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July 1, 2020  

Time to Tear Down L.A. Freeways?

July 1, 2020

All around the United States, monuments deemed to be racist are being officially removed or—as was the case with a George Washington statue in Portland—toppled. This trend led Matthew Fleischer, senior digital editor at the Los Angeles Times, to suggest the demolition of what he called “one of the most noxious monuments to racism and segregation in the country”: Los Angeles freeways.

Our own Daniel Herriges wrote back in 2017:

America has a long and shameful history of ramming ill-conceived freeways through—almost always—low-income neighborhoods populated largely by people of color. These projects have invariably destroyed and displaced whole communities, devastated the tax base of cities while subsidizing suburban commuters, and created unseemly “moats” of high-speed traffic and polluted air that ruined the urban fabric of city neighborhoods for a generation or more. 

In his op-ed, Fleischer gives highlights from L.A.’s chapter in this national tragedy. And he says that while Americans are “[tearing] down insidious monuments to racism and segregation,” Los Angeles freeways should be bulldozed too.

On this week’s episode of Upzoned, host Abby Kinney, a planner in Kansas City, and regular co-host Chuck Marohn, president of Strong Towns, discuss Fleischer’s op-ed and the problem of urban freeways. They talk about the past and future of urban freeways, including how feasible it is to actually tear down or repurpose them. They also discuss how the U.S. freeway system is different from its counterpart in European cities, how North America has doubled-down on the commuter mentality, and why we should measure highways by travel time rather than speed.

Then in the Downzone, Chuck recommends an audiobook from comedian Tom Papa. And Abby talks about listening to—and playing—more music.

Additional Show Notes: