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Published on August 11th, 2010 | by Christopher DeMorro

San Juan, Puerto Rico To Become Walkable City

August 11th, 2010 by  

It is hard to believe that just 100 years ago, most people still got around either by foot or (if they were lucky) on horseback. These days, many Americans don’t just drive cars; they couldn’t live without them. As cities continue to siphon off people from the suburbs though, many municipalities are looking for ways to cut down on the increased traffic that comes with too many cars.

San Juan, the capital (and most populous city) of the island of Puerto Rico, is faced with a series of challenges. An over-reliance on cars has left the city over developed and under planned, with many pristine beaches inaccessible, the traffic an absolute nightmare. This is especially true in Isleta, or Old San Juan. But a $1.5 billion infusion of cash hopes to change Old San Juan into a walkable city where cars aren’t allowed.

About 2 million people, around half the total population of Puerto Rico, live and work in and around the city of San Juan. It also has an astonishing 4,300 vehicles per paved mile. That is a lot of cars! Despite Puerto Rico’s best efforts at implementing light rail, including the Tren Urbano line, traffic remains a huge problem for San Juan. A plan has been approved though that would essentially revamp the Isleta, the oldest part of the city,a nd close off large swaths to car traffic.

This plan would not revamp the whole city, which is faced with urban sprawl issues. The port of San Juan is one of the busiest in the world, so this too poses a problem. The plan would essentially close off the Isleta to cars, and introduce new road ways, light rail, and beach access points. The hope is that by making it a “walking” city, both tourism and local residents will benefit. Isleta has experienced a rapid decline in population from over 35,000 residents in the 1950’s to just over 7,000 today. A lot of space is wasted, and many beaches are inaccessible because of poor planning. By remaking Isleta as pedestrian-only, roads could be dug up and more space freed for hotels, houses, and tourism industries. This idea could work a Puerto Rico relies heavily on cruise ship tourism. Could it work elsewhere in the U.S. too? And would you want to live in a city where cars are banned?

Source: Planetzien | The Walkable City

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • PL

    Absolutely, this is long over due and time to implement extensive walkways and bike paths around the world. Moreover, it’s the best way to save our planet earth, resources and our freedom.

  • PL

    Absolutely, this is long over due and time to implement extensive walkways and bike paths around the world. Moreover, it’s the best way to save our planet earth, resources and our freedom.

  • douglas prince

    But, but, what about my ’57 Cheby???

  • douglas prince

    But, but, what about my ’57 Cheby???

  • Puerto Rico does not rely on cruise ship tourism for anything else but extra air lift. I wrote an article several months ago where an Old San Juan merchant who caters to tourists claimed that cruise ship tourist were the worst and bought nothing, ever.

    The deal is that in most cases cruise ships leave out of San Juan, or are in port for 3 hours in the afternoon. Occasionally they stay longer and leave around midnight. This typically does not leave room for very much shopping around. What they do, typically, is eat in a restaurant, visit El Morro or buy a magnet.

    A great article, Christopher. I liked it a lot. I just needed to point that out — it is a commonly misconstrued perception.

  • The public transportation system in Puerto Rico is very incomplete and unreliable. The new tren urbano only works for very few people since it’s only one loop with very few stops. This very expensive plan would also have a very limited effect since the area and the percentece of people who use it daily are very small. (I do and almost always walk everywhere quite comfortably) The plans need to be looked at carefully since the environmental impact, particularly on the coral reefs will be great. A lot of the people who allready use the beaches (snorkeling, scuba surfing, fishing etc.)will loose the freedom to enjoy their recreational activities. Although it does sound like a great idea, we need to look at the whole picture before supporting this project a hundred percent.

  • Please make sure you understand that Tren Urbano is *not* “light rail”. It is heavy rail intended for daily commuters; mass transit, if you will. Light rail (aka. trams, aka. street cars) for easy on/off service would be much different than the current system in place and really be a great thing (especially if Tren Urbano could be extended to either Condado or all the way to the capitol).

  • Antonio Grullon

    Ideas nuevas son siempre bienvenidas, a la misma vez aumentan los empleos y el bienestar de la ciudadania.

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