Our city is considering converting a two-way street at the most visible and central corner of our downtown into a one-way street. There has been a great deal of research on this subject, and this type of street conversion has proven not to be a panacea for redevelopment – quite the opposite. In other cities the impacts of switching to one-way streets have included higher-speed traffic, more collisions, higher crime, lower mobility, and reduced economic growth potential. Many cities, including Biloxi’s Vieux Marche, are converting one-way systems into two-way systems, at great cost to the taxpayer. They anticipate that restoring the two-way street network will promote better traffic flow and improve the conditions for economic development.
A few points to consider:
1. Two-way streets are safer. One-way streets often have higher actual (not posted) speeds, leading to more collisions and reducing pedestrian and bicycle safety. Designing walkable thoroughfares – a characteristic that our town is known for – depends on 2-way streets.
2. Two-way streets are superior in vehicular level of service: when drivers engage in inefficient circling on one-way streets they create more traffic. One-way streets confuse visitors, elderly, and rookie drivers.
3. Changing from one-way to two-way streets has been shown to increase growth in three sectors of the economy: arts, entertainment and recreation; accommodation and food service; and professional offices. These are the three major types of uses in the first block of our current Main Street; changing from two-way to one-way may have the converse effect of slowing or reversing growth in these sectors.
4. In one study, property values were shown to have increased when a one-way street was converted to a two-way street, over 5% in value. I don’t think we want to risk reducing property values.
In order to create the conditions for slower and safer traffic, invite pedestrians and bicyclists, provide better mobility and increase the economic growth potential, downtown streets need to remain two-way streets.