March 11, 2014

What just happened to the widest street in the world?

It went on a diet.

From citiscope:

Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aries – a triumphant boulevard (map here) that is by some accounts the widest street in the world. Two parts to the picture everyone knows: One is the towering Obelisk commemorating the founding of Buenos Aires. The other is the 20 lanes of traffic commemorating the city’s love of cars.

In the past year, half of that image has changed dramatically. City work crews ripped out four of those traffic lanes in the middle of the roadway. In just seven months, they gave the space entirely to buses and the people who ride them.

BA 1

BA 2Just as interesting as what’s happening on 9 de Julio are the changes going on just a few steps away from it.  Buses used to run on the narrow and busy downtown streets nearby.  Now, those buses have been diverted to the exclusive lanes on 9 de Julio. And the city has turned about 100 blocks of those once noisy and polluted roads into either fully pedestrianized streets or pedestrian priority zones.  The latter allow for vehicles but only at speeds of under 10 km/h and with special permits issued only to those who have parking spaces within the zone.

The busiest part of the city is thus becoming a pleasant place to go for a walk. Early in the morning, it’s possible to hear birds singing and the patter of footsteps on pavement. …

Dietrich, the city’s undersecretary for transport, says 90 percent of those who move around the city are pedestrians. But previously, 70 percent of the space downtown was used by cars and buses. Now that distribution has basically been flipped around in the pedestrian-priority zones. The city also has added 130 km of bike lanes.

There is still plenty of space to drive in Buenos Aires. But what’s happening here represents something of a rebalancing between cars and everything else.

Full story here.

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There’s also this, for the Department of Irony:

Some drivers complained that left turns from the roadway would become impossible. And inevitably, the project got swept up in national politics: Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires and the bus route’s champion, is a political opponent of the current president of Argentina.

Now that the bus system is operational, most of the opposition has gone away. That’s because it’s helped to unclog traffic and reduced travel times for just about everybody traveling through the area.  Travel time is down for buses by 50 percent, for minibuses (private buses that make fewer stops) by 45 percent, and for cars by 20 percent.

Note the examples typical of transportation politics: the threat to motordom, the predictions of carmageddon, the conflict between local and senior governments, the trauma of change – and the ultimate success, even for drivers, when a better balance is achieved.

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Comments

  1. Yes, Vancouver could learn a lot here. For example, why is Robson one big parking lot and 80% of its width is used by cars .. Ditto for 75% of downtown Vancouver’s or dense suburbs’ streets !!

    Surface parking of cars needs to be taxed far higher, or abolished altogether on public spaces/roads. Then the private sector will find new solutions for cars that have to be parked, for example underground or in parkades.

    Vancouver is “green” ? Hardly …

    1. Well hold on there. Robson without the parallel parking, with moving traffic lanes right up against the sidewalk, would be awful.

  2. In reality, Robson is almost a perfect poster child for a 50-50 balance between road space and pedestrian space. The ultimate distance between facades is 80’/24m (66′ + 7′ setbacks on both sides), and the curb to curb distance is about 40’/12m.

    One of the more interesting recent moves by the COV is to restore peak hour parking to the street, which calms traffic, buffers the pedestrian zone and works for businesses. This space is also available for parklets and other innovations that support pedestrian comfort and business vitality.

    (VanMap is a very useful tool to check such assertions in the future.)

  3. Robson hasn’t been a commuter street since the current Cambie Bridge diverted traffic away from Robson and onto Smithe and Nelson. Its really a local street, as also evidenced by the lack of synchonization of the traffic lights (it would take at least 2x as long to drive down Robson compared to Nelson or Smithe).

  4. talking of the widest streets in the world:
    140 meters wide Avenue Foch in Paris, could pretend to the title I guess.

    In case of interest, something very bold could happen here too:
    Anne Hidalgo (left), the probable next Paris mayor (election on March 30) has endorsed the pedestrianization of it:

    The project concept, which also include building social housing in the middle of the avenue (isitting in the most expensive Parisian district) , could looks like it:

    http://www.c-du.com/sites/default/files/Foch.pdf
    Go directly to page 38 for the nice renderings

    In “off” conversation, the opposition leader (Cope) has qualified the move as a “master coup”

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