Monday, April 6, 2020

Do Lowell’s Subsections still Exist?

I haven’t posted in six years, but, covid-19 has us all indoors and on the internet!

I ran into a few disagreements over the names of parts of South Lowell on Facebook recently, and was curious as to what people thought different parts of the city are called. My view is skewed by my role on the Historical Society and growing up suburban, more getting my geography from my parents and their friends and parents than my own peers. When I did move to the city (I’ve been gone three years, I need to update my blog!), I befriended a large number of blow-ins who also had a different, one may say academic, understanding of the city

So, I was curious what a broader group of people thought. I posted a survey to a few different Facebook groups and my personal page with a series of maps and a request for identification and left it up over a weekend. The questions were screenshots of neighborhoods in Google Maps of various sections of Lowell at varying scales. The final question asked what years, if any, the respondent lived in Lowell. The survey was done in Google Forms.

I received 67 Responses in 48 hours.

There were 56 people who gave a move-in year I can work with (note many said they lived nearby for years before, I should’ve asked this question better...). Unsurprisingly, most people posting on the Lowell groups where I shared out this poll are currently tied to Lowell in some way. Normalized the time column to be the earliest date.

Removed one of those that didn’t give a single serious answer and one that gave personal references (apparently implying doesn’t use neighborhood names?)

Remove those that didn’t answer at least 7 of the 13 questions.

I didn’t include the 11 responses without years in the full analysis. If I had, 5 didn’t answer at least 7 questions and one contained about half unserious answers and another quit after question 7.

Working data set: 50 responses.

Earliest move-in year: 1939
Latest: 2017
Mean: 1980
Median: 1981

Number in parenthesis is number before discarded responses
1936-1945: 2
1946-1955:  3 (6)
1956-1965: 11 (12)
1966-1975: 7 (8)
1976-1985: 5
1986-1995: 9
1996-2005: 8 (9)
2006-2015: 4 (5)
2016-2020: 1

The results being bimodal is interesting. The demographics of Lowell history groups on Facebook leaning heavily towards the Baby Boom generation is not surprising. My personal Facebook friend groups and the Urbanist group I posted this to are likely to skew towards Milennials and others who may have moved to Lowell in the decade ahead of the Great Recession.


Case normalized
Mispellings generally corrected
“The” removed
I removed “I don’t know” but left a number of joke answers. As mentioned, results with very few “real” answers were removed.

If multiple answers were given, the most specific was used. E.G. If Oaklands/Belvidere is given “Oaklands” is picked.


Frequency of answers will be given for responses that made it over 10% (5 answers) in general as well as the year of birth/moving to Lowell.

Note: years are usually given for Blank and Other, but the number of responses may be too low to be meaningful.

Middlesex Village

Responses are split between slightly older residents who use Middlesex Village and newer residents who use the more generic Highlands

18 for Middlesex Village - 1975
19 for Highlands – 1980

4 Blanks - 1982
All others (Includes two upper highlands and 1 lower highlands)- 1988


Like Middlesex Village, but with a much wider age split, Oaklands is more familiar with the smaller group of older residents.

15 Oaklands – 1972
20 Belvidere – 1987

1 Blanks - 1957

All others - 1979
4 South Lowell
4 Shedd Park
3 Lower Belvidere
2 South Belvidere

South Lowell

“Riverside” would be the Edwardian name for this section, long forgotten in most contexts. The neighborhood is now universally known as South Lowell

37 South Lowell - 1979
2 Wigginsville
5 Blanks - 1981
Others - 1988

Fort Hill

In general, a three-way split between Belvidere, Fort Hill, and Lower Belvidere, with the group that uses Lower Belvidere being about a decade less tenured. South Lowell is used by Google Maps for the neighborhood south of Rogers Street.

13 Belvidere - 1976
10 Fort Hill - 1979
15 Lower Belvidere – 1987
6 South Lowell – 1983

3 Blanks – 1965
Others – 1978


People had trouble with this’s a very small section. Those that identified it as Wigginsville tend towards having lived in Lowell for a very long time. I think people also misplaced it as Back Central because it’s along Lawrence Street.

7 – Wigginsville – 1955
25 South Lowell – 1980

5 blanks - 1987
13 – Others – 1989
4 for Back Central (one for Wayback Central!) - 1989

Christian Hill

Unsurprisingly, many people had both Christian Hill and Centralville combined. As mentioned before, in that case the more specific name (Christian Hill) is tallied. The Boston accent I think makes it hard to figure out how to actually spell this place. We had two people who have lived in Lowell for 60 years go with Centerville, and another two longtime Lowellians go with Centaville and Centraville. Furthermore, if there was any confusion, the name of the Res is right on the map!

Interesting that people who do not refer to it as Christian Hill tend older.

15 for variants on only Centralville – 1975
34 Christian Hill alone or with Centralville – 1981

1 blank – 1987
No other answers!

Cupples Square

This one was well split. I picked one of Lowell’s few squares with a very well-known name, and likely the only one that may refer to the whole neighborhood. Three respondents romanticized it to “Couples” Square. Exactly where in the Highlands it is is ... an open question. Although, as I suspected, the average person who uses “Lower” is likely a bit younger. Interestingly, only one person even mentioned Upper Highlands.

16 - Cupples Square (and variants) - 1973
17 – Highlands - 1981
12 - Lower Highlands – 1986

5 Others - 1982
No blanks!


Another complex screenshot in a part of the city that’s gone through enough iterations to have a complex set of names.

I preferred Sacred Heart and South Lowell the least if there were multiple answers given as those are the “big” neighborhood names the city uses.

6 Grove – 1964
12 South Lowell - 1975
9 Sacred Heart – 1979
1 mentions Back Central.
6 Back Central – 2000 Again, seems people seem to say if it’s Lawrence Street, it’s Back Central.

9 Blanks! – 1979

8 Others, ranging from from “I don’t acknowledge it” to Spaghettiville. Maps definitely labeled this “The Bleachery” at one point, although the answer was uncommon. Google Maps recognizes it as such - 1984

Ayer’s City

I thought Ayer’s City was coherent enough section to not get such a broad range of answers! The train tracks that only allow Lincoln to go through bisects the modern neighborhood across Lower Highlands and South Lowell.

Interestingly, those with the longest tenure slightly prefer the broader neighborhood terms.

6 Lower Highlands – 1973
9 South Lowell – 1978
11 Ayer’s City – 1979
4 Spaghettiville (one also says Sacred Heart, Bleachery “nobody uses Ayer’s city”) – 1980

6 Blanks – 1983
13 Others – 1982 (these are all over the place. Flats, Grove, Sacred Heart, “Wrong part of town”, “Your Mom...”)

Swede Village

Unsurprising, two dominant answers with an unsurprising age gap. Also unsurprising, lot’s of blanks!

15 Swede Village - 1969
17 South Lowell – 1987

8 Blank – 1981
10 Other - 1982

West Centralville

Personally, I’ve always been impressed with the urban character of this pocket of the city and think it deserves a name to differentiate it from Bridge Street. Most people disagree. There is a wide gap in tenure between those who use more specific names and those who use Centralville.

3 Lower Centralville – 1961
6 – West Centralville – 1971
Lower or West - 1968
34 Centralville (variants as discussed under Christian Hill) – 1983

5 other (one vote for Jersey, apparently a very old name) - 1975
2 blanks


This one was picked because it’s obviously “Belvidere” but the neighborhood is strangely to the north of Andover Street (East of Duck Island!) and much more recent than a lot of Belvidere proper. Overwhelmingly, “Belvidere” was the choice, but somebody said its name is most specifically “Merrimack Meadows”

Little surprised “Upper Belvidere” is that uncommon. Since no other questions were in this part of town, unsure if few people use Upper Belvidere or if this decidedly low-lying, but well away from downtown part of town doesn’t make the cut.

4 Outer Belvidere – 1970
1 also had used “Outer Middlesex Street” for Middlesex Village, which is a term I grew up using.
37 Belvidere – 1980
1 Upper Belvidere


This was a bizarre and very tightly cropped image I used because it would be awkward. I was looking for Grove and Flats on opposite sides of the brook, but based on how many answers for “Grove” I got for Bleachery, my understanding of the neighborhood boundaries down there are likely poor.

I’m going to have to do this one based on how many people mentioned the section which will add up to over 50:

3 Flats - 1951
5 Mentions Flats – 1961
11 Mention South Lowell - 1978
9 Just South Lowell – 1979
15 Just back Central – 1981
19 Mention Back Central – 1982
4 Mention Spaghettiville – 1983

6 Blank – 1987
11 Other – 1980


Nothing here really surprises me. Neighborhoods are generational and often cultural in addition to physical. For example, the Lowell Irish blog ( says that it was a certain generation of Irish-American who called the neighborhood around Sacred Heart (itself an Irish-American Parish) The Grove. Similarly, it seems that The Flats and Back Central, while having some geographic separation are more ethnically a split between Irish and Portuguese. St. Anthony’s Church, which it would seem is a center of Portuguese presence in Lowell, is on the very southern end of Back Central Street, right against The Flats.

Speaking of churches, has the loss of religiosity and social clubs contributed to the increased perceived size of neighborhoods? Is it the introduction of the automobile? And the loss of the corner store and neighborhood employer? Or, are these old borders, etched in the city’s memory around ethnicities long-blended into general whiteness and dispersed throughout Greater Lowell, meaningless today? What do modern immigrants call these sections? I had one response mention Cupples Square as part of “Little Cambodia”.

Using this tool, it’s obvious, for better or worse, that Lowell is a more ethnically integrated city that we believe it was in the past. This seems to be the most single-nationality tract in the city, and it’s just over a third. No neighborhood is 20% Puerto Rican. The Portuguese still are concentrated in Back Central with the Brazilians, but, combined, they barely make 20%. OK, Belvidere is 30% “Irish” but that’s insanity in 2020. Every white person in Middlesex is part Irish!

Here are the broad-category races in that Census tract:

How French Canadian was Little Canada at its peak? Beats me. In my head, in our cultural mythology behind these places, 50% seems low. Unfortunately, this tool is unable to generate data at even the city level by language, which, of course, is another huge component.

Either way, I’m glad I did this, if only to prove my suspicions were correct, that these names are dying. And I’m not convinced that’s a problem. But, it is kinda sad in a way...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Letter about parking downtown

I sent this to the city councilors and a few city employees today:

Dear Councilors,

I was unable to attend the parking subcommittee meeting this evening, but wanted to write a brief note. I am the secretary of the Lowell Downtown Neighborhood Association and have lived in Canal Place since 2006. In my time here, I have seen a number of parking issues downtown; however, I am not sure that advertising free parking from four to six during the week and on Saturdays would solve our main problems. Councilor Belanger attended the February LDNA meeting and was receptive to the concerns which many of us voiced. Since that meeting, I have heard that the City said this proposal needs to be revenue-neutral. I feel that this would be counterproductive.

I would say that the single largest issue I see on weekends is that we have perverse incentives around on-street versus in-garage parking leading to empty garages and overflowing street parking. I think this hurts businesses as it gives the impression there is nowhere to park downtown. It becomes worse with every residential unit that opens downtown as that is yet more residents hogging on-street parking.

Ideally, on-street parking should be about 80% full most of the time. On my drive to work today--a weekday--I saw about that. Had I wanted to stop in for a cup of coffee somewhere, I would easily find a spot on the street instead of on the third floor of a garage where the time-tradeoff becomes too great. This is not the case on a Saturday or a Sunday when an on-street parking spot downtown is almost impossible to find and one has to park in a garage. In fact, just this Saturday I asked a friend to drop by for a quick lunch and he was unable to find a short-term space.

When parking spaces close to a business are free and have no time limit, there is no reason to park in long-term parking. This leads to employees, long-term visitors, and especially residents parking for hours, and often days, on the street. They are using a public good for free and hurting business and residents. Free spots or not, we should seriously consider employing a meter maid on Saturdays and maybe even Sundays to enforce a two-hour limit.

The other side of that is of course the garage rates. As I mentioned, the on-street spots work perfectly during the week. Similarly, the garages are usually nearly full with long-term parkers during the week. They are also very busy on weekend evenings with the $5-$10 special event fee. The only time the garages fail to work is on weekend days. We end up paying for staffing and upkeep of these large, empty buildings. Not even the first floor is full. Clearly, with so many cars on the street, there is demand…so why aren't they in the garage? Some downtowns the size of Lowell's offer a free first hour in the garage, and some have greatly reduced or free weekend parking rates. Sometimes, this is combined with non-free Saturday on-street parking, and certainly with time limits for prime spots. We should explore these options, even if they are not revenue-neutral.

We should also consider having additional short-term parking on the first floor of the garages and making sure our garages are safe and attractive places. Of course, do whatever we can to encourage walking, biking, and taking the bus downtown in the first place.

Thanks for reading my letter. We plan to have Mayor Elliott and potentially some representatives from the garage security company at our March meeting, which will be Monday, March 24th, 7PM at LTC.


Corey Sciuto

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Google Bus thing...

There's an old saying in real-estate: Drive until you qualify. The idea is you're supposed to start looking for housing close to work, and drive away from the office until you can afford to buy housing. Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with that concept in San Francisco and Silicon Valley...or perhaps, it isn't so wrong: People are working in the tech companies in the Valley and choosing to live in San Francisco, 30+ miles away.

These well-paid employees are driving rents in San Francisco and even Oakland through the roof, and the companies are employing private shuttle service down the peninsula to the offices to make it more attractive. People are getting kicked out of their homes. A friend of mine shared this article about a bus that was held up by protesters today, and a window was smashed. It has links to other articles about similar incidents, and this is clearly escalating in a fashion that makes the Somerville Kill a Yuppie sentiment seem really minor. As far as I know, nobody has smashed windows on the private Alewife Shuttle that services my office park on 128 in suburban Boston.'ll get no contest from me on the idea that it's not right that the shuttles use the MUNI stops for free. You'll get no arguments that gentrification doesn't almost always have a huge downside or that the companies that do move their offices into downtown San Francisco don't create massive dead zones if they don't play nice with their neighbors. You certainly won't get me complaining about the unwashed masses like this guy did.

However, it is what it is: Silicon Valley is the center of the tech industry, which is exceptionally big business right now. It follows that that puts a lot of pressure on housing costs. It follows from there that people will be priced out of places they'd like to live, and perhaps even have been living. The bigger question is what should be done?

It seems to me that too much of the focus has been on how to get rid of These People and keep them and their private yuppie buses out of the city instead of trying to figure out how to get it to work. At the end of the day, the 'techies' (the term I keep seeing in the media for those of us Who Are Those People) are citizens that are just trying to do their jobs, live their lives, and do both in the best way possible. I don't get why the employees, instead of the employers and the involved municipalities (or the landlords), are taking any of the blame. I never thought I'd see the day where a very liberal population is waging war on mass transit, but that's what's happening here. For decades, we've lamented the death of our inner cities, and now that money is pouring into (some of) them, we don't like that.

Sure, I don't live in San Francisco. I live on the opposite coast, but really...even if they are the self-centered autistic robots the detractors are saying they are, it shouldn't really matter: cities are dynamic places that should be able to adjust to and accommodate all types of people, as long as the city itelf can adjust and grow.

San Francisco was famously overrun by the counterculture in the 1960s, pushing out a lot of people. New development happened elsewhere; life went on. The story of changing demographics in cities and the winners and losers is as old as cities. The problem always seems to be the worst when there is nowhere for people to grow to, which can only happen--aside from lags as it takes a lot more time to build than for economies to change--when natural growth is repressed.

If the influx of these nerdy rich white and Asian men who aren't really that into granola OR family life is a problem, it seems to me that the only solution here is to begin allowing denser development in the region and investing more in transit so that the city can grow and adjust. Even if there was more land to build sprawl on, these new residents don't want it. San Francisco itself is physically tiny and already very dense. It's smaller and denser than Boston! You're not going to cool housing demand without increasing housing supply. Why isn't that the conversation? Perhaps if the Valley was more like San Francisco, more people would want to live there instead of the doing the 30 mile hump down the peninsula every day to work. However, then the entrenched interests in the cul-du-sacs of the Valley would be upset instead.

Huge side-track about why I think tech workers and the suburbs are not great partners after the jump.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

MSPaint and Minimum Lot Size

I've had a few discussions lately around "Preserving the character of a town", ecology, and minimum lot size. People like to say that requiring larger lots leads to a more "rural" feel, and I disagree. I'm not going to pretend to use science here, but bear with me. I've also talked about some of the social aspects before, but I couldn't avoid digging into them again.

Compare these two communities:

* Disclaimer: Actually used Photoshop for the histogram to calculate color coverage and not MSPaint.

Both of these places are about 80% Green, open land. The top one (City) is about 6.3% red houses and the bottom one (Burb) is 4.75%. The remainder is roads: 14.3% in the top one, 15.1% in the bottom one.

Which one of these two communities is likely to have open space like operating farms or walking trails? Large sections of undisturbed land for wildlife habitat? City of course. Also, City has a higher population by at least 20% (more houses, assuming none are apartments, which are illegal in Burb) and possibly less money spent on road maintenance (fewer roads).

Why is it then that suburban communities do everything they can to look like the bottom map in the name of "preserving character?"

Let's say these two communities are in the same market. Assuming houses can't be built on existing roads because they'd be illegally close by town law, Burb is essentially full, whereas City is still half empty (Keep in mind that both are technically 80% open). If there is a demand for 1% more map coverage in housing, what happens? City absorbs most of it, and those who want the extra private space Burb offers push up the prices in that community, pushing those who can no longer afford it out. Those who prefer denser living have no problem finding affordable housing in City. The two communities begin to homogenize internally, and vary wildly externally. What if those that work in Burb can no longer afford to live there? Tough: Spend extra on a car and gas and commute from City to a community where you are not welcome as a voting citizen.

Meanwhile, Burb argues that they can't provide a nice community and a high-quality school system if they allow people of lesser means who pay less in taxes on smaller properties into the town, and there is merit to this.

Of course, no city around here looks like City, with the massive empty area around it (a Green Belt). Some cities elsewhere in the country and certainly in Europe look like that. Why? In a major metro like Boston with cold weather and rocky soil, housing is the most productive use for the land. Not farms (which are more productive and certainly more cost-effective elsewhere), and certainly not nothing at all. The only way to maintain empty land when there is a demand for more housing is to use the force of law to somehow make sure nothing is built on it. Aside from the lot size minimums used in Massachusetts, Portland, Oregon is famous in the US for legally requiring a Green Belt around the city while allowing high densities inside of it...this of course has its proponents and detractors as it creates some bizarre distortions of its own.

The liberals should hate the state-sponsored inequality here, and the libertarians should hate the government manipulation of markets. Does that mean the current system is entirely wrong? Not quite...

The only way to not require the force of law here would be to loosen the growth restriction laws that created these bizarre maps in the first place and allow supply to increase in-line with demand organically. If the demand for housing goes up the combined 2% coverage we're talking about and Burb didn't have exclusionary zoning laws in place, some people would subdivide their lots at a personal profit and allow new growth to occur. That, of course, fundamentally would alter the neighborhood for those who did not subdivide. There are two huge downsides for neighbors here: They now live in a place they didn't chose to live in, and if the new houses are--for whatever reason--a negative on property values, they have been injured in their most important investment on top of that. Others would build on huge lots in City and destroy the open space. Clearly, completely unrestricted growth isn't a great idea, either...for these reasons and many others.

However: Growth has been the story in the world for a very, very long time. We should expect it to continue. The way I see it we have two choices: Continue to sprawl outward and destroy the environment while ghettoizing an underclass in state-sponsored poverty zones, or liberalize our land use laws somewhat in places where it makes the most sense: near jobs, existing dense areas, and transit centers. This would certainly cause some pain for some people as the rules of the economic game change, but as a society, I figure we win... if only burb looked at it that way. I wonder who in this fictional town would protest the gaining of a large park and an expanded tax base (20% growth, now the same as City) with about 15-20% of the land of the city being changed:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Two Way Street Restoration - Why are we here?

Lowell has been very seriously been considering the restoration of two-way traffic downtown. I think it's impossible to not be skeptical about this, as traffic often gets choked-up today and it doesn't seem like an apparent reduction in capacity could do anything but make the situation worse.

I'm not going to argue point-by-point if it should or shouldn't be done (but for the record, I'm for giving it a try as we have professional engineers with experience doing this sort of project saying it'll be fine): I want to talk about how we got here: Why did the streets become one-way and why change back?

Let's go back to the end of World War II.

War-time rationing and mobilization put an end to the growth of the domestic automobile industry for the duration of the war. Once it was over, the United States found itself as the only major industrial power still standing, with a newly expanded middle-class, and a love for technological progress (after all, we were the only country with The Bomb).

Add the GI Bill and the Baby Boom to the economic expansion we were having, and the conditions were right for the real, earnest beginnings of what we think of today as Suburbia. The construction of Levittown, New York began in 1947, and in the mid-1950s Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act.

The Car was here to stay, and was going to be front-and-center in the lives of every American family:

Levittown, PA
Eisenhower receiving a 10-year highway plan 
Shoppers World, Framingham, 1951
First corporate McDonald's, 1955
The general idea seemed to still be that people would commute into traditional downtowns to work and shop. They would need to be able to get there, and they would be doing it by car. To this goal, Lowell—already reeling from a collapsing industrial base which the end of wartime production accelerated—would be brought into...The Future.

The Future, 1962
So, in the 1950s, we began re-designing Lowell around the car. I got to visit the Department of Planning and Development library and leafed through A Master Plan of Highways for the Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill Metropolitan Areas, May 1956. In it, the highway that was then called a replacement for MA-110 and today is I-495 was laid out. It was a research piece on to re-think the cities of the Merrimack Valley to handle the traffic load of the 1980s.

By the time of its publication, the streets downtown had already been reconfigured as one-ways the year before, and were viewed as a great success. According to the National Bridge Database, the VFW Highway was built in 1949 and the Hunt's Falls Bridge in 1954. However, they would clearly not do in The Future. Keep in mind all these maps were made at times when there was no computer-aided design!

First, some overview maps. Note the proposed Lowell Connector and its extension through Back Central and into Downtown. Also Note the Lord Overpass area (which of course was largely built), and the new roads through both Lower Belvidere and Christian Hill to service the just-built Hunt's Falls Bridge.

495, Lowell Connector, and various street changes in green.
The intersection of 3, 495, and the Lowell Connector. Note the Gorham St ramp instead of Woburn St
Central Lowell, proposed changes in green

Some close-ups:

A demolition of large parts of downtown intended to make it easier to drive through it as quickly as possible. 
A help with context. Bye-bye old police station, Saab building, Pollard's Exchange. Hello more one-way high-speed roads!

Who needs Back Central?!

What became the Lord Overpass, and some changes the the Dutton/Thorndike intersection that did not happen.
An Artist's Rendering thereof. It sure looks swell!
There is zero consideration here for what it means to be a person and to walk places, and to be in an enjoyable, humanized environment...because that's not part of the equation. It's all about accommodating the car: how can we reconfigure our city to make it easier to get to Chelmsford from Dracut as quickly as possible?

To be fair, if you look at some of the proposed alignments in the current Rourke Bridge Study, not every crazy proposal is to be seriously considered. However, even the most overkill early proposals in that study—none of which made it too far into serious consideration—could hold a candle to the types of plans drawn up in the 1950s-70s. At that time, a lot of what was proposed for Lowell was quite serious, and up to and through the 1970s, the plans for getting us into The Future accelerated.

The world of 1997, in 1965.
This is a plan from the 1970s, for what became the Sampson Connector (Thorndike/Fletcher/Dutton):

Scheme D for Thorndike/Fletcher/Dutton. This was considered the most rational plan. A maze of ramps removes the at-grade intersection, makes Fletcher St one way, makes Adams and Suffolk Streets dead ends, etc.

A highway to the Acre?
Lowell, for reasons that are well documented, had every reason to look for any way out of its socioeconomic situation in the 1960s and 1970s. Bulldozing half the city might've just saved it they figured. Of course, at some point in the 1970s, things started to go a bit south for the car-craze. The miracle technology started to become a little less shiny, and the problems it directly brought became clearer:
Gas Shortage, 1979
Moratorium on highway construction inside of 128, 1970

So, what did we learn?

Unquestionably, the car enabled the suburbs. I'm going to basically skip over the obvious sidetrack of the other side of mid-century urban issues: Laws, policies, and social phenomenons such as blockbustingredlining, failed housing projects, white flight, and deindustrialization. They all have some ties to the rise of the car. The relationships are far too complex for me to even pretend to take a stab at.

The end result of all of this is that at some point we came to realize that our places started being made for the car, instead of the car being a tool to get around our places. These places are disjointed, inhuman, and ugly. It just isn't always worth the slightly easier drive. Books, of course have been written on this, such as The Geography of Nowhere. Think about New York, San Francisco, or Boston and how few expressways there are. Think about how much nicer Boston feels with the Artery underground. Compare these very nice cities to places like Detroit with great expressway access. Highways have been shown to be bad for people and society and should be built very sparingly.

So, over the past few decades, we've come to value The Past in how we look at our built environment. Time-tested systems of how people interact with their environments in a happy and healthy way have regained focus over the irrational-exuberance of the car age. Perhaps it's partially nostalgia: we are in a poor economy with an uncertain future after all. However, a lot of it is also about learning from our mistakes misusing the technology of cars.

One-way streets are often seen as one of those mistakes. They make streets feel like highways instead of places for people. They make it so people don't see many businesses as they're funneled into a particular set of roads going in one direction, and a different set on the way back. They're disorienting to visitors. They're just plain overused and should be an absolute last resort and not a preemptive miracle cure, which is what they were used for in the past.