Vote to Decide the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014

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If you’re searching for reasons to feel positive about the future, the street transformations pictured below are a good start. Earlier this month we asked readers to send in their nominations for the best American street redesigns of 2014. These five are the finalists selected by Streetsblog staff. They include new car-free zones, substantial sidewalk expansions, superb bike infrastructure, awesome safety upgrades, and exclusive transit lanes.

Which deserves the distinction of being named the “Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014”? We’re starting the voting today and will post a reminder when we run the rest of the Streetsblog USA Streetsie Award polls next Tuesday. Without further ado, here are the contenders:

Western Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Before
Before
After. (We're using a rendering because the project is not quite yet 100% complete.)
After. (We’re using a rendering because the project is not quite 100 percent complete.)

The Western Avenue road diet narrowed dangerously wide traffic lanes on this one-way street to make room for safer pedestrian crossings, a raised bike lane, and bus bulbs. Brian DeChambeau of the Cambridge Community Development Department, the lead agency on the project, adds these details about the redesign:

Before the project began, the street cross-section included two 12’-wide (sometimes 12’+) vehicle travel lanes and a 5’ bicycle lane with parking on both sides. Along with heavy vehicle and truck volumes, it was an uninviting street to live, ride, and walk on. The reconstruction removed a vehicle travel lane for the first three blocks of the corridor and narrowed the travel lanes in order to facilitate construction of a protected cycle track, enhanced pedestrian crossings, and expanded park space. The cycle track is also separated from pedestrians on the sidewalk by tree plantings and light fixtures. Traffic calming features, including raised side street crossings, were implemented, along with bus stop curb extensions to improve transit efficiency and to create space for bus shelters. Other curb extensions created space for cycle track sight lines and landscaping, as well as improved bicycle parking. The project also includes two new bicycle traffic signals, which were added at key intersections along the corridor.

Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh

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Before
After
After

The Penn Avenue protected bike lane in Pittsburgh was one of three that new Mayor Bill Peduto added in short order during his first year in office. Penn Avenue runs through the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. The two-way bike lane is about one mile long and cost about $73,000 to construct, according to People for Bikes, which provided technical assistance to the city.

E Street, San Bernardino, California

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Before
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After. Photo: Omnitrans

E Street in downtown San Bernardino was transformed this year with center-running transit lanes, part of the award-winning sbX Green Line bus rapid transit project. The Green Line connects California State University, San Bernardino, and Loma Linda University.

Submitter Marven Norman writes that most of the line’s six miles of dedicated bus lanes are on E Street. The city of San Bernardino also enacted new zoning to reduce parking requirements and promote walkable development by the Green line. The line is free for CSUSB students, and it is helping the local economy rebound from the Great Recession, Norman writes.

Broadway, Seattle

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Before
After
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Broadway is a major north-south street that runs through some of the densest parts of Seattle. The street overhaul completed this year includes a two-way protected bike lane. A new streetcar route is expected to start service in 2015.

Washington Avenue, Minneapolis

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Before
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After. Photo: Michael Hicks/Flickr

Green Line light rail service debuted on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis this year, quickly exceeding ridership projections. Trains on a dedicated, center-running right-of-way have been accompanied by other changes to Washington Avenue, including some car-free zones, center-median plazas, and shared bus and bike lanes next to the curb. Dan Reed at Greater Greater Washington reported that the area is seeing a lot of new development and activity thanks to the overhaul.

Those are your finalists, now it’s up to you to decide. Which is the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014?

Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014

  • E Street, San Bernardino, CA (48%, 848 Votes)
  • Western Avenue, Cambridge, MA (24%, 429 Votes)
  • Washington Avenue, Minneapolis (16%, 292 Votes)
  • Broadway, Seattle (7%, 131 Votes)
  • Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh (4%, 77 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,774

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  • Matt Korner

    You’re not alone. Especially as service frequency and operating hours increase, more prospective residents, entrepreneurs, employers, developers, and retailers will be locating and investing along the corridor.

    The sbX project also laid-down faster Internet lines and placed utilities underground along the corridor.

  • BarbaraBabcock

    @IEShineOn:disqus voting was closed for a bit – technical challenges I think. But is open again. We are still ahead but send me a private msg maybe on Friday we can strategize on a final PUSH.

  • BarbaraBabcock

    Beyond PROUD of my fellow citizens in San Bernardino for pulling together on this project. We may be “BK Financially” but we can and will pull together. Please vote for “E Street – San Bernardino” on this contest.

    Don’t let family members have DESSERT until they vote!

  • BarbaraBabcock

    Thanks.

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    What a great series of comments! Congrats on great turn-out, San Bernardino 🙂 I put my vote in for Cambridge – keep ’em coming!

  • BarbaraBabcock

    Thanks @disqus_PRkNLx6m40:disqus – this is ONE way for us to start pulling together for Berdoo. We filed for BK 2.5 years ago. One year ago we RECALLED 2 of the most “IMNTBHO” toxic politicians who had been here for almost 40 years combined. THIS is our shot at bringing back GOOD citizens together for a City that USED to be an “All American City!”

    If it appears that ‘your city’ (I’m speaking to ALL reading) is not going to be the ultimate winner, I ask – with humility – beg – you to get on the “E Street San Bernardino” bandwagon.

    We NEED this like you cannot imagine.

  • r.a. thejourno

    We are much more than Bankruptcy. Home of original McDonalds and Route 66 Rendezvous, for example. Heartfelt thanks for your support of San Bernardino. We citizens here are passionate for bringing out the best for Berdoo in 2015! –SBVW on Twitter.

  • r.a. thejourno

    Blog post on the sbX project–one reason why San Bernardino’s streets are green, ecologically viable, and pedestrian friendly http://iejawriter.blogspot.com/?m=1
    Please continue to vote on streetsblogusa.org l for San Bernardino and share your results

  • Scott

    That would be awesome Matt if the CHSR provides services to all of those locations!!! It is amazing how the negative toxic folks want to continue to hold SB down. The time for change is right now, no more looking back and blaming others, or assigning old mistakes to the new folks…

  • Matt Korner

    Conceptual Block Study of San Bernardino’s High-Speed Rail Station and Multimodal Terminal that Preserves and Enhances Pedestrian Connectivity across the Site

  • Matt Korner

    Conceptual Block Study of San Bernardino’s High-Speed Rail Station and Multimodal Terminal, the First Phase of which Is Now under Construction

  • Matt Korner

    sbX System with Frequent Departures, Competitive Travel Times, and Superior Reliability along the E Street Corridor, a New “Transit-First” Thoroughfare in San Bernardino, California

  • Townie

    From bicycle safety advocate and Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley:

    It’s not clear to me how this sort of “vote for the best” ranking of public infrastructure is useful when it comes to trying to make cycling safer in Cambridge. There are specific criteria for cycletracks put out by various organizations that seem at least partially lacking from this project. Things like being grade separated from both the sidewalk and the street, one-way, not cut across by lots of streets and driveways and so forth. While the Western Ave cycletrack is not as blended with the sidewalk as Concord Ave, it’s not grade separated from the sidewalk either. And while it may be marked with one-way arrows at some point, it’ll be tough to enforce that and we’re likely to see cyclists biking both ways as we do on the Fresh Pond side of Concord Ave. And, with 18 streets and driveways cutting across the Cycle track, it seems to have more places for bike/car conflict than one would like.

    Given that the vast majority of bike collisions involve turning movements (as happened to [my wife] Hope when a car turned in front of her to enter the Hess Station last week, leaving her with pained breathing and looking like I’d taken a baseball bat to her shoulder), I’m still unclear about what safety problem this cycletrack is going to solve and I think we’re going to have serious problems with cyclist/car conflicts at the places where driveways, some of which are for multiple residences, cut across the cycletrack. Cyclists will think they’re safer than they are and drivers pulling out of their driveways will look for pedestrians and not realize that there’s another layer of semi-sidewalk just beyond.

    Craig

  • RevDocSan

    San Bernardino is making changes! This sbX bus runs right past San Bernardino high school (Cardinal City) providing kids from that neighborhood easy and fast access to the Cal State campus. Am working with an amazing group of kids who will graduate next year, this is a piece of making their dreams of being the first generation of college graduates in their families a reality. As the economy recovers, so will we. Hooray for E Street!

  • Matt Korner

    San Bernardino’s Transit-Oriented Development (T.O.D.) Ordinance that Requires Walkable and Mixed-Use Development with Street-Level Retail around the sbX Stations and that, in this Case, Additionally Preserves Existing Single-Family Neighborhoods along Adjacent Streets

  • Kathy Mallon

    Thank you for including San Bernardino E Street in the finalists. Looking ahead to the positive impact this project promoters have promised becoming a reality.

  • BarbaraBabcock

    Contest is supposed to be over, but the polls have re-appeared. This contest brought together a diverse group of new and old friends, as well as people who work for the City of San Bernardino. Grateful to @marvennorman:disqus who entered us in this concert.

  • r.a. thejourno

    A splendid example of what is great about San Bernardino:the passionate citizens who live in it. WE the people shall be the catalyst in invoking positive change!

  • Matt Korner

    Carnegie Park Station in San Bernardino

  • Sirinya Matute

    WOW! I really like it, at least from what I can see here. I love how well lit the stop is at night. How are people liking it? Husband turned to me the other day and said we need to go see it. Maybe tomorrow night? (We head out to the IE tomorrow to see our family).
    My warmest congratulations to the planners and advocates for sbX. It is so obvious how proud you are of this project.
    -Sirinya Matute
    LA Streetsblog board member

  • Matt Korner

    The system had some technical difficulties initially. Most notably, the traffic-signal prioritization was not functioning. But, the kinks since the inauguration of service last Spring have mostly been corrected.

    From a design perspective, I would like to see more miles of dedicated guideway built soon, and the fact that pavement rehabilitation along the entire 16-mile-long corridor was not included in the project’s budget was an unfortunate decision because the uneven pavement in certain places does affect ride quality significantly. And, from a political standpoint, I can say that more miles of landscaped medians, which create a physical barrier to prevent motorists from crossing the guideways, would have helped increase the acceptance of the system among drivers since some of them complain about the painted lines on the street and the threat of a fine.

  • BarbaraBabcock

    LOTS more work to be done in SB with bankruptcy and all. But the sbX from Omnitrans will REVOLUTIONIZE how we rebound Sirinya. Thanks for all the “up votes” on our pages. What is your Twitter handle? Follow me at BarbaraBabcock.

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