March 27


Nicollet-MallZaki Mustafa and Michelle Birdsall have a very informative, well written article in the latest ITE Journal about The Great Streets Movement (have I mentioned how great it is that ITE is having professional writers doing some of the writing?).

The City of Los Angeles has taken this concept to heart and launched a program for developing great streets called People St (I highly recommend you check out their website if you work for a city).  LA is implementing three strategies with their program:

  1. Plazas:  Convert a portion of a street into a public space with tables, chairs, planters and bike parking.
  2. Parklet:  Replace an on-street parking stall with a people oriented place.
  3. Bike Corral:  Put bike racks in an on-street parking stall.

The City of Minneapolis runs a great streets/neighborhood development program that’s a little different than Los Angeles.  You can check it out here.

No matter how you implement a Great Streets program, I like APA’s 12 Characteristics of a Great Street as a starting point:

  1. Provides orientation to its users, and connects well to the larger pattern of ways.
  1. Balances the competing needs of the street — driving, transit, walking, cycling, servicing, parking, drop-offs, etc.
  1. Fits the topography and capitalizes on natural features.
  1. Is lined with a variety of interesting activities and uses that create a varied streetscape.
  1. Has urban design or architectural features that are exemplary in design.
  1. Relates well to its bordering uses — allows for continuous activity, doesn’t displace pedestrians to provide access to bordering uses.
  1. Encourages human contact and social activities.
  1. Employs hardscape and/or landscape to great effect.
  1. Promotes safety of pedestrians and vehicles and promotes use over the 24-hour day.
  1. Promotes sustainability through minimizing runoff, reusing water, ensuring groundwater quality, minimizing heat islands, and responding to climatic demands.
  2. Is well maintained, and capable of being maintained without excessive costs.
  3. Has a memorable character.

Photo Source:

  • The problem in Los Angeles is that the LADOT has applied the program willy-nilly and has approved applications for street scapes which have created safety problems and also utilized parking spaces in areas where there is a severe shortage of street parking. LADOT has also approved street scapes which result in the blockage of sidewalks for pedestrians. Usually the applications are made on behalf of adjacent cafes that want additional seating for their customers.

    In essence the urban streetscape program utilizes street space that makes it more difficult for traffic to move on the street and goes against the primary purpose of traffic engineering which is to facilitate the movement of traffic.

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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