We LOVE this image from urb.en. This gets at one of our key beliefs: that urban planning has for the last 50 years incentivized and promoted car-dependent living, to the extent that many of us require a car to accomplish any of our daily needs. We believe that enabling people to live a walkable lifestyle, where stores, workplaces and retail are mixed close together, will relieve us of a requirement to constantly drive everywhere. Walkable planning has been a major theme in planning for over 10 years, but in Princeton it seems that we haven’t yet attempted to implement it.
There Will Always Be A Need For Cars
It could be argued that this graphic gives a negative view of cars. Showing a picture of cars stuck in gridlock traffic doesn’t conform to the fantasy of open-road driving we see in car commercials, but it does match what many of us experience every day. That said, it is unimaginable that we will ever get rid of cars. We wouldn’t even want to. Many journeys are only possible by car. Elderly people, young children and the infirm are also more dependent than the rest of us on personal vehicles. We recognize this reality. What is important is that we make every car journey a necessary car journey. Right now, many people are not able to live in walkable areas, particularly in Princeton, where there homes in the downtown area are especially expensive. We need to change this, to enable walkability.
What Are The Solutions?
Almost everybody is in favor of human-scale, traffic-lite living in principle. But what are the solutions? This graphic captures an issue brilliantly, but it doesn’t give any solutions, and solutions are often hard. We all wish that Harry Potter could come along and magic away all the nasty traffic with his magic wand. But that is not going to happen. We have to make planning decisions that will enable walkability. This means planning differently from what we did in the late 20th century (but returning to how we planned historically).
Right now, many Princeton residents are opposing the proposed construction of a 280-unit apartment complex at the former Princeton hospital site on Witherspoon Street. We hear complaints like “Too high!” or “Too many people!” But if we don’t provide homes for people in walkable Princeton, then homes will be built for them somewhere else- almost certainly on green land that ought to be protected. Princeton should embrace compact, walkable development. This is ‘Planning for People and Life’.