Chicago Alley Initiative Shows How to Make Streets Greener

alley.jpg

Chicago’s Department of Transportation started the Green Alleys Program to use the city’s many alleyways to conserve natural resources and improve the environment. Although New York City doesn’t have too many alleys, the beautifully-designed, 47-page Green Alleys Program booklet (PDF) offers several techniques that could still be useful in making New York City streets perform better environmentally.

alley2.jpg

Permeable pavement has pores or openings that allow water to pass through the surface and percolate through the existing subsoil. Permeable pavement comes in the form of asphalt, concrete and pavers. In areas where soils do not drain freely, permeable pavement can be used in combination with subsurface drainage systems to slow runoff and reduce stress on the sewer system.

High albedo pavement material is light in color and reflects sunlight away from the surface. With less sunlight absorbed by pavement, less heat is radiated by the pavement. High albedo pavement therefore reduces the urban heat island effect. This reduces cooling costs, helps the survival of urban vegetation and improves air quality which can help reduce the symptoms of some respiratory diseases.

Recycled construction materials can be incorporated in a variety of ways in green alleys. Recycled concrete aggregate can be used in the concrete mix and as a base beneath surface paving. Also, slag, a by-product of steel production, can be used as a component of the concrete mix, reducing industrial waste. Ground tire rubber can be used in porous asphalt and reclaimed asphalt pavement in non-porous asphalt.

Energy efficient, dark sky compliant light fixtures are specially designed to direct light downward, focusing light where it’s needed. These fixtures can also incorporate the latest technologies in energy efficiency while maintaining adequate light levels. New alley fixtures will also use metal halide lamps, which produce white light, instead of the yellow light produced by the existing high-pressure sodium fixtures. This will help people to be able to distinguish color at night.

A rain garden is a landscape feature that is planted with native perennial plants used to slow down the storm water runoff from im-pervious surfaces (such as roofs, sidewalks and parking lots) and allow it to infiltrate back into the soil.

A rain barrel or cistern is a container used to collect and store rainwater from a building roof for various uses including irrigating plants.

Composting. Kitchen scraps, yard waste and even some paper products can be placed into an inexpensive composting bin to decompose. With very little maintenance, the waste will soon break down into a rich, organic material that can be mixed directly into garden soil or used as fertilizer for trees and shrubbery. Not only does composting save space in our garbage trucks and landfills, but its product also provides a nutrient boost to poor urban soils. Potential benefits of composting include: reduces waste hauled to landfills, reduces the need to extract virgin natural resources, requires little or no cost to the property owner, improves soil structure, provides natural fertilizer to plants.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Pint-Sized Parks Make Safer Streets and Cleaner Rivers

|
The Greenstreet at 110th and Amsterdam helps keep sewage out of city rivers and features a beefed-up, traffic-calming "blockbuster." It rained yesterday, sending stormwater streaming down New York City streets and through sewer grates. The runoff mixed with wastewater in the system and overloaded treatment facilities, causing raw sewage to spill into the city’s waterways. […]

Vote for the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2015

|
It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2015, which means we’re about to hand out Streetsies to recognize achievements for walking, biking, and transit in American cities this year. Earlier this month we asked readers for nominations for the Best Urban Street Transformation of the year, and here are the standouts from your submissions. It’s a great batch and […]

In San Francisco: People, Parklets, and Pavement to Parks

|
In San Francisco, the Pavement to Parks program has launched an initiative that may someday alter the way many dense U.S. cities decide to treat the streets of their commercial strips. Taking the PARK(ing) Day concept to a more permanent, logical level, the Parklets Program has begun experimenting with trial spaces allowing businesses to convert […]

Look Out Portland, New York, Minneapolis: Here Comes Chicago

|
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is wasting no time making good on his campaign promise to make Chicago a world-class cycling city. Just 24 days after his swearing-in ceremony, Chicago has its first bike box. The new mayor and his department of transportation head, Gabe Klein, formerly of DC, held a press conference Tuesday at the site […]

A 12-Block Shared Space Neighborhood Rises Along the Potomac

|
Earlier this month, Streetsblog went on a streak about “shared space” — the idea that some streets can work better when, instead of using curbs and traffic signals to separate users, pedestrians get priority using subtle but effective visual cues. We interviewed a key shared space messenger, Ben Hamilton-Baillie; we showed off built examples in Pittsburgh and Batavia, Illinois; and we […]