The Worst Streets In North America

Members of the The New Urbanism movement have compiled a list of the most sprawling and pedestrian unfriendly strips of asphalt and concrete in the nation.


The New Urbanism is a movement that seeks to overcome the ugly sprawl that has overtaken our urban environment. Many of the people who are a part of this movement engage in a cyberspace discussion group using email. The members of this email group include architects, town planners, developers, members of the academic community and common citizens. As part of this discussion, we had a contest to find the Worst Streets in North America. Here are the basic criteria for inclusion in the list of Worst Streets:

  1. The right of way has to be extremely wide. The minimum is 4 lanes with a center turn lane, but wider is better (or actually worse).
  2. There must be signs everywhere of different types and sizes, tall ones, short ones, flashing ones, etc.
  3. There must be huge parking lots in front of the stores. It helps to have weeds, chain-link fences and dumpsters prominently featured.
  4. The stores themselves must be cheaply built single-story buildings resembling shoeboxes or refrigerator boxes. An occasional two or three story building is allowed.
  5. No greenery, other than weeds and retention ponds, is allowed unless it is poorly kept up.
  6. No sidewalks are allowed unless they are right next to the road where cars are going at least 45 miles per hour.
  7. Special bonus for huge intersections with double turn lanes and traffic lights with two minute waits on red.

With this as the basic criteria, here are our nominations. Each nomination includes a short commentary describing why the street belongs on our list. Note that they must all meet the above minimum criteria to be considered.

Top Ten Worst Streets in North America (in no particular order).

Pulaski Highway (US 40) in Northeast Baltimore County (Maryland)

"All the usual sprawl problems, plus it's economically decayed like the worst of an inner city. Lots of dead strip malls and dead superstores. My former place of employment was a converted warehouse in an industrial "park" in the midst of this. I've felt just as threatened at times going for lunch at the nearby strip mall as I've felt in any gritty urban neighborhood. I think this is the future, and it doesn't look good."

US 192 South of Walt Disney World (Florida)

"It is the most "self-aware" ugly street in the country. As the sprawl grew east for 10 miles, somebody noticed there was no sense of place. Of course. But the lack of place was so severe that nobody could figure out where they were, and business suffered. So they erected these giant, cartoonish mile markers. Now people know the difference between Days Inn at mile 6 and Days Inn at mile 8."

North Breazeale Avenue in Mount Olive (North Carolina)

North Breazeale Avenue, N.C.

"This is the miserable instance of "mixed use"... Derelict feed mills next to used car lots, next to homes, next to pawn shops, next to laundromats... all scattered to-and-fro, close and far from the curb and surrounded by treeless squalor. No sidewalks, few destinations. Land use is so poor there is a drive up ATM taking up nearly 3/4's of an acre. No inspections when most of it was "developed": many buildings were built by Spanky & Alfalfa, LLP."

Calgary Trail in Edmonton, Alberta

Calgary Trail"A single-minded testament to unbridled sprawl that has transformed the southern entrance of Edmonton, Alberta into three miles of newly constructed, auto-oriented hell. The Calgary Trail is in fact two six-lane roads, one going north, the other south. In between is seemingly every big-box franchise you've ever heard of and every highway-oriented use that needs lots of parking, because that's all there is. Despite the sidewalks, you are not really meant to walk here, not even to the business next door. The effect is numbing, and entirely hostile to anyone who isn't on wheels."

Red Deer, between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta

Edmonton"It is like a miniature replica of Atlanta's suburbs. The local pride in West Edmonton Mall is mind boggling to someone from Atlanta (the huge mall capital of the universe) Calgary has strip-mallish development every bit as dispiriting as every Sun Belt city. And Alberta is one of the few places in Canada where I've had cars repeatedly refuse to yield the right of way to me as a pedestrian."

Buford Highway in Chamblee, Atlanta (Georgia)

"Buford Hwy. (an arterial rather than a true highway, despite its name) has all the signs of ugly suburbia that you ask for, but is special in two respects. First, it has no sidewalks EVEN THOUGH (unlike in most suburbs) there are lots of people who don't drive. Because Chamblee is dominated by low-income recent immigrants, 16.7% of Chamblee households don't have cars -- and many of them have worn a dirt path through the grass flanking Buford Hwy. Second, not only are there no sidewalks, there is sometimes not even the grass/dirt path; parts of Buford Highway have shrubbery blocking pedestrians' path instead of a grass/dirt path."

Jimmy Carter Blvd. in Atlanta (Georgia)

"... is Buford Highway, only with lousy restaurants. It approaches the physical limits of unsightliness... Not even the Republicans around here contend that Carter deserved this!"

Telegraph Road in Detroit (Michigan)

"This scar-upon-the-earth runs through the suburbs of Taylor and Dearborn Heights. There are other "worsts" in America that are wider, and still more that are longer, but when it comes to overall execution (pun intended), Telegraph Road ranks right down there with the rest."

"[It is] an other-worldly horrible place, like something out of Terminator. A cavernous, roaring trench, ringed in chain link fencing, straddled by squalid suburban decay."

PA Route 611 in SE Pennsylvania (southern Bucks to Montgomery County)

"A glorious tribute to crass commercialism, complete with setbacks large enough to land a Cessna. I had the pleasure of commuting along this nightmare for two years and nothing about this road was redeeming. Sidewalks are non-existent along this stretch of state roads according to Penn DOT standards."

Mingo Ave in Tulsa (Oklahoma)

"Actually, most of the major arterials in Tulsa are absolutely horrific and would be excellent contenders."

Other Nominations include:

  1. International Drive in Orlando
  2. Pines Boulevard in Broward County, Florida
  3. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa
  4. Route 1 outside of Princeton, NJ
  5. US 101 in California
  6. Route 1, the "Boston Post Road" east of NYC through Bridgeport and New Haven

The Special City Award - Atlanta

The Atlanta metro area gets a special award by having the most streets nominated. In addition to Buford Highway and Jimmy Carter Blvd. The Atlanta area is home to Peachtree Road, Roswell Road, Barrett Parkway, Cobb Parkway, Memorial Drive, Alpharetta Highway and all of the roads around Perimeter Mall. These are all excellent examples of ugly, car-choked suburban streets. Because of the many nominations, we have designated Atlanta as the Worst Streets Capital of North America.

How About Your City?

Does your city have one or more streets that belong on the Worst Streets list, or do you have a photograph of one of the streets named above? Please send us your nominations for the next version of Worst Streets by submitting your nomination using the "Write A Comment" form at the bottom of this article (photos can be emailed to info@planetizen.com). Remember that your nomination must meet the basic criteria and have something extra to make it one of the very worst. Include the name of the street, the city or area where it is rotting away, and a description of why it should be included as one of the Worst Streets.


Jim Colleran is a retired computer programmer with a great interest in New Urbanism. He lives in the Town of Tioga (www.townoftioga.com), a New Urbanist community near Gainesville, Florida. The CNU email list is not directly associated with the Congress for the New Urbanism (www.cnu.org), but has many members of this organization as participants. It is a discussion group that deals with issues related to New Urbanism.

Comments

Comments

Don't forget - there's more

Yeah, I hear him. But he should not have forgotten Merivale Road, an underwhelming street of auto-oriented trash, in my opinion. I live near it, except that Merivale Road has so many stuff there, except for the two big guns - Wal-Mart and The Home Depot. (They might have been happy to ignore Merivale Road.) I live in Ottawa, and Merivale is busy all the time. That can serve consumers from Barrhaven, Orleans, Kanata - you name it. The three suburbs, as well as Riverside South, are all growing fast.

Speedway

I was wonderign if you knew what issue or know where to get the issude with the article of Speedway in Tucson Arizona being the worst street in America. I think it was in an issue from awhile ago. thanks

Worst Streets-The Result of No Planning

Who could've predicted the impact when those first automobiles were introduced a century ago? The total acreage taken for suburbia, strip malls, car dealerships, big box stores, highways, junkyards, tire dumps, etc. is staggering. We've fought most of the modern wars for the fuel. We're changing the climate of the whole planet with the exhaust. 50,000 Americans die every year in car accidents. As most have noted, we are trashing our once beautiful national landscape. All this so we can drive where we want to, when we want to. Has the cost justified the benefit? As planners, where are we going?

Kansas City Roads

I have lived in both Tulsa and Kansas City. Tulsa's arterial roads are absolutely horrible. Mingo is one of the better ones, actually. Try Admiral Drive, that one is depressing, Then there is Sheridan, not to be done by the thoughtfully named corridors or 51st, 61st, and 71st streets. Also in Kansas City, Noland road is probably the worst. Metcalf is bad also. But the roads in the rapidly-developing Northland(city of Kansas City, north of Missouri River) really take the cake here.

Telegraph Road Woes & New Design Plan Website

It was not surprising that Telegraph Road got mentioned in the list, it is a frightenning road to a newcommer or a visitor, but a lifeline to those who live in the vicinity. Nevertheless, Wade-Trim worked with seven communities in Wayne County to develop a new design plan for the corridor, here is the project website:

http://www.wadetrim.com/prjsite/ttp/homepage.htm

The process has taken a couple of years to evolve. Several communities are now adopting the design plan, though piecemeal at this point - a step in the right direction.

International Drive in Orlando

Hi.

I'm a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel in Orlando, Central Florida. I'm working on a package about International Drive and am very interested in speaking with someone from New Urbanism about why International Drive was nominated as one of the worst streets in North America. Please e-mail me with your number so I may call you.

Thank you,

Pamela Johnson

Orlando Sentinel

Road outside Red Deer is "Gasoline Alley"

"Red Deer" between Edmonton and Calgary is a city, not a "road", and it has many nice pedestrian-friendly areas. However, there is a commercial district called "Gasoline Alley" just south of the city that meets all your criteria for worst streets and then some.

Gasoline Alley is an overgrown truck stop along highway 2 where boarded-up drive-ins from the 1970s sit next to cinder block motels. It should get double points for having both huge traffic light intersectioins and a parallel one-way secondary road which you can turn on to from the highway, but cannot return from; you have to drive into the city if you get on this road.

I saw a wonderful telephoto shot of it which compressed the billboards, power lines, road signs, and architecture into a jumble resembling an abstract impressionist painting.

worst roads - us 101

US 101 in california really isn't that bad. It stretches for hundreds of miles from north to south and is a pretty vital corridor for automobile traffic. Its worst points are those that lie on the outskirts of major cities, like los angeles and san francisco. However, it is for the most part a freeway, and not meant to really be a part of the surface traffic system. it works.

L.A. Streets

L.A. and indeed most of So. Cal. was never meant to be pedesrtian friendly.

And as time has gone on, has become less so not only physically but socially too.

One good example might be the desimation of Artesia Bl.

San Diego

San Diego should not be left off the hook. Highway 75 between Coronado, Imperial Beach and Interstate 5 represents the best in all the east coast examples, wide, ugly signage and shoe-box shacks littering the roadside with every dismal possibility of run-down retail commercial uses you could possibly think of. To cross it as a pedestrian is the kiss of death. Hwy 75 represents the unplanned and at least they are trying to landscape the median now, but its new developments on Mission Gorge Road, Miramar Road, and Sports Arena Boulevard that continues to come in without landscaping or medians to at least try to reduce the road widths that is positively disheartening to think we haven't learned anything yet.

Worst Roads

I'm not an urban planner but seeing Red Deer, Alberta named as one of the cities with the ugliest roads in North America came as no surprise to me.

I lived in Red Deer all my life until I left at age 19, and it was largely the bleak and uninspiring built environment that caused me to leave.

I was an outsider in Red Deer, both an openly gay youth and one without a car. My dad worked shifts and my mum didn't drive, so if I wanted to go anywhere, I was on my own. The buses didn't run on Sundays or evenings except Thursdays so I had to either ride my bike or walk if I wanted to go somewhere.

We lived usually in new subdivisions which were separated from each other and any commercial areas by bleak no-man's-lands of featureless streets. Walking, you saw only the backs of homes and dreary strip malls.

Worse, because the streets had no orientation towards the pedestrian, you stuck out. If you walked to the mall or the store, you'd be the only person on the sidewalk, and people would slow their cars, honk their horns and yell insults at you just because you were walking! Pedestrian = loser.

It was a drab and soul-destroying place to grow up, and it's gotten no better. Huge new bypass roads have been cut through the center of town, and placing one mall at the south end and another at the north means the downtown has pretty much dried up.

After Columbine, much has been written about of youth violence and alienation. I wonder if anyone stops to consider the effect of these heartless and lifeless suburbs on the development of young people?

US Hwy 19

US 19 in Pinellas and Pasco Counties ia a 50 mile nightmare of traffic lights, strip malls,and accidents just waiting to happen. A horrible drive for an area of just over a million people.

Western Ave, Wolf Rd, Albany NY

I would like to nominate to local streets were I live. In Albany we have several roads that are pretty auto dependent with fast food joints, Jiffy Lubes, used car dealerships, all the sprawl inducing clutter. I would like to add my list of ten worst streets:

1) Peactree Industrial Blvd Atlanta Ga: Ecspecially around I-285, a most miserable street, no sidewalks.

2) Pleasant Hill Rd, Duluth Ga, Atlanta suburb. Typicall mall induced strip sprawl.

3)Cobb Parkway, Marrietta, Ga: another North atlanta suburb, same dismal landscape, but no mall.

4)Rockaway Pkwy, Queens: totally light industrial and retail mess.

5)Eglinton Ave, Toronto, near Victoria Park: an older unplanned example oflate fifties, early sixties sprawl.

6)Western Ave,Abany NY side walks are there, along with the NY perchant for ignoring pedesstrians.Strip development for a few miles, totally ugly.

7) Wolf rd, Albany: this is near Colonie Centre Mall, sidewalks are presnt but no-one walks except the lunch crowd trying to cross the suicide lanes to get something to eat.

8)Hwy 7,just north of Toronto: same as everywhere strip style sprawl,only with one advvantage: Ontario drivers are very courteous to pedestrians.

9)Lawrenceville-Suwannee Rd, L'ville Ga, in Gwinnett county, Ga, a distgusting unfriendly mess. The same burrowed paths are present.

10)Buford Hwy, Atlanta: as mentioned in other comments, but it does have a wonderfull multi-ethnic commercial array of strip malls, like Bolsa Ave in Westminster, CA.

Noland Road, Independence, Missouri

Noland Road, Independence, Missouri; it meets your criteria and has the

added benefit of a long dip in the grade of the highway, enabling a

driver to have a long vista of the chaos. This main route from

Interstate 70 to the Truman Presidential Library and Home also has

raucous signage - a tribute to Harry's postwar heritage.

Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kansas is an especially clever strip;

sign controls prohibit billboards and limit sign heights, lulling

drivers into a complacency, even a relative sense of beauty, although

the scatteration of retail and traffic congestion is as characteristic

as your worst examples. Metcalf, by the way, is the "Main Street" of

one of the wealthiest suburban cities in the United States. Shouldn't

they know better?

The State of Missouri deserves a particular prize for its billboard

proliferation. I believe it is the only state that permits double- and

triple-deck billboards.

Kansas City's best

Noland Road, the main route from I-70 to President Truman's Home and Library, Harry lived here when it was getting built and drove down this very strip; its grade variations allow for vistas over the chaos.

Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park, Kansas. What an affluent suburb does to placate its citizens - institute controls on signs and building colors as the remedy for chaotic site planning.

The State of Missouri deserves special recognition for its double- and triple-decker billboards concentrated on the highways passing through the most scenic areas.

Plenty of Worst Streets

People are too opinionated about the article because it was meant to be light hearted. There were actually no factual worst street statistics, therefore adding your own streets was necessary. In Colorado, particularly Highlands Ranch, there are plenty of worst streets according to the criteria. County Line is my worst street!

tk made me laugh.

Dale Mabry

The Tampa Bay Area not only has Dale Mabry, but Brandon Blvd. and US 19 as well. Bruce B. Downs (which a local newscast held as an example of proper planning while reporting on this op-ed piece) is rapidly becoming another blight. The four-mile stretch of BBD north of I-75 can take up to 45 minutes to travel during rush hour.

It seems as if the Sun Belt cities in the US take a reactive approach to planning.

Rosemont, IL

It is worst street on River Rd. in Rosemont which they have conventions or Theater. Also there are Rosemont Polices controlling this streets. People are road rages because Polices are keeping us waiting so long to go thru. So people get so road rages and hit the cars either directions. Going South, Going North or Going East or Going West. No matter which way, peoples are tgrying to make left turn. It is worst when making left turn which there are long lines of cars waiting to go through. Sorry.

Aim Lower

'Ugly' is not just an aesthetic - having your life endangered by a car when going to buy groceries is 'ugly'. Car-scale environments may be fine from the comfort of a car at 35mph but they are inherently 'ugly' to pedestrians ... especially when the pedestrian is ignored - no sidewalks, crosswalks, small-scale details to look at, other people, etc. And contrary to some of the previous comments this is not a 'racial' or 'gentrification snobbery' problem - this has to do with how ALL pedestrians view the world ... with eyes at 2-5ft above the ground and at 0.1 to 5 mph.

If we want humane city life then we better make sure that humanists design the streets ... not traffic engineers or corporate agendas.

Perhaps the worst streets challenge should aim "lower" ... the big cities are beyond help, but the small cities are not ... if they can be stopped in time from self-destructing.

My town (population under 20,000) has flowers and trees the length of Strip Mall Street... but you can't cross the road for 10 blocks ... it ain't pretty.

Telegraph Road

Having been born and raised in the city
of Taylor, MI, I find your comments about Telegraph road insulting and derogatory.

Telegraph Road, aka US-24, stretches from Michigan to Ohio. As its name implies, it carried many of the areas first telegraph lines. It was also known as "Death Highway" because of its high use and side-by-side lanes.

Nearly 40 years ago, the portion you
describe was re-constructed as a
divided highway, providing better
services to a city approaching 70,000
people.
While I wholeheartedly disagree with
your comments about this road, I feel
any attempt to rebuff your story would
fall on deaf ears.

I have already told you the history.
I will tell you what is being done:
Telegraph road in Taylor will be
rebuilt this year.

Douglas Geiss

1 mile west of Telegraph

Taylor, MI

P.S. Telegraph does not run past Ford
headquarters, as an earlier comment indicated.

Worst Streets in North America

I enjoyed your site here. Please correct the spelling of Dale Mabury Blvd in Tampa, FL. To Dale Mabry Hwy., which is the correct spelling.

Also consider adding this stretch of road to your list.

4th St. N from Downtown St. Petersburg, FL to Interstate 275. This large stretch of road is very unfriendly to pedestrians with a high fatality rate. Also this road is an easy target for the local PD to nail people for speeding, running red lights and DUI enforcement. Something that people should take very seriously when living or visiting St. Petersburg, FL.

Calgary Trail (again) and the Supremacy of Profit

I wrote this a week ago in response to the pair of articles in the Edmonton Journal regarding Cgy Trail being placed on this list. It was sent to the Journal letters editor, but so far hasn't been printed. I would like someone to see it, so here it is. Despite using the Edmonton road as its example, I think what I have outlined here can apply in principle to any road like it in North America.

The recent articles in the Journal regarding PLANetizen's inclusion of Edmonton's Calgary Trail on its "Worst Streets in North America" has drawn some understandable criticism from people in our city; understandable, at least, from a certain perspective.

In Edmonton, cars rule. People are used to it, and they seem to demand it. In response, most of our major retail and working areas are designed around being accessed by cars. People do not generally go about the majority of their business on foot, and therefore neighbourhoods, stores and businesses are built to a scale and style to accommodate, not the sidewalk-bound pedestrian, but the road-bound driver. Stores are built large on the concept of "one-stop-shop" and huge parking lots sprout up like weeds in front of these buildings. They are necessary, of course: if these stores are catering to the car-owning market, they need places for people to park those vehicles. And so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: cars make travel over long-distances more convenient, the construction of our cities and buildings begins to cater to the car rather than the individual, and at a certain point you find that the considerations of the pedestrian are completely lost as everything becomes bigger and more spread out in response to the needs and conveniences of people with cars. In Edmonton today, almost everyone has a car, so it would seem that the days of building to the scale of the person on foot are long gone.

I think the point of the Planetizen contest to name the "Worst Streets" is to combat this trend. If anyone has ever tried to walk along Calgary Trail, I think they will agree that there is nothing there to entice a person to linger. Sidewalks, where they exist, are narrow and placed right next to the busy roadway. The spaces between businesses are often very large and punctuated by massive expanses of unattractive parking lot. Greenery is sparse, consisting of trees lining the roadway or flower beds which, while pretty, are aimed at making the roadway more pleasing to the eyes of drivers, and not to improving the experience of the person on foot. Newer buildings, while undoubtedly an esthetic improvement over the dilapidated light-industrial eyesores they replaced, are generally concrete, warehouse-like boxes which will end up just as ugly as those old buildings once the new paint jobs start to fade.

Contrast this situation on Calgary Trail with the one on Whyte Avenue. Whyte Avenue is still a major thoroughfare, but it is not wedded to the car. It has certain elements which attract people: wide sidewalks, shops built to the scale of the pedestrian, and some very attractive buildings which the owners and tenants have a lot of pride in. Despite the increasing commercialization of Whyte Avenue, there is a definite "sense of place" which draws people to it and encourages them to leave their cars for an afternoon and stroll, shop and people-watch.

When Bill Smith (mayor of Edmonton) drives down Calgary Trail, especially the strip south of IKEA which he calls "beautiful", I imagine he feels some pride. Standing in the parking lot of Wal-Mart at South Edmonton Common, you can see that the area is bustling, businesses are sprouting up everywhere, and you can almost hear the ka-ching of the cash registers in the air. It?s true, business in the area is healthy. But, and I believe this is a big "but", where are all the people? If this street is such a healthy place, why don't you see anyone out for a stroll? The point is, these places have been built on the profit-principle. They are meant to warehouse as much product as possible, to get people in and out in as little time as possible, and maximize profits as much as possible by limiting expenditure on design, construction and landscaping to the bare minimum needed. What I question is, why do we need to maximize profits to this extreme? While we are spending all our time finding ways to improve our lives by saving a buck on toilet paper here or fifty cents on nails there, we have lost sight of the beautification of our physical environment, the creation of comfortable and interactive places which constitutes, in my opinion, a much more important part of our quality of life. The criticism of Calgary Trail's inclusion on Planetizen's list is based on the premise that if it is ugly, it is better to be ugly than inconvenient. Calgary Trail is not a place you would take your kids for an afternoon. It is a place to buy, and nothing else. I don't understand why we accept that so easily.

Hell Paso and other desperate 'burgs

Less affluent municipalities tend to have fewer regulations that would lend themselves to promoting an attractive built environment. There's also a collective mentality of desperation -- job creation and preservation, or at least the perception thereof, is far more important than such luxuries as landscaping or architectural design control.

Nowhere is this attitude more evident than El Paso, Texas. The city is located in a spectacular setting, wrapped around the Franklin Mountains. Unfortunately, almost every textbook example of bad planning practice can be seen there, in great abundance and encouraged by city fathers.

El Paso has one of the most lenient sign codes in the United States. Portable signs are permitted on a temporary basis, "for no longer than 365 days in a year" according to the zoning code. Where other cities are successfully giving flashing arrows the boot, El Paso is where portable signs go to die -- almost every business has one. The zoning regs also allow freestanding signs to be placed 60' above the grade of the nearest limited access highway. There's no small signs in the city -- even in a residential area, a sign for a convenience store will tower forty feet above the parking lot -- which won't have any landscaping. Even in El Paso's relatively affluent West Side, the silhouettes of what seems like a distant field of huge lollypops dominates the horizon, the effect of the hundreds of high rise signs lining I-10 and the city’s major arterials.

El Paso had few trees, but far more billboards. Supposedly thousands. You could literally read 'em in Juarez. Must be hell for someone living in a refrigerator carton a kilometer from the Rio Grande, looking across to "El Norte" and seeing a huge picture of a Lexus in the sky. "Hey, this is what you don't have!" Even trashcans on street corners had officially sanctioned ads on them, much like bus shelters.

The attitude in El Paso is one that I've seen in many other cities. We'll give Cracker Barrel a variance to put up a 100' tall sign, so they can be seen from the Interstate, and we can get a few more jobs. Landscaping? Costs money to maintain, and there isn't much of that around here. Rather have businesses spending the cash on workers than sprinkler systems. Architectural design regulations? Don't want to do anything that could possibly ward off Wal-Mart or Lowe's -- and the jobs they bring.

Fortunately, I don't live in El Paso. I did work as a planner in a city nearby, and struggled against that same sort of prevailing attitude to promote good design. Citizens and politicians liked my work, while I was labeled as a "communist" by the business community -- and a fanatic by the planning director. I had some success, if you can say that a commercial strip filled with 30' tall signs is any better looking than one filled with 60' tall monsters with portables to boot, but relatively speaking, residents of that town to this day talk about how much nicer it is than El Paso. Frightening, when I think about it. People have become used to ugliness in the streetscape, and it's as if someone thinks the Pacer is a beautiful car, because the only other thing they see on the road are Azteks.

Now, I'm working as a planner in a small Florida town that's essentially a blank slate, and a citizenry that believes preserving the town's character is of the utmost importance. They know development is coming, and that it much of it will be auto-oriented. They do know that they don't want schlock, even if it adds big bucks to the cash starved town's ad valorum. If this unspoiled little 'burg ends up looking anything like El Paso in a few years, I'll know it's time to pick a new profession.

Look Again Before Firing off Aesthetic Criticism

In a way I agree with the criticism, but in others I do not.

The list seems to confuse "prettification" for urbanity, and have the aesthete's hostility to the taste and behaviour of the common folk.

Calgary Trail started out as its namesake, a trail from Fort Edmonton to the US (Fort Benton) via Ft. McLeod and a Bow river ford which later became Calgary. From the 1880s, till the mid 1960s it was an industrial strip tied to the Calgary and Edmonton Railway (part of the CPR) yards. Some commercial was mixed in and there were working folks houses to the West. From the 1960s on, the Trail extended south and accreted highway commercial uses. This is a natural evolution for a regional arterial.

About 20 years ago, a one way pairing was established to handle more traffic, and the result was that the blocks of land between the one ways went over to strip malls and latterly Big Box developments. The Big Boxes are now marching North, and displacing those few industries that have hung on.

The trendoids don't like the industrial area (dirty and not pretty), and they don't like the strip development (not pedestrian oriented, and too much like strips everywhere). In short, we are hearing the same old story of snobbery masked as the public good.

The ugly industries provide the reason that the city exists, but design types want to indulge in "tidy map syndrome" and expunge them. Eveybody should work in offices or little handcraft shops.

The strip malls and big boxes sell mass amounts of standardised products to consumers who want to buy those items. The public does not know what is good for itself, so should be stopped from being exposed to such crass commercial environments. They should buy from farmer's outdoor markets (even at -30) and walk to the little shops selling lovingly hand made one off expensive other things.

Oh, and those people should not live in bungalows or walkups or highrise apartments. Its townhouses and lofts for eveyone! We know what is good for you.

Eveything should be colour co-ordinated, but not using the colours that any other place uses, and no signs now, except at designated locations where they will be called streetscape and animate nightlife.

OK, this is an extreme representation of the attitudes that generate lists like Worst Streets, and there are indeed things that can and ought be done to make such strips better fit into their communities, and be acessible to those who cannot or choose not to use an auto for their shopping. Nonetheless, I really feel that aesthetic snobbery is often the true source of many of the criticisms.

We ought not hold forth that a Disnified Victoriana is the apotheosis of urban design for the twenty first century. Edmonton, for one was never a Victorian city.

Calgary Trail, a Potted Follow-up

You are incorrect about the Ellerslie Elevator. The City wanted to buy it and move it over to the Gateway visitor centre, next to Leduc #1, but the Pool demolished it abruptly, in line with their standard practice. The Pool gets a lot of flack about demolishing their elevators, and so they rush in an knock them down before opposition can be marshalled - not that opposition can have much effect. When an elevator is preserved, it almost always has to be moved off site, ad the land underneath it is of more value than the structure.

I do agree that the Calgary Trail portion from 78 Ave down to about 51 Ave has some real character, but the "tidiness is next to godliness" folks want manicured lawns and California stucco, and that is what they will eventually get.

About the "end" of Calgary Trail (you mean Gateway Trail BTW! ). The original trail veered off to about 105 St, where it dropped down to John Walter's ferry landing. The segment still exists, there is a bridge over it on Saskatchewan Drive. Had the METS freeway plan gone ahead, the Trail would have been re-located as a freeway down Mill Creek, and have lead to the interchange at the James McDonald bridge. 103 and 104 (?) St would have dropped under Saskatchewan Drive, and connected to Rossdale Rd. (You can see the berm for the Northbound lanes, next to the 105 St. Bridge).

By definition, the Trail ends at the old fort site (where the Legislature is now). Other Trails went to St. Albert, and Athabaska - it never went to the Arctic in anyone's conceptual eye.

Mount Olive, NC?

To whom it may concern:

I am a student at Mount Olive College located in Mount Olive, NC...one of the homes of one of the top 10 most sprawling and pedestrian-unfriendly streets in North America.

I was very disappointed to find that our little town of not even 5,000 people was on your list. I've not explored all of the largest cities in North America by no means, but I have visited plenty of places where traffic was much worse than in Mount Olive and buildings were much worse of an eye-sore. I've lived here for 3 years and have never encountered an accident, a long wait at a traffic light, nor have I had a problem with any sidewalks or the ATM. I have always found Mount Olive...including Breazeale Avenue a pleasant place to live.

I think you will find in most any town the same type of businesses...it is just that Mount Olive has less space to put them all in, therefore we do have pawn shops on the same street as used car lots and homes. No one in Mount Olive seems to have a problem with it. Maybe that is because we see the entire picture of Mount Olive. The town with very little crime. A town where everyone pretty much knows everyone else. A town that supports all of its businesses and especially it's college.

So maybe Mount Olive's Breazeale Avenue isn't the prettiest in the world. But the town tries to provide a variety of services for its residents. And there are some very pretty spots. Take Henderson Street, for example. You turn off of Breazeale Avenue and you find one of the prettiest college campuses I have ever visited.

Oh, and by the way...how did you ever find us anyways?

Marci Rollins

junior

Mount Olive College

Mount Olive, NC

Wixom Rd, Wixom, MI

The stretch of North Wixom Road between Grand River Ave. and Pontiac Trail should qualify as one of the top worst roads. It is 5 solid lanes of pot-hole riddled cement, lined on one side by a massive Ford auto-plant and a string of industrial complexes, strip malls and fast food joints on the other. It fits every single one of the necessary criteria, and dare I say, it even surpasses them in some cases? (The best example of a huge, nasty intersection would be Wixom Road and I-96, just before Grand River Ave.)

New Jersey - Rte. 17 and Rte 4 Intersection

The intersection of Rte. 17 and Rte. 4 has to be the worst intersection in the world. Someone forgot to educate these guys on the idea of a "feeder lane." You could spend two weeks trying to merge.

Telegraph Road

Having lived in a single-family subdivision off Telegraph Road for 40 odd years, I have to state that in the Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Pontiac area, the road is excellent at moving volumes of traffic. On the other hand, it is extremely un-pedestrian friendly. To cross it, even where there are medians, would be a feat, since the traffic is moving at very high rates of speed. It is difficult just to turn left into my old neighborhood, crossing 2 lanes of speeders. Of course, the road always seems riddled with pot-holes, but that is from a motorist standpoint. If speeds were decreased, it would become more pedestrian friendly, but high speeds (even in excess of the speedlimits) in the Motor City is taken as a given right on major roads. And as one other commenter stated, this is a road with many destinations in and out of state, and my guess is speeds would never be lowered.

Reinventing Commercial Strips

For the benefit of TK: The Urban Land Institute is publishing a booklet "Ten Principles for Reinventing America's Commercial Strips. We at ULI care about the degradation of our communities and proliferation of mindless ugliness. The principles were developed at a charrette last year at which fifteeen luminaries of the development, design, planning and marketing community participated. the ten principles are:

I.Ignite Leadership and Nurture Partnership

II.Anticipate Evolution

III.Know The Market

IV.Prune the Retail-Zoned Land to Stimulate Growth and Improve Quality

V.Pulse the Development

VI.Tame the Traffic

VII.Create the Place

VIII.Diversify the Character

IX.Eradicate the Ugliness

X.Put Your Money and Regulations Where Your Policy Is

I have emailable text that elaborates on these principles. Email me if you want a copy.

To get a copy of the booklet that will be published in a couple of weeks go to ULI's web site www.uli.org and click on the bookstore.

Capital Blvd.-Raleigh, NC

By far, this has to be one of the ugliest streets I've ever seen. I don't think you can go 20 feet without running into a skyscraper sign. The telephone poles are stacked with wires 8 or 9 high and run all over the plan. There's barely a single stretch on the road without a strip mall, shopping center, fast food joint, or car dealership. At least most other streets have an office building in the mix at some point!

Another vote goes to Hwy 15-501 in Durham, NC. It's not much better than Capital Blvd. Just shorter and with less stuff.

Capital Blvd. Raleigh, NC

Currently living in Raleigh, NC I have to cast my vote for Capital Blvd.

Others include:

- Route 30 in Lancaster, PA

- Route 13 in Levitown , Bristol, PA

Ugliest street - Capital Blvd. Raleigh, NC

I think Capital Blvd., in Raleigh NC has Mount Olive street beat.
At least Mount Olive is in the country...what do you expect?

True- who cares?-What's good?

And who is going to pay for it? I like TK's comment on March 29th. Also, why would anyone in Calgary or Edmonton walk for 9 months out of the year? This is what our local/state political reality has given us.

Patience

The 18th century condemned Georgian architecture. The historians of the 22nd century may have a different view of our ugly streets based on changing life styles over the next 20 decades. We'll never know.

Worst Street - Rock Hill, South Carolina

Cherry Road in Rock Hill, South Carolina is truly an eyesore. It's the "main drag" in town and has no sidewalks, old shopping centers with empty stores, huge billboards and signs all the way down. There are turn lanes where none is needed and no turn lanes where they are needed. Traffic snarls each morning and evening. This road has actually kept people from moving here because of the way it looks!

Beautiful streets in intown Atlanta

Your designation of Atlanta as Worst Streets Capital should have been reserved for the metro area OUTSIDE of Atlanta. Where most people with any sense live (if they can afford to) is Atlanta's intown neighborhoods: Midtown, Virginia-Highlands, Morningside, Ansley Park, Inman Park, Brookwood Hills, Grant Park, Druid Hills, and Little Five Points are just a few of Atlanta's crown jewels. Old neighborhoods, close to the city center, with parks, theatres, restaurants (real restaurants, not chains), tree-lined sidewalks, interesting stores, and public transit. Downtown is getting ready to join the list, as apartments and condos appear in renovated buildings, as well as new construction. I join the compilers of the "worst streets list" in criticizing some of the lousy streets mentioned, but get something straight: with a few exceptions those places are not IN Atlanta. (Buckhead is getting to be more of a mess each year, despite some admirable efforts by the business association there to improve things.)

Texas Avenue-College Station

I couldn't drive on this the first 3 years of college due to construction. It was easier to drive out to the bypass, avoiding the town, and entering in on the other side. Our rush hour consists of 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes in the afternoon, all on the same street, heading to the same place. Every chain restaurant is rooted side by side along with at least 2 texaco stations not even a half mile apart, as well as every other gas station that my gas cards allow. I barely make it to third gear before slamming on my brakes before i hit the next light. And then I noticed a new discount store being built, the entrance perhaps 30 feet from a streetlight, in the most congested block (between harvey road and holleman rd). It would be physically impossible except for in the dead of night to take a left out of this new oasis. But i guarantee a freshman will give it a try. This main artery is maybe 4 miles long, yet it could take quite some time to navigate. I do not even know if there could be a solution besides razing the town and starting over.

Eureka Road

I would have to say that Eureka Road, from S. Access Rd. to Middlebelt should be on the list because you have to literally drive on the shoulder to dodge the potholes and bumps. Also, in buses it is way worse.

Capital Blvd. Raleigh, NC

Tragically, just one more disaster of a major street in an otherwise often attractive city. How do we Americans manage to do so much bad planning and bad design? Do we have special courses in "ugly"? It can't possibly be just accidental since the results are so consistent nation wide.

Tulsa and Mingo Road

According to a study published only last week, Tulsa has achieved the distinction of having four times the death rate from red-light-runners as nearby Oklahoma City. Having lived for long periods of time in both places, I attribute this recklessness in Tulsa to residents driven crazy by hopelessly-clogged streets. Since most Tulsans rarely stray outside Tulsa County, it is not surprising that they are taken aback whenever their city wins one of these "awards".

Okeechobee Blvd - West Palm Beach, FL

One of the nastiest roads in Florida has to be Okeechobee Blvd. between the FL Turnpike and I-95. I think there are sidewalks up against its 6 to 8 lanes but I've never had the courage to get out and look. The local land use regulations require "enviro-scraps," or little dead bushes between the lot lines and the roadway, which make it impossible for pedestrians to access the 1 storey big boxes (beyond the parking lots) unless they actually walk onto the driveway access. So much for "health, safety and welfare." By contrast is Okeechobee Blvd. closer to the old downtown where even the local auto dealership is pedestrian friendly.

Chicago's Grand Avenue

Chicago's Grand Avenue is the ugliest street in Chicago. The street is very bleak, its residents are mostly industries, most or which are abandoned.

There's no real life in either side of the street, just worn, frustrated factory workers. The condition of the street is very bad, and runs almost parallel to the train, at times some old rusted train cars are in view for days. Grand Ave. in Chicago is truly an eye sore.

Rand Rd. in Palatine, IL

Rand Rd. is awful. It is by far the most ugliest, dangerous road in all of Illinois. All you see is weeds, crackhouses, stripclubs, chainstores, noisy congested traffic, bumpy cracked pavement, an abundance of car dealers, gigantic vacant parking lots, 5 lanes of highway and brand new stores built right next to falling apart shacks. The intersection of Lake Cook and Rand has been called the most dangerous intersection in Chicagoland for a long time and a Las Vegas stripclub is just an eyesore to make it worse. It is located along Rand Rd. in Palatine, a Northwest Chicagoland suburb. The stretch from Lake Cook Rd. to Hwy 53 is the worst.

Bad Roads

Befor you condem a road learn to spell it, in your list of other nominations you have Dale Mabury Ave Well it's Dale Mabry Hwy. But I understand most snowbirds say how you wrote it.

Gary Moyer

2 Votes for Metcalf Ave in OP KS

It's all true about Metcalf Ave. in

Overland Park, KS. I can't bear to

drive down it anymore. Awful.

Tulsa's Streets - Editorial In Tulsa World

I submitted the following to the Tulsa World, which defended Mingo Road in an editorial this morning:

I was surprised to read that Mingo Road was named one of America's ugliest roads, if only because Tulsa has so many streets more deserving of the honor. But the problem with Tulsa's streets isn't just aesthetic. Tulsa's planning and building practices have given us suburban arterial streets that just don't work, and that won't work no matter how wide we make them. The same features that make them ugly also make them dysfunctional. Enormous parking lots along the major streets make it impossible to park one place and visit several stores; instead, every store visited on a shopping trip requires reentering and exiting the main arterial, slowing down traffic each time. There are no service roads or side streets to allow local traffic an alternate way to get from store to store. The lack of mid-mile through streets and the segregation of residential from commercial areas forces even local traffic onto the overburdened arterials.

Our traditional neighborhoods, with their grid of streets, provide many alternative paths from point A to point B, avoiding the bottlenecks of the suburban pattern. You can drive from your house to nearby shops without getting onto a major arterial; you can even walk to the shops if you wish. Visitors to traditional shopping streets can park in one place and visit several stores without needing to move the car.

Happily, Tulsa is seeing the construction of neo-traditional neighborhoods like the Village at Central Park. Old suburban style shopping areas, with their huge parking lots and pedestrian-hostile configuration, are giving way to village-like shopping centers, such as Kingspointe at 51st & Yale. And more and more Tulsans have come to understand the value of traditional neighborhoods and want to see city government take a more active role in protecting these areas against suburbanizing development that would destroy their natural advantages.

Just because something is ugly doesn't mean it's practical. The traditional neighborhood has both practical and aesthetic advantages over its suburban counterpart. Traditional neighborhoods work!

Via Dolorosa

All major (hwys 24, 30, 33, 1, 3,14,) minor, and contributaries in the confluence shopping nexus -Fort Wayne, Indiana (also the most mediocre State name)

Pleasant Hill Blvd. in Gwinnett county

I would agree about Atlanta, since I am a resident...My nomination in Pleasant Hill Blvd. in Gwinnett county! What a disaster of too many street lights close together..miles of strip shopping centers surrounded by cross streets with more of the same. Traffic? What a mess!

I would have to nominate most of Watt ave and Howe Ave and Arden Way, Del Paso Blvd and STockton Blvd as well in Sacramento,CA -- not too pretty! Sacramento

Telegraph Road

I have to say that you are way off when it comes to Telegraph road. There maybe at most a mile or two that needs a little work, but Telegraph road reaches from Toledo, Ohio to Pontiac Michigan. Most of the road way has been repaved with in the last 5 years. Also, there is very little if any decay along the route, especially in Oakland County where Telegraph winds through the cities of Southfield, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Bloomfield Hills, and Pontiac. In alot of the areas there is vibrant business and unique landscaping. To lable an entire road "This scar-upon-the-earth" is completely absurd. Telegraph may not be one of the best roads, but it is by far not the worst!

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