Recap: Highways to Boulevards Summer Internship

Roadways along downtown waterfronts can prove to be a very volatile mission. If done right, as was the case in San Francisco's Embarcadero (link), a city can align the public with the water while also re-distributing traffic throughout the rest of the street grid. If done wrong, like in number of North American cities, a city can sever its connectivity in terms of public engagement, economic development, and traffic management. 

After spending three months as a research assistant within CNU's Highways to Boulevards initiative, I had to learn how to advocate for something I had never lived with. Phoenix lacks a properly dense downtown, let alone a massive highway ripping through it. It reflects a post-WWII metropolis with different challenges to conquer than older cities founded by ports and harbors. 

Instead, a broader focus I used during my time advocating for CNU was that of complete streets. This idea represents a much more ubiquitous challenge to modern cities to provide a higher diversity in their roadways. While it is safe to rule out a possibility of having a universally accepted type of road, letting the public see the consequences of effective roadway design can carry a long ways.

Take Vancouver, who just reported a decrease in traffic during a period of population growth, or Chattanooga, who’s Riverfront Parkway Boulevard is revered as a huge civil success.

Courtesy of Street Mix

Open source data is also starting to play a much greater role in how citizens shape the futures of their cities. I was blown away when I recently stumbled upon a site called Streetmix. A side project by a team of Code for America fellows, this interactive website allows users to design a complete street to their specifications. The simplicity of the site is ideal for allowing the public to use available technology in order to advocate for their streets. Enabling people the ability to tangibly envision their own infrastructure places more empowerment into publicly driven design, a huge win for communities. 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of StreetMix

As an intern at CNU, I was thrilled to see professionals, public officials, and average citizens work together to bring diverse infrastructure to their communities. Jane Jacobs speaks at lengths about this integral facet of effective urban planning in "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" for a reason. Chicago's prideful emphasis on maintaining Daniel Burnham's waterfront will undoubtedly be something I bring back to Tempe as it embarks on what will be a decade of waterfront development. Even though we make our own waterfronts in the Valley of the Sun, we have just as much right to protect it.

The future of Tempe? Courtesy of Kitchen Sink Studios

Courtesy of Kitchen Sink Studios

 

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