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The Winner: Monument Circle As Tourist Trap

Earlier today, Circle Citizen joined a breathless crowd in the lobby of Chase Tower to learn who won the much-ballyhooed Monument Circle Idea Competition. He was not disappointed. “From Inertia to Inner Circle,” devised by two Parisian landscape architects, took top honors and a $5,000 prize—just enough, presumably, to cover the travel expenses incurred by the entrants while getting here to accept the award.
There is much to like about the plan: more green space, new water features, cafe seating. Best of all, though, is that it would achieve these improvements, according to the judges’ comments, “by recapturing some parking and traffic lanes.”
Whenever Circle Citizen watches cars orbit the Monument, he is reminded of a scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation, in which the hapless Clark Griswold pulls onto a busy roundabout in London and is then unable to turn off. This, perhaps, is Monument Circle’s most important—if least heralded—benefit to those who live and work in and around downtown Indianapolis. It is, quite literally, a tourist trap. Gawking sightseers, suburbanites, and yokels haven’t figured out that the most efficient north/south routes through the city’s center are one-way Pennsylvania and Illinois streets. So they split the difference and head down Meridian. And they get stuck in a traffic jam—leaving other roadways clear for everyone else.
So hats off to Francois David and Jean-Baptiste Cueille, whose plan, by further limiting the Circle’s capacity for cars, would keep driving tourists trapped for even longer than they are at present.

Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.