As both a former Northern Virginian and a passionate YIMBY, I'm naturally a huge fan of your work! If you're ever feeling courageous, I recommend driving a few hours south to Richmond, where you'll find one of the longest, ugliest, most perilous stroads I've ever seen - Broad Street. NoVa's busiest intersections feel absolutely serene by comparison.

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Dec 7, 2021Liked by Addison Del Mastro

Here's the challenge, though, and it's not one that can be solved by trying to build cities in the United States that look like they're in Europe, since the U.S. has some challenges Europe doesn't have or at least didn't have until choosing to import them. In any American city with the density to allow someone to do their regular shopping on foot, (i) the property values will either be too high to support things like ethnic supermarkets, or (ii) the property values will be low enough to support them only on account of the neighborhood being too crime-riddled for anyone to safely wander out on foot in the first place. When I lived in Manhattan I still had to get the car out of the garage to go to the Asian market... in New Jersey. Even a trip for any groceries more exotic than milk and eggs required a subway ride, limiting purchases to what one can comfortably carry for a half-hour return trip that requires a free hand to access your wallet in the middle. I am much, much happier now that I do all my food shopping by car (or by delivery in Fed Ex's trucks). Unfortunately, that tends to lead to ugly environments like the intersection of parking lots and gas stations photographed in your post.

But I don't see a path to getting this fixed that involves people giving up on driving. We can start by taking advantage of the opportunities electrification presents to remedy some of this ugliness: the gas stations can steadily be eliminated, for starters. Replace just a couple of those with medium-to-high density mixed-use residential and commercial buildings, maybe like the housing complex you mention, and you are at least 50% of the way towards turning an ugly intersection into an actual neighborhood.

Unrelatedly, I'm convinced that a good deal of the congestion one observes around traffic lights is actually caused by the traffic lights themselves rather than merely managed by them. Roads that have continuous flow at 35mph tend to be more efficient than roads that encourage driving at 55mph but stopping for a 60 second traffic light every quarter of a mile.

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