Palo Alto Pedestrian Zone

Last week, Stanford Daily columnist Danny Crichton posted an excellent critique of the University Ave. Pedestrian Zone proposal that is circulating on Facebook and various email lists.

His main critique is modern conservatism in its purest form: an aversion to unrealistic (“utopian”) planning; a disregard for the complexities of society and hence the high likelihood of unintended consequences:

These arguments, of course, are the utopian vision for New Urbanism that it almost certainly can never meet. Not everyone can live near his or her work (dual-career families?) nor can one city provide everything desired–not even Palo Alto. Such communities can raise quality of living, but they are not panaceas for all social ills.

. . . But the problem is the logistics. How exactly do we turn the primary artery through the business district into a no-vehicle zone? There is a belief that greater foot traffic will lead to increased sales. That is true, assuming foot traffic is able to find parking in Palo Alto near the pedestrian mall. The effects on the businesses already there are unclear as well. Restaurants may benefit while others are hit hard, as shoppers drive their cars to easier-to-access venues.

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