In my previous post, I comment briefly on the apparent lack of necessity to maintaining the one-way traffic design of Michigan and New York Streets on the near eastside of Indianapolis. This post will expand upon that idea. As indicated previously, it is my belief that the time has come for these streets to revert to two-way traffic. These city streets essentially serve as urban freeways from the "mid-eastside"/Irvington to downtown. The streets were not originally platted or designed for one-way traffic, but were converted to their current design sometime prior to the construction of the freeway system that now provides for fast travel between downtown and the farther points of the eastside.
Traffic counts, which can be viewed at http://www.indympo.org/NR/rdonlyres/1BE66B6A-902E-437B-A6F0-E30EAC5BD26A/0/2002tcount.pdf
indicate that New York and Michigan, with their combined seven travel lanes at rush hour, carry less traffic than five-lane Washington Street. A two-lane, two-way Michigan Street with an additional morning rush-hour lane westbound, and an additional afternoon rush-hour lane eastbound, and a two-way, two-lane New York Street could surely handle the same amount of traffic.
The first benefit would be to slow traffic down, thereby increasing the livability of the neighborhoods adjacent to these streets. The noise from traffic would likely decrease as speeds decreased. The traffic that utilizes these one-way streets typically proceeds faster than traffic on two-way streets in the city because the current multi-lane design of the streets and the lack of congestion encourages higher speeds. Second, commercial redevelopment would be more likely to occur because businesses would have the advantage of being visible and accessible by traffic in two directions, with a peak of drivers both in the morning and in the afternoon/evening.
Frankly, the changes of the past several decades including the decrease in population of Center Township and the success of so-called "big box" retailers have likely forever decreased the amount of dollars that will be spent at relatively small commercial sites in urban neighborhoods. Thus, there is not going to be enough demand to fill all the former retail buildings along New York and Michigan Streets. However, if traffic and commercial redevelopment were concentrated on one of the two corridors, there might be enough demand to reuse/redevelop a much greater percentage of the long vacant or underutilized commercial properties. The other of the two corridors could then be transformed into an urban greenway with enhanced sidewalks and bike lanes, perhaps borrowing upon the concept of the cultural trail, currently being developed downtown. The beautification of the latter corridor, with a coinciding decrease in vehicle traffic could make the commercial properties more viable for residential redevelopment, which would in turn bring more buying power into the neighborhood to support economic redevelopment of the former corridor.
Imagine a bustling Michigan Street, with plenty of thriving small businesses including coffee shops, restaurants, dry cleaners, offices, perhaps a small grocery. In addition to converting the four-lane street from one-way to two-way traffic, streetscape improvements could improve the environment for pedestrians as well.
Imagine a picturesque, park-like New York Street with a limited amount of neighborhood vehicular traffic, wide sidewalks and bike lanes separated from traffic, and lush landscaping.
Why isn't this possible? Would it take a minute or two longer to travel by car between downtown and Irvington? Yes, perhaps even three or four minutes longer. But it wouldn't it be worth the improvements that could be brought to the near-eastside? Even drivers would benefit from an enhanced experience if the appearance of the corridors was improved and more middle-class residents were attracted to the surrounding neighborhoods.