Smaller streets are cheaper and more pleasant

During a recent trip to Scotland, I happened on some road construction:

DSCN0331Here’s another one:

DSCN0332This is a charming road just outside the town of Oban. It’s also really narrow. That means it doesn’t take as much asphault, time, manpower, etc. to build and maintain. It’s cheap.

Coincidentally, just before I left for Scotland, Salt Lake City was doing almost the exact same type of work on 300 West near my home. Here’s a picture of the street before the construction began:

DSCN9957Clearly, the Salt Lake Street is many times wider than the Oban road. Now, I know the purpose of these two streets is different; one connects different towns and one is inside a city. However, I’d argue that the Salt Lake street — where there are abundant routes to diffuse traffic, as well as pedestrians, bikes, etc. — actually should be the smaller of the two. The Oban road serves a smaller population, but it’s also designed to link municipalities, so it’s kind of a highway. Yet somehow Salt Lake’s street is wide and Oban’s is not.

Having experienced these two places, I can say that the Salt Lake street  is vastly less pleasant, less safe, and more annoying. The result is that while there are more people in Salt Lake and more reasons for them to use the street, I actually saw more pedestrians on the road in Oban. Clearly, a decent place has induced pedestrian demand.

But all of that aside, the point I set out to make is that the street in Salt Lake City costs vastly more money, both up front and over time. And of course, the collateral costs of repelling people — more accidents, less commerce, lower property values, underperforming parks, etc. — should be obvious.



  1. Pingback: Smaller streets can fix failing height-to-width ratios | About Town
  2. Pingback: Those small Parisian streets are also cheaper | About Town
  3. Pingback: Melbourne: an example for Salt Lake City | About Town

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