Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Our Parking Problem is also a Walking Problem - Jeff Specks Ten Steps of Walkability

An important part of our problem with parking is actually a problem with walking! As one commenter elsewhere said,
No one likes to park, go a half block get ticket, go back to car, put ticket on car correctly, then go to store. This is what pay and display demands.
Another person said,
And don’t tell me that they can park in the garage — the folks who park there are going to one of the locations attached by a skybridge or just across the street, they’re not walking 5 blocks in Oregon weather just to get to the block where they’ll get their hair done.
A third person said,
The City consultant reported “80% of women will walk 750 feet from where they park to their first destination, the other 20% will walk farther, as long as the area they walk through is engaging.”
Clearly there's a sense in which walking is a big part of the problem.  In his four-part piece on walking Tom Vanderbilt says that
walking in America has act dwelling in the margins, an almost hidden narrative running beneath the main vehicular text. Indeed, the semantics of the term pedestrian would be a mere curiosity, but for one fact: America is a country that has forgotten how to walk. Witness, for example, the existence of “Everybody Walk!,” the “Campaign to Get America Walking” (one of a number of such initiatives). While its aims are entirely legitimate, its motives no doubt earnest, the idea that that we, this species that first hoisted itself into the world of bipedalism nearly 4 million years ago—for reasons that are still debated—should now need “walking tips,” have to make “walking plans” or use a “mobile app” to “discover” walking trails near us or build our “walking histories,” strikes me as a world-historical tragedy.

Jeffrey Tumlin also pointed out that humans were made to walk.

Why do we resist walking so much?  People's wish to minimize the amount of light exercise in walking they might get on a daily basis contributes to the public health problems of obesity and diabetes.  (The more you walk and bike now, the less you might need to go the gym!

Unfortunately, we fail with the carrot.  We create crappy places for walking, so who's gonna blame someone for not relishing the idea of walking a few blocks (or many blocks!).

This seems like a great time to excerpt Jeff Speck's "Ten Steps of Walkability" from Walkable City.  (Brief intro here.)

So much of this is applicable here!
The Useful Walk

Step 1: Put Cars in Their Place. The automobile is a servant that has become a master. for sixty years, it has been the single dominant factor in the shaping of our cities. Relegating the car to its proper role is essential to reclaiming our cities for pedestrians, and doing so requires a fuller understanding of how the car and its minions have unnecessarily distorted the ways that design decisions are made in American communities.

Step 2: Mix the Uses. For people to choose to walk, the walk must serve some purpose. In planning terms, that goal is achieved through mixed use, or, more accurately, placing the proper balance of the greatest number of uses all within walking distance of each other. While there are exceptions, most downtowns have an imbalance of uses that can be overcome only through a concerted effort to increase housing supply.

Step 3: Get Parking Right. As Andres Duany puts it, “parking is destiny.” It is the not-so-hidden force determining the life or death of many a downtown. Parking requirements and pricing determine the disposition of more urban land nationwide than any other factor, yet, until recently, there was not even any theory on how to use parking to a city’s benefit. That theory now exists, and is just beginning to effect policy nationwide.

Step 4: Let Transit Work. Walkable neighborhoods can thrive in the absence of transit, but walkable cities rely on it utterly. Communities that hope to become the latter must make transit-planning decisions based upon a number of factors that are routinely neglected. These include the often surprising public support for transit investment, the role of transit in the creation of real-estate value, and the importance of design in the success or failure of transit systems.

The Safe Walk

Step 5: Protect the Pedestrian. This is perhaps the most straightforward of the ten steps, but it also has the most moving parts, including block size, lane width, parking provision, turning motions, curb cuts, direction of flow, signalization, roadway geometry, and a number of other factors that all determine a car’s speed and a pedestrian’s likelihood of getting hit. Most streets in most American cities get at least half of these things wrong.

Step 6: Welcome Bikes. Walkable cities are also bikeable cities, because bicycles thrive in environments that support pedestrians, and also because bikeability makes driving less necessary. More and more American cities are making big investments in bicycling, with impressive results.

The Comfortable Walk

Step 7: Shape the Spaces. Perhaps the most counterintuitive discussion in planning, this may be the step that is most often gotten wrong. People enjoy open spaces, long views, and the great outdoors. But people also enjoy, and need, a sense of enclosure to feel comfortable as pedestrians. for this reason, too much green or grey—parks or parking—can cause a would-be walker to stay home. Public spaces are only as good as their edges.

Step 8: Plant Trees. Like transit, most cities know that trees are good, but few are willing to pay properly for them. This Step attempts to communicate the full value of trees and justify the greater investment that they deserve in almost all American cities.

The Interesting Walk 

Step 9: Make Friendly and Unique Faces. If recent evidence is to be believed, lively inviting streetscapes have three main enemies: parking lots, drug stores, and star architects. All three seem to favor blank walls, repetition, and a disregard for the need of pedestrians to be entertained. City design codes, typically focused on use, bulk, and parking, have only begun to concern themselves with creating active facades that invite walking.

Step 10: Pick your Winners. With the possible exception of Venice, even the most walkable cities are not universally walkable: there are only so many interesting street edges to go around. As a result, however well designed the streets, certain among them will remain principally automotive. This is as it should be, but cities must make a conscious choice about the size and location of their walkable cores, to avoid squandering walkability resources in areas that will never invite pedestrians. This task may be the most physically simple and politically complex challenge in planning.

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