August 28, 2005

Walkable Coolidge Corner

The intersection of two major multi-lane, commuter auto thoroughfares -- in this case Beacon and Harvard streets in Brookline -- would seem an unlikely spot for a pedestrian-friendly retail district to flourish. But that's just what happens in Coolidge Corner, where cars, pedestrians and public transit share space in a place that's reasonably appealing to all.

The streetscape is extremely walker-friendly, with stores sited up at the sidewalk, and amply-wide sidewalks adequately screened from the whizzing traffic nearby (thanks to on-street parking, trees, brick decorative strips and such) . In addition to a fair number of local businesses, Coolidge Corner has some of the same chain stores as Rte. 9 in Framingham. But oh how differently they're designed! Here's how Trader Joe's in Coolidge Corner appears from the street:

Trader Joe's, Beacon Street, Coolidge Corner

This encourages foot traffic in the front, while there's still a parking lot available behind the building.

And, here's the entrance to Walgreen's in Coolidge Corner:

Walgreen's, Beacon Street, Coolidge Corner

Notice the well-marked crosswalk at the busy intersection -- which plenty of people actually use -- as well as the store sited up at the street.

Have you seen many people walk, not drive, to Trader Joe's or Walgreen's on Rte. 9 recently? I didn't think so. With different siting and design of those and other buildings on Rte. 9, as well as adequate pedestrian crossings and a walker-friendly streetscape, you could have.

What a pity.

It's obvious that planners just assumed nobody really wants to cross most of the retail stretches of Rtes. 9 and 30 -- there are no clearly marked crosswalks and few pedestrian crossing signals (and the ones that exist are a joke; you have to sprint across the street to make it in time). Contrast this with the pedestrian crossings on Beacon and Harvard streets -- pedestrian signals even tell you how much time is left for you to make your way across the traffic.

Pedestrian signal, Coolidge Corner

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