One of the better local initiatives to come out of the pandemic are Stay Healthy Streets, roads minimally reconfigured (usually by putting a sign in the roadway) to prioritize non-auto uses. Theoretically, these roads are for local access only.
There’s a happy narrative where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor of healthier modes of transport. Sometimes the government has to implement a policy for people to see that it works and make it popular. Indeed, a recent NPI poll of Seattlites reveals supporters exceed opponents by 39 points. But it seems to me the neighbors didn’t need to be convinced of anything.
After all, why are suburban cul-de-sacs popular? There are institutional reasons, but fundamentally, everyone likes to live on a road that only residents use, but no one can speed through on the way to somewhere else. If you’re auto-centric, it’s the perfect combination of convenience, quiet, and safety. Pity about the pedestrian impacts of cul-de-sacs. Stay Healthy Streets provide the same local benefits, while not messing up walkability and causing only a very diffuse penalty in driving time that our hyperlocalized system won’t capture.
Good for Seattle for implementing these calming measures. They’re simply not as challenging as higher-payoff interventions, like removing parking to create bus lanes, but governing is mostly about doing popular stuff that is also good.