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Bump-Outs! Sidewalk Seating! Trees! Lights!

by Thomas MacMillan | Aug 26, 2013 4:19 pm

(28) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation, Downtown

To get to a Monday press conference announcing the creation of new crosswalks, Mayor John DeStefano had to jaywalk across Whitney Avenue.

DeStefano’s arrival at the press event, at the corner of Whitney Avenue and Audubon Street, exemplified the problem with the intersection: Pedestrians don’t have a safe way to cross Whitney.

Moments later, DeStefano helped unveil the solution: plans for an overhauled intersection with special paving, new trees and lights, a new sidewalk seating area, curb “bump-outs,” and a great big seal advertising the Audubon Arts District.

All that will come to pass by the end of the year, said city traffic tsar Jim Travers. The work will cost $320,000, of which Yale University is kicking in $150,000.

The intersection of Audubon and Whitney has long been the source of complaints by pedestrians. The crossroads seems like a natural place for people to cross from Audubon to the west side of Whitney, but it’s also a dangerous place to do so. That’s because the northbound traffic on Whitney is coming up over a hump created by crossing the Farmington Canal. Driver can’t see the spot where people cross until they’re almost upon it.

Problems at the crossroads inspired the creation of a guerrilla crosswalk in 2011, spraypainted in the middle of the night by vigilante pedestrian advocates.

That same year, downtown’s Doug Hausladen (pictured) and Erin Gustafson submitted a “Complete Streets” application to make the temporary guerilla sidewalk into a permanent, city-sponsored reality.

Hausladen, now an alderman, arrived early for Monday’s press conference. He ate his lunch at one of several tables set up for the occasion, in parking spaces on Whitney Avenue. Four to five spaces will be converted into a granite-paved outdoor seating area as part of the intersection overhaul.

Thomas MacMillan Photo Travers announced the full list of planned changes. The entire intersection will be raised to the current curb height, creating a “speed table” like the one on Edwards Street in East Rock. The intersection will have three crosswalks, each made of a thermal plastic material that looks like brickwork. The entire intersection will be coated with the same material, in a tan color. The blue circular seal of the Audubon Arts District will appear in the center of the intersection.

The crosswalks will extend between curb “bump-outs,” significantly shortening the distance pedestrians have to walk to cross the street. The intersection will have new trees, bollards, LED lights, and flashing, pedestrian-activated crosswalk lights.

“This is about reordering priorities on our streets,” said Hausladen.

“This is new. This is a big deal,” Hausladen said of Yale paying for half the project. He compared it to improvements years ago to the streetscape on Broadway.

“Thank you so much. We’re so excited,” Erin Gustafson said to Travers. “I only envisioned a crosswalk. They took it much further.”

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posted by: anonymous on August 26, 2013  4:25pm

This is just like 1994, when Yale kicked in millions of dollars to revamp Broadway from an asphalt pit into a pleasant streetscape.  It’s in Yale’s interest to do more of this.

posted by: ILivehere on August 26, 2013  4:30pm

Great work Mr. Hausladen you truly are an asset to this town. I hope the unions fail in there attempt to drive you out without you this very important safe streets project may never have happened!
Thanks for being a great alderman and resident of ward 7.

posted by: shadesofzero on August 26, 2013  4:34pm

Very cool.  The traffic calming measures on Edwards between Whitney and Orange have been fairly effective and this looks to be taking an even bigger step forward in terms of promoting visibility and safety in a rather dangerous intersection with a lot of pedestrian foot traffic.  Travers have been doing a terrific job lately.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on August 26, 2013  4:46pm

Way to go Jim Travers!

Anyone doing anything about the FedEx trucks that are always double-parked during the afternoon rush hour? The bottleneck they perpetually create, (right before this intersection), is definitely part of the safety problem being addressed.

The easiest solution would be to move the FedEx office around the corner to Audobon Street.

posted by: A Contrarian on August 26, 2013  5:53pm

Wonderful.  May many more such crossings follow quickly.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on August 26, 2013  6:15pm

This is a cool idea.  However, couldn’t the City have merely installed speed bumps, created one curb bump out and saved itself a lot of money?  We’re in the middle of a budget crisis and $170,000 is a lot of money. 

It looks great but I’m surprised that this is where we’re spending out money.

posted by: HewNaven on August 26, 2013  7:01pm

Cheers. Its about time this intersection got the help it deserves.

Boycott Gourmet Heaven

posted by: Claudia Herrera on August 26, 2013  7:57pm

New Haven is looking more and more like the The Zócalo and Centro Histórico Mexico City. http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/mexico-city-walking-tour-3/

The Zocalo (The Green) and Centro Hisotrico (All around Yale’s streets)
 
Will encourage a lot of people to walk and to do more shopping. http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/02/dc/e1/12/zocalo.jpg

http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/02/9a/9c/8b/filename-madero-y-palacio.jpg

posted by: TheMadcap on August 26, 2013  8:21pm

@Atticus

Yale paying for 45% of it is probably contingent on them being happy with the plan, and I doubt a speedbump and one curb bump out would’ve been sufficient for them. Otherwise we probably would’ve had to pay for the whole thing ourselves, at which point we spend almost the same amount of money for fewer improvements.

posted by: A Contrarian on August 26, 2013  10:46pm

I hope the College/Prospect & Grove intersection is next.  Might have to wait for the new residential colleges to go up, but improvement is listed in the Master Plan.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on August 26, 2013  11:49pm

How will the bump-outs and narrowing of the traffic lanes at that point affect cyclists?  How will the trees affect visibility?

posted by: lrnoff on August 27, 2013  7:35am

Oh good, less parking spaces. Just what downtown needs.
It would be so refreshing if someone figured out a way to solve a problem without being so short-sighted.

posted by: anonymous on August 27, 2013  8:53am

Irnoff, any retail analyst would tell you that if Downtown wants to grow jobs and taxes, it needs way more sidewalk and public space, more crosswalks, and safer streets, even if it means losing a few dozen parking spaces.

posted by: lrnoff on August 27, 2013  9:19am

Anonymous, show me the research that says widening Chapel St. between College and High has helped the businesses along that stretch, please. I can’t be the only one who drives to shop and/or eat to have stopped going there as often as I used to. Between having fewer spaces and more expensive meters, it’s some times more frustrating than it’s worth.
I’m thinking that strategy is a wash.

posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on August 27, 2013  10:14am

This is great for an area that really needed a redesign

It would be nice if the city had a concrete plan for areas outside the downtown core, like Westville and Fair Haven.

For example, Westville has been actively trying to get a redesign to bring the antiquated street design of Fountain/Whalley/West Rock (that has not kept pace with the changes in Westville’s core) for over a decade and nothing happens.  Maybe Westville should turn to the University of New Haven and Southern since they have such an interest in our community.

It appears to me it isn’t a lack of know-how on the part of the traffic department but a lack of money.

This would be an awesome solution to the horrific Whalley/W. Rock intersection, especially with the new restaurants and Lyric Hall’s success and the Farmers’ Market.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 27, 2013  10:52am

Yes, the point is for less parking spaces downtown. Yes the point is to actually make people walk around. No, as much as people complain they’re not going to stop going downtown. People go into a city specifically because it offers what other places can’t, otherwise everyone would immediately just go to a strip mall with an Olive Garden since parking is always plentiful and free. And yes, reducing drivers in favor of pedestrians is actually a positive business model in terms of economic growth
http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2012/12/bicyclists_pedestrians_and_tri.html

posted by: anonymous on August 27, 2013  11:12am

Irnoff, the argument that “it’s so busy, nobody goes there anymore” doesn’t exactly work.  Congestion creates jobs and tax revenue. Pedestrians spend way more time on the street than any other road users.

Check out http://gothamist.com/2012/10/24/evil_bike_lanes_pedestrian_plazas_h.php, among hundreds of other studies. 

Also look at Temple Street right here in New Haven. It was vacant 15 years ago. After bump-outs and wider sidewalks were created, similar to what Doug and Erin proposed for Audubon Street, the buildings filled up and retail turnover is relatively low.

posted by: LeeCruz on August 27, 2013  11:24am

We need intersection redesign all over the city to make complete streets (street that are good for cars, bikes and most importantly for people). However given the number of pedestrians who cross this intersection daily and the lack of visibility this is a logical place to prioritize. I work in the area, cross this intersection at least twice a day and watch dozens of people on either side as they try to guess how much time they have to cross the street before a car that has come over the crest of the hill gets to the intersection. The guessing is additionally complicated when you have to peer around a delivery truck that is double parked to make a delivery. The simple truth is that cars just have to slow down on the entire length of this block. This redesign will help. Thank you Alderman Doug Hausladen, City of New Haven and Yale.

posted by: Kevin on August 27, 2013  12:10pm

Hi Gretchen!

As the third photo in the article shows, the street already has parking on both sides, so the bump-outs (which are located in the parking lanes) should have little or no impact on cyclists. Similarly, there are trees on both side of the street. The improvements should slow traffic a bit. In addition, eliminating the cars parked at the intersection and adding the speed table will increase the visibility of pedestrians at the cross-walk.

posted by: A Contrarian on August 27, 2013  12:18pm

Irnoff:

I’m just wondrin’ if you can’t park on that one block of Chapel Street, why can’t you park behind the British Art Center, or in the Crown Street lot, or in the College/Crown garage, or in the York St. garage, or on the street a block or so away?

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on August 27, 2013  6:35pm

@ Irnoff

I visit that block frequently and hardly ever have any trouble finding a parking space.  Losing a half-dozen spaces will likely not create a serious problem.

If you can’t find a space on those two blocks of Whitney Avenue, keep going, turn left on Trumbull and left again on Temple Street.  There’s just about always plenty of parking on that block, and to walk to your original destination on Whitney you don’t even have to walk back around the outside of the block, since there are several pedestrian-only shortcuts between Temple and Whitney.

posted by: lrnoff on August 28, 2013  8:37am

Temple St. is not successful because the sidewalk is wider! It has places people want to go, period. I’ve never seen anyone using the sidewalk there for more than walking on it to get from one spot to another. That goes for Chapel Street, too.
I’m not only willing to park on one block. Taking parking spaces away makes it harder to park on several blocks.
And as for parking lots and garages, I don’t always want to park in them. I do it to go to the Criterion, but I don’t usually care to park in one to run into Claire’s, or some other Chapel St. business.
Obviously, pedestrians are needed, but in order for me to be one, I have to be a driver first. I don’t live or work downtown.

posted by: anonymous on August 28, 2013  11:29am

“I’ve never seen anyone using the sidewalk there for more than walking on it to get from one spot to another.”

Really? You must spend very little time there, especially on nice days.

I recommend watching this and then let’s talk:
William H. Whyte: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces - The Street Corner
http://vimeo.com/6821934

posted by: A Contrarian on August 28, 2013  1:05pm

Irnoff:

Unless you’re genuinely handicapped, there’s absolutely no reason for you to expect to find a parking space in the block you’re visiting.  And as you say, you just don’t “want” to park in a lot or garage.  You can’t go to a mall and expect to find a space within 100 feet of an entrance, either.  New Haven isn’t a strip mall surrounded by a parking lot, nor should it become one.  There’s an abundance of parking available now.

posted by: anonymous on August 28, 2013  1:07pm

Irnoff, last time I was on Temple a few days ago, I saw two large families - young children, parents, and grandparents - playing in that widened sidewalk space for over an hour.

That wouldn’t have been possible if someone at City Hall hadn’t thought about the fact that streets are the majority of our public spaces, and had convinced our stuck-in-the-1950s engineers to make a couple changes to Temple Street. 

It’s exactly what our city needs if we want to have any hope of competing with the rest of the world. 

Let’s hope that City Hall rolls out several dozen more changes like this immediately, and does not wait two or three more years before doing another one.  These don’t have to cost $320K.

posted by: A Contrarian on August 28, 2013  2:28pm

anonymous:

Re: $320K cost—I respectfully disagree on this point.  NH gets a lot of “bang for the buck” here unlike so many other expenditures that seemingly just disappear into thin air.  The better the downtown core looks and works for residents, the sooner big projects will take off.  And I would love to see improvement work on the Green begin as detailed in that master plan of a few years ago.

posted by: anonymous on August 28, 2013  3:45pm

Contrarian: I agree, it’s worthwhile. Just saying that we need to be doing this more frequently in other locations.  There seems to be a false perception that this kind of thing always involves hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In many other cities (and even some examples here in New Haven), major engineering changes can be accomplished for less than 1/10th of that.

posted by: lrnoff on August 28, 2013  5:59pm

I had no idea there were such strong opinions about this!! I’ve lived here almost my entire life, and never knew downtown needed sidewalks to play on. If you all think this is the magic bullet, more power to you.

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