re:Street Reclaiming the Public ROW: West Capitol Ave

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West Capitol Avenue is a major east-west, 3.5-mile long arterial and commercial spine running through West Sacramento. The Urban Design and Streetscape Master Plan focused on creating a Complete Street to serve as the heart of the community. This involved redesign of the public-private interface, signage and wayfinding, traffic and circulation, infrastructure, financing strategies and overall streetscape standards. Sustainable infrastructure plans were developed to assure underground utilities like sewer, water and storm drainage are adequate for new development. The extensive community participation program included a series of stakeholder interviews and community workshops. Since Phase One improvements, the city has seen investment by a hotelier, bank and small businesses and the street has welcomed a college, community center, an updated library and remodeled transit centers.

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5 thoughts on “re:Street Reclaiming the Public ROW: West Capitol Ave

  1. There is a large opportunity to change the character of a city by re-imagining how the streets can be used by cars, bicyclists and pedestrians. With about 33% of the land being used for the public right of way, the dominance of the car in American society is readily apparent. The presentation showed how there is a push back against this ideology, by shrinking the area allocated to cars and widening the right of way for pedestrians this move can dramatically change how an area is perceived. Also, reducing the amount of traffic that can threaten someone’s well-being encourages people to leave their cars behind and instead journey on foot when they previously would not have considered it due to the inhospitable nature of the previous sidewalk dimensions which relented space to the car.

    Though we all know that change is a hard thing for a community to swallow, it surprised me how readily the West Sacramento city council was to embrace the proposed roadway changes of Lincoln Highway. Even going as far as to make it part of their re-election campaign. I was born and raised in Sacramento and have driven this stretch of roadway many times, noting how wide the road was but not aware that it had once been the major highway route for that region. I intend to revisit the area and walk around to experience what a sidewalk, designed with the pedestrian in mind, feels like because it is not a common convention in many of the U.S. cities that I have visited. The closest thing that I have experienced was Shattuck Ave in Berkeley and it would be nice to have something to compare it to, see which is more successful and what actually lends to that success.

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  2. Mukul’s talk was a good case study dive in the extremely long, challenging, and expensive process of creating progressive public work projects, particularly in places that might not have as much experience with or money to finance these types of designs. It’s a good reminder that the work of an urban designer can be as much communication as it is design.

    On the point of communication, Mukul clearly has some practice bringing up the more interesting or provocative points on this case study and streetway design in general. In particular, I liked his discussion of how each piece of furniture or infrastructure in the public realm should be designed to serve 2-3 functions, exemplified by the bus stop that serves both a passenger waiting area as well as a city marketing tool. In addition, the idea that “we will all be disabled at some point” definitely provokes one to consider those who are disabled not just as “others,” or as someone else we need to accommodate, but as a category that I will one day find myself; I can definitely see how this statement could become a key motivator for the public to accept more inclusive design. Finally, I liked his discussion of how we should look into the future of roadway design with driverless cars; even though it may seem like a far-off future, it may be closer than we think and the impact in our public realm could be significant.

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  3. Mukul’s lecture was very exciting. 33 percent of the space in the city is occupied by the streets, but the quality of the experience for pedestrians is generally hampered for the sake of cars. I like the design of having the destination street and through traffic street on West Capitol Avenue because it can help pedestrians feel safe despite being closer to the slow local access traffic. The reduction of each lane’s width from 15 feet to 10 feet really helps widen the sidewalk if there are four lanes of traffic, meaning a 20 foot sidewalk gain. The Hemisfair Complete Street design is very interesting and controversial. On one hand, the shared street helps make the street lively by minimizing the segregation of pedestrians and vehicles. On the other hand, it is controversial and raises comments by the visually and hearing impaired people, which is very critical if the designer can help reduce these concerns through detail designs. Lastly, the profit concern for local business owners during the construction period is a key determinant in order to gain community support. This could possibly be mitigated via phasing the project.

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  4. Mukul brought up plenty of interesting points and I really appreciated his drive and will to change such an underwhelming street typology. From my personal experience of growing up in the central valley, I often see these kinds of streets implemented without any rhyme or reason. It has just been engrained in our system to place these kind of streets through our cities and towns without second thought resulting in bleak, auto dominated streets. I am surprised Mukul and his team were able to garner such change but at the same time, it really does inspire me that even if places close to home can make such dramatic change then it can happen anywhere. Mukul knew that people are afraid of change but allowing the community to “create” the design themselves paved way for much more willing public to fund and move forward with redesigning the Lincoln corridor. West Sacramento now has a demonstration project that shows it can be done and be done well! I hope many more changes like this come of it. The next major move will to be develop shared streets.

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  5. This talk was extremely informative on how typical streets in America can be changed to be more pleasant for the non-auto commuter. Making the street a slower street without creating congestion is not an easy task, but the West Capitol Avenue managed to accomplish this. The power of policy change were really highlighted in this project; going from the L.O.S. regulations to C.E.Q.A. allowed for this street renovation to happen. Also the reduction of travel lane width requirements from 15ft to 10ft allows for the street to improve so dramatically. It’s so great to see that an “ugly”, leftover space like the median on a busy auto street can be reclaimed and become a great park space.

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