5. Healthy Transportation Planning & Livable Streets

The Downtown Raleigh Renaissance – Creating Livable Streets

Daniel T. Douglas, Raleigh, NC 

How did the City of Raleigh revitalize its downtown, create a series of signature public spaces and attract $2.5 billion dollars of new investment in 5 years?

The City of Raleigh had not seen a major investment in its downtown in 10 years. Downtown was languishing – nobody lived, visited, dined or shopped there. In 2002, a new Livable Streets Partnership was formed, an Urban Design Center was created and together they embarked on creating a community driven strategic plan.

The Livable Streets Plan identified 131 actions in 12 broad categories, 125 of the actions were underway or completed within 5 years. Reopening Fayetteville Street, the city’s main street and at the time a failed pedestrian mall and creating a new signature public space, City Plaza, were two of the most significant projects in the program.

These two major public realm improvements catalyzed a revival of street life. Five new festivals, twenty new outdoor cafes, a return of the parade and over 750 new residents have brought life and living back to Fayetteville Street. City Plaza is the heart of the downtown. An interactive fountain delights children, 55 ft. tall light towers proclaim Raleigh’s high tech prowess, public art is installed on a rotating basis, five new restaurants nourish hungry patrons and all are drawn to the pedestrian friendly experience of a renewed city life.

This presentation will outline the key design decisions, critical public policies and processes that created one of the most successful public spaces in all of North Carolina.

Sculpting Public Place from Car Space

Randy Wade, New York, NY 

NYC has successfully carved seating areas, walkways, and protected bike lanes out of roadbed while still maintaining vital bus, delivery, taxi and other motorized mobility functions. Learn how the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway added almost an acre of useable public space almost instantly. Many examples will be presented that reflect the sensibility and expertise of overlapping disciplines including sculptor, engineer, planner and humanist working together to rethink how our streets can better serve communities. Experimentation and innovation have been made possible by the vibrant open culture created by a visionary Mayor and Department of Transportation Commissioner. NYC continues to shine as the Walking Capital of America. 

Bicyclists, & Public Transit in Downtown Salt Lake City

Rick Phillips, Concord, CA

At the 47th IMCL Conference in 2009, we presented on the philosophical origins and development of “Downtown in Motion”, the Downtown Element of Salt Lake City’s Transportation Master Plan. Adopted in 2008, this innovative plan integrates all travel modes in downtown from automobiles and public transit to cyclists and pedestrians, supporting a vision of downtown as a fully interconnected, multimodal model of urban livability.

The city is now beginning to act on the recommendations of the plan. The subject of this paper is the integration of transit and on and off-street pedestrian and bicyclist circulation, expressing policies and proposals grounded in principles of safety, utility, and delight for human beings of all ages and abilities.

While reviewing “Downtown in Motion” overall, the paper will zero-in on policies and recommendations specific to pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit patrons. These include “great streets” proposals for downtown’s primary street grid (the “City of Zion Plat”), development of pedestrian and bicyclist circulation systems within Downtown’s large blocks, extensions of these networks through buildings and new developments, and the specific roles of short, medium, and long-term recommendations over the life of the plan.

A key recommendation – critical to the plan’s family and child-friendly promise – is an off-street pedestrian/bicyclist path network (in addition to comprehensive in-street bike facilities) overlaid on Downtown, connected to recreational and commuter path networks in surrounding residential districts. Planning, design and implementation of this ground-breaking idea is a key focus of this paper.

Portland’s Livability Investments: Improving a City that Works for Children

 Byron Estes, Portland, OR

Portland (Oregon) has developed a reputation over the past several decades for smart livability and transportation investments. However, places and spaces for children and families have taken a back-seat to high-density downtown redevelopment. Recently, however, the City has embarked on a renewed emphasis on neighborhood livability. This has resulted in a variety of projects that create safe and fun spaces for children and their families and planning for town squares and other lively but safe venues. Building on a quality neighborhood park system and investments in light rail transportation and commercial district revitalization, this new approach emphasizes 20-Minute neighborhoods where goods and services are available to families without necessarily having to use an automobile. Convincing suburban-oriented families to make the city’s urban neighborhoods home requires a new mind-set and emphasis on targeted livability investments coupled with cooperative work with local schools, social service providers, cycling advocates, small businesses, and religious institutions. A comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that includes up-front planning for children and teens is really starting to make a difference. This presentation will include an overview of Portland’s neighborhood livability work with a special emphasis on planned investments geared toward children and families. Several case studies will be presented along with graphics and tentative conclusions presented on the current state of the art in neighborhood livability planning and implementation.

Kid-Friendly TODs

Robert Cervero, Berkeley, CA

Transit-oriented developments (TODs) are presumed to cater to a unique demographic -- largely childless households, including young professionals and empty-nesters. The advantages of being in a compact, mixed-use setting well-served by rail transit are thought to accrue largely to such groups that seek access to jobs and cultural attractions in urban centers. This paper argues TODs in fact can be quite kid-friendly, based on experiences from four international rail-served residential projects: GWL Terrain in Amsterdam (a car-restricted complex); Vauban, Germany (car-restricted, "green TOD"), Hammarby Sjostad in Stockholm (eco-community), and Kogarah Town Center in Sydney. The replacement of interior parking with tot-lots, playgrounds, gardens, and communal spaces creates defensible spaces and healthy living environments. Superb rail access to nearby attractions engage kids and parents alike. A combination field observations, site designs, and interviews will be used to demonstrate that TODs are eminently conducive to kid-friendly active living.

Child Streets

Sam Bass Warner, Cambridge, MA
Eran Ben-Joseph, Cambridge, MA

There is a world movement underway to construct new streets and alter existing ones so that they become friendly places for children to play. The United States needs to adapt these precedents for installation here so that we can realize the many benefits that these new child-friendly streets offer.

Based on existing cases these benefits include: Decrease of vehicles’ speed and the minimization of serious risk of accidents; gains in both green areas and play space; health and social benefits through informal exercise and neighborhood social interactions; traffic calming of residential streets without blocking access by automobiles and trucks; a potential increase in residential values; and flexibility in neighborhood design. Obstacles to establishing such streets in the United States remain high. These include liability concerns as will making access easy for the largest trucks and emergency vehicles. Yet local authorities can address these issues as part of programs for traffic calming and neighborhood design. In new subdivisions, for example, developers could establish such streets as part of their plans. In existing neighborhoods small mitigations could start through cooperation among abutters who are concerned with the speed of traffic on their streets.

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