It’s an underlying axiom, a chanted mantra, a litany:
More people means more cars.
More cars means more traffic.
More traffic means more congestion.
We hate congestion, ergo:
NO MORE PEOPLE.
The litany was recently recited by John D. English in his Daily Camera guest opinion, imploring Boulder to “preserve our quality of life” by protecting the right of motorists to drive in the city without encountering traffic congestion. But cars are not inextricably linked to people, and the freedom to drive everywhere is not quality of life. Equating these things stalls infill development in the name of auto dependence, and keeps half the city trapped in late-20th century office park purgatory. It preserves not quality of life, but underused asphalt oceans, impenetrable superblocks, and sad bike lanes painted on the side of roads that might as well be freeways.
The assumption that more people must inevitably mean more cars means different things to different people. To the member of traditional Motordom with an interest in infill development, it means we need to build more regional road capacity (induced demand be damned!). To auto-dependent neighborhood activists who cannot stomach the thought of Change in Our Fair Town, it means infill is unacceptable.
We can have more people, fewer cars, and less driving. Other cities have already done it, and we’ve implicitly stated it as a goal in our Transportation Master Plan (TMP) and Climate Commitment. The key to success is dramatically revising Boulder’s parking policies, and creating great streets for people.