Streets For Everyone is advocating for a variety of improvements to Commercial Drive that include all-ages-and-abilities cycling facilities, an improved pedestrian realm, efficient bus service, additional cross walks, and more seating.
Nothing surprising for readers here: parking-protected, sidewalk-height bikelanes, bus bulges, dutch islands. Great to see the effort though, and you should all go sign their petition in support.
My main reason for posting is to link again to the idea for Streetmix3D. The renderings here look like they took many hours in Sketchup or even AutoCAD, but they’re composed of such standard elements I feel like there has to be a way to create them with half a dozen clicks.
Imagine this workflow:
- The Streetmix3D launch screen, like MS Word / Pages templates, offers you the option of building a street or an intersection. Click on the “dutch islands” four-way stop intersection design as your template.
- Choose your two street cross sections from your Streetmix (2D) library, and apply them to the four entrances to the intersection.
- Drag connection nodes if necessary to connect up the lanes (e.g. bike lane on the street to bike lane on the intersection).
- Optional: assign a T4 zone to the lots either side of the street. (The parameters for your local T4 zone have been defined in Stoop, so the renderer can auto-generate a mix of compliant buildings.)
Since Streetmix3D “knows” you’re building a street out of street elements, reskinning things (e.g. changing lane colours, applying textures) and generally improving the output with more detailed models, lighting etc. should be a relatively simple incremental process, compared to modelling in a generalist package.
The “slow zone” street retrofit from NACTO’s street design guide shows the power of paint.
I presume the central travel space was left wide for fire trucks: my preference would be for the parking to be in at the line, creating protected space for cycling or just a wider sidewalk. Maybe a single counterflow cycling lane. The camber/gutter/drains may make cycling unpleasant, though.
How do you know you have a Strong Town?
Matthias Leyrer provides some examples of simple questions to ask.
If the President came to visit, is there a part of your town you’d be embarrassed to show him?
If the the price of gas quadrupled, would your town survive?
Can a 5th grader understand your zoning ordinances?
If your main street was destroyed, could you rebuild it under current code?
Earles Street, Vancouver
This is part of my new commute, so while cursing the sharrows I imagine how it could be different.
Here’s the cross section today.
And here we are with parking removed on one side, to make room for protected 6ft tracks either side.
Because people get upset about parking removal, you might want to switch the parking side every block. That then opens up the possibility of a more interesting, slower, safer, placemaking intersection design like this. Earles, with the cycle track, goes left-right here, with a narrower cross street up-down.
For comparison, today we have something like this: car-dominated and desolate.
Never going to happen, but it’s nice to dream.
At present large sites require such significant up-front investment that only a small number of master developers or housebuilders can afford. A site will typically be masterplanned, broken into phases and then either developed directly, or sold on to other housebuilders (who will redesign the matsterplan). Most of the large housebuilders prefer sites of at least 300 units to create sufficient scale to cover the infrastructure and marketing costs.
In the alternative system that we are proposing each sub-neighborhood would be masterplanned to establish the shape of the development, the layout of the streets and open spaces, the density zones and the location of schools, shops and other uses. This is the ‘Trellis’ plan that we described earlier. [A regulating plan, basically - Ed] This will include:
- A set of parameter plans setting the position, massing, access arrangements, parking standards and mix of uses across the plan.
- A plot plan showing the division of the masterplan into development plots reflecting the different housing density bands.
- A passport for each plot setting out what development is permitted. This will include a three dimensional volume into which the plot holder can building, relationship to adjacent plots (whether it is terraced or detached) and any restrictions on use.
The Wolfson Prize winner proposes a new system for planning new towns [pdf p67].
Sprawl repair animated gifs
The first thing we notice of course is the new texture on the intersection, and the transit line. On the lower left block, existing buildings are maintained, with just a couple of infill buildings to complete the street wall. On the lower right block, a big box has been replaced by rowhousing, and new rowhousing has been put on the main street
On the top two blocks there’s been radical rebuilding. Again, the first we notice is the new civic building and plaza on the upper left; there’s also an interesting v-shaped building above it. The upper right block is completely rebuilt.
Here are the two static images:
In this second repair gif, the main change is the building at the top of the intersection. It gets an arcade frontage on main street, and is extended up to the side street, and then has the parking space as a cafe terrace. There’s a liner building at the top of the picture, a really small infill building to complete the street wall on main, and on the lower left block a box has been replaced by perhaps a four-plex (I’m guessing). On the street, there’s the obvious transit line and texture change. Apart from that the differences are just lots more trees, well lined up.
And the two static images again:
In my opinion, this design would be much better than signals for when Vancouver’s bike boulevards cross arterials. Complete post from 2013. Previous Stroad to Boulevard post on bulge, narrow, wiggle intersection design. Sit Up Vancouver suggested redesign for 10th & Yukon.
I want to take this app (open source!) and run with it, making a drag and drop webapp to redesign all public space: streets, squares, parklets, parks, intersections, tactical street festivals, the works. All the space between the buildings is up for grabs.
Say you clicked on the Streetmix view in the bottom right corner of the mock-up above, it would expand to fill the screen so you could edit lane arrangements of various cross-section points. You could also edit on the plan view to show how those cross-sections connect, and to add paint and furniture (like planters).
Today, Vancouver demonstrates how cross-sections stitch together on plans like this, below. I bet other towns do it similarly and I think we can do better, making plans clearer and offering a quick and easy walk-through.
When you’re done dropping in planters and widening sidewalks, you click to minimise the editing screen, and see the 3D view above again, which you can pan and zoom around. The buildings can be simple boxes (perhaps with crudely configurable massing) since they’re not the focus here.
Brian Mount already implemented a simple plan view fork of an earlier version of Streetmix, shown below. Imagine being able to paint onto that, and drop in elements like planters and parklets.
Spencer Boomhower has made a reconfigurable 3D streetscape using Unity3D, below, that could also inform the app user experience.
Anyone else interested? Shall we Kickstart it?
The Grafton Gully Multiway Boulevard
Kent Lundberg has shared his team’s proposal for a multiway boulevard in Auckland, New Zealand.
The plan beautifully identifies the space required, and the development opportunities it opens up.
I love this proposal of course. My two design nit-picks from the cross-section above are:
- The segmentation of the access lane. Most importantly, I’d want parking on the outside of the access lane, by the tree, not on the inside against the sidewalk. This will help ensure the whole access lane has pedestrians crossing it. I don’t like the specifically marked bike lane either, as I fear it will stoke pedestrian conflicts. If there must be one, I would consider putting it between the parked cars and the trees, i.e. closer to the ‘thru flow’ centre lanes. Better yet, I’d just have a smooth concrete strip up the middle of the cobbled/textured access lane - perhaps also acting as a gutter - so that citizen cyclists take that and enforce slowness there. The cyclist on this Vancouver woonerf shows the idea:
- The grading of the access lane. I’d prefer to do away with all curbing, so that it’s clear the whole access lane is an extension of the pedestrian realm. Again I’d copy the image above with the bollards on the right to demarcate space.
I also wonder about the possibility of making the three major intersections (Nichols, Parnell, St Georges) into slowed places, with a roundabout, a square-about, Blackson twist, or some other kind of signal-less slowing-by-wiggle-inducing design.
But bravo to the team on a great proposal. Now to convince the engineers…
Appendix A: Parking Examples
Examples of parking on the tree side. Both Italian, coincidentally, but the French do it plenty too.
The Danes also, below. Also note the additional pedestrian space outside the parked cars. When I talk about putting the bike lane on the outside I imagine a scaled down version of this. Also note how the curb (very low) goes all the way along the access lane edge, right to the middle, like the access lane is one huge sidewalk.
This is California’s Octavia Boulevard which the designers later admitted made design errors that encouraged flow and speed in the access lane, namely: parking on the curbside, wrong texture, and too wide.
Appendix B: Further questions
Firstly, I wonder why the trucking lane is on the outside not the inside. The outside would be the turn lane, I imagine, yet I would expect trucks to be passing through more than turning off. EDIT: apparently it’s related to how trucks would join the route, which makes sense. More analysis required.
Instead the whole area should be ‘shared’, or a wide cycle track marked by texture (concrete amid bricks), but it should be clear that contraflow is illegal and so to be performed cautiously, not at speed.