A One-Way Desert of Parking: State Street
This is the 2nd in a series of posts on one-ways. The others are Part I One-way & Two-way Streets Reflect a Community’s Priorities, part III One-Way to Decrease Residential Livability and the editor’s perspective Conversion of a City’s One-way Street back to a Two-Way Begins with an Ask.
Is State St. Simply Front St.’s Parking Lot?
Guest Contributor: Peter Spaulding, part 2 of 3.
What does the average citizen or visitor to Traverse City think of State Street?
When I look at it I see a waste of space, a desert of parking and a one-way street that serves only to provide smooth access to parking. Maybe others see it differently, but State Street is by no means an example of a street done right in Traverse City. Nice landscaping and street trees fail to make it a livable street; the few businesses that attempt to exist on or even between it and Front are fighting a difficult battle against terrible urban design. It is a boring, unpleasant and uninhabitable place for humans and businesses alike.
State Street’s woes begin with its subordinate relationship to Front Street. Whether actively decided upon or simply defaulted to, State Street became over time the automotive dumping ground for Front Street, a basically understandable and common outcome. The mall, the strip mall, and easy parking enthralled suburban consumers throughout the latter part of the last century; many well-meaning planners and downtown businesses blew their cities apart in unfortunate attempts to compete.
Now the time has come to take the necessary steps to realize State Street’s latent potential, and make it a testament to livability and activity in Traverse City instead of an embarrassment.
Dumping Ground for Parking
The most glaring problem with State Street is its overwhelming dedication to parking, but creating new public places for people to inhabit and enjoy is possible. Changing to a two-way orientation would immediately convert State Street from a temporary space to pass through into a place where people come together. The slowing of traffic and the visibility, walkability, and accessibility created would immediately make non-parking development on State Street more feasible and appealing.
Changes to State Street would also improve the functioning of present and future parking decks downtown. The Hardy Parking Deck would become more accessible, reduce circling traffic, and improve operation of Park Street’s intersections as the 101 N. Park building begins to draw visitors and residents. Without a State Street conversion, significant new development associated with a parking garage at Pine and Front could create significant problems. Problems at Front and Union, and along West Front to Division would limit accessibility to the deck, reduce the success of new businesses and create confusion and congestion that motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists would all be affected by.
Move Away from One-way Streets, Beginning with State Street
While a Front Street conversion would be doable and ideal, an easy and necessary first step would be to convert State Street as soon as possible. We will have a prime opportunity as the DDA is set to erect their third parking deck in the near future. Leaving behind the one-way orientation of the past would help to eliminate the use of State Street as solely a conduit for the easy entrance and exit of Front Street traffic.
Present and future parking decks give us an opportunity we as a city can’t afford to miss; we need to make State Street a quality place. By reverting to two-way operation and developing significant new housing (including affordable housing), shops and restaurants on parking lots we no longer need, we will more fully use our investment in structured parking and increase investment in our city. Traverse City will still be a small town, it will just be a more compact and vibrant, and less dedicated to the automobile and its unfortunate storage requirements.
Let’s choose to enjoy State Street as a place, and take the steps necessary to make it happen in the next 5-10 years.
Editor’s Note: Peter is hitting on something expressed before by others. Some have even expressed it on this BLOG in comments (thanks JRW). I support the idea of tying a conversion of State St. back to a two-way street to the likely construction of the West Front Street parking deck. So far, I’ve heard no discussion of how the city plans to handle the increased motorized traffic through the city, as well as downtown, the third parking deck will create; I’ve tried.
I’ll post a follow-up on this, and a small call to action, later today.