn’t mean the downfall of civilization. The solution is to create a city in which people can get around without relying on a car.
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