Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fort Worth's Diet Plan

Good news from Fort Worth. West 7th, the overly wide road connecting downtown Fort Worth to the Cultural District, but dividing everything along the way, will go on a diet. From FortWorthology:
Since they’re re-topping the pavement anyway, the city is going to re-stripe to narrow 7th Street from six lanes + turn to four lanes + turn, and add on-street parking and bike lanes. The intent is to slow down traffic on the over-engineered high-speed street and make it more hospitable to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as safer for all users by slowing traffic. In essence, trying to turn the street from being a “link” to being a “place,” to go hand-in-hand with the new walkable/bikeable mixed-use development that’s occurring along it.
Vindication! Two things: You may recall me writing about W. 7th and the potential in the area that was held back by the current street function and design. Find that piece here. I have it on good authority that that piece was sent all the way up to State Senator Wendy Davis by local property owners. Furthermore, around that same time, I gave a presentation in Fort Worth that used those exact words, "link" and "place," so I'm glad those seeds have sprouted out west. Here are the slides for you to see and understand the concept as well:

Here is the matrix, borrowed from British traffic engineer Peter Jones.

Link/Place: Low/Low - alley

Link/Place: Low/High - Designed Mews

Link/Place: Med/High - Predominantly Pedestrianized Mixed-Use Street

Link/Place: High/High - Preeminent, Champs Elysees. High design, moves all forms of transportation. Still amenable to street life and pedestrians with adequate +/- 50% of spatial envelope.

Link/Place: High/Low. West 7th currently, and nearly all other arterials in the Metroplex. With public coffers crippled by low sales tax receipts, the city is unable to transition directly from Low to High "place" value, it can incrementally do so by first transitioning the function of the street.

In many ways, this is better as it becomes in essence a pilot project for the city since people tend to reject change until they see it can work. Once it works functionally, and becomes more amenable to street life as pedestrians and bicycles, investment will surely follow. With a little bit of paint they are able to change the psychology of the area. This is strategically no different than what the Better Block is doing in Oak Cliff, what Janette Sadik-Khan is doing in NYC, or what the City of Plano did fifteen years ago narrowing K Ave through downtown Plano.

The key to this, is that the new, eventual investment will then leverage the upgrading of the aesthetics of the street to then match the quality of the development that happens. Baby steps people, baby steps, but we're at least stepping the right direction for once.

Peter Jones, your legacy will be felt in probably the last place you would ever expect it.