Urbanism Next
University of OregonUniversity of Oregon

Street Design Reprioritization (Coming Soon)

Changing the way street use is prioritized can help cities move people and goods more efficiently.

By reimagining the way our streets are prioritized, cities can accommodate and maximize efficiencies for particular modes of transportation. Street reprioritization can result in increased efficiencies for delivery of goods, all modes of transportation (rather than cars alone), and ecological systems. When regarding right-of-way allocation, street capacity, environmental impacts, and the recent impacts of COVID-19, urban planners and municipal designers can learn from complete streets.

Issues & approaches

Prioritize Complete Streets: To create safer streets, planners should design for all users: pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, drivers, transit passengers, ride-hailers, and micromobility riders. Complete streets allow multiple modes to activate the entire right-of-way and all lanes of the road simultaneously. To design complete streets, stakeholders of our built environment should reference road diets and consider future flexibility of use. Complete streets also manage the competing demand for the ROW by allocating space for autonomous vehicle (AV) loading/unloading, electric vehicle (EV) charging, micromobility parking, and other emerging technologies.

Pick-Up and Drop-Off Integration: As deliveries of goods increase and more people rely upon transportation services that drop them off at the curbside, demand increases for loading zones. Clustering individual loading zones together, having designated pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) points for passenger loading, and designing these areas with the flexibility to be used by different types of delivery/PUDO users can help accommodate current and emerging needs.

Right-of-Way (ROW) Allocation vs. Number of People Served: Currently, the majority of space in the ROW is dedicated to vehicles, with only a small number of cities giving priority to high-occupancy vehicles (HOV), like bus-only lanes in San Francisco. This impacts the efficiency of streets in terms of how many people can move on or through them. Reprioritized streets dedicated to transit, HOV lanes, wider sidewalks, protected lanes for bikes, and micromobility could move significantly more people in the same amount of space, thus maximizing street efficiency and capacity.

Environmental Impacts of Street Stormwater Runoff: Prioritizing the movement of cars has resulted in significant amounts of impervious surfaces. In addition to preventing precipitation from being able to flow through and recharge in underground aquifers, streets contribute to water pollution as the oil and debris deposited on streets contaminates stormwater runoff, eventually ending up in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Rethinking the relationship between streets and the environment, and incorporating bioswales, trees, and permeable pavers could help mitigate some of the environmental impacts of streets while benefiting the natural water cycles that people and animals depend on.

Examples/case studies

Prioritize Complete Streets - Street Improvement Project

Better Naito Forever - Central City in Motion

View - Portland Bureau of Transportation & City of Portland

This PBOT (Portland Bureau of Transportation) intervention along Naito, in Portland, Oregon, is a large-scale street improvement project which implemented a protected cycle-track (for cyclists and scooters), sidewalks, and upgraded traffic signals. Other benefits of Better Naito Forever include safer driving, connected walking routes, intersection improvements, and increased access to Waterfront Park.

Environmental Impacts of Street Runoff

Portland Green Street Program

View - City of Portland

In an effort to manage stormwater runoff in the rainy Pacific Northwestern municipality, Portland voted to approve a Green Streets resolution in 2007. Since, Portland has implemented green street facilities (including swales, rain gardens, permeable pavement, naturescaping, bioretention areas, and stormwater installations). The city has also published several green infrastructure tours, outlining bikeable and walkable routes between the city’s best case studies.

Pick-Up and Drop-Off Integration - Smart Zone Delivery

Smart Zone Delivery Pilot

View - Coord & City of Aspen

In a joint effort between the City of Aspen and Coord, a Smart Zone pilot program was launched in the Fall of 2020 to manage delivery and commercial loading, while addressing municipal curb management. Within the city eleven existing, utilized loading zones (accessible via curb and alleyway) were converted for the Smart Zone pilot. Coord piloted similar Smart Zone delivery programs in Nashville, Tennessee; Omaha, Nebraska; and West Palm Beach, Florida.

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