"Green" is a big buzzword right now, and it's being misused and abused. Soon, it will have no meaning anymore, and environmentalists will have lost a powerful tool.
I work down off of Route 62 in Bedford, by the Middlesex Turnpike. I have taken the turnpike a few times in the past few days, and like some scene out of a kid's environmentalism movie, I'm horrified at all the trees we have lost, seemingly overnight. Sure, the traffic down there is bad, and for economic reasons, it's likely necessary to finally widen the 200-year-old turnpike. However, it is disingenuous at best to call this sprawl-enhancing cluster**** a "Green Road" or a "Smart Parkway" or "Smart Growth" as it is being advertised: http://middlesexturnpikeplus3.org/. Sidewalks, bike lanes, and buses, oh my! And a "hydrogen fueling station." Great.
So, let's look at sidewalks. Unfortunately, the five-minute walk rule (people are willing to walk 5-10 minutes, a quarter to half mile, before driving) breaks down horribly in the land of office parks set way back from the street by "driveways" and surface parking lots. Where are you going to walk from anywhere on Middlesex Turnpike to any other kind of use in 5-10 minutes? Here is the part of the Turnpike in Billerica that Millipore, a centerpiece of the project, is part of, on Suburban Park Drive, courtesy of Google Maps.
You see three types of uses here: A lot of job sites, some houses, and a few restaurants. Technically four uses if you want to count the Vining School. So, what is five minutes from another use here? This map is .8 miles across, as the crow flies. Well, the big office parks just down the road from the 99s (which contains Millipore) are a five to 10 minute walk from it, although some of them up by Linnel Circle, due to poor road connectivity, are twice as far from the restaurant by road as they are by air. Similarly, much of Manning Rd and Fortune Drive are walking distance from what is labeled Dunkin' Donuts (the map is screwed up, that's actually a Subway and Dunkin' Donuts is off the map to the north). OK, so these low-rise office parks are generally under half a mile, or 10 minutes, from a restaurant on the Turnpike by foot. Notice we didn't actually walk on the Turnpike to get anywhere, because there are no groupings of restaurants, so the "improvments" to the Turnpike didn't do anything for us here.
Largely restaurants are on the main road - and nearly exclusively office parks on the side streets. Not walker friendly. And the houses? Can anybody in the surrounding low-density residential area walk to work? Look close and pan around this area on Google Maps. You'll notice something interesting: the residential streets, even when houses back office buildings, don't actually connect through to the main road. Without jumping fences or walking through the woods, you can get from very few houses to office buildings in a reasonable period of time. Some "adjacent" houses are at least a mile away from ways to legally get there. Similarly, neither Manning Road or Lexington Road interchange with Route 3 on the left-hand side of the map. In fact, Manning Road is a half-long dead end. The definition of a car-only area.
The "Smart Growth" housing projects they mention in some of the articles that should increase the number of walkers in the area similarly don't actually exist on the Turnpike, but are off in pods in the woods...just like any other cluster-zoned mid-density auto-suburb housing project. To be fair, they're not a far walk. but they still don't really feature anything you would consider "urban" or "smart" like new through-streets or very much retail of use.
So, by similar logic, the bike lanes are only a little more useful. How much further people tend to bike than walk, I don't know. But they get to take fewer shortcuts across grass and ducking under fences than people, so the purpose-built poor connectivity in this area hinders biking as well. With so few places to live along the Turnpike and so few minor residential streets connecting to it, bikers in the area are forced to ride on other major, high-speed roads to be able to get to the Turnpike. For example, Lexington Road. Somebody living on Elizabeth Drive has to bike for 1.6 miles, much of it down bike-unfriendly Lexington Rd, to get to an office building that is really only a quarter mile away from their house.
Transit has all the same problems: Too few people live along the transit route and work along it as well because the density is too low and the single-use zoned areas too large. Too many of the house and office buildings are set far too far back from the main road (or along a pedestrian friendly and well connected side street) for people to walk to or from a bus stop. And, too few buses run this route with any regularity. The LRTA from downtown Lowell comes by once an hour, and it's an hour trip (and a 15 minute drive in a private car).
It's almost like linear development, by definition, is car-centric development, as opposed to a well-connected, more circular, city center. And it's almost like car-centric developments are inherently un-green because of pollution, fossil fuel use, and tree clearing, etc. So it's almost like when our politicians get behind "green" projects like this one, the oxymoronic "green smart parkway road", that they are really going to sink large amounts of our money building just more sprawl. So, we should make them admit what they're really doing and not resort to outright lying or delirium via buzzwords, diluting the meanings of important concepts.