Archive for the ‘Sustainable Transportation’ Category


Yuelai Eco-city / Calthorpe Associates

Urbanization in China is the single biggest human migration in history. To accomodate the millions coming in from the countryside each year, China’s cities are tearing down their old human-scale, socially-rich neighborhoods, with their meandering, bicycle-friendly streets, and putting in highways and incredibly isolating towers set amid vacant-feeling “super blocks.” These are places only Le Corbusier could have loved. Or at least that’s the image some see in the West. At the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia, a group of innovative Chinese urban planners explain how some of the latest “eco-cities” as well as design interventions in existing cities may help some Chinese mayors see the wisdom of sustainable urban development and taking those super-blocks down to size.

Dongquan He, with the Energy Foundation, said China now has more than 660 cities, with 20,000 more towns under construction. Over the next 25 years, 400 million more Chinese will move into cities. And by 2050, China will be 75 percent urban.

As China grows at incredible rates, its cities have created very wide streets that connect super blocks. “These have just a single function, moving from A to B. You really have to use a car to get around.” These planning decisions have also resulted in signficant environmental damage. The air in so many Chinese cities is basically unbreathable because cars have been let loose. He said: “China’s development problem is the super block.”

The Energy Foundation has come up with a whole set of criteria to explain urban sustainability to China’s mayors. The principles are well considered: places should be walkable; bicycling should be prioritized; networks of streets should be dense; public transit should be high-quality; developments should be mixed-use; and parking should be regulated.

To test these idea, He and his team became involved in a new thousand-hectare eco-city in Yuelai, Chongquing, one of the country’s mega-cities (see image above). He’s group worked with Calthorpe Asssociates and the eco-city developers to preserve the existing landscape. “We didn’t violate the natural systems.” They then created a plan that reduced the size of the average Chinese super block, allocating density near transit, creating small town-centers with public space every 500 meters, and also smaller grid spaces that fit high-rise, mid-rise. and low-rise buildings together in a dense, walkable street network. Parks and greenways connect people to the harbor, and a custom-designed streetcar system will also improve mobility. But He admitted that with this kind of huge development, “it’s hard to created the small spaces people like.” Indeed, in these images, the blocks still look a bit super.


Yuelai Eco-city / Calthorpe Associates

Yang Lou with the China Sustainable Transportation Center outlined his organization’s work with the Chenggong New Town, in Kunming, which is in China’s southwest. He and his team are tackling “super blocks that didn’t feel safe crossing.” They helped increase the road network density by narrowing the streets and sidewalks considerably to improve the human fabric. Development is also now clustered around transit stations.

For EMBARQ China’s director, Haitao Zhang, the aim is to transform Qingdao, a major city in the northeast, through his Qingdao Low-carbon Sustainable Transportation study. Zhang has worked on reconnecting land use and transportation planning, putting stations where there is demand, and breaking the siloed approach to the problems of sprawl in the local government. EMBARQ is also planning a slew of “small-scale urban interventions” to improve the streetscape, turning super blocks into outdoor cafes and pedestrian-friendly plazas.

To learn more about the state of China’s cities, see a new report presented by Shi Na, with UN Habitat and the Urban Planning Society in China.

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The 11th street bridge, which connects Washington D.C.’s historic Capitol Hill and Anacostia neighborhoods, is being rebuilt, opening up a new opportunity to create a 900-foot-long elevated park. A new design competition launched by Building Bridges Across the River at THEARC and the D.C. Office of Planning aims to transform this old freeway bridge into a new venue for “healthy recreation, environmental education, and the arts” for the nearly 80,000 people who live near the bridge as well as the greater district.

This new park will become the High Line of the district, but with even better views: it will span the Anacostia River and provide vistas of the nearby Navy Yard and Diamond Teague parks.

According to the design organizers, the 11th Street Bridge Park will accomplish four goals: “connect two diverse communities, re-engage residents with the Anacostia River, improve public health, and become an anchor for economic development.”

The organizers have already started on an in-depth public design process, conducted through over 200 meetings with church leaders, business owners, and residents on both sides of the Anacostia river. Landscape architects and architects will need to incorporate these ideas into their design proposals. The community wants the park to provide an environmental education center, a performance area, urban agriculture, an “accessible and multi-generational playscape,” a cafe, and kayak and canoe launches for the river below.

Tendani Mplubusi-El, Ward 8 artist and resident said: “I think the bridge is going to bring a lot of people together who normally don’t cross paths.” Deborah Ratner Salzberg, president of Forest City Washington, the developer of the Navy Yard, added that: “The creation of vibrant public spaces is so critical to effective urban revitalization. The adaptive reuse 11th Street Bridge Park project will result in yet another very valuable asset for connecting the community in this area of the District.”


11th Street Park rendering by Ed Estes / D.C. Office of Planning

An esteemed jury that includes Dr. Howard Frumkin, a leading public health scholar at the University of Washington, and Carol Mayer Reed, FASLA, head of landscape architecture at Mayer / Reed, will be advised by an additional “design oversight committee.”

Submit qualifications for stage one by April 22. Teams must be lead by a landscape architect and architect. The jury will then interview the top 6-8 finalists. By stage two, each team will be given $25,000 to create full design renderings, which will be evaluated for cost and constructability. These final proposals will be publicly displayed at the District Architecture Center and online. The organizers expect the project to cost somewhere in the range of $25 million. About $500,000 has been raised so far.

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Washington D.C. Capital Bikeshare / All Life is Local blog

A new research study from Virginia Tech’s Mobility Lab found that the vast majority of local businesses near five of the busiest Washington D.C.’s Capitol Bikeshare stations can’t tell if the stations have had any economic impact, but largely view them as having a positive effect on the neighborhood. Only 10 percent perceived an increase in store foot traffic and 20 percent, an uptick in sales, due to the installation of nearby stations. None of the 140 local businesses surveyed near the most-heavily trafficked stations thought they were negative for their business though. Washington, D.C. has the 2nd largest bikeshare system in the U.S., with 300 stations.

Planning professor Ralph Buehler and grad student Andrea Hamre say previous studies demonstrate bicyclists spend more than car drivers, creating a more positive economic impact in their local economies. One study in Portland, Oregon, found that while car riders may spend more per trip, bicyclists visit nearby stores more frequently and therefore make up a “larger share of overall per person spending.” Another analysis by Smart Growth America showed that the installation of a new bike lane boosted sales in the stores along one street in San Francisco by 60 percent. Still more reports have surveyed the sentiment of businesses near new bicycle lanes and found businesses are uniformly positive about this infrastructure and other amenities like bike corrals, parking, curbs, etc. However, until their own study, no research had actually tried to quantify the local economic impact of bikeshare stations and their use.

Sending out graduate students to survey more than 600 local bikeshare users, they found that “73 percent of respondents were motivated to use CaBi because of shorter travel times, while 42 percent reported enjoyment, 41 percent reported exercise, and 25 percent reported lower travel costs.”

Some 66 percent of bikeshare users traveled to a destination where they expected to spend money. Of those, 63 percent planned to spend $10-$49 and 30 percent planned to spend more than $50. The researchers found that most users would spend money at businesses near CaBi stations, with 39 percent reporting spending would occur within 2 blocks of the station and an additional 40 percent indicating spending would occur within 4 blocks. According to the research, about 16 percent said they wouldn’t have made the trip had a CaBi station not been nearby. (While interesting, these figures would have been made more useful had they been compared to the amounts pedestrians, regular bicyclists, and car users expected to spend near the same stores).

As for the 140 businesses surveyed, the vast majority didn’t know whether CaBi had any effect on customer traffic levels, just 10 percent perceived an increase. About 20 percent thought that CaBi had directly and positively impacted sales, while the rest were unsure or neutral. The good news may be none thought CaBi hurt their sales. The vast majority of businesses (70 percent) also thought CaBi had a positive effect on the neighborhood. The rest weren’t sure or neutral. Again, no negative perceptions.

Here’s where the CaBi bike rubber hits the road though: almost 60 percent of businesses wanted more CaBi stations put in, but only “22 percent said they would have a positive reaction to replacing sidewalk space with a CaBi station and additional 26 percent would be neutral.” This means more than half thought sacrificing sidewalk space for CaBi stations was a bad idea. In addition, only “29 percent of businesses would have a positive reaction to replacing car parking and an additional 32 percent would be neutral about removing car parking in favor of a bikeshare station.”

Explore the report.

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Washington D.C. Metro / Wikipedia

According to a new report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans took 10.7 billion trips on trains, subways, light rail, and buses in 2013, the highest public transit ridership since 1956. For the eighth year in a row, public transportation use on all sorts of transportation systems passed 10 billion trips. More great news: vehicle miles traveled (VMT), an indicator of car use, is essentially flat.

These numbers reflect broader transportation trends: Since 1995, the U.S. population has grown 20 percent, but public transit use has increased 37 percent, while VMT is only up 23 percent. Public transit use has increased far faster than population growth while VMT has largely mirrored population growth.

APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said: “There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities.  People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth.”

Here are the details by public transit type:

Subway and elevated train ridership increased 2.8 percent, with more than half of rail systems reporting increases.

Commuter rail use grew 2.1 percent, with 20 out of 28 systems showing an increase. A number of commuter rail systems saw triple or double increases. “With a new rail line that opened in December 2012, commuter rail in Salt Lake City, UT, saw an increase of 103.3 percent.  The following five commuter rail systems saw double digit increases in 2013: Austin, TX (37.3 percent); Harrisburg-Philadelphia, PA (33.9 percent); Anchorage, AK (30.0 percent); Lewisville, TX (23.0 percent); Stockton, CA (19.9 percent); Minneapolis, MN (12.5 percent); and Portland, OR (10.3 percent).

According to the report, light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership grew just 1.6 percent, with 17 out of 27 systems reporting increases. “Systems that showed double digit increases in 2013 were located in the following cities:  New Orleans, LA (28.9 percent); Denver, CO (14.9 percent); and San Diego, CA (10.4 percent).

Bus ridership was more mixed. In cities with populations below 100,000, bus use was up 3.8 percent, but, nationally, bus ridership was down a slight 0.1 percent.

APTA believes the overall increase in national transit ridership is a sign of an emerging economic recovery. “When more people are employed, public transportation ridership increases, since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes.”

But public transit also provides the opportunity to reach jobs, so investment in public transit may be helping to improve local economic and job growth. Melaniphy told The New York Times: “We’re seeing that where cities have invested in transit, their unemployment rates have dropped, and employment is going up because people can get there.”

Public transit use may only continue to go up given “taxpayers are increasingly willing to finance public transportation improvements,” said Melaniphy. “In the last two years, more than 70 percent of transit tax initiatives have succeeded.”

Todd Litman, an analyst at the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in Victoria, British Columbia, explained to The New York Times that more and more Americans would prefer to drive less and get around by walking, cycling, or using public transit if high-quality options are available. These new “consumer preferences are a result of increasing urbanization, an aging population, and environmental and health concerns.”

However, a recent report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that the real reason why VMT has fallen so dramatically in 46 states since 2007 is younger people aren’t buying as many cars.

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Study area for The Vortex competition, UVA. Charlottesville US 29 corridor / Charlottesville Tomorrow.org

This winter at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, graduate and undergraduate students from each of the school’s four disciplines — Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Urban and Environmental Planning, and Architectural History — participated in the invigorating third annual all-school design competition, appropriately named “The Vortex.” The event provides students exposure to design competitions, fosters interdisciplinary collaboration, and engages the local community in high-stakes urban design projects.

In previous years, the Vortex focused on large-scale landscape and infrastructure issues, including bridging connections to the local Belmont neighborhood and re-imagining the link between Downtown Charlottesville and the Rivanna River. This year, students re-imagined Charlottesville’s US Route 29 corridor, the main transportation artery bisecting the city and providing an economic locus. This ten-mile commercial corridor, which connects Charlottesville to its airport and major metropolitan areas beyond, is also the source of a host of traffic, safety, and development problems.

While 29 has been the topic of debate among Charlottesville and Albemarle County government entities for decades, its future remains unknown. Students were challenged to envision US 29 not as a place for automobiles traveling at 45 miles per hour, but for pedestrians walking at 2 miles per hour. As opposed to focusing solely on the ease of the commuter, the teams considered a more intelligent road design that accommodated alternative modes of transportation, such as walking, biking, and public transportation.

Each year the Vortex competition invites a renowned designer to partake in the event and lead project critiques. This year’s invited guest was Xaveer de Geyter, founding principal of Belgian firm XDGA, a landscape and urban design practice in Europe. De Geyter’s lecture on the first day of the competition provided a framework for the event, encouraging students to consider issues of density, mixed-use, architecture, public space, time and transportation. De Geyter’s book, After-Sprawl: Research on the Contemporary City, and much of his design work “analyze how urban sprawl is growing throughout Western Europe, creating a diffuse urbanization confronted to the compact urban tradition of the old continent.” He said: “I am very much interested in not so much how architecture or urbanism should be but to have a very good look at what exists,” said De Geyter.

To kick-off the event, a panel of officials from local news, government, environmental and economic development agencies discussed the corridor – its history, challenges, and opportunities.

Some of the questions that emerged from this conversation that guided students’ thinking included: How does a city grow without compromising qualities of life aspects of preservation and evolution? How can the corridor serve as both a commercial boulevard and a U.S. highway? What type and degree of density is necessary along the corridor? What design will allow for connectivity both across and along the corridor, and how can it accommodate multi-modal transportation? How does one minimize negative environmental impacts?

Students were encouraged not to feel constrained by realistic limitations of the project, but instead to explore all possibilities. “They won’t come to pass exactly as you play them out, but you’re pushing the envelope,” said Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a nonprofit organization that analyzes local government policy and monitors more than 100 boards and commissions in Central Virginia.

Following this introduction, approximately three hundred students and faculty members strapped in neon yellow construction vests went on a five-mile excursion along the entire corridor. Accompanied by police escorts and the local press, including NBC 29 and The Daily Progress, the journey began at the intersection of Emmett Street and Ivy Road and concluded at the bridge where the Rivanna River crosses under US 29.



Students and faculty walk the project’s entire 5 mile stretch / Sanjay Suchak

Following the walk, students broke into teams and launched into an energetic week of collaborative design. The school’s intensive competition culminated in a public presentation of each team’s vision for US 29 in Charlottesville’s Carver Recreation Center. Students presented their boards and models to de Geyter, the architecture school faculty, fellow students, and the public.


Student teams collaborating on their design proposals / UVA


Students present their work to the public / Charlottesville Tomorrow

The winner of both the student and public awards was the project entitled “Resi[dense]city.” The proposal focused on “housing density, efficient transportation, economic growth, and interactive culture,” which intended to create “dense, mixed-use communities at nodes along US 29.” The team sought “to stitch together the corridor that currently acts as a boundary, rather than a means of connection.”


Resi[dense] City / Silvia Stefi – Student

The group that took home the competition’s biggest prize, the Xaveer de Geyter Award, as well as the faculty award, was called “Generative Urbanism.” The design focused on re-imagining US 29 “as the generator, pipeline, and lifeblood of the Charlottesville and Central Virginia region” that uses a “light rail system at current grade, maximizing spatial, visual, and auditory comfort for the pedestrian.” The design aimed to “create a central core that harnesses wind, solar, water, geothermal and kinetic energy.”


Generative Urbanism / Chad Miller

All told, the Vortex competition helped to catalyze conversation and re-invigorate creative thinking among the students and entire community around the exciting potential of this corridor in Charlottesville.

This guest post by Chad Miller and Matt Scarnaty, Master’s of Landscape Architecture Candidates, University of Virginia

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“When I retire I will write a book called, ‘you can’t make this sh*t up,” said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, Philadelphia, at a National Complete Streets Coalition dinner in Washington, D.C. In a review of her experience serving seven mayors and governors, Cutler revealed the sometimes painful truths about pushing for positive change in urban transportation.

“Politicians respond to noise and money,” said Cutler. Advocacy organizations like the National Complete Streets Coalition, Smart Growth America, and ASLA, have made lots of noise about the value of complete streets, streets that safely serve all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, and car riders). As a result, on the 10th anniversary of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Roger Millar at Smart Growth America said 600 complete street policies have been adopted across the country.

The noise influenced transportation policy makers because it was the right noise. Cutler said city government traffic planners and engineers largely bought on to the complete streets approach because they saw it as a way to improve pedestrian safety. As she articulated, “in a city, everyone is a pedestrian.” The complete streets movement got a further boost when the “population of bicyclists increased,” and their safety on streets became a pressing issue.

While noise brings attention to issues, the hard art of making changes in urban transportation systems is another story. Cutler said she couldn’t step up to a microphone and say, “I want to change transportation mode-share.” She had to go about it more subtly, with a slew of pilot programs for which she didn’t need approval.

Before Michael Nutter was elected mayor of Philadelphia, “bike lanes were an abstract idea.” The idea of taking out a car lane for a bike lane wasn’t even a possibility. When she started to bring pilot lanes to residential areas, the press was all over it. “I’d say ‘bike’ and 400 reporters would show up.” Bike lane stories regularly appeared at the top of the local metro news. All that change ruffled feathers. “In Philadelphia, people will embrace change as long as it looks exactly the same when it’s done.”

In 2009, the city created its complete streets policy, then began taking car lanes out in favor of bike lanes in earnest. Cutler said in other cities, “this would be a day at the beach.” In Philadelphia, “everyone thought I was moving too fast, except for the bicyclists, who thought I was moving to slow.”

Before installation of the lanes, teams from her office would have to “knock on every door along every street with a new lane,” explaining the changes. Taxis initially thought the new bike lanes were specially for them, so “we had to send them a letter.” There was one compromise for car users: they were allowed to park in a bike lane to unload deliveries and such.

Further complicating issues for cities: urban transportation policy also sits within a greater context, the framework of state and federal transportation policies. Cutler said “federal, state, and city agendas are not always aligned. We need the right alignments in place.”

To encourage that to happen, she said “cities need to define their own agendas or someone else will.” Furthermore, that “urban agenda needs to the broader agenda of change.” She thinks this has happened within the Obama administration. “We’ve heard words we’ve never heard before – livability, walkability. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been a phenomenal advocate for cities.” The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has also been critical in promoting an urban transportation agenda. “It’s about cities doing it for themselves.” One of NACTO’s goals is to get more federal transportation straight to cities, bypassing state governments.

As for introducing further changes in urban transportation, Cutler said it’s important to be non-ideological. “I’m not pro-car or anti-car, I’m pro-mobility.” She added that she was “agnostic about how people move around. My job is to provide viable alternatives so you can decide.”

With a rapidly aging population – and young people who are increasingly forgoing the car — mobility is certain to transform, particularly in the areas surrounding cities. “Out in the suburbs, there is a quiet movement for change. People are realizing it’s not fun to be stuck in car-centric communities. But they are not yet committed to urban-style street fighting.” She said politicians will soon have to hear the voices of both the young and old when making transportation infrastructure decisions.

She also said the “language needs to change” when promoting more sustainable forms of transportation. “We need to be conscious about how we communicate about biking. Bicyclists can’t be portrayed as elitists who want to fly through the city wearing spandex.” The reality is “social equity is key” to successfully rolling out new bicycle infrastructure. “There are bicyclists who need to commute to work. It needs to be about how these things will impact local neighborhoods.”

All of Cutler’s hard-won experience will be needed as Philadelphia rolls out a new bike share system in 2014.

Image credit: Philadelphia Bike Lane / Green Philly blog

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For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at info@asla.org.

Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in the World’s Citie
sYale e360, 1/6/14
“A few years ago in Baltimore County, Maryland, environmental staffers were reviewing a tree-planting proposal from a local citizens group. It called for five trees each of 13 different species, as if in an arboretum, on the grounds of an elementary school in a densely-populated neighborhood.”
What’s the Big Idea? Debating the Future of a Great Urban Park  – The Huffington Post Blog, 1/7/14
“This is an exciting time for landscape architects, urban planners, building architects, municipal officials and other professionals involved with urban parks – they’re being challenged and inspired to be more innovative, think more holistically and delve more deeply, for example, into the interplay between natural and cultural systems.”

Unveiled > Colorado Avenue Esplanade, The Architect’s Newspaper, 1/7/14
“The City of Santa Monica recently green-lighted construction on the $10.7 million Colorado Esplanade streetscape project, designed to improve public access to the Santa Monica Pier and provide pedestrian links from the soon-to-arrive Expo Light Rail line. Work will commence next year, and the light rail is scheduled to arrive by 2016.”

Is Horticulture a Withering Field?, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/7/14
“Coming from image-conscious professionals who prefer to gush about the beauty of flowers and the joys of growing vegetables, the words were downright shocking: ‘Horticulture is under siege.’”

Farm AidThe Architect’s Newspaper, 1/8/14
“In the name of urban renewal, Anaheim tore out most of its historic downtown decades ago. Where Orange, a neighboring town, restored its historic town center and parlayed it into a magnet for restaurants, shops, entertainment, and the local creative class, Anaheim replaced its historic center with a bland mix of modern office towers.”

Redesigning City Streets with a Mobile PhoneGOOD, 1/9/14
“Key to the Street is a cloud-based service that allows anyone with a mobile device to participate in the design of public spaces. The main focus is encouraging more people to walk—the cheapest and easiest way to improve one’s wellbeing.”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator

Image credit: Colorado Avenue Esplanade / Peter Walker and Associates

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The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) seeks a landscape architecture firm to serve as lead consultant for the design and implementation of an inter-connected series of vegetated systems and proven technologies to manage stormwater runoff and beautify the public right-of-way in Chinatown, Washington, DC. ASLA intends this project to be a world-class model and education tool for developers, designers, city officials, and the public. Submission is open to international and national firms.

Nestled within L’Enfant’s original plans for Washington, D.C., the project area is in the Chinatown neighborhood, which has a rich and varied history. The neighborhood is a bustling urban area, but one that also faces significant issues related to combined sewer overflows and a degraded watershed. The project area spans the divide between the Potomac and Anacostia watersheds, providing a unique educational opportunity to incorporate a deeper understanding of the city’s hydrology.

This project extends the length of I Street between 9th and 6th streets, including several blocks north and south of I Street. As an underdeveloped and underused corridor, 8th Street is an opportunity for significant green enhancements. It’s anticipated that the first stage of the construction will focus on I Street, including the right-of-way at ASLA headquarters, located at 636 I Street. This project will be implemented in phases.

In late 2012, a two-day design charrette for this project was hosted by ASLA President Tom Tavella, FASLA, with stakeholders and District agencies. The goal of this charrette, and the resulting concept design, was to demonstrate the value of green infrastructure/low-impact development (LID) in the Chinatown neighborhood.

The drawings generated during the event are meant only to serve as a starting point for further conceptual development. They are based on generalized information gathered for the site; issues that may limit the design such as underground utility locations, compliance with existing plans, and State Historic Preservation Office design guidelines were not considered. Explore the prospectus based on the initial design charrette.

Project parameters:

  • The selected firm will be the lead consultant and oversee the project through all phases from design and installation to long-term maintenance planning and educational outreach.
  • The selected firm will collaborate with the ASLA Site Sustainability Advisory Committee throughout all phases of the project.
  • The selected firm will coordinate with ASLA staff to identify ways to document the design process, construction, monitoring results, and maintenance
  • It is anticipated that both the design and installation will occur in phases. The selected firm will help determine the appropriate phasing for the entire project.
  • The initial phase of the project is to produce a comprehensive master plan. It is anticipated that the master plan will be used to acquire additional funding for design development and installation of subsequent phases of the project.
  • The design is to have a strong identity unique to the cultural heritage and urban context of the Chinatown neighborhood. It should be a refuge amid the neighborhood’s busy vehicular traffic, placing priority on the needs of pedestrians, transit users, and cyclists.
  • The project is not only to exceed performance standards, but become a tangible expression of the power of marrying strong design with solid scientific principles. This should be accomplished in a beautiful and dynamic way that creates a public amenity.
  • The LID strategies proposed for the demonstration project must take an innovative yet implementable approach. This approach is to be applied to site selection, identification and resolution of challenges, design and construction, monitoring and evaluation, and finally to maintenance guidelines.

Submissions must be received by January 15, 2014. Learn more about submission requirements.

Image credit: Green Street / ASLA

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In her new book Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks, Barbara McCann notes that “the fundamental philosophy behind the complete streets movement can seem painfully obvious: roads should be safe for everyone traveling along them.” But as McCann, who served as the founding executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, also tells us, “the history, political standing, habits, and orientation of the transportation industry in the United States have made it extraordinarily difficult for any policy movement to shift the way transportation projects are planned and built.” Her book reflects on how the movement towards safer, more inclusive streets has started a positive movement in communities across America, as there are now more than 500 localities with complete streets policies.

McCann describes the complete streets movement as essentially a policy initiative that seeks to change the way all roads are built in the United States. It developed from an effort by advocates who wanted to put a directive in federal law to include bicycle facilities in all road projects. This was challenging because driving and biking were considered separate modes of transportation supported by different systems. What emerged from this effort became a movement to radically reframe transportation infrastructure. The focus turned to broadening transportation safety to include all people traveling along a corridor. It also widened from the individual road corridor to a jurisdiction’s entire network.

According to McCann, the movement’s success to date is not rooted in a simple definition of a new kind of street. There’s no one answer to the problem. She emphasizes that “defining the problem is not a design issue.” Lasting change only comes from addressing the primary problem, which is both political and cultural. The complete streets movement is succeeding not because it lays out a compelling design paradigm, but because it uses three key strategies to help change the way transportation projects are chosen, planned, and built. These three strategies are: shifting the focus from project design to values and policy; building a broad base of support for policy change; and creating a clear path to transform everyday practice.

McCann attributes much of the complete streets movement’s success to the ability to “reframe the conversation about transportation in a simple and powerful way.” Complete streets have multiple benefits, such as improving the health, sustainability, and economic vitality of communities. But the movement’s most potent argument is that safety on streets is a problem that effects everyone, both drivers and non-drivers. One third of the population does not drive, including children, older adults, people with disabilities, and those without the financial resources to own a car. These individuals need safe and effective means of transportation via walking, biking, or public transit. Discussing safety is a highly subversive way to introduce new ideas. Introducing it as a topic immediately broadens the conversation around transportation development.

The movement has also been able to “build a broad base of political support.” McCann says that all too often elected officials adopt new policies that stall out in implementation. A whole new effort is necessary to bring them into daily practice. Complete streets policy advocates like ASLA make explicit the values surrounding the effort and build strong coalitions to support cultural and institutional change. They focus on building a network of support that includes not only politicians but also practitioners within transportation profession who are already trying to change the system from within. They also work to build support in communities by clarifying policies and helping people to understand, affirm, and support new approaches.

Complete streets initiatives then “provide a clear path to follow in transitioning to a multi-modal process.” To be actionable, the movement offers participants a map for building multimodal street networks that support driving as well as walking, biking, and public transit. Historically, transportation development since the the Federal Highway Act of 1956 has made a habit of building projects that are specific to a single method of travel. Complete streets initiatives provide a three-phase guide for action to break this habit. This guide provides technical information for building streets. More importantly, it includes information on writing and passing a policy commitment supported by the community, and outlines a process for changing the systems, culture, and practices inside transportation agencies.

With this three-part strategy, McCann argues, the complete streets movement offers every community a viable framework for improving their street network. In 2012, a nationwide public opinion poll showed that 63 percent of Americans would like to address traffic congestion by improving public transportation and designing communities for easier walking and bicycling. Cities across America face different challenges to addressing these issues. Older cities generally have a structure more conducive to a transportation refit, whereas newer cities are dealing with hundreds of miles of mostly disconnected street networks. Many of the communities within newer cities are far from reaching a progressive development ideal.

McCann’s book demonstrates how, regardless of the obstacles they face, communities of all kinds can begin to make lasting and effective changes using the principles of the complete streets movement.

Read the book.

This guest post is by Shannon Leahy, former ASLA summer intern and recent Master’s of Landscape Architecture graduate, University of Pennsylvania.

Image credit: Island Press

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For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at info@asla.org.

Private Investment in Green Roofs, Roadside Plantings and Parks, Oh My!Forbes, 9/22/13

“Stormwater runoff is one of the main causes of urban waterway pollution nationwide. This runoff collects everything from trash to pet waste to antifreeze and motor oil. Why should we care? These and other highly toxic pollutants eventually make their way to our rivers, lakes, beaches, and drinking water supplies.”

Designing Streets for People, Not Just CarsGOOD, 9/23/13

“In San Francisco, three pedestrians are hit by vehicles every day. Our streets should be designed to be safer than this, and we think in the process they can also become viable public spaces that enrich our urban experience. In this project for Walk San Francisco, inspired by a GOOD Design challenge from Center for Architecture and Design, we wanted to transform everyday infrastructure to achieve both of these goals.”

Hartford’s Constitution Plaza: Potential Still UnfoldingThe Courant, 9/25/13

“As we approach its 50th anniversary next year, Hartford’s Constitution Plaza is still controversial. It has been criticized over the years as desolate and lonely, a failure as a public space. But as landscape architecture, it is a remarkable example of work from the period, whose worth may be realized in its second half century.”

On Governors Island, 30 Acres of Open Space are Becoming a True ParkThe New York Times, 9/26/13

“The landscape architecture firm in charge of the parkland project, West 8, decided to break up the monotony of the flat island and maximize views of the harbor by changing its elevation. Even the hammock grove north of the Hills was raised to a maximum height of 16 feet.”

Basking at Mussel BeachThe Architect’s Newspaper, 9/27/13

“Construction recently wrapped up on housing for a new demographic at Manhattan’s East River Waterfront Esplanade: mussels. Working with SHoP Architects, HDR, and Arup, Ken Smith Landscape Architect designed a 50-foot intertidal Eco Park at Pier 35 that is part of a two-mile shoreline revitalization effort by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).”

Investing in Volunteer ParkThe Seattle Times, 9/27/13

“Volunteer Park has often been called Seattle’s Central Park. Founded in 1887, it’s 30 years younger than New York’s legendary park. And at 48 acres it’s a fraction of the size. Both parks are distinguished by the classic elegance of their design by the Olmsted Brothers landscaping firm, and both are the beating green hearts of the cities surrounding them.”

Plaza to the PeopleThe Architect’s Newspaper, 9/18/13

“The Foley Square side of the 1968 Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building on Lower Broadway is one of the most beautifully detailed and thoroughly usable new public spaces in New York. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh, the plaza features Connecticut pink marble that alternates with Vermont ‘Danby’ stone, establishing what the landscape architect called ‘an abstract naturalism.’”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator

Image credit: Manhattan’s East River Esplanade / Peter Mauss, ESTO

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