Calming big boulevards

You know that big ugly boulevard near you? Maybe when it was built it was the Champs-Elysées of your town. Maybe it wanted to be, but things didn’t turn out quite right. Or maybe your town planners had a less ambitious model, like the Miracle Mile or Route 66.

Whatever the ambitions, today that boulevard is a stroad. It’s one of the most dangerous places to drive or walk, but people keep going there anyway, because that’s where the Target and the Old Navy and the Barnes and Noble are. Even though it’s one of the most popular shopping streets, it brings in a relatively small fraction of the tax revenue.

There are a number of remedies that can be taken for a stroad boulevard (boulevaroad?). I want to focus on one particular remedy that combines traffic calming and transit expansion; we can call it green tracks.

The poster child for this method is Paris, in particular the Boulevards des Maréchaux. This is a ring of boulevards that runs just inside the city limits. They replaced the “rue Militaire” that ran along the inner extent of the fortifications built between 1841 and 1844 under Prime Minister Adolphe Thiers and torn down between 1919 and 1929 after they proved unable to stop heavy artillery in the Franco-Prussian War. The road is divided into 22 segments, each named (more or less) after one of the military leaders who bore the rank of marshal under Napoleon.