Vote for the Best Street Transformation of 2016

Last year's winner: Queens Boulevard. Photo: NYC DOT
Last year's winner: Queens Boulevard. Photo: NYC DOT

We received more than a dozen submissions from all over the country for this year’s Best Street Transformation competition — thank you to everyone who nominated a redesign!

Streetsblog staff has narrowed the field down to six finalists. The top street transformations come to us from San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Rochester.

Take a look at these fine street redesigns and then vote for your favorite. The voting is open until Tuesday at midnight Eastern time.

Enjoy the holiday — we’ll be posting Streetsies after Christmas and back to publishing on our normal schedule after the New Year.

Oakland: Telegraph Avenue

telegraphbefore

telegraphafter

These curbside, parking-protected bike lanes went in this spring in Oakland’s KONO District, and the plan is to extend the treatment from there.

The new design also narrowed general traffic from two lanes in each direction to one lane, while adding center turn pockets. Some car parking spots have been replaced with on-street bike corrals. Streetsblog California Editor Melanie Curry reports that the redesign is a huge improvement for cycling, and the city is committed to it despite some complaints from drivers.

“It was a difficult place to do it because there are many curb cuts and cross streets,” she says, “but that just makes the whole project that much more admirable.”

Here’s an overhead shot:

Telegraph-Aerial_Oakland

Pittsburgh: Strawberry Way

SWayBefore(1)

s'wayafter

You can do a lot with some paint and planters, and this project is proof. A much-used but non-descript alley in downtown Pittsburgh was artfully converted into a gathering place.

Phoebe Downey at the Envision Downtown explains:

Strawberry Way has always been a highly utilized pedestrian corridor connecting Pittsburgh’s largest employment center to its Cultural District but the design of the street did not reflect the main user group. A 3 block street mural and the addition of tables, chairs and planters not only reallocated the space to better reflect its usage but also created a true outdoor public space that everyone could enjoy.

Atlanta: Portman Boulevard

portmanbefore

portmanafter

This road diet and protected bike lane in downtown Atlanta features an unusual “kidney bean” intersection treatment (above) where two, two-way bike lanes intersect.

Reader Carl Holt writes:

The 2-way cycle track uses a granite curb to separate bicycle traffic from vehicle traffic. John Portman has what could be a first for the US; Two 2-way protected cycle tracks (each on 1-way streets) intersecting. To protect the cyclists engineers installed a ‘kidney bean’ that forces left turning vehicles to make a take a wider radius and slows down traffic. At the eastern end of John Portman Blvd, the protected cycle track connects to PATH Foundation’s Freedom Park Trail, that stretches for another 4 miles and connects to the Stone Mountain Trail 20 miles to Stone Mountain State Park. On the western end of the cycle track, it connects to Centennial Olympic Park the legacy of the 1996 Olympic Games. PATH Foundation and City of Atlanta have begun another protected bicycle project that will connect Georgia Tech to Centennial Olympic Park.

San Francisco: Mission Street Transit Lanes

missionbefore
Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography

missionafter

Streetsblog San Francisco Editor Roger Rudick reports that with a bit of paint, the SFMTA has dramatically improved trips for tens of thousands of bus riders each day:

Buses on Mission Street carry 65,000 people daily on the 14R, 14 and 49 lines. But the buses were notoriously slow, over crowded, and unreliable. That’s why in the spring of 2016, SFMTA installed red bus-only lanes on the corridor. They also put in numerous turning restrictions to keep cars from blocking the buses and to improve safety. The result? SFMTA reported an 85 percent reduction in the number of Muni-involved collisions, which had been averaging an incredible three per week! In addition, bus speeds improved by about two minutes–however, thanks to the reduction in bunching and jarring stops and starts, riders perceive a ten minute savings.

Muni and the SFMTA have persevered in the face of what Rudick calls “heavy blowback from local businesses complaining about the perceived loss of parking and business.”

Rochester: Inner Loop Highway Removal/South Union Street

sunionbefore

sunionafter

This stunning transformation is the result of filling in Rochester’s “Inner Loop” freeway. The Inner Loop has been described as a “noose around the neck” of the city, undermining walkability and entrenching social divisions. In 2013, city leaders committed $24 million to filling about two-thirds of a mile of the Inner Loop and replacing it with a surface street. You can now get a sense of what a difference this will make.

On the left of these photos, what used to be a sunken highway is now developable land. Two-way traffic just opened on South Union December 16th, according to the city. It’s too early to see the full effect this project will have, but Rochester has clearly made significant progress in reversing a major planning mistakes of the past century.

Chicago: Randolph Street

randolphbefore

randolphafter

On this street inside the Chicago Loop, the city converted a mixed traffic lane into a protected bike lane. The Randolph Street design includes two protected intersection-type treatments, including the location pictured above, where it crosses the two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn.

Randolph Street won the number two spot on People for Bikes’s list of the best new bike lanes of 2016, despite the fact that the bike lane makes a brief detour onto the sidewalk at one point.

Streetsblog Chicago Editor John Greenfield notes that reallocating downtown traffic lanes for buses and bikes is becoming the “new normal” in the Windy City.

You have until Tuesday night to vote for your favorite below.

Which is the best urban street transformation of 2016?

  • Pittsburgh's Strawberry Way (46%, 536 Votes)
  • Rochester's South Union Street (25%, 292 Votes)
  • Chicago's Randolph Street (17%, 197 Votes)
  • Oakland's Telegraph Avenue (6%, 70 Votes)
  • Atlanta's Portman Boulevard (3%, 35 Votes)
  • San Francisco's Mission Street Transit Lanes (3%, 34 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,164

  • what_eva

    A nitpick, the “before” picture for Randolph is over 4 years old. The new for 2016 is the protected lane on Randolph and the protected intersection. The 2-way protected lane on Dearborn (the street the 2 cyclists in the after picture are on) has been there since late 2012.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    True, although all the green paint and concrete was put in this year in conjuction with the Randolph project, as well as the rebuilding of a couple stretches of the Dearborn lane.

  • The SF Mission St Transit Lanes appear to be what Walker is calling “Tactical Transit” ( http://humantransit.org/2016/12/tactical-transit-a-fast-path-to-transit-infrastructure.html )

    They may have carefully avoided calling it BRT, it wasn’t at this stage, of course. They don’t mention pre-paid boarding for instance.

    Anyway, neither is Chicago’s Loop-Link true BRT in its current form.

    It appears that Mission Street could be a model for a way forward for Ashland. Start by declaring some bus only lane segments, say a single block, at certain critical bottle-neck locations. It could be on the right to start with but then with the full BRT implementation it could be swapped for the left lane.Left turns could be eliminated “to speed traffic”. Parking taken, often it’s already gone at the bottle-neck six corner intersections anyway.

    Etc etc. And before long most of the controversial elements are already in place. Suddenly the Full BRT looks like an improvement for car traffic as well. Everybody is happy. Sure. Right. And next you’ll be telling me that the Cubs can with the World Series.

  • Kara

    Why isn’t the Stawberry Way Artist credited? Deanna Mance http://www.deannamance.com

  • Wanderer

    The Oakland project is supposed to have bus boarding islands in the street. But the city has yet to put them in. This forces bus to weave to the curve and back out across the bike lane, creating a condition which is dangerous for cyclists and stressful and delaying for bus drivers. If you look closely at the overhead photo you can see a bus executing this maneuver.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    Although I voted for Randolph, I have to write that overall traffic during rush hour in Chicago’s Loop is a cluster. Buses on other routes are stuck behind turning cars and crawl in gridlock. Why something as simple as traffic cops/aides aren’t posted at the worse intersections is shameful. Bikes have become the fastest mode of travel.

  • robo94117

    It’s far from BRT, and will never be, but the buses now can navigate the neighborhood much, much faster than before. And this is the second busiest transit route in the City.

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  • How did it impact parking and left turning? If it were BRT how much faster might it go in your humble opinion?

  • Prinzrob

    The boarding islands are part of a $4.6M state-funded Phase 2 project slated for 2018, which will also extend the facility another 0.8 miles to the north.

  • Paulish

    It’s pretty sad that these six designs represent the best streetscape overhauls in the country. With the exception of the lilliputian Pittsburgh alley none of these projects offer much in terms of public realm. All Pittsburgh included are just cheapo retrofits, and most maintain excessive space for cars. It would be nice to see some examples with robust trees and landscaping, special sidewalk paving aggressive reallocation of space in addition to innovative but ephemeral paint treatments.

  • dave

    The Rochester Inner Loop fill in is just in the beginning stages. It’s going to have a dedicated bike lane and landscaping just as you’ve described. Take a look here at what it will eventually be. Check back in a year and a half!

  • AK

    Hard to vote for Telegraph when the image above includes at least five cars parked in the bike lane

  • jcb100

    Difficult to compare between cities – who would have detailed knowledge of each of the six projects? However, as an SF resident I think the red bus transit lanes are a highly economical way of improving and speeding bus transit compared with the expense and upheaval of BRT.

  • Corvus Corax

    Parking and left turning: two of the car-supremacists list of god-given rights! Just like the cigarette smoker’s list used to assume their right to smoke in elevators, restaurants, buses, and drop their ashes and butts anywhere. Dinosaurs all.

  • Well, yes, and well put by you.

    So there was a big freak out by drivers but not big enough to stop the removal of left turns and the reuse of street parking.

  • Corvus Corax

    Thank you.

    I can believe that drivers kicked up a fuss, feeling these ‘rights’ abrogated. But just as smokers, albeit grudgingly, have gotten used to the fact that they cannot just light up wherever they please, drivers will assume that they cannot do a left-turn in many intersections: they might not realize why. they cannot, but they will come to accept it as the norm.

    And just as many bar workers, restaurant servers, children, and adult non-smokers are possibly saved from cancer caused by second-hand smoke, and even former smokers who quit because it became less ‘convenient’, so maybe will our planet be less damaged when drivers find it not so convenient to step into their cars for every trip they make with many ‘No Left Turn’ signs, and more difficulty finding parking, and will consider taking public transportation, or even -gasp! – get on their bicycle, even those who are so unaware of the damage done by by cars, or who don’t really care.

    H.G. Wells said, ‘Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.’

  • I voted for Pittsburgh: Strawberry Way because it was artfully converted into a gathering place.

  • davsot

    I’m surprised the editorial staff did away with my Puerto Rico submission. –_–

    Public spaces, permanent landscaped buffering, all the qualities you would think would be desirable. And I spent good time writing the nomination and looking through my old pictures. I’ll see if any other mediums are interested in publishing it.

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