Below is a fantastic video from TEDx featuring Chuck Marohn that differentiates between “roads,” which connect one place to another, and “streets,” or “a network within a place to allow you to get around.”
The point is that interstates, for example, are great, but intracity “streets” (should) function in a wholly different way by accommodating bikers, pedestrians, parked vehicles etc. Significantly, Marohn argues that when streets start to look like roads, development flees.
Probably the best local example I can think of demonstrating this phenomenon is State Street in Orem, which seems to be designed to aggressively thwart anything but car travel, and which is consequently lined by an almost unbroken string of sketchy, run down shops. When Marohn remarkes that “…you wind up with space that is financially unproductive,” he could have been talking about State Street. I’m not sure anywhere in Provo is quite as bad, but the problem still exists here in many locations.
The latter half of the video contrasts old images of cities with new ones. Not surprisingly, the old images show bustling streets, attractive buildings, and a pleasant park, while the new images of the same places generally look terrible. It was particularly illuminative when (just after 9 minutes in) Marohn points out that ugly, poorly used, infrastructure — for example excessive parking lots — is an excellent example of living beyond our means.
I also appreciated Marohn’s point that architecture is important because it broadcasts messages about the community that produces it.
And finally, here’s another useful quote, that sums up everything Marohn is saying, and much of the argument underlying this blog:
We didn’t build this park because we were wealthy. We became wealthy because we built parks like this.