Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Midtown Redesign....from my perspective.

There has been a lot of discussion about a big project that is coming to Midtown in the next couple years.  The long and short of it is that they are going to rip out all of Virginia Street and the sidewalks and get a chance at a total redo.  There is contention about what should take priority.

One side of the coin is to stay auto-centric.  Cars would be the focus, with travel lanes and parking getting the majority of the space with only ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) minimum requirements for sidewalks (e.g. narrow sidewalks).  So, pretty much what it is today with just slightly wider sidewalks.

The other side of the coin is more in tune with making Midtown into a pedestrian friendly environment where people want to come hang out and shop.  While it does require giving up a limited (small) number of on street parking spots, it gives back with 10 foot plus wide sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, and room for benches, trees, and dining / display space for merchants.  Traffic lanes would be narrowed and speeds reduced to help facilitate pedestrian and bicycle movement.

Some people / businesses (who I will not point out) have argued that the auto-centric design is the only way to go.  They continually rally on the necessity of on street parking and how removal of a single spot will be the end of them (either business wise or as a customer trying to use midtown).

In light of this....I decided to spend Saturday night (a busy time?) in Midtown, in the way I use it and see what I found.  Here is the short version of the story....

We visited Craft, Public House, Junkee, and Brasserie St. James.

My with friends (and Junkee is just always fun).

So many options!

While rolling around Midtown between 8-10pm this is what I observed with respect to parking.  And for the record...I was biking, two folks were walking, and one buddy was driving from place to place.

Completely underutilized street parking, no bike infrastructure....and does that even qualify as a sidewalk!?

More unused parking.....less than a block from Brasserie St. James.  A location often sited as a parking problem area!?  Double bonus for catching a Hummer just blowing through Midtown at like 50 mph right next to a billboard that says "Too many pedestrians die on our roads"!?

We had a great time.  Everyone got around just fine.  The consensus was that walking works...but the sidewalks suck and you often have to step into the street.  Biking also works but you better be willing to throw your lot in with traffic and force some respect....because it isn't freely given.  Driving works just fine.  Parking wasn't a problem.

So there's one night in Midtown.  

I'll try to do a mid-day for comparison at some point soon.

1 comment:

  1. I think these are telling observations and look forward to the daytime post in the future. No doubt there will be more on street parking taken during lunch time. It seems to me losing a parking lane, getting the RTC to be creative to add some parking on the side streets, and gaining bike lanes or cycle track would be a win for everybody. I know you've seen the studies on the economic benefits of doing this but how does that word get to the business owners who need convincing? That is the real conundrum!