Mix of Successes and Failures for Pedestrian Malls

New York's Broadway goes pedestrian, while Sacramento's K Street goes back to having car traffic. Are pedestrian plazas a relic of the past, or the wave of the future?

Yonah Freemark says that density is key.

Freemark writes, "California's capital may have suffered from a density problem: it didn't have enough residents and office workers in the immediate surrounding area to keep its streets active during off-hours, so the pedestrian mall often felt too quiet to be comfortable. The fact that many consumers visiting the street arrived by automobile made the situation worse. In New York, where there are hundreds of people on virtually every block, there's little to fear, and most people visiting businesses likely come on foot anyway, so getting rid of car access won't change much."

Full Story: Are pedestrian malls the future or the relic of antiquated thinking?

Comments

Comments

Important to distinguish between differences

This article is clarifying, re the point about density. Well noted.

For the non-urban areas (and even some urban), we need to see more improvements in shopping centers re building plazas, putting out tables with benches and umbrellas etc.

The experience still often entails arriving at an isolated chain store/s, shopping for said product, and then getting back in your car- there's no human interaction along the way, aside from the transaction between consumer and salesperson.

Bringing opportunities to interact with people in these environments will help build community.

Analysis Needed, not Trendiness

One of the most frustrating aspects of the "trend" away from pedestrian malls is the lack of actual analysis to identify why a pedestrian mall has declined. Downtown Oak Park, Illinois, which is 3 blocks from where I write this note, is the poster child for placing trendiness ahead of analysis. Over vociferous citizen objections, the village board decided to "restreet" the village's beloved 2-block long pedestrian mall through downtown Oak Park. The board rushed the demolition to do it before an advisory referendum could be conducted (a 60% landslide voted to preserve the pedestrian mall, but by the time the vote was taken, the mall had been removed -- this is Illinois, not California!).

The village board acted because the "trend" was against pedestrian malls. Analysis was spotty -- and indeed years later the commercial property vacancy rate in downtown Oak Park remains high, the businesses that supported the restreeting failed to keep their promise of instituting the reforms needed to increase business (like common hours, joint advertising and promotion) and little has changed except that the street is now a traffic jam during rush hour and lunch hour.

And that's one of the problems planning faces today -- some many planners are willing to do what's trendy rather than engage in the kind of thoughtful analysis to identify the cause of a problem and craft a solution that mitigates these causes. Sadly the planning profession keeps moving backwards and APA/AICP leads that backwards movement.

Visit http://www.apawatchdog.org for alternatives.

Daniel Lauber, AICP
Planner/Attorney
AICP President 2003-2005, 1992-1994
APA President 1985-1986
http://www.planningcommunications.com

Restreeting details

Daniel,

What did they do exactly in "restreeting" and what was demolished? I'm not familiar with what the nature of your pedestrian mall had been versus what they turned it into.

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