Monday, March 28, 2011

Overcoming opposition to narrow streets

Recently the Strong Towns Blog published an amazing post laying out the key arguments for narrower streets--and how to make them in a language public safety officials will understand. Here's an excerpt:

1. Public safety, including fire protection, is very important.

We acknowledge this is a critical issue. People want to and need to feel safe in their homes. We also acknowledge that we sometimes actually undervalue fire protection, at least until it is our house on fire. Providing a high-level of protection, including reducing response times, is a community priority.

2. As budgets are tightened, we are forced to make choices in how we provided local services.

Unfortunately, the state of our public budgets is forcing us to make some very difficult choices. And we can see, in communities across the country, that many are opting to reduce fire fighting capabilities, including force reductions and extending the life of equipment further than it should be. These are dangerous precedents to set in what are likely early rounds in a long, multi-year budget crisis.

3. If we stick with the current approach, we may have wide streets, but we won't be able to afford to maintain them, or even pay for the fire department to drive on them.

The amount we spend on our fire department is dwarfed by the amount we spend on maintaining our roads and streets -- or would be spending if we were actually maintaining them. This is the elephant in the room, the thing we never talk about. We have chosen to invest in a pattern of development that is prohibitively expensive to maintain, and it is crowding our the other parts of our budget.

Pretty great, huh? You can read the full post at the Strong Towns Blog here.


  1. I heard a story once of a new neighborhood built with narrow streets that were labeled as "driveways" on the plans in order to get around the street width restriction.

  2. Wow, smart...and yet, ridiculous that we would need to resort to such trickery.