Revisiting the lost plans of Frederick Law Olmsted and the history of San Francisco’s most iconic park to imagine what might be
For the first two installments in this series, please see Ancient History Revisited and Ancient History Revisited, Part 2, published on The Field last month. For more about the series, check out the October 1 edition of the San Francisco radio show Roll Over Easy for an interview with author Alec Hawley and also Luke Spray of the San Francisco Parks Alliance in the show’s second half. Alec discusses his strange findings about San Francisco’s initial parks system bid by Olmsted and how they imply amazing things for the city right now.
“The conclusion to which these considerations lead, is obviously that whenever a pleasure ground is formed in San Francisco, it should have a character which the citizens will be sure to regard with just pride and satisfaction. It should be a pleasure ground second to none in the world—a promenade which shall, if possible become so agreeable to its citizens, that when they go elsewhere they will remember it gratefully, and not be obliged to consider it a poor substitute for what is offered them by the wiser policy of other cities.”
So, what can we as contemporary San Franciscans do? What can our elected officials push for that will make for a more equitable and green city for all that takes into account how they managed to do the ‘impossible’ but also missed systematic opportunities in open space planning from San Francisco’s beginning as a city?
Looking at a map of San Francisco, it is easy to see the historical inequity and poor planning. While the ‘impossible’ Golden Gate Park did unfurl over a series of decades, the process that Olmsted outlined—asking for a series of small parks connected by avenues free from the dust and noise of the city—was completely missed.
And, I believe this is where there is still hope. There is no straightforward way that a park on the scale (1,017 acres, 20% larger than Central Park) and shape of Golden Gate Park can be made today. There just isn’t the undeveloped space to accommodate its dimensions (barring very serious disasters); but there are lots of avenues, and these are quickly becoming the places of respite from the dust and noise of the city that hold great potential.
While the supervisors and mayor of San Francisco were focused on directing development of San Francisco outwards to the Pacific Ocean, where land could be acquired relatively easily for their purposes, Frederick Law Olmsted’s report, to the contrary, wished to develop a park in what is now known as Lower Haight / Hayes Valley and City Hall, with a broad parkway connecting the Bay to the interior, along what is now Van Ness Ave.
Olmsted’s chief argument was a practical one, depicting the extreme challenges that San Francisco would face with the possibility of a Central Park-sized pleasure ground and Sylvan aesthetic.
Revisiting the lost plans of Frederick Law Olmsted and the history of San Francisco’s most iconic park to imagine what might be
“No city in the world needs such recreation grounds more than San Francisco. A great Park, or—what is more practical—a series of small parks, connected by varied and ornamental avenues, where people can drive, ride, and walk, free from the dust and noise, is the great want of this city.”
Why revisit plans and thoughts that are more than a century and a half old in the midst of a crisis that deserves immediate attention, and safe access for all to public space? What purpose do we find to look back and analyze the origins of the City by the Bay and imagine this debate now that San Francisco is a globalized metropolis of nearly one million? What could be learned by revisiting an era when more than half the city was tidal marsh and sand dunes with a minuscule fort, a mission, and small port of trade? Could we, in this bleak hour, find the advice there to guide our path for shaping space in the contemporary urban life of the San Francisco that we seek?
We are all collectively seeking room to breathe right now. It is not a mystery why streets, gardens, and parks have become so vital and primary in the consciousness of 2020. Schools, businesses, airports, and factories have been shuttered, opened, and some closed again for months, as we try to manage a global pandemic that is destroying our communities. The only remaining space to escape outside of our homes are our shared streets and public parks. Where better to go than to explore our city’s origins, when our daily lives are in upheaval, to see if even a shred of insight lingers to help ease our current condition, which may well become a new era in landscape and urban planning.
Demand for flexible urban transportation options is on the rise and becoming even more vital these days. Bike, scooter, and other options have reshaped how people access, mobilize, and interact with urban spaces. Many large cities have been slow to adjust to these quickly shifting trends and the need for alternative solutions. Shifts from traditional automobiles and associated infrastructure to more micro-scale transportation uses will continue to test local government’s ability to provide adequate planning approaches.
Micromobility devices offer flexibility and freedom that traditional passenger vehicles cannot and cost less, emit little to no emissions, and are much easier to park/store. Micromobility is defined by Wikipedia as a range of small, lightweight devices operating at speeds typically below 15 mph for trips up to 6 miles. Micromobility devices include bicycles, Ebikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards, shared bicycles, and electric pedal-assisted (pedelec) bicycles.
As you can imagine, transitional passenger vehicle infrastructure does not adequately provide for micromobility device use. The City of Seattle has recently taken a different approach to traditional transportation, permanently closing down 20 miles of streets to most vehicles and making them for public access only. In Portland, Oregon, building codes recently changed to require additional micromobility storage in new structures to meet increasing demand while trying to avoid safety concerns about them littering the sidewalk. The City of Atlanta’s Department of Transportation recently approved more than $200 million in funding for transportation improvements focused on pedestrians, bikes, scooters, and other micromobility devices.
Just a few weeks ago, we didn’t anticipate being told to “stay-at-home” in quarantine while a global health pandemic ravaged public health and the economy. For those of us who work in the transportation industry, we’re used to projects lasting for years with a schedule of milestones set in place, one leading to the next. Spring is a time when many projects reach that critical milestone of a public meeting. Community engagement is part of the critical path, and project decisions can’t be made, allowing the project to advance, without meaningful opportunities to hear public input. How can we engage with communities when we must be “socially distant”?
Projects across the country are being put on hold, unable to reach that critical milestone of a public meeting while our constituents are safely staying home, busy working overtime performing an essential service, or worse—battling sickness themselves. However, public engagement can still occur—even if it’s in a different form than we originally planned.
Virtual public meetings aren’t new, but now more than ever, they are being embraced as an effective tool to engage with community members and project stakeholders. Meetings can be hosted on a variety of platforms allowing presenters to share presentations and discuss ideas with small groups of community members. These meetings can be advertised in all the same ways that traditional in-person meetings are publicized—on websites, through the press and social media, and by mail. Paid advertisements can also be effective at getting the word out and directing people to a website where they can connect.
State Scenic Byways are roads or highways under federal, state, or local ownership that have been designated by the state through legislation or some other official declaration for their ability to meet one or more of the six intrinsic qualities. Federal guidance identified these intrinsic qualities as scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archeological, and/or natural. The Scenic Byway program was initiated under the 1992 Federal transportation legislation known as ISTEA. The federal program was discontinued in 2012.
On September 22, 2019 the President signed H.R. 831, Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019. The act directs the Secretary of Transportation to request nominations for and make determinations regarding roads to be designated under the National Scenic Byway Program. Only roadways already designated as state byways with Corridor Management Plans (CMPs) are eligible to apply.
Because the legislation references National Scenic Byway designation exclusively, it is unclear if byways will be permitted to seek All-American Road (AAR) designation. What is clear is that the scenic byway dedicated federal funding program available when the Federal Scenic Byway Program was initiated in 1992 remains defunct. Scenic Byway organizations continue to be eligible to partner with municipalities and apply for funding under the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program for transportation alternatives (TA). Activities eligible for TA funding include scenic pull offs, interpretative signs, and highway beautification projects. Neither corridor management plan preparation nor administrative costs associated with managing a byway are eligible for TA funding (it should be noted that the latter never was eligible for federal funding).
Incentives for becoming a National Scenic Byway include advertising opportunities, exposure on FHWA’s National Scenic Byway website, and the potential to appeal to a tourism community that extends far beyond state boundaries.
Call for Posters: 99th TRB Annual Meeting
January 12-16, 2020
AFB40 abstract submission deadline: September 16, 2019
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AFB40) invites submissions of your work as part of a landscape and environmental design poster session at TRB’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2020.
Please submit your abstract for consideration for presentation at the TRB Annual Meeting’s Landscape and Environmental Design (AFB40) poster session. Topics that emphasize the following as they relate to transportation and environmental design are a priority for AFB40:
Energy and sustainability—design, policies, and practices to protect the planet.
Policy needs related to the built environment that should be developed prior to full adoption of autonomous vehicle technology.
Resilience and security—preparing for floods, fires, storms, and sea level rise.
Transformational technologies that will change how transportation environments should be retrofitted or rebuilt.
Design to serve growing and shifting populations.
AFB40 also welcomes completed and on-going projects from broad landscape and environmental design areas such as Green Streets, roadsides for pollinators, Complete Streets, transportation design impacts on Main Streets, landscape design to safeguard the public, and art in transportation, as they relate to the scope of this committee. More information on AFB40 can be found on the committee’s website.
The study defined green infrastructure as roadside stormwater management, low impact development (LID), and hydromodification or watershed actions that conserve water, buffer climate change impacts, improve water quality, water supply, and public health, and restores and protects rivers, creeks, and streams as a component of transportation development projects and operations. Despite substantial documentation on GI design, buy-in from all levels of government (federal, state, and local), ample research, and a plethora of knowledgeable consultants, the team found that state DOTs do not consistently employ GI techniques and often only use them when required by regulatory agencies. The study was developed to help inform public agencies on the components of successful GI programs.
On February 6, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 831 – Reviving America’s Scenic Byway Act of 2019. The act proposed to grant the Secretary of Transportation 90 days to request nominations for roads to be designated under the National Scenic Byway Program (23 USC §162) and to make designation determinations within one year after making the request for nominations.
In honor of the House of Representatives vote to pass H.R. 831, we are asking you to post a comment below telling us about your favorite Scenic Byway and/or favorite Scenic Byway Logo. Be sure to include links to photos and memorable sites along the route if you can.
The federal National Scenic Byway Program was enacted in 1991 under ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act). Several states followed suit by passing laws to create state scenic byway programs. Currently 48 states and the District of Columbia have legislated scenic byway programs. Roads designated as scenic byways must have at least one of six intrinsic qualities: scenic, historical, archaeological, natural, cultural, or recreational. These intrinsic qualities describe features specific and unique to the roadway. A scenic byway corridor is managed to protect the byway’s intrinsic quality and to encourage economic development through tourism and recreation.
by Christine Colley, ASLA, RLA, and the Transportation PPN Leadership Team
The Transportation Professional Practice Network (PPN) meeting at the 2018 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Philadelphia last month was well attended and chock-full of content. Incoming PPN Co-Chair Jean Senechal Biggs, ASLA, opened the session by introducing the PPN leadership team (read more about the team here). She described the PPN’s mission and referenced associated practice networks and ASLA initiatives, including the New Mobility and Emerging Technologies Subcommittee (previously Autonomous Vehicles) of ASLA’s Professional Practice Committee. The PPN’s Online Learning sessions, newsletter, and website were also discussed.
In keeping with the Transportation PPN’s annual tradition, ASLA’s Director of Federal Government Affairs, Roxanne Blackwell, Esq., Hon. ASLA, provided a legislation update. Roxanne was pleased to report no threats to funding for major federal programs relevant to landscape architects at this time. She noted that the very popular TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program had been renamed. The new BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) Transportation Discretionary Grants program maintains the TIGER program’s singular focus on surface transportation infrastructure investments by offering competitive grants that favor projects with significant local or regional impacts. The funding level for the BUILD grants has been set at $1.5 billion dollars.
Another promising legislative action is H.R. 5158. This bill was unanimously approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in September. The bi-partisan bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to reopen the nomination process for National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. Roxanne reminded those in attendance that live social media alerts on H.R. 5158 had been sent out to members. She urged everyone to contact their Representative(s) to express support for the bill. The goal is to get as many co-sponsors in this Congress as possible—a show of bipartisan support—before Congress transitions in 2019. ASLA members continue to report using funds from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Scenic Byway program. ASLA would consider it an incredible coup if program funding was re-established.
Context Sensitive Design (CSS) is having a moment. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has recently released three new publications on Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) and Context Sensitive Design (CSD). The documents are excellent resources for seasoned and novice transportation landscape architects:
Save the Date: September 16-20, 2018 Rockwall, Texas (near Dallas)
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AFB40) will be holding our mid-year business meeting in conjunction with the National Safety Rest Area Conference (NSRAC). NSRAC is a valued program of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Subcommittee on Maintenance. This conference is the premier venue for public rest area planners and landscape architects, public welcome center managers, rest area program managers, facilities maintenance staff, contractors, vendors, and transportation officials from across the United States and Canada to meet and learn best practices. AFB40 is participating in the agenda development so that conference content is pertinent to the mission of the committee.
The committee will be completing current TRB assignments and work products to prepare for the January 2019 Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. and will have an excellent opportunity to meet and confer with transportation professionals involved in roadside design from around the nation.
Here is the conference schedule:
September 16: AFB40 members arrive
September 17: AFB40 business meeting, evening reception for all attendees
September 18: Conference Learning Sessions
September 19: AFB40 business meeting in the morning; conference tours in the afternoon
September 20: Conference Learning Sessions
Stay tuned to our website for more information on the final agenda, lodging, and registration.
The ASLA Transportation Professional Practice Network (PPN) is a forum for landscape architecture issues in transportation policy, planning, design and construction. This group is dedicated to sharing information from a variety of sources and building awareness about the contributions of landscape architects in transportation.
Landscape architects have a strong voice in transportation issues and often bridge the gap between colleagues in planning and engineering. Their work includes developing policies to support livable communities, planning sustainable transportation systems, designing and building streets to encourage active transportation, supporting native plant habitat and effectively manage stormwater, advocating for complete streets and roadway safety, and leading projects and public involvement processes to support transportation decision-making.
In addition to a chair or co-chairs, many PPNs, including Transportation, also have larger leadership teams that include past chairs and PPN officers. Most leadership teams hold monthly calls to keep track of progress on PPN activities, and all PPN members are welcome to join their PPN’s leadership team. To learn more, see ASLA’s PPN Leadership Opportunities page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this post, we’d like to introduce the Transportation PPN leaders through their answers to the following questions:
What is a Transportation Landscape Architect? How do you define / describe what you do?
As a landscape architect practicing in the transportation sector, explain how daily practice can/does involve topics addressed in at least three other ASLA PPNs. In your opinion, do you think that practicing in the transportation sector has broadened or specialized your practice?
How do you as a landscape architect add value to transportation projects?
When I respond to new acquaintances’ customary question “…and what do you do?” I tell them I am a Transportation Landscape Architect. They look at me flummoxed and then add the follow-up question, “And just what, exactly, is a Transportation Landscape Architect?” So, I thought I would dedicate this post to a description of what a Transportation Landscape Architect is, exactly, and what I do to earn this title.
First, let me say that the term “Transportation Landscape Architect” is relatively new, and mostly used by those that deal with this industry sector (ok, really it is a self-designation). I use it in response to the American Society of Landscape Architects’, our national organization, nearly exclusive hyper-focus on the flashy gardens of homes, museums, or suburban office complexes. Don’t get me wrong, these are great projects. It’s fun to see what a large budget and good maintenance can achieve. But for those of us working daily in the trenches to create public spaces with little budget, very little anticipated maintenance, and a desire to create a more sustainable world, one can start to feel underappreciated and overlooked; hence the need to create a distinctive designation.
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AFB40) is now accepting application submissions to present poster displays at TRB’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC (January 7-11, 2018). This year’s annual meeting theme is Moving the Economy of the Future. The submission deadline for poster displays is September 15, 2017. Additional information can be found on the TRB AFB40 website.
Posters should detail research and projects that included innovative transportation landscape and environmental design practice. Examples of relevant research include:
technical approaches used during resource assessment, impact analysis, or similar environmental processes,
technical approaches used for integrating natural resources and transportation,
unique planning, regulatory compliance, and permitting approaches,
successful mitigation and enhancement applications,
lessons learned and other landscape design-related aspects of project development, including visual impact assessment and documentation methods,
technical approaches used for integrating social, economic, or environmental considerations into transportation projects.
Roads often present peril for wildlife—but with good planning, they can benefit animals instead.
Late last August, armed with a sweep net and identification guides, Sarah Piecuch was looking for butterflies. She trudged through waist-deep grasses, trying to keep her footing steady while tallying those she found fluttering through the sky or perched on nearby flowers.
But Piecuch isn’t an entomologist, and she wasn’t walking in a pristine meadow. Rather, she’s a wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Transportation, and she was surveying the land beside busy highways in hopes of learning what kind of management can make these long, thin strips of habitat most beneficial for pollinators. Her work is just one of a number of projects across the country aimed at using the space along interstate highways to help wildlife.
Who doesn’t love to drive down the highway listening to music, especially patriotic music around the 4th of July? Well, the folks at the New Mexico Department of Transportation are helping motorists enjoy this pastime by incorporating music into the road! National Geographic’s show Crowd Control initiated the project (with funding from Allstate Insurance) to help drivers focus on the road and drive the speed limit.
The installation is similar to rumble strips, the pavement grooves that alert drivers when they are drifting out of the drive lanes and onto the roadway shoulder. However, NM DOT’s musical highway has pavement grooves placed within the drive lanes. Vehicle tires emit a sound as they pass over the grooves. This sound varies in pitch according to the groove spacing. The correct sequence of grooves and spacing cause the vehicle’s tires to emit sounds that mimic a song, in this case, a famous, well-known, patriotic song, “America the Beautiful.”
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AFB40) is holding their mid-year meeting in Hartford, Connecticut August 6th through the 9th. The meeting’s theme, Retro-fitting for Resilience, focuses on the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s (CT DOT) efforts to restore the state’s transportation infrastructure. The subject matter has been deemed appropriate for continuing education hours for landscape architects licensed to practice in Connecticut. Refer to the conference website for additional information.
The post discusses the use of wildflower planting strips adjacent to almond orchards in California. While at first blush it might appear that this practice has little to do with transportation, keep in mind that millions of miles of rural roadways are adjacent or proximate to agricultural fields. Furthermore, Section 130 of the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 (STURAA) added a requirement that native wildflower seeds or seedlings or both be planted as part of any landscaping project undertaken on the federal-aid highway system. This requirement is mandatory and applies only to federal funded landscaping projects. One quarter to one percent of funds used for landscaping projects must be used to plant native wildflowers.
Other federal initiatives promoting the use of native wildflower plantings exist. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) defines a field border as a “strip of permanent vegetation established at the edge or around the perimeter of an agricultural field.” The practice is used, among other things, to provide pollinator habitat and to manage agricultural pest populations. Field borders assist with agricultural pest management by providing habitat to beneficial organisms or as a place for agricultural pests to congregate. When field borders are designed for pollinator habitat, they have been shown to facilitate pollination services to agricultural crops. A properly designed field border provides nectar and pollen sources for pollinators when the target crops are not in bloom. This practice is currently being used in Michigan, where “flowering plant strips” increase crop productivity through the support of beneficial insects and pollinators.
Landscape architects engaged in planting roadside vegetation must be thoughtful. Selecting plant material so the crops are not harmed (e.g. plum pox virus, which attacks stone crops) but are benefited should be an integral part of the planting program.
The Strategic Agenda was developed by US DOT practitioners and experts, with assistance from a Technical Working Group (TWG), pedestrian and bicycle practitioners, and the public. Intensive public involvement and research were used to develop the Agenda’s “core areas of focus, key consideration issues, opportunities and potential actions.” The Strategic Agenda identifies two main pedestrian and bicycle goals being pursued by FHWA:
To achieve an 80% reduction in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in 15 years and zero pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in the next 20 to 30 years.
To increase the percentage of short trips represented by bicycling and walking to 30% by the year 2025. Short trips are defined as trips of 5 miles or less for bicyclists and 1 mile or less for pedestrians.
The future of federal transportation and transit funding has many of us concerned as we hear how legislative priorities are taking shape in the Capitol. With this uncertainty, the need for landscape architects to advocate for less-costly, green infrastructure solutions and stable transportation funding that serves community needs is greater than ever before. In this post, and in tandem with Advocacy Day this week, we’re focusing on ASLA’s advocacy efforts and encouraging our members to bring their voices to the transportation priorities conversation.
ASLA’s 2017 Advocacy Agenda is taking shape. On March 9, ASLA released their top U.S. infrastructure recommendations: Landscape Architects Leading Community Infrastructure Design and Development. The report makes recommendations for supporting active transportation programs, expanding and increasing funding for the TIGER program, and investing in transit and transit-oriented development.
On March 17, ASLA released their statement on President Trump’s proposed budget and called out the dramatic cuts to many of the federal programs and resources that strengthen our nation’s infrastructure and economic development. ASLA will continue to work with legislators as the budget process unfolds and will carry forward a strong advocacy agenda.
How can you as a member advocate for transportation funding and sound infrastructure solutions? If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for the ASLA iAdvocate Network so that you can support the Society’s efforts to impact public policy at national, state and local levels. Once you sign up, email alerts are delivered to your inbox on issues important to landscape architecture that are being debated by lawmakers. With a few clicks, you can send a message to your Senators and Representative and make your voice a part of ASLA’s advocacy efforts.
One of the most exciting parts of Roxanne’s report was what legislators asked of us: can we, as landscape architects, shape a federal policy for net zero roadways?
Many of us are familiar with the concept of net zero, especially in relation to buildings. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) continues to collaboratively advance net zero building, campus and neighborhood policy, standards, and resources and has defined a net zero energy building as follows: An energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy. Put another way, this means a building that produces as much energy as it uses on an annual basis from renewable sources. Further details are available in a September 16, 2015 article available on the DOE website.
This same Net Zero approach appears to be highly adaptable to public rights-of-way, and we as a profession can help make the case.
PPN Live Session: Sunday, October 23, 9:15-10:00 AM, Jackson Square Meeting Room
The Transportation PPN Leadership Team will share updates on our work and highlight opportunities for you to share your expertise and expand your network through ASLA. In addition, Roxanne Blackwell, ASLA’s Director of Federal Government Affairs, will present the latest news on federal transportation legislation and advocacy. Have an idea for an education session for the 2017 Annual Meeting? We’ll connect PPN members with each other to plan for next year in Los Angeles. For one panel that teamed up last year after meeting in Chicago, it led to a successful education session proposal to present in New Orleans!
Network and Learn at the ASLA EXPO – Transportation Tour: Sunday, October 23, 1:00-2:00 PM, starting from PPN Live
Meet with Transportation PPN members and product exhibitors in a show floor tour that will provide 1.0 PDH (LA CES/non-HSW). The tour will offer the opportunity to learn about new and improved products and services for transportation-related projects. We’ve got a great lineup that includes Victor Stanley, Duo-Gard Industries, HessAmerica, and Custom Rock FormLiner. Sign up online to join us on the tour!
EXPO Reception featuring the PPNs: Sunday, October 23, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Network with your peers at the EXPO Reception featuring the PPNs. It’s now free to all registered annual meeting attendees, and non-PPN members are welcome to attend. Be sure to stop by to get your PPN pin!
The Sonoran Desert area in and surrounding Tucson, Arizona has stunningly unique scenery: vivid bright blue skies, mountains that continually change hue depending on the light, and forests of saguaros that punctuate the horizon. Four mountain ranges surround the city: the Santa Catalinas to the north, the Tucson Mountains to the west, the Santa Ritas to the South, and the Rincon Mountains to the east. Even on Tucson’s most mundane streets, the mountains embrace the city, framing it on all sides. The spectacular native landscape should elicit the highest aspirations for the built environment. Yet it seems as if both leadership and citizenry have become numb to the beauty enveloping them, feeling powerless to take action against the changes occurring.
Southern Arizona’s signature skyline of saguaro cacti silhouettes is rapidly being usurped by the dark rusted steel poles newly dominating the horizon. They loom over urban, suburban, and rural landscapes as the electrical grid is replaced and upgraded (see figure 2).
A multi-million dollar elevated park spanning the Anacostia River is planned to link neighborhoods in the District of Columbia. This project will use existing infrastructure to support a new landmark called the 11th Street Bridge Park.
Washington DC, our Nation’s Capital, is a city of around 650,000 people, 76,000 of whom live within two miles of this project. This city is located at the convergence of two large rivers: the Anacostia and the Potomac. The Potomac River serves as the southwestern border, with the Anacostia River cutting the District in two. Bridges over the Anacostia River have existed for over two hundred years. At this location six bridges have existed, but none were dedicated to pedestrians.
Creating pedestrian bridges is not revolutionary. In fact, pedestrian bridges are being planned all over the country, like the South Side Lake Shore Drive pedestrian bridges in Chicago. This project will connect the Bronzeville neighborhood to the lakefront, linking this community with its adjacent waterfront.
The plan for the 11th Street Bridge Park is not just another pedestrian bridge, but an elevated park and more. The plan is to create a larger relative of the existing Potomac River Waterfront Park, located in Maryland, which spans I-95, the busiest interstate in the United States. This park’s design was led by Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson, Inc. (JMT) and was completed in June 2009. More information about the park’s design can be found on JMT’s Riverfront Park Design webpage. The Riverfront Park is similar to the 11th Street Bridge Park in that they will both be elevated and connect pedestrian networks, but that is where their similarities end.
Show us who you are! We invite you to participate:
Send us a proposal for a short talk about an issue concerning you for the Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN meeting. Presentations can be about anything related to transportation, from complete streets and multi-modal transportation planning to green streets, erosion control, and ecological restoration. Submit a title, short summary paragraph, and brief outline for your slides (one to two words per slide) to Ellen Barth Alster at email@example.com. Proposals are due by October 1, 2015.
Send us 1-3 images about yourself and the work you do. Everyone attending the Annual Meeting has a voice that should be heard and we want to know more about you, our fellow PPN members. The images can be about anything: your favorite place, your daily commute, or your most frustrating transportation design challenge. Please send images (as JPEG files) by October 30, 2015 to the LAT PPN leadership team.
The Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN meeting will take place on Saturday, November 7 at 9:15 AM. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!
The story of Detroit resident James Robertson, who, due to patchy bus service, walked 21 miles as part of his daily commute to get to a factory job 23 miles away in the suburbs where he earned $10.55 an hour, captured the public imagination in February 2015 when his story was publicized. It generated a crowdsourcing response of over $350,000, and a local Ford dealer’s donation of an automobile. While the outpouring of generosity solved one man’s transportation issues, it failed to provide for the rest of the fragmented Detroit metropolitan region, or other regions facing similar issues, crippled by suburbs that intentionally choose to opt out of regional bus service. While Baltimore is comparably better served by public transit than other metropolitan regions, its African American residents have provided their own highly effective, yet illegal, answer to transit deficiencies: hacking. Diane Jones Allen, ASLA, discusses these issues and offers a response in her dissertation for Morgan State University in 2014. She is currently furthering this topic in a book about transit deserts, race, and suburban form. Portions of her dissertation and future book are summarized and excerpted below.
–Ellen Barth Alster, ASLA, Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN Chair
Within the past five decades, public transit-dependent and urban-oriented populations have been relocated or shifted to outer-urban, auto-oriented neighborhoods at the same rates that African-Americans moved to northern cities from southern rural communities during the preceding five decades of the Great Migration. These outer-urban areas have not offered adequate public transit to support economically viable employment, nor have they provided access to social and cultural networks, resulting from the suburban and low density built forms which favor the automobile. These areas are called “Transit Deserts,” a term first used in 2007 by Professor David Hulchanski from the University of Toronto. This topic is closely related to the “Food Desert” discourse, tying geographic form, neighborhood income, and public and private policies into a triangular model that drives an ever increasing number of American citizens into poverty through a narrowing of access to quality food or transportation.
The article below, written by Professional Engineer Nathan Polanski of SvR Design Company, is based on a presentation Nathan gave to the Landscape and Environmental Design Committee of the Transportation Research Board at that organization’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC this January. —Craig Churchward and Wendy Miller, Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN Co-Chairs
Integrating Green Stormwater Infrastructure into the Streetscape
Across the country, local governments are integrating green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) into the streetscape to manage urban stormwater runoff. More frequently implemented to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs), streetside GSI also treats polluted runoff that includes oil, heavy metals, and carcinogens to help protect the quality of local water bodies. Often overlooked, however, is the vital role that GSI can play in creating a thriving, pedestrian-friendly streetscape by providing physical buffers, reducing imperviousness, increasing opportunities for tree canopy, mitigating heat island effect, and promoting traffic calming.
Luckily I have had the pleasure of living in a few cities that find bicycle commuting important and recognize the best way to get people out of their cars and onto a bicycle is to make that step a bit less frightening. Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC are just a few cities that have taken steps to add bike lanes to their streets and provide maps of these bicycle-friendly streets to residents and visitors.
Usually these map legends point out bike trails, on-street bike lanes, and streets that are recommended for bicycling without marked lanes. Though helpful for the seasoned bicycle commuter, a first timer may not be ready to venture out just yet.
The city of Austin is taking this to the next step and has developed a mapping system that “prioritizes rider comfort in its symbology.” The color-coded bike network is “keyed to the real-world experience a person can expect when cycling on any given street.”
This article could easily be written by a member of the International or Transportation PPNs, but the bicycle is becoming increasingly important in Land Use, so it is offered here to spark a discussion about the importance of alternate transportation in community design.
Living in Aspen, Colorado, cycling has become a part of our lifestyle. Whether it is mountain or road biking, trails and facilities exist to encourage even the most timid into this healthy recreation. In town, year-round cyclists, some with studded snow tires, regularly use cycling to get to work and run errands. So, it seemed natural in planning a trip to Spain (in a country where the famed Vuelta de España race ranks among the top three cycling events worldwide), to see what is happening with respect to cycling. Our trip therefore included a week of cycling through Andalucia as well as visits to Madrid and Seville, two cities that have gone far to develop car-free pedestrian zones. But how well do they accommodate cycling as an alternative mode of transportation and means of recreation? It turns out that these cities could not be more different in this respect, something that no doubt reflects the divergence among U.S. cities as well. In the countryside, some significant efforts are made for cycling safety on rural roads, and rails-to-trails is part of the program.