August 9, 2011
Last winter, if you crossed the street at 48th and Baltimore, or perhaps Passyunk and Tasker, you would have noticed heaps of snow piled into the road way. Cars drove back and forth through these intersections and where they didn’t, snow slowly piled up. Few people really pay attention to those “snow islands”, but they actually have a lot to tell us about how we use our streets and how we can make our communities a better place to live in
What exactly does it say? Roads that have “snow islands” have what traffic engineers call “excess capacity” which means that there is more space devoted to the road than cars driving down it need. In addition as part of the collaborative effort between MOTU, the Streets Department and the Water Department to create “green infrastructure” these plaza’s can help green Philadelphia. What if we could reclaim this concrete for our communities? What if we could put down plazas in the middle of the road and have the chance to sit and just enjoy our neighborhoods?
The City of Philadelphia is launching a new program, the Pedestrian Plaza Program, to do just that. Modeled after successful initiatives in San Francisco and New York, the City is accepting applications from community groups across the City who are interested in turning underutilized sections of the road into parks.
The Streets and Commerce Departments will work with local community groups to paint the road (see picture) and install planters, benches and tables. These low cost interventions will both make our roads safer, more beautiful and more accessible and provide the public the chance to sit and enjoy the city’s busy street life. The community groups will be responsible for maintaining the spaces, keeping them clean and well tended. Community groups will work with the City to manage these spaces: be it hosting a festival or dealing with snow. Just as importantly they will work with their neighborhood to make them a success.
In New York and San Francisco these plazas have become the new heart of the communities that have them, providing more space for people to meet their neighbors, or just to take a break. To bring one to your neighborhood check out the guidelines posted here (all applications will have to be submitted through eContractsphilly).