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Desiring Streetcars

Editor Stephen Kelly

The good part about featuring streetscapes is seeing the dramatic transformations of downtowns. In Pompano Beach, Fla. (EDSA, p. 62), the planning focused on drawing families back to this beach community with a remodeled streetscape along Pompano Beach Boulevard, and enhancing the area abutting the dunes.

In Eustis, Fla. (AECOM, p. 32) the commercial and retail district streetscapes were renovated with two-way streets, wider sidewalks, parallel parking, flush curb pedestrian crossings, tile mosaics and an expanded tree canopy.

In Binghamton, N.Y. (HAAS Landscape Architects, p. 42), more than a decade of planning and construction led to rebuilding the city's primary gateway, five contiguous blocks in the heart of downtown that includes Courthouse Square and a traffic roundabout.

On West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento, Calif. (MIG, p. 52) historic Lincoln Highway 40 now boasts a vibrant pedestrian and bike-friendly streetscape to serve people of all ages and mobility, one that promotes healthy urban living, social interaction and business.

In Manitou, Colo., avenue renovation has been ongoing for five years (NV5, p. 72). Placing the power lines underground unclutters the town. The "road diet" converted four travel lanes to two travel lanes and a center lane, which allowed widening the narrow sidewalks by 6 feet on each side. Enhanced crosswalks and sidewalks with pedestrian amenities have given the city back its quaint charm.

In Sunnyvale, Calif. (Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey, p. 80), Murphy Avenue was reorganized to better accommodate more pedestrian traffic, outdoor restaurant seating and civic events. Roadway pavers, colored concrete sidewalks, gateway monuments, planters and new site furnishings have brought new life to this vital hub.

And finally, inspired by San Francisco's Pavement to Parks program, the "temporary" replacement of three parallel parking spaces on Commercial Street in Nevada City, Calif. (Karin Kaufman Landscape Architect, p. 86) with an 8 by 60 square foot boardwalk is drawing more people, and is also a source of local debate.

Seeing these enhanced streetscapes is a nice change from the barrage of news on the decline of some of our urban centers, whether its Detroit turning off water to 100,000 homes delinquent in paying their water bills, or 84 people shot and 16 people killed in the outlying west and south side communities of Chicago over the Independence weekend.

But there's also good city news: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Brooklyn is working with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to redevelop the Brooklyn Strand, Borough Hall and Brooklyn Bridge Park, a project that includes greenways, pedestrian plazas and parks. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced over $31 million in grants for improvements to multifamily housing, infrastructure, public facilities and planning for cities and towns affected by Superstorm Sandy (

"Multimodal" is a word you'll see in some of these streetscape features, as downtown planning integrates not only the layout of the street, parking and how traffic moves, but designing crosswalks, medians, making the sidewalks more pedestrian friendly, making room for bike lanes and bus stops, etc. Speaking of multimodal, we note the new light rail Green Line just opened to connect sister cities Minneapolis and St. Paul ( The St. Paul City Council also gave tentative assent to bring back streetcars, an extensive transportation mode that vanished here in the 1950s. The expense of new streetcars, however, is a stumbling block (see p. 102).

Minneapolis began planning to reinstitute streetcars four years ago. Streetcars have already made a comeback in Charlotte, Portland, Ore., and Seattle-Tacoma. New streetcar service is coming to Dallas and D.C., later this year; Atlanta, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City aren't far behind.

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April 22, 2019, 5:40 pm PDT

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