Planners and Architects

Turn Underutilized Asphalt into Grass and Other Uses

Underutilized, excessive roadway and/or parking space can be reassigned to pedestrian and/or bicycle uses. Underutilized or excessive roadways have more travel lanes (or parking spaces) than necessary for the number of cars using them. New uses of roadway or parking space could include public plazas with planters and seating areas, buffered bicycle lanes, and widened sidewalks.

Guidance
  • Analyze existing and proposed traffic conditions
  • Communicate and coordinate with local stakeholders for their support and design input throughout the design and planning process
  • Implement traffic changes using temporary materials to test the performance of plaza space so that redesign changes can be made or removed before investing resources to construct a capital project
  • Be sure the design of plazas or public space considers the needs of people with disabilities, including defining the space in a manner that is identifiable and detectable by pedestrians who are blind
  • Partner with a local organization or city department to provide ongoing maintenance and programming for the new public space
  • Provide movable street furniture and additional greenery where possible
  • Continually monitor before and after conditions for traffic and safety impacts, economic impacts, and real estate values in and around the project
Benefits
  • Encourages walking and cycling
  • Creates new public space
  • Improves safety for pedestrians as well as drivers and their passengers
  • Potentially provides an economic boost in areas with more space allotted to pedestrians
  • Potentially improves traffic circulation in and around redesigned areas
  • Potentially improves access to open space
Considerations
  • Funding traffic analysis to assess existing conditions and predict potential impacts of roadway adjustments, which could be reduced with pilot projects using temporary materials
  • Community or political resistance to unfamiliar configurations of street space
  • Funding ongoing maintenance requirements
Where to Use It
  • Underutilized vehicular roadways in areas with high pedestrian volumes, such as
    • Central business districts
    • Main Streets and downtowns in smaller cities
    • Near parks, playgrounds, schools, senior citizen communities
  • Unusual intersection configurations
  • Underutilized arterial streets alongside popular destinations like malls or recreation centers
  • Proximity or relevance to local groups or business improvement districts to take on programming and maintenance responsibilities for newly created public spaces
  • Underutilized surface lot and curbside parking space
Professional Consensus
  • Traffic lane reductions are based on standard AASHTO guidelines, Highway Capacity Manual software procedures, and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
  • NACTO Urban Bicycle Design
Examples

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.