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Re: local businesses suffer financially when a zone is pedestrianized

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  • Glotz-Richter, Michael (SUBV)
    Some feedback from Germany: we see some at first glance contradictory trends: in larger cities, the pedestrian areas are of big success and are/will be
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 25, 2012
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      Some feedback from Germany:
      we see some at first glance contradictory trends:
      in larger cities, the pedestrian areas are of big success and are/will be extended. The combination with nice historic and leisure sites (tourism, restaurants, museums etc) increases the 'gravitation' of the city centre. In my city (Bremen/Northern Germany), we are now discussing an extension of the pedestrianised area in order to allow (more) loops for pedestrians - even considering to take away a parking garage!
      smaller cities and towns suffer under the reallocation of shopping to the periphery (shopping centres). Here we can see that pedestrianised areas are or will be re-opened for cars but in a "traffic calmed" way (partly shared space). But I think that the decline of these city centres are nor due to the pedestrian zone but would have happened anyway with the (planned) growth of peripheral shopping centres / malls. There is not much you can do in the town centre.
      In total, "gravitation" is a crucial point - and this depends on more than the number of shops.
      Best regards from Bremen

      Michael Glotz-Richter
      Free Hanseatic City of Bremen
      Senate Department for Environment, Construction and Transport
      Senior Advisor "Sustainable Mobility"
      Ansgaritorstr. 2
      28195 Bremen

      Phone:     +49.421 361 6703
      Fax.:        +49 421 496 6703
      Mobile:     +49 173 6 123 178

    • Zvi Leve
      I would like to expand a bit on a few points which Todd has already made: ... I think that there are two fundamentally different types of development here:
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 26, 2012
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        I would like to expand a bit on a few points which Todd has already made: 

        On 24 June 2012 19:23, Todd Alexander Litman <litman@...> wrote:

        •     Pedestrian areas require a critical mass of users. They should be both a destination and a thoroughfare that connects diverse attractions (housing, shops, offices, etc.). Encourage development that attracts a broad range of customers and clients, including retail, housing, education and employment. Apartments and offices can often be located over shops.

        I think that there are two fundamentally different types of development here: specific places such as a square or even and individual street, or along entire corridors which are crucial for providing continuity (car drivers do not like stop and go traffic, why should this be the norm for pedestrians?). Many European cities have entire networks of contiguous pedestrian areas which permit people to move about the city without being exposed to vehicular traffic at every intersection. These are truly separate networks, not just individual streets....

        Concerning mixed uses, it is hugely important to bring more than just commercial and housing to the area! Office space, services (health and even educational), and cultural uses can all animate the area at different times of day. 

        •     Allow motor vehicles as required for access, with appropriate restrictions based on need, time and vehicle type. This may include unrestricted motor vehicle traffic during morning hours, transit vehicles, resident and hotel pickup, service and emergency vehicles, or other appropriate categories.

        It is very important to provide some flexibility in access and to recognize that there are different needs at different times of day.

        "Merchants on a particular street often object to parking-to-bike-lane conversions out of fear that they will lose customers who use on-street parking. This is often untrue or inappropriate. In many cases, on-street parking serves only a small portion of their total customers, alternative parking is available nearby, and some of their customers who currently drive will shift to cycling if suitable facilities are available (Sztabinski 2009). This is actually a debate between very local costs (the merchants who lose a few parking spaces) versus widely distributed benefits (businesses throughout the area who will benefit from reduced automobile parking demand, travelers who benefit from financial savings and health benefits, and all residents who benefit from reduced traffic congestion, accident risk and pollution emissions)."

        In Montreal, most of the pedestrian projects are in central areas which have quite high property values. The small commerce owners often cannot afford to live in such areas, and have moved to more distant car-oriented suburbs. Thus, the owners arrive at their commerces by car and naturally assume that most of their clientele arrive in a similar manner. Access to parking spaces is a very important concern for these people.... But in my opinion, the larger issue is the fact that small business owners cannot afford to live in the area where their businesses are located. 

        Richard has also made a number of excellent points. The link between pedestrian and cycling improvements (or any transportation project) and economic "development" is far from direct. There are many other factors at work, and many perverse incentives which encourage or discourage certain development outcomes..... 

        1.  Well, in the US, there were a number of pedestrianized malls created in the 1960s and 1970s.  With a couple of exceptions, most have been removed.  They weren't successful for multiple reasons: (1) cities were depopulating; (2) locally-owned stores in downtowns were decamping to the suburbs; (3) community mental health facilities weren't created as a part of the deinstitutionalization movement and so center cities became a kind of holding place for "street people" (people with health and substance abuse issues that made it difficult for them to live "normally"); (4) locally owned department stores failed, further reducing the impact of downtown as a commercial destination.

        So basically, streets were pedestrianized simultaneously with a severe decrease in the number of pedestrians, and an increase in other problems.  As someone said on a now defunct Project for Public Spaces e-list on public space (maybe it's another list topic to pick up and run with as part of the New Mobility Agenda), plants don't animate places, people do.  And so having motorized traffic has been considered to be an important albeit not lovingly component of place activation.

        4.  When I was in Montreal for vacation in July 2010, some merchants on St. Catherine Street had a campaign against the Art Festival on the street, which banned cars for many blocks (from the Rue Berri-UQAM station pretty far down but not all the way (I think) to the Papineau Station.

        And Montreal has a number of other pedestrian street initiatives--near McGill U, and in the Old City.  I bet Zvi Leve could offer some insights as to what merchants think today.

        Pedestrian and cyclist development in Montreal has become a *highly* contentious topic. Projet Montréal which won all of the seats in the central Plateau Mont-Royal borough has been pushing non-stop to get as many progressive transportation things done while they can, but they are encountering significant push-back from many directions (from merchants on one of the pedestrian streets for example).  On the other hand, Jimmy Zoubris who is a small commerce owner on Parc Ave (a long-struggling commercial artery) recognizes that we are in for a "rough ride" but he has thrown his support fully behind the Projet Montreal team. 


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