In downtowns, a wealth of solutions in reducing pollution

So, let’s begin this journey with something as basic as one-way streets.

With one-way streets, the entire roadway width, besides eliminating opposite-direction travel on part of the street, same-direction (or current-of-traffic) vehicle movement enables same-direction parking on both sides of the street. Such a provision can make locating a parking space somewhat less encumbered and less time-consuming.

At intersections, since all traffic is going the same way, making turns, especially left turns, is so much simpler. This enables traffic to flow more freely.

Pairs of one-way streets, with one street designated for traffic travel in one direction – say, north, and with the complementary street designated for traffic movement oppositely, or south, is the ideal. Moreover, now with all lanes accommodating travel moving in the same direction, via this provision, there may as well be more freedom of movement for traffic here. All of which can help reduce pollutant emissions from cars, trucks and the like using such.

Secondly, as a way to encourage more biking and walking this can be accomplished through street-lane narrowing or even narrowing of the avenue itself.

Take the example of a four-lane, bidirectional, boulevard, with parking on both sides of the street. Situated between the spaces for parking and boulevard-lined building facades is a provision for pedestrian activity, this provision otherwise known as a sidewalk.

By narrowing lane width, say from 12 feet to 10 feet, this may allow for the placement of bike lanes between a motor vehicle travel way and the area designated for parking where there was previously none. Not only is there now more space for biking, but because of the narrower lane widths, this could have a calming effect on the motor vehicle traffic therefore resulting in it being slowed quite possibly if not likely making the entire environment more conducive and enticing to a now more varied and perhaps a bit more balanced mobility base along said corridor. The slower motor vehicle travel activity coupled with an increase in pedestrian and bicycling activity – all of which, by the way, contributes to lowering emissions, any retail and restaurant business lining said street has the potential to fare better.

And, finally, to better help facilitate and promote all of the above is incorporation of trees.

As it relates, not only do trees provide shade, but where there are streets absent tree-lined sidewalks, there is evidence to suggest that drivers drive faster on said thoroughfares. Because of the faster driving, the environment overall could be viewed by thoroughfare users as being less safe. And, when motorways are deemed less safe, pedestrians and bicyclists may be less inclined to use such.

On the other hand, with trees present, the result could well have a countervailing effect.

Added to all of that, there is something referred to as the urban heat-island effect.

Okay, so, to help counteract asphalt- and cement-retained heat during summers, trees on streets could go far to help suppress some of that heat in areas so-affected.

This, in addition to building improvements which could entail buildings being made more energy efficient as well as the incorporation of changes made to building rooftops such as in adding a garden or rooftop-based farm, could all aid in lowering temperature (more of the heat could be reflected rather than be absorbed) and by extension, the less need there is for building cooling, therefore lowering energy bills and, again, by extension, the fewer emissions produced from corresponding electricity generation.

A two-cities high-speed rail tale

Last I checked Fresno, California was 115 square-miles big. That’s roughly two-and-a-half times the square-mile area of San Francisco. Forty-seven square miles, by the way, is the total area of the City by the Bay.

The two municipalities could not be any more different. Fresno – and the larger San Joaquin Valley (of which Fresno is a part) – the Golden State’s fifth largest city, if you don’t already know, with a population just above the half-million mark; is the country’s worst region when it comes to fine-particulate pollution and ranks among U.S. cities with the highest levels of ozone; has a public transit system that is little varied; possesses among the nation’s highest rates of both adult and childhood asthma; is for all intents and purposes the poster child for wall-to-wall horizontal sprawl consisting of low-density, single-family housing and housing tracts and along with this, land-use functions related to working, living, shopping and recreating that are separated, with driving being the single-most depended-upon method with which to meet residents’, commuters’ and others’ urban area-centered travel needs; while San Francisco, on the other hand, with far higher per square-mile urban building and population densities that better brings together working, living, shopping and recreating; boasts one of the country’s most varied and prolific (i.e., extremely well patronized) public mass transit networks whereby active transportation methods (walking and biking) in no small part contributes to that public transport success; and perhaps above all else, prides itself on having some of the best quality air anywhere for the size and density of the population San Francisco has.

That all said, what the two have or will have in common is high-speed rail. The line is slated to rail-tie the two regions together.

On the one hand in San Francisco, the Salesforce Transit Center will serve as the northern terminus for high-speed trains for Phase 1, which will link San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim in 2033. As early as 2029, service is expected to be offered between the former and Bakersfield in California’s Central Valley. The Salesforce Transit Center besides being a union station serving as a transportation hub for wealth of transit offerings, namely, bus and taxi service, and future train (HSR, Caltrain) service, the rooftop of the extremely modern-looking edifice houses a rooftop park that is otherwise known as a greenspace.

On the other hand, meanwhile, Fresno’s downtown high-speed train station, while serving as a boarding and alighting point for high-speed trains, as it stands right now, intermodal- or multimodal-wise, just will not be of quite the same caliber. There won’t be all the varied transit types that San Francisco is planning to provide to and from the station.

As such, this will require vast amounts of parking space for people using the facility and riding high-speed trains plus needed provisions for others for passenger pick-up and discharge whether this is courtesy of friends or family members, or through road-based transit offerings such as bus or taxi. What this will mean is more motor vehicle traffic impact on area streets absolutely.

With this in mind, without a major paradigm shift to clean-vehicle or emissions-free motor vehicle travel, the negative air impact will be substantial, further compounding what poor air quality there already is.

That said, the hope is that before that time arrives Fresno will join the major metropolitan areas on the high-speed rail map on the coast in embracing modes and practices that are far less negatively impacting to air.

That said, there is ample time to still get on board.

Image (middle): Roger Puta

This post was last revised on May 23, 2020 @ 2:25 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

– Alan Kandel

1 thought on “In downtowns, a wealth of solutions in reducing pollution”

  1. Last week (Labor Day Weekend) I visited the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco. It had its ribbon cutting and opening just the week before. The rooftop garden is truly spectacular, having a variety of trees and plants, each with explanatory signs — so it is a mini-arboretum. Eventually Caltrain will reach the Salesforce transit center — but that is sometime in the future. Caltrain (linking SF and San Jose) now has its terminal a mile and a half to the south, and planned construction of a subway tunnel to Salesforce has not even begun. So Salesforce transit traffic is now only a fraction of what it will become in the next 10 years. – Robert Frampton in Pasadena

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