A Solution for Suburbs: Bypass the Roads

tigardtrails.jpgA map of a neighborhood in Tigard, Oregon. Some of the proposed new trails are marked in blue.

The demand for walkable neighborhoods is up,
but in order to fill that demand, we’re going to have to transform our
suburbs. How that might be accomplished was one of the most vexing
issues discussed at last week’s Walk21 Conference.

Suburban
layouts aren’t about connectivity; they’re about space, with lots of
separated roads and cul-de-sacs, and few direct routes from one place
to another. But the folks at Kittelson & Associates, a transportation planning firm, have one suggestion: bypass roads entirely. That’s what they’re doing in Tigard, Oregon.

Tigard
is a pretty typical Oregon suburb: It’s about 10 miles from downtown
Portland, it’s 11.5 square miles, and about 47,000 people live there.
That low density gave Kittelson and officials from the Oregon DOT the
chance to connect areas of town by building trails that bypass
roundabout suburban street design, allowing residents to easily walk or
bike around their city, and get direct access to their neighbors, local
businesses, and city parks. The idea came organically: For years,
residents had carved out their own informal "desire paths"
to get around. The Tigard Neighborhood Trails Project is meant to make
existing trails safer, and to build new ones to form a better overall
network.

On top of gathering community input at formal town meetings, Kittelson and ODOT also put together a website
where residents could draw and comment on new trails on a Google Map,
as well as point out existing informal ones. Jamie Parks, a planner on
the project, said that the web interactivity made it so that far more
members of the community had input into the project and, hopefully,
will use the trails when they are completed.

The plan is
done, and Tigard has begun implementing each trail, so it’ll take some
time to see how well this idea works out. Still, this could be a great
way make disconnected suburban street networks much more walkable. It’s
a relatively cheap way too — a network of 42 trails is set to cost
approximately $1 million.

  • I like the idea, but didn’t really see much about ROW acquisition.

  • Amusing thought – make going from Point A to Point B 1/4 the distance if done by bike or foot vs by car…

  • Connectivity? Sometimes it is so bad that in order to go from one mall to another mall next door, you just want to drive…

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