Many people continue to drive short distances, even after sidewalks are
provided. There has to be more in it for most people than "it's good
exercise", or "it's the right thing to do" -- to help them change their
What it all comes back to, again, is that there is little motive for them
NOT to get in the car. If people were watching their odometer miles add
up each day, knowing it would reduce their annual rebate, they might
think twice about not driving more often.
On Sun, 28 Dec 2003 20:51:38 +0000 "Andrew Dawson"
> Another fine example of North America's transport policy. Till later, http://join.msn.com/?page=dept/bcomm&pgmarket=en-ca&RU=http%3a%2f%2fjoin.
> Residents Struggle to Walk Away From Traffic
> Obstacles Put People Behind the Wheel for Short Trips
> By Katherine Shaver
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Sunday, December 28, 2003; Page C01
> About 900 residents in Sterling's Westerley subdivision live
> a five-minute walk from a grocery store, a bank and three
> restaurants. In another few minutes, they can stroll to the movies,
> the dry cleaner or dozens of other businesses.
> But when Westerley residents need a quart of milk or a quick bite
> to eat, most hop in their cars, SUVs and minivans, further
> crowding congested Route 7. That's because, for a half-mile
> between their homes and dozens of shopping and eating
> destinations, Route 7 has no sidewalk and no crosswalks. Their
> only options: run across six lanes of traffic or walk on a narrow
> dirt path worn into the grass that often becomes a muddy mess a
> couple of feet from vehicles zooming past.
> "You can't [walk] anyplace except in the community," said
> Bob Villegas, president of the Westerley Homeowners Association.
> "You'll see ladies with baby buggies on that dirt path. It's
> very dangerous."
> Traffic planners say Westerley residents aren't the only ones
> driving short distances -- and adding to the region's notorious
> traffic congestion -- because walking and riding bicycles are not
> safe options.
> An estimated half of the vehicles filling Metro parking lots belong
> to commuters who live within a short bus ride or walk of the
> stations. Parents driving their children to neighborhood schools
> add unnecessarily to morning traffic jams, particularly on side
> roads, often because their children would otherwise have to walk
> or ride their bicycles in the street.
> The Washington Post this week continues a series of articles on
> how traffic problems might be eased relatively simply and cheaply
> in an era when big and expensive solutions are less feasible.
> Reducing traffic by getting more people out of their cars is often
> as simple as building a sidewalk, painting a crosswalk,
> installing better streetlights or paving a bike path. All of them
> are relatively quick to do and cost little compared with widening
> roads, adding Metro lines or building more Metro parking garages.
> Making it easier for people to walk or ride bicycles might not
> make a huge dent in the traffic spurred by constant population and
> job growth. However, it could cut out some short vehicle trips,
> give people alternatives to stewing in backups and open up Metro
> parking spots.
> Most important, traffic planners say, making walking and bike
> riding easier would improve the region's air quality. Getting rid
> of unnecessary car trips would reduce vehicle emissions.
> Studies have shown that people will forgo driving if they find it
> easy and pleasant to walk, said Reid Ewing, a research professor
> in transportation and urban planning at the University of
> Maryland's National Center for Smart Growth. Better walking
> conditions also would make it safer for those who can't drive, such
> as children and older people.
> But Ewing said reducing the number of short vehicle trips isn't
> the only reason to make walking and biking safer and easier:
> "You do it for quality-of-life reasons, to make the
> population healthier, and you create more sense of community so
> people aren't just driving past each other in cars."
> More Cars, Fewer Walkers
> Despite the potential for cutting out some vehicle trips and
> improving air quality, people are walking less and less. Thirty
> years ago, more than 60 percent of U.S. schoolchildren walked or
> rode bikes to school. Today, that number has fallen to about
> 13 percent, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control
> and Prevention.
> Walking has decreased for many reasons. Affluence has made
> two-car families the norm. In some of Washington's outer
> suburbs, household vehicles outnumber licensed drivers. That makes
> it more convenient to drive to the corner grocery store than walk.
> Many parents also say increased traffic and news accounts of
> child abductions have made them leery of letting their children
> walk or ride their bikes to school.
> Development patterns tailored to driving also have discouraged
> walking. Newer schools sit on large plots of land, removed
> from neighborhoods and often along busy roads. Today's
> subdivisions often are built far from shopping. Many neighborhoods
> built after World War II, when planners believed that the family
> car had replaced the need to walk, have no sidewalks. County
> officials often require a developer to install sidewalks, but
> the sidewalks end just beyond the developer's property
> On Sterling's Augusta Drive, leading into the five-year-old
> Westerley subdivision, the sidewalk runs along only one side.
> Residents on the other side must dash across four lanes of
> 35-mph traffic with no crosswalk in sight.
> Students trying to walk between the subdivision and Dominion High
> School a half-mile away have a sidewalk near the school, but it
> ends about halfway home, requiring them to trudge through the grass
> or cross the street to reach another sidewalk.
> John J. Clark, Loudoun's transportation director, said the county
> now requires sidewalks along any new major road. Adding a sidewalk
> later costs three to four times as much, he said. Counties such
> as Loudoun used to consider sidewalks unnecessary, he said. But
> as development has exploded along once-rural roads, he said, the
> county has begun to see the importance of supporting walking.
> "We're getting smarter," Clark said. "We really haven't been
> smart enough on issues like this. You need to build
> pedestrian facilities from Day One, when you build the
> Test in Takoma Park
> Older neighborhoods often fare no better.
> Laura Kriv, 39, said she drove her daughter, Nesha Ruther,
> to pre-kindergarten at Rolling Terrace Elementary School most days
> last year because no sidewalks connected their Takoma Park home
> with a paved path leading to the school. Walking in the street
> and weaving around parked cars with Nesha by the hand and her
> younger child in a stroller felt dangerous, Kriv said.
> But a few improvements over the summer made all the difference,
> Kriv said. After Rolling Terrace was chosen as a test case for the
> state to find ways to make walking to school safer, Montgomery
> County installed more sidewalks on neighborhood roads, improved
> road signs and added crosswalks near the school. The total
> cost: $218,600 -- about the price of two new stoplights.
> This fall, Kriv and her daughters traded in a five-minute drive for
> a 15-minute walk most mornings.
> "That walk to school is a really good time just to walk and talk
> without having an agenda," Kriv said. "I don't want to depend on
> my car for everything."
> Consultants who have analyzed the pedestrian improvements near
> Rolling Terrace said it's too early to measure how many car trips
> are being saved. Kriv said she notices more children walking to
> school this year, and more neighbors of all ages walking and
> riding their bikes.
> Monica Ettinger, another Rolling Terrace parent who helped lead
> the charge for more sidewalks and better crosswalks, said some
> parents also had to be persuaded to get out of their cars.
> "We tried to educate them on the idea that one less car at pickup
> can make a big difference," Ettinger said. "If four cars pull in
> and they don't move, we can be backed up by 15 to 20 cars onto
> three roads within minutes."
> Metro Lots Congested
> The reluctance of many Metro riders to walk or ride bicycles to
> nearby subway stations concerns traffic planners because those
> commuters are taking parking spots that could be used by people
> who live farther from the stations.
> Some Metro riders said they have little choice. Jeff Tignore lives
> a 10-minute walk from the Fort Totten Metro station. He took Metro
> to his old job downtown. But he drove rather than walked to the
> station because lumpy or missing sidewalks, along with poor
> lighting and the deserted feeling around the station, made it
> seem unsafe to walk, especially in the dark. Many of his neighbors
> still drive to the station, where the parking lot fills up by
> 8 a.m., he said.
> "Right now, we're not receiving the benefits or convenience of
> living that close to a Metro stop," said Tignore, an
> advisory neighborhood commissioner for the Fort Totten area in
> Northeast Washington. "I know a couple people who walk to the
> Metro, but most people I know drive to work or get driven to
> the Metro."
> Tignore, a lawyer, said he now drives to his job in
> Southwest Washington. He could take the Metro, he said, but it
> still seems easier to drive to work than to walk to the Fort
> Totten Station.
> Planners have known about the problem for years. A 1994 Metro
> study of license plates in subway station lots found that about half
> the vehicles came from homes within two or three miles of the
> station, many well within an easy walk or short bus ride.
> That particularly concerns officials keeping an eye on the region's
> air pollution. People who could walk or take a short bus ride to
> Metro stations take parking spaces from drivers living farther away.
> If those people forgo taking Metro because they can't park at a
> station, their vehicles create that much more air pollution on
> their longer commutes.
> Freeing Metro station parking spaces also would allow the subway
> system, now packed during rush hours, to operate more efficiently,
> said Richard Stevens, Metro's director of business planning and
> project development.
> If riders didn't feel the need to arrive so early to get a
> parking space, he said, they would have more flexibility to ride
> outside the rush period, when Metro trains have more room.
> Making it easier for Metro riders to walk to stations also would
> ease crowding in Metro's Kiss and Ride areas. About 10 years ago,
> fewer than 5 percent of riders at suburban stations got dropped off
> or picked up at a Kiss and Ride area, Stevens said. Now, it's
> 10 percent to 15 percent, probably because fewer people are able
> to get parking.
> Improving sidewalks and adding crosswalks near bus stops also
> could increase bus ridership by about 3 percent, or 5,000 bus trips
> per day, Stevens said. That, too, could help reduce traffic.
> "I think it's a matter of priorities and where people want to
> spend the money," Stevens said. "It makes good sense for people
> to be able to walk, not just to transit, but to many other types
> of activities. We just don't make that easy to do."
> TOMORROW: Paying to drive faster.
> � 2003 The Washington Post Company
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