Forgive and Forget

Last month an organization called TRIP, in conjunction with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released a report on the hazards an aging population create in our auto-based transportation system. The report, titled Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans, identifies an important problem. Unfortunately, these organizations continue to be blind to the actual cause of the problem — the misapplication of highway design standards to local streets — and thus fail to provide any coherent advice on dealing with it.

Since I’ve not run an actual post solely about the STROAD that I can link to, I’m going to have to start off this one by explaining it again. A STROAD is a street/road hybrid; the futon of transportation alternatives. It functions neither as a road that moves people quickly between two places nor as a street that provides a platform for capturing value. As such, it is the most financially unproductive type of transportation corridor that we can build; it costs a ton but financially yields very little return for the governments that must pay to maintain them.

Unfortunately, STROADS are the default design for most of our public space. Anytime you are driving on a street posted for travel speeds between 30 and 55 mph, you are almost certainly on a STROAD. From a design standpoint, a STROAD is created when we misapply to local transportation corridors the decades of wisdom we have gained from experimentation on highway design and construction techniques. In my professional opinion, it is institutionalized malpractice.