A recent op-ed in the New York Times Sunday Review argues for a shift from vehicle-oriented urban planning towards an approach that would make city streets more pedestrian friendly. It draws from the latest research by CED faculty and alumni, which contrasts the current “level-of-service” (LOS) design approached practiced by planners in U.S. cities with alternative models that enhance walkability and livability. Developed in the 1960s, LOS above all emphasizes maintaining vehicle traffic flow at the expense of other modes of transit, such as public transportation, walking and cycling. Current planning strategies in European cities have focused on curtailing vehicle traffic in city centers, and developing streets for pedestrian and cyclist use. Changes in American cities include expanding public transit lines and investing in sidewalks.
Reducing vehicle traffic flow in densely populated urban areas can contribute significantly to improving public health and quality of life. A recent study from Lancaster University in Britain found a strong correlation between exposure to outdoor air pollution and intellectual disabilities in children. A study conducted in 2013 by M.I.T. also found that air pollution from vehicle emissions is responsible for 53,000 premature deaths annually in the United States.
Professor of City and Regional Planning Elizabeth Macdonald; Professor of Landscape and Environmental Planning Louise Mozingo; William Eisenstein, Executive Director at the Center for Resource Efficient Communities at UC Berkeley; and Nicola Szibbo (M.C.P. '10, Ph.D. City and Regional Planning '15) co-authored the article that was cited in the op-ed, originally published in the Journal of Urban Design. Titled “Quality-of-Service: Toward a Standardized Rating Tool for Pedestrian Quality of Urban Streets,” the article proposes a flexible, context and capacity-sensitive system for urban planners to use when assessing the walkability of urban commercial streets.