Yes Virginia, They WILL Walk

Sometimes we are all guilty of getting stuck in the “echo chamber” and treating as articles of faith things which are really only theories.

Lest anyone worry that some of the core principles underpinning the Connectivity Plan are tainted with that tendency, new research came out today that people who live in mixed-use environments do, in fact, drive less.  Read the article and link to the research and other commentary on Streetsblog, here.

A healthy dose of skepticism is always good.  But evidence, data, and research are better.  Listen up people: just because it’s Connecticut, or Norwalk, doesn’t mean that, no matter what we do, people are going to turn to their car for every trip.

An important nuance in the research — which, to be fair, has also been a part of the discussion in Connectivity — is that proximity is only half the battle.  The other half is the pedestrian environment that is provided.  This issue is front and center in Norwalk’s downtown parking issues, especially in SoNo, where — despite its proximity — people visiting Washington Street are loathe to park in the Maritime Parking Garage.

The core essence of the Connectivity Initiative is building a downtown that facilitates people getting around by means other than just by car.  Which means spending resources on sidewalks, crosswalks, transit, and  — yes — bike lanes.  The proposition is still sometimes met with a smidgen of skepticism, which is understandable when you consider Norwalk’s environment today.  Can you blame a person for not wanting to walk on West Avenue, though it is the “spine” of our Downtown?

But the premise is transformation.

95/7 — or some version of it — will be built, as will Waypointe, as will Wall Street Place, as will Head of the Harbor and any number of other projects in the next ten years.  They will all be mixed-use projects, and bring thousands of new residents to the downtown.

And, if you provide a reasonable environment in which to do it, they will in fact choose to walk.