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Re-allocating space on streets to accommodate new uses – particularly for walking, biking, and being – is not new. COVID-era needs have accelerated the process that many communities use to make such street transitions, however. Many communities quickly understood that the street is actually a public place and a public good that serves broader public needs more urgent than the free flow or the storage of private vehicles. This book captures some of these quick changes to city streets in response to societal needs during COVID, with two open questions: 1) what changes will endure post-COVID?; and 2) will communities be more open to street reconfigurations, including quick and inexpensive trials, going forward?
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are a near future reality and the implications of AVs on city development and urban form, while potentially widespread and dramatic, are not well understood. This report describes the first order impacts, or the broad ways that the form and function of cities are already being impacted by forces of change including—but not limited to—AVs and related technologies.
This policy paper focuses on the primary concept of the street as space that can be repurposed – real estate that can be allocated in similar or different ways than done currently. Cities generally refer to this publicly owned and regulated space from one side of the street to the other as the right of way (ROW). Our focus is on the centrality of the ROW in dictating many other community functions and values – transportation and otherwise. And our particular bias is to focus on the opportunities that AV technology is likely to create to rethink how the ROW is allocated, so that our communities can meet their substantial and unique environmental, social, and economic challenges.
This book is designed to communicate how communities of all kinds are making these changes all the time. It is our hope that this will make it easier for new projects to get built and that the examples will make it possible for a “new normal” to take hold, where all streets are revisited and assessed to see whether they can be doing more. This is similar to a post-occupancy analysis–do our streets perform the way we want given all of the needs and uses we have of them? If not, then this book provides many examples on how to move forward and ‘remodel’ our streets.
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