Connecting our neighborhoods

Jim Bacon writes today in Bacon’s Rebellion about the advantages of connecting neighborhoods and he provides an interesting case study of his home in Richmond.  Jim uses the term “pods” to describe “the form of retail strips, office parks and cul de sacs, as the as the basic organizing units of our physical environment.” Connecting Charlottesville & Albemarle neighborhoods organized in this fashion has been quite a controversial topic, particularly around developments like Biscuit Run, Cascadia, and Albemarle Place.

His article concludes as follows:

Improving pod connectivity is not a cure-all. It will reduce the need for some car trips, and it will take some cars off congested thoroughfares, but even when replicated across thousands of pods across Virginia, the consequences will be incremental, not revolutionary. Connecting pods is not a substitute, for instance, for a well-designed grid system of streets. Connecting pods is not a substitute for building communities with a balance of housing, jobs and amenities that match transportation infrastructure with transportation demand.

Connecting pods is only one of many strategies enumerated in the pages of Bacon’s Rebellion, which, taken in their totality, can address Virginia’s transportation crisis without raising taxes. But it is a necessary strategy, and one that should not be neglected.

I like how Jim uses real world maps and photos to illustrate his support for inter-connectivity.  Preparations for neighborhood connections have been something our planning departments often insist upon with a property rezoning.  Developers reluctantly show “stub outs” of their roads towards other neighborhoods.  Adjoining property owners express concerns about safety, cut-through traffic and eminent domain issues.  After neighborhoods are built, local government then has to decide WHEN to build the connections by funding the road and or property purchases required.  As traffic builds up on major arteries around the neighborhoods without these interconnections and grid street layouts, the public requests road widenings, traffic lights–more transportation infrastructure.

I’d be interested in hearing people comment on Jim’s article and the recent discussions about inter-connectivity in Charlottesville and Albemarle.

Brian Wheeler