Narrow Streets Are Already Working in Provo

I’ve argued in the past that Provo desperately needs narrower streets. Wide streets encourage speeding, cost tax payers more money, waste land that could be housing for families, and just look kind of ugly. This was a major idea in my proposal to build housing in Provo’s streets.

But would they really work? Could Provo drivers cope with less space on the road?

Actually, they could, and quite easily.

As it turns out Provo gets dramatically narrower streets every time there is a big snow storm:


Most people don’t routinely drive on the snow in these pictures, meaning that after a snow storm the streets are effectively half as wide.

The picture above shows that narrower streets do not immediately cause horrible traffic jams. They don’t reduce safety (though unplowed ice certainly does). And they don’t generally create many problems. In fact, in the background a van is visible and it still has a lot of space; even if the sidewalks were extended to where the snow currently ends there would still be some room for street parking. Indeed, narrower streets offer ample space for moving and parked cars in many cities all over the world.

I wish Provo would just cut all its wide streets in half. If nothing else that would mean less wasted money on things like snow plowing and repaving.

But I realize that that’s unlikely to happen. What this picture realistically shows, however, is there there is considerable wasted space on the street that no one actually needs. So, why not convert it to something more useful, like parking? Parking issues remain a major complaint in Provo, and based on this image it’d be possible to simply install diagonal parking on every residential street. The cost of doing so would be minimal compared to other infrastructure changes and and it would reduce (or eliminate) the need for much of the residential parking that’s currently required. That, in turn, would allow for more houses to be built as infill.

In other words, Provo could significantly grow it’s housing stock by encouraging more street parking and aggressively pushing development of current off-street parking. Population, taxes, diversity and economic strength would likely follow.


Filed under neighborhood, parking

2 responses to “Narrow Streets Are Already Working in Provo

  1. So when I first saw you talking about bottle-necking the streets and adding additional homes I thought you were out of your mind. The convincing of the owner of the property facing the street and the city to sell enough of that land to put another home in (that would surely necessitate a shared drive way) just sounded impossible.

    I had a thought though on how that might be achieved. If you could just convince the city to sell or give some of the land that the street currently takes to the street facing property. That owner would end up with a really large yard to take care of but when it comes time to sell that property that have enough land to put another building up and if a developer bought to parcels of that land he could tear down the 2 homes there and put up a denser apartment. Or.. it may just be an incentive for the property owners to sell that parcel and allow another home to be built in front of them.

    This may be a gradual solution to getting the narrow roads you are so fond of. I just think that for this to be possible you really need to give people who may not have such idealistic views of urbanism something to gain.

  2. Pingback: Snow: A Case Study in Traffic Calming | (pro(vo)cation)

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