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Re: [carfree_cities] Auto-Free Zones

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  • Chris Bradshaw
    I am wading in with a negative vote. Ottawa has one of the oldest malls, the Sparks Street Mall, and a 1990 sprucing-up makes it still one of the most
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 11, 2002
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      I am wading in with a negative vote.

      Ottawa has one of the oldest malls, the Sparks Street Mall, and a 1990
      sprucing-up makes it still one of the most handsome. Its original
      (1966) three-block length has been extended to five (all running along
      the long side of the block, probably for a total of 4,000 feet).

      The original blocks have mostly tightly knit mall-facing storefronts,
      and the merchants are very supportive of the mall continuing, while the
      two blocks added in the 1970s have few doors facing the mall (and thus
      much less walking 'traffic').

      The recent popularity of outdoor seating for restaurants has helped make
      the mall more successful, as it has attracted more restaurants (but
      their outdoor seating is right outside their door, forcing the flow of
      window shoppers out into the centre of the mall, away from the building
      fronts.)

      The ban on motor traffic (except for deliveries before 10 a.m.) is not
      enforced very strongly, but few drivers make use of it, mostly delivery
      activities. And the restaurants all are located near to the
      crossstreets, since they want (and need) heavy pedestrian traffic after
      office hours (the mall is notorious for its lack of activity evenings
      and weekends, with the merchants' business relying mostly on the cluster
      of
      100,000 people employed, mostly by the federal government, within the
      adjacent blocks).

      The Santa Fe sentiment is common after a pedestrian is killed. I find a
      mall may be good therapy (getting even) for the walking community, but a
      street dominated by pedestrians is as unnatural as one dominated by
      cars.

      I would recommend a street that is balanced, with two _slow_ lanes of
      traffic (one in each direction) and _wide_ sidewalks. This can be done
      over the whole of downtown, so that it doesn't just shift the problems
      of one street to the adjacent ones. It also will have a more
      significant effect on the _expectations_ of Santa Feans toward their
      downtown, how they get there, and how long they visit each time (our
      Sparks Street mall is populated mostly by people there for _economic_
      incentives -- their jobs, and not that many tourists, despite the
      presence of Parliament Hill just around the corner; most tourists and
      Ottawans spend 'serious time' a km to the east, in "The Market").

      To look at all sides of this issue, consider the following resources:

      1. Visit the Project for Public Spaces (pps.org) a NYC consulting
      group that are famous for desiging places for pedestrian activity, and
      have a list like this called "Public.Spaces."

      2. Visit the Ottawa web site to make contact with the Sparks Street Mall
      Authority and the merchants association (www.ottawa.ca).

      3. Get a look at some books: David Engwicht's _Street Reclaiming_
      (1999), Roberta Grandes Gratz's _Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for
      Downtown_ (1998), Ray Oldenburg's _The Great Good Place_ (revised in
      1999), and Rodney Tolley's (ed.) Green Transportation book (don't have
      exact title), which has an essay on the economics of pedestrian areas,
      mostly in European cities.

      4. You might want some feedback from the pedestrian crowd, at pednet
      (www.flora.org/pednet/), a list I co-own.

      Chris Bradshaw
      Ottawa
    • mountainsport500
      ... dying, ... an ... I agree with the above. Activity must be at an already high threshold for 100% pedestrianism to work. Santa Fe may not have a high enough
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 14, 2002
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        --- In carfree_cities@y..., Karen Sandness <ksandness1@a...> wrote:

        > So not all pedestrian facilities fail. You probably can't save a
        dying,
        > boarded-up street by banning cars, but you can add new vitality to
        an
        > already active area by turning the pedestrians loose.
        >
        > In transit,
        > Karen Sandness
        -------------------------------------------------------------------

        I agree with the above. Activity must be at an already high threshold
        for 100% pedestrianism to work. Santa Fe may not have a high enough
        activity level in the Winter for permanent pedestrianism to work.

        Closing streets in Europe is almost always done incrementally at very
        low cost to test viability. Initially, streets are closed only for
        those periods with greatest pedestrian activity.

        Street closings in the US got a bad rep. because this incremental
        testing was never done and instead money was thrown at projects which
        didn't make sense.

        Traffic calming may be a better solution to slow traffic and prevent
        accidents in Santa Fe.

        I visited Sante Fe in 2001 and was shocked at the poor condition and
        design of the Plaza. The average Mexican plaza (Zocallo) is a much
        more pleasant than Santa Fe's plaza. The typical Zocallo has abundunt
        seating in the form of benches and seat walls, is surrounded by
        sidewalk cafes, filled with street vendors, often has a stage for
        outside concerts, and may include a fountain with seating. The Zocalo
        is the public meeting place for the town's residents. Whereas the
        average zocalo is filled with people day and night, the Sante Fe
        plaza was empty on the November day I visited.

        Improvement of the the Sante Fe Plaza may be a first step to start
        bringing locals back to the center.


        Tim Prescott
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