Better Streets – Knox Street, Dallas

Knox Street Before Transformation. Photo by Team Better Block

In September, the Dallas Team Better Block re-engineered a three block stretch of  Knox Street for four days. The project successfully calmed traffic, create more opportunities for pedestrians to safely cross, and made a historic business district into a more comfortable and vibrant place. How?

The demonstration project involved converting:

the four lane auto-dominated street into a two lane complete street. Parking was changed from dangerous 90 degree head-in to 45 degree angle, a center turn lane made it easier to turn and reduced lane widths from 12 feet to 10 feet and improved traffic calming. A dedicated two-way cycle track further reduced the width of the street, making it easier for pedestrians to cross.

The project on Knox Street was the first demonstration of a Complete Street in Dallas. Dallas launched a Complete Streets Initiative in June 2011, with the goal of instituting a new approach to designing and building streets. They are planning a least a dozen more demonstrations.

Knox after Transformation. Photo by Team Better Block

What I like most about the experiment was the Team Better Block not only re-engineered the street, they created economic activity by converted a vacant gas station to a market and outdoor beer garden, and created new ‘green’ space through the incorporation of parklets and additional public seating.

Parklette. Photo by Team Better Block

A great example of how we can experiment with streets. Not every project needs to cost millions.  Experimentation and flexibility are the key building better streets.

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Better Streets – Woodland Ave & S 42nd St, Philadelphia

Woodland Ave & S 42nd St, Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Google Maps

We are all too familiar with the kind of corner pictured above. Forgettable, except for the planters placed to make it little less grey. We have lots of these types of forgotten corners in Toronto and cities across North America. It is the kind of corner we come to expect.

Yet, as reported in Next American City, Philadelphia is remaking corners like these. If fact, the corner above was transformed for $50,000, slightly more the the cost of the average kitchen renovation, into the beautiful space below:

Photo Credit: Alex Vuocolo/NAC

The renovation was paid for as part of a project that aims to reduce storm water runoff and encourage walkability. The planters are built from reclaimed lumber and are filled with native plant-life.

This project is the result of a collaboration between the City the local Business Improvement Area, University City District, and the University of Pennsylvania to lower costs and work on ensuring the space will be properly maintained.  A great example of how everyday places can be transformed and sustained.