30 May 2011


HNTB's pedestrian bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park / The Architect’s Newspaper

I'm attracted to alternate circulation systems in cities; a means of getting around on foot that circumvents the normal street grid, normally to solve of grade changes, or for getting around impermeable infrastructure. These alternative structures, if done well, transform how a local neighborhood works, while actually helping the urban street grid work.

As the crow flies, a light rail station is situated about a half-mile from where I work. I'm in an interesting neighborhood with a combination of businesses and institutions, with nearby residential districts. The 210 freeway effectively cuts-off movement north and south from anything but in an automobile. It cuts-off this district and my workplace from that transit stop.

It isn't that you can't physically make a walk to this station. Its just that the route is complicated, out of the way, unpleasant and noisy, and downright dangerous. A lack of walkways, and places to cross the street, combined with the need to walk way off course to get across the freeway and over to the pedestrian access of the stop, makes for a journey suited only to the very fit types amongst us, those oblivious to the physical dangers encountered in the route. From where I work, the most likely scenario is that if if I want to use rail transit, I’m going to use a car to get to it.

There must be thousands of similar pedestrian blockages similar to mine across the United States, and many thousands more around the world.  They actually are delightful problems to solve, because when they are done right, these 'interventions' make for a delightful experience within a city.

Here is an alternate circulation system in Brooklyn, New York that caught my eye. It’s a bridge that takes foot traffic from Brooklyn Heights to Brooklyn Bridge Park, gracefully negotiating pedestrians from a promenade over an expressway, across a street, and down a steep hill into the park. (via The Architect’s Newspaper)

Getting back to my little dilemma here in Pasadena, I have a few ideas. My dream, first of all, is to have a way to the train that would take the 15 minutes or less that it should, not the half-hour it takes right now. I'd like to have the full distance I walk to be safe; surely safe from crime, but also safe from vehicular traffic vectoring off the highway at the wayward pedestrian. While I'm at it, I would like the experience to be comfortable and attractive; a tree canopy comes to mind. The icing on the cake would to add a few businesses along the way that could cater to my errand and eating needs. Here is a little sketch of my fantasy project:
110601 LPpedestrian

These connections are not inexpensive infrastructure projects.  What I'm describing would be tens of millions of dollars, all based on my personal wish list.  Why would you subscribe to my idea, agreeing to spend limited public resources on my whim.

Because it isn't a whim. People don't live and work in a 60 story tower smack dab on top of the transit stop. If they are going to walk, it had better be a reasonable experience.  If it isn't reasonable, and if there is another way, they will take it. Usually by themselves in a car. And if a public transportation system is dependent of the flexibility of private automobiles, its ultimate goals become compromised, and its effectiveness as costly infrastructure can be called into question. For the location where I work, the Gold Line is not as effective as it should be.

Escalator Flight

There is an absolutely delightful walking experience in the center of Downtown Los Angeles that links a series of public courtyards and outdoor spaces, more or less diagonally across the street grid, and up about 100 feet (30m) in elevation. It moves people effectively through business districts, hotels, restaurants, museums, and performance venues. It complements the street grid and the actives that take place in the area at street level, rather then competing with them. The spaces along the way and procession it creates are sublime. It is an urban planning success in a community where the successes have been hard-won.

110527 LApedestrianS
Escalator Flight / Downtown Los Angeles

This is a great design (or series of designs) that makes a substantial difference in the function and delight in an area of Downtown Los Angeles. The Escalator Flight makes a more substantial impact then any of the excellent and extrovert buildings that are in the district.

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