July 1, 2013

Recipe for revitalizing public spaces

How do you deal with an urban space that's "become known for petty crime, drugs, and homelessness"? That was the issue facing an area of Boston Common of Park and Tremont streets. In Brewer Plaza, Reborn, the Boston Globe's Renee Loth outlines how now visitors are flocking to the area to enjoy this "outdoor living room," thanks to work by both the city of Boston and non-profit Friends of the Public Garden.

The recipe for success "is a case study in what makes some public spaces work and others wither," Loth writes. Among the ingredients?

* Not trying to get rid of unsavory characters but "figuring out a way to flood the area with the people you do want there," former project manager Ted Furst told Loth.

* Renovating a fountain, improving landscaping and lighting -- things that the short-sighted view as frills but are absolutely essential to creating an appealing public space.

* Movable furniture, allowing people to decide how to group the seating and whether it's in sun or shade.

* Programming entertainment and attracting food trucks.

If you're at all interested in maximizing the potential of public space, this piece is well worth a read.

March 10, 2013

Sprawl leads to more pedestrian deaths as well as fewer walkers

Greater sprawl leads to a higher pedestrian death rate  -- not jusr fewer people out walking. From the New York Times:

Urban sprawl comes with numerous liabilities, among them, as it happens, a heightened risk of pedestrian death, which may not seem entirely obvious given that you are infinitely more likely to see people walking around Manhattan than you are to see people walking around Atlanta. Data in a coming report from the National Institutes of Health indicate that for every 1 percent increase in a city’s compactness index, essentially a measure of its density, there is a 1.9 percent drop in the pedestrian fatality rate, adjusted for exposure. The more miles traveled by car in a particular place, the greater the chance of accident, as Reid Ewing, the report’s lead researcher and a professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah, said.

January 9, 2013

5 years of traffic fatalities visualized

These data visualizations of traffic deaths include several showing deaths involving pedestrians. One clear pattern: Pedestrian risk rises sharply around dusk