Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Another example of trickle down policy and service "failure"

Riders on the Greenbush Line,
Riders on the Greenbush Line, including Craig Comins of Hingham, often find plenty of room to stretch during their commute. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)

It's too soon, way too soon, to say that the new MBTA Greenbush Line isn't succeeding. See "With Greenbush line, let time tell," and "New Greenbush line taking time to catch on," from the Boston Globe.

But it does raise a point, the same one that I make in commercial district revitalization matters with regard to big projects.

It's not enough to "merely" build the big project. You've got to take simultaneous steps to ensure that the community outside the lot boundaries of the big project is ready to connect.

A classic example is 7th and 9th Streets NW abutting the Convention Center. There is a major disconnect. 7th Street is mostly housing. And 9th Street is mostly bombed out still. Is it a surprise that the Convention Center, which face it, mostly attracts people who stay inside the Center during their time there, leaving little time to patronize the local shops, hasn't jumped started neighborhood improvements.

In fact, on 9th Street the retail improvements are happening far to the north of the Convention Center, as if the Convention Center has little impact whatsoever. Although it is true that new housing is being developed around the Convention Center proper, plus eventually the Convention Center Hotel.

This brings up my point about the mobilityshed and the transitshed.

If you want to increase the utilization of the new commuter railroad line, you're going to have to market the service within the catchment area of the line. You can't just expect people to ride the service.

The transitshed and mobilityshed concepts were developed during my wrestling with since cancelled plans to cut service to a few MARC train stops. The thing is, most of these stations had fewer than 20 daily riders. One issue is whether or not people in those areas are commuting to Washington or Baltimore, which is how the system is set up to serve people. But the other concerns adequate marketing of the service to potential riders.

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