That was a bold statement by Dana Beach as quoted in Brian Hicks's recent Post and Courier article: Paying the price for popularity in apartments.
The articles suggests that apartments and denser development patterns are effective ways of preserving green space as well as easing traffic.
Searching for solutions to Charleston's Transportation Crisis: Part 2
This article is part of a new series I am writing on Charleston's Transportation Crisis. In this series I hope to uncover various strategies to help alleviate Charleston's growing traffic challenges.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet and any approach must be multi-faceted. Our roads are important, but for us to see a major change then we need a paradigm shift:
We need to create environments that do not rely on automobile traffic.
In today's post I would like to echo Dana Beach and suggest that one avenue for mitigating our traffic challenges is by creating more dense developments. Our development patterns are at the root of our traffic issues. Most residents of the low-country have no choice but to take a car for every trip as development is mostly low and spread out.
Density is a Good Thing
Let's get back to that article by Brian Hicks. Hicks says that "No one wants to hear this, but apartments aren't really the problem. " Amen, Brian!
Angst about real estate development is a common story in Charleston and apartment buildings have been targeted as problematic. This is the first article I can recall that suggests that apartments are actually a good thing. It is far more convenient to point fingers at the large apartment buildings at the base of the bridge than to consider the single-family-home neighborhoods sprawling towards Awendaw.
But the truth is that the sprawl is the main culprit of our traffic problems. If we were to build more dense developments we would help lessen our car dependency.
Density is building up rather than out.
Density is building close to existing infrastructure.
Density is neighborhoods with a mixture of uses.
Density is mixed-use buildings that stack uses.
The goal is to take point A and point B and put them together. Building higher and closer will enable greater opportunities for people to live close to where they work, learn, eat and play. The obvious place for density is on the peninsula, but there are certainly opportunities for dense developments in the suburbs.
Density is good for Affordability
Density has the potential to not only lower our car dependency, but to help another Charleston Crisis: Affordability. Our challenges with affordability are the direct result of supply and demand. If we can increase demand we have the greater potential to provide housing at various income levels.
I was recently shared this article about Seattle:
In this article, Mike Rosenberg of The Seattle Times shares that many new apartment buildings that are developed in downtown and areas near transit are including no parking at all. Zero. And the buildings that include parking include 60% less than they did a decade ago.
Seattle is growing at a rapid pace and this reduction in parking has enabled them to build at greater densities, which has helped with affordability and provides more opportunity for people to be closer to their work. It forces car independence.
Density is not for everybody.
I know that many people prefer the extra space afforded by more suburban and rural areas. I get it. Privacy is cool and so is a big yard with a pool. I am not suggesting that everyone move to the city. We will always need a variety of choices. But......just know that the greater the sprawl, the greater the traffic.
More stories about Charleston's Growing Pains: