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:
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.