Drive-throughs, walk-ups, and Covid
It's been several years since I first heard transportation guru Walter Kulash say in a transportation reform lecture: “Trying to solve traffic congestion by adding more lanes is like trying to solve the obesity by loosening your belt.” This still rings true today, but with announcement from Taco Bell and Burger King for new double-lane drive-through prototypes to address increased demand for comfort fast-food while social distancing during the pandemic, this has an expanded meaning. The Taco Bell press release features renderings and an explanation about the expanded popularity of drive-through service.
But is this helping the big picture concerns for healthy living when it promotes a sedentary auto-centric lifestyle? Sure, drive-throughs are in justifiably stronger demand—but there are better design solutions that support a more holistic approach. At top is a sample graphic for a new form-based code. One building type in the code is called a Walk-Up/Drive-Through. It is inspired by designs, like this one, for inviting pedestrian walk-ups while also allowing for drive-throughs in the walkable Main Street of Cornelius, North Carolina—an early adopter of a form-based code.
The code prioritizes walking while still allowing for drive-throughs. Many form-based codes accommodate drive-throughs but may not mention walk-ups. Having a simple policy that states something like “Walk-up carry-out windows are permitted on the front facade. Drive-thru windows are permitted on the side and rear facades only when walk-up windows are provided.” That's a simple tweak that might be easily inserted as a text amendment to form-based code standards but could make a big difference in the post-Covid era. Thanks Walter!