Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Walking Safety Project Blamed for 40 Years of Car-Centric Decline

To get to the other sideFrom wasting prime real estate by paving it over for parking to funding expensive road-widening projects, some communities are realizing that taking a step back from the car culture is good for business. But much like parts of Appalachia won't give up on their abusive relationships with Big Coal, businesses that have suffered from their car dependency are often surprisingly reluctant to try a different approach.

Take Wareham, MA. A project called Streetscape is progressing on Main Street, hoping to make the business district easier and safer for people to get around on foot:
Finance Committee member Dominic Cammarano said something had to be done to resuscitate downtown, "which was dying even before Wareham Crossing Mall was built." He said Streetscape provides "a badly needed makeover."
Most businesses seem generally happy at the upgrades and some are understandably concerned about construction-related delays and inconveniences. But this business owner takes a special prize for blaming the treatment for the original illness:
She squarely blames the road project. While the end result is beautiful, she said, "people got out of the habit of coming here and driving down Main Street. Many customers were so bummed that they stopped coming because they could never find a parking place."

Maybe shoppers aren't returning in droves quite yet, but other people are. Irving, who has been downtown 24 years, said, "Ever since the '70s and late '80s the number of businesses has declined, as has the clientele."
Clearly, the safety improvements that started in April are to blame for the declines in business that started four decades ago. Maybe folks should give this whole "making people feel like it's not life-threateningly dangerous to window shop" thing a chance.
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