Streetscapes of the Future
Welcome to the 2017 Streetscapes Issue. This annual issue has been a staple of LASN for many years, with all kinds of cool traffic flow, pedestrian-friendly, vendor-interactive designs coming across the boards.
We’ve seen many innovative elements like parklets, multifunctional streetlights, dark sky, bicycle security, traffic circles, signage, corner bumpouts, etc. But two things are coming down the pipe that will surely change the art of streetscape design and reshape the downtown experience. One is already making an impact and the other is just a few short years away.
Internet shopping is reducing the demand for onsite shopping across the nation, causing malls and downtowns to rethink the number and kinds of retailers they can support and how these outlets will interact with shoppers in the future.
The other is the driverless car, which most assuredly will be in full force within the next decade or so. Only time will tell the full impact this has, but several elements should be considered for any future downtown renovations. First on the list are parking and drop off zones. In the very near future you will call your car out of your garage, climb in and order it to take you downtown where it will drop you off in front of your destination, and then go find a place to park itself, waiting for your command to be picked up down the block and taken to the next destination. Cars won’t need space to open their doors when parking, as no one will be inside when the car is parked. Parking along the street might not even be necessary. Currently you look for the closest space to your destination, but in a few years, you’ll simply climb out of your vehicle and off it will go. In fact, you might even be able to send off your car to go and pick up a package at a retailer or pick up your groceries at the market while you stay at home or shop at different locations.
Elements that you are designing today to slow traffic, like circles and corner bump outs may also become unnecessary, as all traffic will be controlled in downtown zones. Traffic lanes can be much thinner as the human element is replaced with computerized precision. Drop off/pickup zones will be needed and valet parking will become a thing of the past . . . What, grandpa? You actually paid people to park your car?!?
So as you begin planning for a streetscape renovation or downtown revitalization that will occur a few years down the road (pun intended), consideration of future technology has never been so important to the success of that project. Who knows what new technology will shape our landscape, but these two elements will definitely have an impact in the not so distant future.