Monday, May 19, 2008

Livability Indicator #4 - Double Parking

Yes, double parking can be annoying, but so can babies. So what does the presence of double parked cars say about the place? Well, for one, it means that it is a place where people want to be. Demand is so great that people are willing to temporarily be a pain in the ass by pulling up along side other parked cars, i.e. demand for parking is greater than supply. Have you ever been in a great place and thought, "gee, i wish there was less parking here?"

(The next time someone tells you there needs to be more parking tell them to stfu)

Double Parking also shows that commerce, ground floor retail in particular, is working in the urban place because it is typically caused by unloading service vehicles. (Keep in mind that I'm not suggesting that double parking is a justifiable end per se, but rather merely a symptom, an indicator of place) This can be remedied by creating service areas internal to buildings/blocks, but is it always bad to temporarily slow up traffic? It also suggests that there is no back to the building or "dead cat space" meaning the building/blocks are correctly oriented to the street.

One thing hindering downtown Dallas is the presence of one-way streets. One-way streets are the city's way of basically saying to everyone at 5 pm, "Get out! Get out NOW!" They are designed entirely with the car in mind and encourage high speed movement that is hostile to pedestrians, the life blood of any city.

For example, the idea for Double Parking as Livability Indicator arose from the loading/dropoff area immediately outside our building. Double parking here is inevitable. The pulloff area is essentially just 15-minute parallel parking with enough dimension for no more than 4 or so cars/vans/trucks at a time. And guess what, the double parking slows traffic on one-way Ervay street (boo-hoo) making a treacherous intersection for pedestrians a little more manageable.

(Pardon the crude quick and dirty photoshop work, click to enlarge)

The reason the intersection is nearly impossible for pedestrians to cross is because of three factors: two one-way roads make the crosswalk lights go haywire. It is impossible to figure out who has the right-of-way half the time. Second, the dimension across Pacific Avenue is 62 feet from curb-to-curb on the cross walk (I measured it today). This is an insane number for a street that is essentially two-lane, two-way road.

And Lastly, the turning radius from Pacific to Ervay allows cars to make "rolling stops," if they even stop at all. I watched seven cars in a row not slow down one mph to make this right-hand turn, this morning. Only the bravest of pedestrians dare wander into that stampede.

So finally, here is another crude photoshopped diagram showing how the intersection could be improved. As an aside, I do like the effect of the canted grid that allows for our building to visually terminate Ervay. The first step is to create a bulb-out that reduces the dimension for pedestrians to cross. No two-lane road in the world should be 60 feet across. The curb-to-curb dimension at the crosswalk should be no more than 24 feet here. Second, make the bulb-out "T" into Ervay thus creating a chicane with a tight enough turning radius to force cars to stop before making the turn. And last but not least, create on street parking on both sides of Pacific since the dimension is already there. The south side of the street is already a taxi stand that is full most of the day.

See this Link for another solution for a different intersection. I find some of the measures interesting and relevant, but what this essentially does is limit car mobility and I'm not about that. I am more for balance, creating complete streets that work for all modes of transportation: foot, bike, and on wheels.