How Does our New Suspension Bridge Stack Up in Regards to Livability?

November 19, 2009 § 2 Comments

(Santiago Calatrava standing next to a model of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas. Photo by Daniel Driensky)

The DJC in Oregon posted an article yesterday comparing Vancouver’s bridges with Portland’s, and the effect these structures have on their communitys’ livability. Since the Trinity Trust has hired Vancouver’s planner, Larry Beasley, this is a timely conversation for us, as we are about to open our newest suspension bridge connecting West Dallas to Downtown.

(Burrard Street Bridge, Vancouver)

An important factor to note, when studying livable cities, is that the planners in these areas do not consider congestion a problem…they welcome it. These planners have found that the reality is congestion is a direct contributor to slowing streets and making communities more walkable. The widening of roads to speed vehicle traffic has shown to have a detrimental effect on surrounding neighborhoods and the life that surrounds them. We know this first hand when comparing a road like McKinney Avenue, to Fort Worth Avenue. One has four lanes, a trolley and wide sidewalks, while the other has 6 lanes, and small sidewalks. One area is built to minimize congestion, the other is not. Obviously, of the two, people would much rather sit at a cafe table alongside the congested street. Small Businesses would rather setup shop here as well, as they bring greater foot traffic, and are more appealing aesthetically. People also prefer to live closer to streets that are not high speed thoroughfares. McKinney Avenue is not only safer to cross due to the thinner streets, but also has a heightened perception of safety due to the number of eyes on the street. One could be used on a postcard, the other is sterile, gray, and cold.

More from the article:

“…Gordon Price, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University and a former longtime Vancouver, B.C., city councilor, is glad to have a narrow, three-lane Lions Gate Bridge. “The conclusion I’ve drawn from looking at the history is that it’s one of the reasons we are one of the most livable cities in the world,” Price said, “on both sides of the inlet.”

Vancouver and its northern suburbs had a chance to see whether maintaining the size of the crossing would lead to increased congestion and a worse economy. “The answer, apparently, is no,” Price said. “If it were true that congestion would lead to an economic decline, you wouldn’t have the affluent area on one side and a vibrant urban area on the other.”

In any community, Price said, residents need clarity on transportation-planning decisions that determine where people live, where they work and how they commute. In Vancouver, people know there won’t be a new Burrard Inlet crossing.

“We said, ‘That’s OK; we will live with the existing capacity,’ ” Price said. “Once it became clear that wouldn’t change (and) we wouldn’t be overruled by the provincial and federal governments, then we took the other (transportation) options seriously and started to design cities to be walkable, to have more transit, and to be more bicycle friendly.””


(Vancouver)

According to this World Architecture News article, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas was designed to “not only create a new icon for the city’s skyline, but will also pump life back into the Trinity River.” Life or cars? Two very different concepts. The article goes on to state that “the structure will cross the Trinity River Corridor linking West Dallas/North Oak Cliff with the downtown area. At a length of 418.5m and a width of 36.7m the bridge carries 6 lanes of traffic across the water.”

Six lanes of traffic, which will then open up to another 6 lanes of traffic on the new Singleton Boulevard? Again, what are our aims? To create a highway, or a boulevard? What models are we seeking to replicate, and what is the end goal? If this is truly a signature bridge, it should have wide bike and pedestrian lanes, and streetcar rail that allows access into the park and along the boulevard. Otherwise, we’ll have 6 dedicated lanes to cars, which we’ll then need to build giant parking structures or worse, sprawling lots, to accommodate the traffic. This is not a livable approach to infrastructure development. We’re simply accommodating cars only, so we should expect another sterile, gray, and cold environment.

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