Drive-thru ban in Mad-town? It’s a thought

WEDNESDAY, June 25, 2008, 8:56 a.m.
By Don Walker

A member of Madison’s Plan Commission thinks the city ought to consider a ban on restaurant drive-thrus.

Eric Sundquist, appointed to the Plan Commission by Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz last month, says it’s only an idea, a consideration, a proposal that needs more discussion.

But Sundquist, a policy analyst for the University of Wisconsin’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy, thinks Madison might consider following the lead of other cities around the country.

“If we are serious about climate change, it doesn’t make sense to approve facilities for idling cars for health and safety reasons,” he said this morning. “You have a number of cars idling for several minutes on purpose. It’s going backwards.”

Sundquist raised the issue recently as the commission was considering approval of a new Starbucks drive-thru on Madison’s east side. The Starbucks was approved, but Sundquist wondered if the issue needs further discussion.

“It seems like something like this ought to be looked at,” he said. “It should either be restricted or banned.”

Sundquist said more research was needed but recalled that some Canadian cities and at least one California city had acted to restrict or ban the popular drive-thrus.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but the issue should be looked at,” he said.

Sundquist, a former Atlanta newspaper reporter, said Atlanta officials considered restricting the drive-thrus as a clean-air matter. No action was taken, he said.

He said he also sits on the city’s long-range transportation planning committee, which might be the better board to consider such a measure.

“Maybe we can look at it in terms of a general parking policy,” he said. “It’s just a germ. An idea. I don’t know where this will go.”

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