Cast Your Vote for the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2017

Last year's winner: Pittsburgh's Strawberry Way. Photos: Envision Downtown
Last year's winner: Pittsburgh's Strawberry Way. Photos: Envision Downtown

Streetsblog asked our readers to send in their nominations for the best street redesigns of 2017, and they delivered this batch of six outstanding finalists.

Each of these six cities claimed a lot of space from cars to make streets work better for people. We’ve got two major transit-priority projects, three bike-friendly overhauls, and one downtown that prioritized pedestrians to create livelier public spaces. Before we settled on these finalists, we had to cut a few other worthy contenders, including Pittsburgh’s Liberty Avenue bus lanes and Nashville’s Nolensville Pike and Welshville Drive pedestrians improvements.

Take a look at your six nominees and vote below to decide which will be named the best street transformation of 2017.

streetsie_2017

Albuquerque: Central Avenue

albuquerque-art-brt

Albuquerque held a kickoff ceremony for this nine-mile bus rapid transit project late last month, after nearly a decade of planning and a lot of political jousting.

Bus riders on Albuquerque’s main drag speed along in center-running transit lanes, with a fast boarding process thanks to off-board payment and sheltered waiting areas that are level with the floor of the bus. Frequent service will begin next year.

The city also revised its zoning code to support transit-oriented development along the line. Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, lead the project through some heated political battles, including a pair of lawsuits, and ultimately succeeded.

Here’s another shot from the mayor:

ABQ ART

Central Avenue carries 42 percent of Albuquerque’s transit trips, about 15,000 daily. The hope is that this project will not only boost those numbers but provide the city with a walkable spine to guide future growth and development.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy awarded the busway design “Gold Level” status — the highest ever issued for an American BRT project.

Cleveland: Detroit-Superior Bridge

cleveland_bridge_before_after

We’ve been hard on some of Cleveland’s previous bike planning efforts. But this year, the city showed it can do bike infrastructure well. Cleveland converted a whole outer lane of its Detroit Superior Bridge — which was a nightmare for cyclists — into a bright green protected bike lane.

The project was collaborative, including significant help from the regional planning agency, NOACA, as well as Ohio DOT. It demonstrates a clear evolution at all three agencies.

Bike Cleveland says that prior to this project, the bridge was consistently reported to be one of the most dangerous places to bike in the city. The bridge still has some drawbacks — only one side is protected, and it still deposits cyclists into some extremely intimidating intersections. But those locations will eventually include bike signals — another Cleveland first.

Toronto: King Street

king_st_before_after
Photos via Jennifer Keesmat

We can’t give Toronto enough credit for showing how simple it can be to improve transit service with its King Street project. The trick is to get cars out of the way.

The one-year pilot project made King Street, with its 65,000 streetcar trips, a much faster street for transit by limiting cars to local access only. Using inexpensive low-cost materials, the city was able to dramatically improve streetcar travel times for only $1.5 million.

Streetcar trips were maddeningly slow when transit riders were bogged down in private car traffic. But when the pilot launched a few weeks ago, it immediately shaved five to 13 minutes off streetcar journeys along the 1.6-mile stretch. The reception from riders has been overwhelmingly positive, and the Toronto Star has already insisted the changes should be made permanent.

St. Paul: Jackson Street

Top image via Google Maps, bottom photo via Toole Design Group.
Top image via Google Maps, bottom photo via Toole Design Group.

St. Paul built this sidewalk-level, all-ages bike path through its downtown on Jackson Street. It goes right past the Minnesota state capitol.

The nine-block path is part of St. Paul’s Capital City Bikeway, a system of on-street bike lanes that connect to off-street trails. The $16.5 million project involved significant construction, including utility relocation.

Austin: 3rd Street

Austin_3rd_street

Austin completed another inspiring bike project on 3rd Street. The red bike lane is protected by curbs and parking.

This project is the final link in a contiguous, five-mile “all ages” bike route through downtown Austin. It’s the type of street improvement that has helped Austin make tremendous progress in improving bike safety over the last few years.

Halifax: Argyle and Grafton

Photos: City of Halifax
Photos: City of Halifax

Halifax, Nova Scotia, made the final with the transformation of two downtown commercial streets into streets that prioritize pedestrians over motor vehicles. These blocks now have no curbs, improving accessibility and allowing people to use the entirety of the street. Motor vehicles are allowed, but drivers have to go carefully and proceed at a walking pace.

This is a crowded downtown commercial area, and the new freedom of movement for people on foot should make it even more of a draw. An explanatory video from the city, however, does say that pedestrians are still expected to yield to drivers.

The project involved a complete resurfacing with “argyle” stones. All on-street parking was removed to give businesses bigger patio spaces. The streets operate as a public plaza.

Which project deserves the Streetsie? Cast your vote below — the polls are open until December 26.

  • Keith P.

    The Halifax example is a dysfunctional disaster in real life so don’t waste a vote on it. Likely to be ripped out in a year or two once businesses start complaining.

  • John12Z

    Keith is a noted local crank who dislikes any infrastructure change that makes it even marginally more inconvenient to drive, so disregard the above comment.

    Business owners along King Street in Toronto are also calling that project a disaster, but once the bugs are worked out, I’m confident it’ll be fantastic. The Halifax example is already among the best streetscaping/urban design projects in Canada recently, and is functioning beautifully. (Besides a few Keith-like drivers who have decided the sidewalks are now parking spaces. But there are always growing pains.)

  • Keith P.

    In reality it is hardly working at all since it is often virtually impassable. The anti-car warriors have infiltrated City Hall here and this is their latest broadside. If they wanted to turn it into another failed pedestrian mall they should have done that and not perpetuated this expensive charade.

  • Certainly some businesses on King St. are objecting, but the data is there, it’s a challenge to show the justification for making the 60,000 people who ride the street car sit in traffic for 20 more minutes a day than the MAXIMUM 20k people who drive the road having to park a 5 minute walk away from businesses.

  • Jeffrey Pinhey

    This guy has zero clues about what a shared street is and how they work. (everywhere in the world). Hopefully this design keeps people like him out of the downtown. And that idiots like him don’t scare the city into closing the street to cars. Then it wold be a failure.

  • By using a “radio button” style poll rather than a “check box” style poll you have reduced the quality of your results. Both styles of these polls are easy to understand so there is no reason to limit yourself.

    I myself would have chosen two or three of the contestants because of the large differences of what is being accomplished urban design wise between them.

    You still get a winner but you also get a better sense of margin.

    When I ran a blog I tended to use the multi-choice polls because I felt I got a better sense of opinions.

  • Keith P.

    A street with only pedestrians is not a street. It is a pedestrian mall, most of which have been abject failures for both the planners who thought it was a good idea and the businesses on the former street that it bankrupts.

  • Jacob Wilson

    “A street with only pedestrians is not a street.”

    Human civilization (and thus roads) is about 6000 years old. The model T was introduced in 1908, about 110 years ago. 110 years is 1.8% of the history of roads.

    For the other 98.2% of the literal history of roads in the universe as we know it they have been made for people, not cars.

  • LookUpAlways

    The street is vastly improved. I was there yesterday. Shopped at Biscuit then went to Durty Nelly’s for drinks, snacks, and live music. Will be back down there after Christmas for some live theatre and likely a meal at Wooden Monkey. All the businesses that were there before construction are still there. DON’T LISTEN TO KEITH. Halifax loves this street renovation!

  • TaoKeo

    True story… I didn’t even have to look at the name to know who posted this. LOL. Was halfway through the first sentence and thought… must be Keith P. Yup! Hahaha 🙂

  • Keith P.

    Only those who are within walking distance or on bicycles. Let’s see how many of the businesses there can survive only on those customers. It is a shame that HRM is making the downtown core inaccessible and unwelcoming to the majority.

  • Keith P.

    Nonsense. Prior to the car there were horse-drawn wagons which would be equally unwelcome on this street. The current planning dogma is so fatally skewed it is absurd.

  • johnmcnary1

    Get over yourself.

  • johnmcnary1

    Thanks, Keith. I vote for Halifax

  • johnmcnary1

    Get over yourself, part 2.

  • Ethan Kent

    A write in vote for Salisbury, MA led by Philip Winn: https://www.pps.org/blog/sun-sand-sidewalks-transforming-salisbury-massachusetts/

  • My but we seem to be having a difficult day don’t we. I’m sorry you are feeling so bad and get well soon. I sure hope your comment helped you. And it is good you are being proactive to find ways to bet better faster.

  • FlamingoFresh

    The Albuquerque BRT looks like it was done right. Having it’s own central lane, pre-boarding operation, as well as (what appears) to be three doors for boarding and exiting, this was a sound investment.

  • johnmcnary1

    See above.

  • HelloWorld

    Get over yourself

  • Shoot that is awesome.

  • Paul

    This street is now more accessible, regardless of how you look at it. And, you can still drive on it! If the businesses are popular and worth patronizing they will survive, and even flourish as data (and emotion) have proved in countless carless streets around the world. It’s all about the quality of the destination—if people want to go there, they will, regardless of how the street accommodates cars, or not. They have these where I live, and they work. Plus the business have more room for their wares and and cafés have far more seating.

  • Keith P.

    We have wind chills of -25 this week. Trust me, there is nobody sitting outside in a cafe here. Nor are there any pedestrians or cyclists. Meanwhile, vehicle access is obstructed by delivery trucks forced to stop in the one narrow travel lane. It is and will always be a disaster until it gets reconfigured.

  • ~~

  • Lol, yes, and when we had horse drawn wagons, we of course had sidewalks, jwalking, and traffic signals right? Oh, no, right, its *ONLY* the automobile which has problems sharing with peds.

  • disqus_1pvtRUVrlr

    Jeff, apparently you aren’t allowed to voice an opinion.

  • disqus_1pvtRUVrlr

    Oh God! The horror! You can still drive those couple of blocks, and it is bound to be a significant economic driver, and yet this is a nightmare according to you. Pick another battle Keith, it’s obvious that you are prone to hyperbole.

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