City “To Start With, I Felt Very Alone.”
posted by November 20 at 16:28 PMon
Tear down a massive elevated freeway and perpetually gridlocked commuter route without building another freeway to replace it?
Insanity! Mayor Nickels says.
Madness! the state Department of Transportation chimes.
Folly! the City Council insists.
But they did it in Seoul, where a six-lane elevated freeway that carried 160,000 cars a day was demolished, reversing “one of the most comprehensive obliterations of the natural environment ever perpetrated” and replacing it with a five-mile long, 800-yard wide lateral park along the route of the river the freeway had displaced.
Kee Yeon Hwang, the urban planner who masterminded the demise of the freeway, called the Cheonggyecheon after the river it replaced, got the idea in 1999, when one of the three tunnels through the city had to be shut down. “Bizarrely,” he told the Guardian, “we found that that car volumes dropped. I thought this was odd. We discovered it was a case of ‘Braess paradox’, which says that by taking away space in an urban area you can actually increase the flow of traffic, and, by implication, by adding extra capacity to a road network you can reduce overall performance.”
The idea initially met with fierce and widespread opposition; people simply couldn’t believe the city could survive without the freeway. “To start with,” Hwang said, “I felt very alone. […] Ordinary people were a bit sceptical to start with, but then when they saw the river reappear, they got very excited.
The city didn’t just tear down the roadway; they improved bus service and gave people other options to avoid the city’s freeways, with surprising results:
“As soon as we destroyed the road, the cars just disappeared and drivers changed their habits. A lot of people just gave up their cars. Others found a different way of driving. In some cases, they kept using their cars but changed their routes.”
The Cheonggyecheon before:
Here in Seattle, the naysayers continue to have sway over the debate about how to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, with their endless chorus of “It could never work here.” Everywhere else, meanwhile, it does.