The magazine of the rebirth of Jacksonville's downtown
With two-way traffic and wide sidewalks, Laura Street is one of the more walkable streets Downtown. made to Orlando’s Edgewater Drive, crashes fell by 34 percent. Since speeds were slower, injuries fell by 68 percent. Returning Downtown streets to two-way streets can be done quickly, which produces more safety, more business and even less crime, Speck said. Think of Laura Street. His plan for Oklahoma City led to most downtown streets going two-ways with just two lanes. Another possibility for Jacksonville is to tear down highway sections that dead-end Downtown, like a portion of the Hart Bridge ramp that ends at the sports complex. This has been done with the Embarcadero in San Francisco and the Westside Highway in New York City. “When you tear down a highway, the improvement in property values is so great that the increased tax revenue pays for that teardown many times over,” Speck said. “If redevelopment is happening, then tearing them down will pay for it very quickly.” Speck offers a general theory of walkability as a good shortcut for a livable city. “Get walkability right, and so much of the rest will follow,” he writes. Cities that simply created pedestrian pathways failed because there is much more involved. Speck lists four main conditions for successful walkability, and each must work in concert with the others. The walk must be: Useful. Most aspects of daily life are close and organized. You need some place to walk to. Safe. The street has to be designed to give pedestrians a fighting chance against being hit by automobiles. People must feel safe. Cars have a place but only in the proper number and speed. Comfortable. Urban streets feel like outdoor living rooms with sensitive designs. Interesting. Sidewalks are lined by unique buildings that feel friendly. Why hasn’t this happened already? Because the people in charge in many cities are thinking of their particular specialties, not overall impact. “The schools and parks departments will push for fewer, larger facilities since these are easier to maintain and show off,” Speck writes. “The public works department will insist that new neighborhoods be designed principally around snow and trash removal. “The transportation department will build new roads to ease traffic generated by the very sprawl that they cause. “Each of these approaches may seem correct in a vacuum, but is wrong in a city.” Making cities more walkable makes them more wealthy, healthy and sustainable. Walkability also fits into the trend of moving back to lively, mixed uses that millennials and empty-nesters increasingly prefer. “For certain segments of the population, chief among them young creatives, urban living is simply more appealing; many wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere else,” Speck writes. “Massive demographic shifts occurring right now mean that these pro-urban segments of the population are becoming dominant, creating a spike in demand that is expected to last for decades. “The choice to live the walkable life generates considerable savings for these households, and much of these savings are spent locally.” TRENDS ARE CLEAR Walkability now is a key part of a national trend back to urban cores. Since the late 1990s, the share of auto miles driven by Americans in their 20s has dropped from 20.8 percent to 13.7 percent. JEFF DAVIS 42 J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017
Teens who don’t have driver’s licenses have almost tripled since the late 1970s from 8 percent to 23 percent. Two-thirds of college-educated millennials choose where they want to live and then look for a job. Three-quarters of them plan to live in urban cores. The typical working-class family pays more for transportation than housing. Meanwhile, senior citizens are abandoning large lots for mixed-use urban centers. Of 101 million new households expected by 2025, 88 percent are expected to be childless. In 1970, almost half of households included children. A scientific poll conducted for the National Association of Realtors showed that only 1 in 10 respondents wanted to live in a suburb with houses only. “Urban Sprawl and Public Health,” a paper by physician Howard Frumkin of Emory University, documented how our built environment is hurting our health. Users of mass transit are three times more likely as vehicle drivers to achieve their recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity. “Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the American health care crisis is largely an urban design crisis with walkability at the heart of the cure,” Speck wrote. Crashes far outweighed murders by strangers in most locations. One-third of Washington or San Francisco residents take transit to work; just 2 percent of Nashville and Jacksonville residents do. Mass transit systems like streetcars, trolleys or trams have slower speeds and frequent stops. As for bicycles, Jacksonville has too little bicycle infrastructure. Where bicycle lanes exist, the widths are too narrow, there is not enough protection for bicyclists, and there are too few bicyclists so drivers aren’t used to seeing them. Yet the benefits of bicycles are huge. Ten bikes can park in the space of a single car. The typical bike lane handles five to 10 times the traffic volume of a car lane twice its width. Money spent on bike lanes generates more than twice the jobs as car lanes. If every American biked an hour a day instead of driving, gas consumption would be cut by 38 percent. As bike lanes have been added to New York City, pedestrian injuries have been cut by one-third, Speck writes. Back in 2013 when Speck made his presentations, the Downtown Investment Authority was in its infancy. CEO Aundra Wallace took over in 2013. The authority’s action plans include a number of proposals to improve walkability. A “road diet” plan in Brooklyn could lead to narrower streets, more bicycle lanes, more shade — in short, walkability. Jacksonville for too long has had too much planning and too little action. Downtown finally is seeing some action, but urgency is key. Making more streets Downtown twoway, for instance, shouldn’t be taking so long. “Downtown is the only part of the city that belongs to everybody,” Speck writes. But people need to feel safe and welcomed Downtown. Walkability is the key to success. MIKE CLARK has been reporting and editing for The Florida Times-Union and Jacksonville Journal since 1973. He has been editorial page editor for the last 12 years following 15 years as reader advocate. Bring Downtown into your next meeting. Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is here to assist you in planning and hosting your next meeting at our waterfront hotel. Ask our team about our current special offers for savings and to inspire your next meeting. To book your next meeting contact us at JAXRJ-RFP@hyatt.com or 904 634 4588. HYATT REGENCY JACKSONVILLE 225 East Coastline Drive Jacksonville, Florida 32202 The HYATT trademark and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation or its affiliates. ©2015 Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved.
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