Sharpening the edge (2)

Transit as a positive image for the street

A reader alerted us to an interesting streetscape project, on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland, OH. This east-west spine is roughly similar to 20th Street in downtown Birmingham, in the sense that it connects the Central Business District at one end to a university (Cleveland State) district at the other end, before it continues into the eastern suburbs. A new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line (stop and dedicated lane pictured above on Euclid Avenue in the CBD) has been built as part of street improvements planned to better link the east and west sides of Cleveland’s downtown. This is similar in concept to a proposal prepared by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, whose In-Town Transit Partnership study envisioned BRT serving as a catalyst to downtown development and knitting together the north and south sides of the central city. It’s worth looking at just to drool over the highly inspirational video created as part of the study.

University edge gets urban

Opened for about 3-1/2 years, the $200 million transit redevelopment has ushered in over $3 billion in new/proposed redevelopment, including the University Lofts project shown above, a combination of restored historic buildings and new infill along Euclid adjacent to Cleveland State campus (architect: City Architecture).  The infill building is second from the left: restrained in tone and detailing, with proportions that align to its neighbors. This is a great example of how a well-done transit project, and urbane mixed-use development that accompanies it, can result in a vibrant edge for an urban campus.

Transit used to be part of the fabric

Above is 20th Street at Five Points South in the 1920’s–with prominent streetcar lines connecting the district to the north side. A potentially thriving edge of UAB‘s campus, it would benefit tremendously from better transit connections, and from university and private mixed-use development that adheres to solid tenets of urban design. Cleveland, and Cleveland State, seem to have gotten it right; let’s learn from their example!

[thanks to fitchdnld for the Euclid Avenue CBD pic; city architecture for the Euclid Avenue campus stop pic; photonut2 for the Five Points pic)

8 responses to “Sharpening the edge (2)

  1. Yes, yes, yes.

  2. I would prefer a street car but I guess anything is better than nothing.

  3. Are there instances of BRT being successfully installed/integrated like this in a Birmingham sized city/metro? Cleveland metro, by wikipedia, is almost 2X Birmingham’s.

    • Good question. A quick survey shows cities like Albany, Albuquerque, Nashville, Providence all have BRT lines. I’ve ridden one in Boston (Silver Line) that connects seamlessly with the subway system there. We would have to do more research to understand how successfully integrated the systems are in each city, although I’m sure the guys at Regional Planning Commission have done this research and could comment on that. Thanks.

  4. Colm- I think Salt Lake City also has one under construction.

  5. Also, a streetcar or light rail would cost at least three times as much as BRT. However, a BRT line could be upgraded to rail once ridership dictated it.

    • Unless something really changes around here, BRT is probably the best chance we have for transforming perception of public transit, and, as you mention, it can be converted later to rail. Thanks.

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