University Ave. should be solely a pedestrian and bicycle mall
Original post made
by Andrew, Downtown North,
on May 24, 2007
I believe that University Avenue should be turned into a bicycle and pedestrian mall, from Cowper to Emerson. Some of my reasons:
1. Parking is difficult on the street, and the loss of these places will not significantly change the parking situation.
2. Businesses will still get the same amount of buying traffic to them since there will be more people on the street.
3. There are much better ways to get through this part of town; University is not a very fast connector.
4. It could be made so much nicer with flagstones, plants and trees.
5. Everyone goes to University to walk down it anyway; does anyone need to tour it by car?
6. It will be much safer for everyone; near misses on this street are pretty common for pedestrians, bicycles and cars.
I understand that this must have been discussed many times before, and I think I also understand some of the sacrifices involved: more traffic on side streets, having to detour around instead of barreling across University, the cost involved, etc.
What do you think? Has this ever been put on a ballot for a vote? Do you think it should be?
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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2007 at 1:03 am
Converting University Avenue to a "pedestrian mall" zone would be more pleasant, more consumer friendly, increase foot traffic immensely, and increase revenues for downtown retail businesses, thus increasing sales tax revenue for the city. Boulder, Colorado was cited as an example, also the 16th Street Mall in Denver should not be overlooked as a successful example of a revitalized downtown retail area project.
Utilizing the existing roadway and streetside parking surfaces for pedestrian endeavors, including but not limited to the addition of trees and landscaping, benches and seating, public art, tastefully implemented retail and food service kiosks, community use space, aesthetically pleasing recycling bins with environmental education "tips and facts" on signage, digital touch screen directories at each end and throughout, and tactful solar powered signage depicting special events or promoting the area as a whole, would be a wonderful depiction of the next level of evolution for the downtown area.
Obviously the city would keep a lane clear for emergency vehicle traffic, which could also be utilized by the Stanford Marguerite shuttle, or an enhanced version of the alternative fuel shuttle, to transport people from nearby areas to strategic stops in the pedestrian mall.
Any potential downside would be negligible and rather easily mitigated. Existing alternatives to streetside parking on University Avenue can be more fully utilized, shuttle service can be more fully utilized and enhanced, traffic can be routed on alternate east-west thoroughfares, drop off/pick up areas can be designated, municipal vagrancy codes can actually start to be enforced and/or homeless people can be directed to other areas such as Lytton Plaza, the creation of a team of multi-talented cleaning crew/welcome ambassadors which can assist consumers with information and carrying packages if necessary. Volunteer ambassadors? Sounds like a perfect part time endeavor for some energetic senior citizens or youth with time on their hands.
In order to offset costs, the city would be prudent to put out a bid for the master lease of potential kiosks, and parts of the mall could be leased out for events... even canopied/tented when desired. Sponsorships could be sold for seating areas, public art pieces, and specific flora and fauna areas, all noted with tasteful donor plaques such as at a hospital or performing arts venue. Also tastefully done advertising could be sold at the touch screen directories and on the solar powered electronic signs strategically placed throughout the mall. A new website for the pedestrian mall could be created and advertising sold within the website.
No matter what side of this discussion you are on, one issue is undeniable: Something needs to be done to revitalize the downtown area. Conversion to a pedestrian mall solves many concerns, not the least of which reared an ugly head again when an elderly lady was struck by a vehicle while in a cross walk recently. Turning the downtown commercial area of University Avenue into a beautiful and pleasant pedestrian mall experience will benefit everyone on all sides of the issue.
Residents and property owners in the downtown area will have a space they can be proud of which will make their daily lives more enjoyable and increase the emotional value of their homes, if not the property value as well. Consumers not residing in the downtown area will come to shop, to dine, to have a coffee, to have a glass of wine or drink, to congregate with their friends, and enjoy themselves immensely because it is the most pleasant retail experience on the Peninsula. Retailers, restaurateurs, and the like will experience increased sales that a properly executed concept of this type will bring, and can even choose to rent one of the new kiosks to bring in additional revenues and brand recognition. (Restaurants may sell some of their popular appetizers as "street food" in front of their business or even on the opposite end of the mall to help attract people down to their main location.) The town will benefit from increased sales tax revenues, and an enhanced reputation as a fine place to shop, dine and enjoy.
Let's face it: If a merchant in the downtown area thinks conversion to a pedestrian mall is a bad idea, they are probably quite inept as a business owner and their business will most likely fail, regardless of what happens on University Avenue. Any consumer who states they will be negatively affected because they consistently find parking on University Avenue in the downtown commercial area, especially in front of the specific merchant they wish to visit, must be one of the luckiest human beings on earth and should really buy a lotto ticket ASAP... or their memory is a bit skewed or prone to embellishment when it comes to parking matters. If anyone thinks a top priority of the city of Palo Alto is the enforcement of vagrancy laws, and that the city strictly enforces vagrancy laws with zeal, they must be privy to a top secret effort to do so, because it is certainly not obvious to the rest of us.
The bottom line is that there is no downside in converting University Avenue to a pedestrian only zone in the downtown commercial area. The only issue is if it is executed properly or half-baked. The only obstacle is if some residents and the city are too short-sided to take action and implement the concept. If we choose to do nothing about it, then we only have ourselves to blame when in the future other nearby cities institute similar programs and lure our potential revenues away.
Just food for thought, and my own, humble opinion.