The New York City Department of Transportation has released a report on the economic benefits of its better streets. The report has seven case studies which provide evidence that there is a real economic benefit to improving streets.
For example, Vanderbilt Avenue was retrofitted to create a dedicated cycling space, improve pedestrian safety, calm traffic, and improve the streetscape. The transformation can be seen below:
Vanderbilt Avenue performed much better than two similar sites in Brooklyn. The authors argue:
It is reasonable to conclude that the improved safety, shortened crossings, and new landscaping all combined to increase foot and bicycle traffic and enhance the sense of place, creating a virtuous cycle of retail development that was greater than it otherwise would have been.
As can be seen from the chart, the combined retail sales on Vanderbilt Avenue outperformed both the borough as a whole and two comparison sites. This shows at the very least that a significant transformation of a street won’t necessarily hurt business or retail.
Check out the report to see some of the other case studies. The methodology is definitely one that should be examined by cities implementing street transformation in order to gather evidence and build the case for better streets.