Placemaking : New York City and Pasadena
There is a short piece in last week's New York Times Magazine, "Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart After All," about how Rutgers Professor Keith Hampton repeated place observation studies of Bryant Park and other places conducted by the Project for Public Spaces around 1980. The original studies were the foundation for modern understandings about how people use spaces, how to manage spaces for activation, etc.
Hampton argues that it isn't true that digital devices disconnect people from public places, that while it is true that people who use smartphones and the like tend to stay longer in one place than people who don't, overall there is more participation and more connection in those spaces today than there was 30 years ago.
His other observation is that comparatively, far more women are out and about in these places today than they were in 1980--a time when urban areas, Bryant Park specifically, which was known as a place to buy drugs, were not safe. (Also see "The presence of women as indicators of revitalization success" and "The presence of women as an indicator of healthy public spaces.")
2. The Los Angeles Times writes about a pedestrianization program for Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena ("Making Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard a haven for pedestrians"). This is interesting because they are going to reduce the space dedicated to the street (cars) so that they can widen the sidewalks and create parklets. From the article:
From the very beginning, Colorado Boulevard was all about the car. Pasadena residents so loved their Ford Model Ts that in 1915 the city was said to have the highest rate of automobile ownership in the world. Colorado was a leg in the famed Route 66 and evolved along with the car culture, with roadside businesses giving way to bigger department stores and eventually to shopping centers.
I wrote about Colorado Blvd. a bit in 2012 ("A diagonal crosswalk ("pedestrian scramble") intersection in Pasadena, California").But these days, officials want to tame the famed street.
Pasadena is considering plans to narrow portions of Colorado by as much as two lanes and use that space to widen sidewalks and create tiny parks with seating and greenery. The proposal has generated wide support among some city leaders and is expected to go before the City Council soon.
And I made the point that the sidewalks were too narrow for the volume of pedestrians. You can't see that from this image, which is of a high quality treatment of a Barnes Dance intersection (DC has a similar type of intersection at 7th and H Streets NW but without a high quality treatment).
It's nice to see that they are recognizing that and aim to make necessary changes to better balance pedestrian mobility needs with other modes.
Some of DC's most actively pedestrianized spaces are M Street NW in Georgetown, 18th Street NW in Adams-Morgan, and 8th Street SE in Capitol Hill--at least on the weekends.
Around 2000, for the time, DC introduced a pathbreaking approach to streetscape improvement with better lighting, improved sidewalk materials, permeable treatments for treeboxes, improved plantings, etc.
BUT for the most part, widening the sidewalk wasn't part of the program.
Now, DC's approach to streetscape improvement is no longer best practice, it hasn't been for 5 years or more ("It's time for a new 'City Beautiful' Movement in DC"). SF's Livable Streets program ("San Francisco Sustainable Mobility Agenda presentation"), various initiatives in New York City, parklet projects are booming across North America as are "Open Streets" initiatives like Ciclavia in Los Angeles which bring out hundreds of thousands of participants, and New York City has introduced 20mph speed zones in neighborhoods.
City Greenlights 13 Slow Zones to Make Streets Safer" from DNAInfo.
Hopefully we can catch up to Pasadena... but the basic point is to re-focus transportation policies, priorities, and investments towards pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users, especially when these modes are dominant as they so often are in urban places like Pasadena or DC.