Caitlyn Butler: Fate of Main Street

Published: 6/30/2021 8:54:08 AM I would like to present a thought experiment as Northampton considers the fate of Main Street motiv...


Published: 6/30/2021 8:54:08 AM

I would like to present a thought experiment as Northampton considers the fate of Main Street motivated, in part, by the environmental impacts of the status quo. A noted ‘trade-off’ listed in the city’s storyboard for Alternative 3 is a modest increase in travel time for cars driving down Main and also State Street.

Right now, on an average weekday, 13,000 drivers access Main Street. Let’s say the redesign encourages 10% of those drivers to use pedestrian and cycling modes instead of cars. That’s now reduced to 11,700 weekday drivers.

Expecting the average car travel time to increase by two minutes as a trade-off — modest and hardly noticeable — adds up to 390 hours/day of increased car travel time. That number should be offset by the zero-carbon choice of the 10% who chose walking or biking. Assuming they would need to be in a walking or biking radius, the equivalent car trip may have an average of 10 minutes travel time, yielding a 216 hours/day offset. Overall, there could be a net increase of 173 hours/day of vehicle travel time and associated carbon emissions on Main Street.

This, of course, greatly oversimplifies the complexity of how individuals and groups access Main Street. You can play with these numbers, challenge the assumptions, and use more sophisticated models. The point is, in the discussion of Alternative 3, what are the expectations of changes in travel behavior that would truly make the redesign have a positive impact on the environment and climate change mitigation? And are the expectations achievable given the work-life balance needs of the city and other area residents?

I hope the city has considered how many of the 13,000 cars would need to change their daily behavior to achieve this vision. I would appreciate more clear information and data on this topic before the city moves forward.

Caitlyn Butler

Northampton



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