Cinta Costera and Car Centric Design
Cinta Costera is the most recent transportation and land reclamation project in Panama City. The goal of the project was to expand the existing roadway and improve traffc organization while creating new recreational areas by reclaiming land from the bay. As anyone who has traveled to Panama will tell you, traffic is an immediate crisis. Gridlock paralyzes the city for hours everyday as well as providing constant deafening noise and danger to anyone who dares walk in the city.
The proposed plan for Cinta Costera was not very revolutionary. Provide more lanes for travel, add more land to create much needed open space and then wait for the reward of increased propoerty values along the bay which is already going through a major transformation with the cnstruction of numerous luxury residential towers and hotels.
The problem with Cinta Costera is that the plan is still automobile centric. A pedestrian environment has not been created. Cinta Costera is populated by parking lots, and at some points 8 lanes of traffic. Along the Cinta Costera are intermittent bridges which provide a crossing point for pedestrians. Though there are too few bridges to create a sense of connection between the city and the bay.
Panama is in desperate need of a metro system. I wish that the planners had taken the opportunity of Cinta Costera to provide a street car system along the waterfront. This would have created a vibrant waterfront for residents and tourists to enjoy and would have provided a startng point for a real metro system for Panama City to build on. It is a myth that by creating new roadways and increasing capacity for automobile traffic, congestion will be eliminated. More capacity simply means that more people will drive. Alternatives to the car must be provided for Panama City and Cinta Costera would have been a great oppurtunity to start fresh. As it is now, Cinta Costera is no more than a glorified median strip, similar to Boston’s Kennedy Greenway.
As with the Boston Greenway, I look forward to seeing the development of the Cinta Costera. There is no doubt that what was built is better than what existed before, but that is not acceptable. A dramatic shift must occur to provide alternatives to the automobile, not simply make it easier to drive in the city.