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University of Washington Headlines Exhibit

Beginning in 2005, the UW Architecture PAC has presented Headlines each Spring: an exhibit on public view for 2 weeks at Gould Court, traveling for exhibit at other Cascadia educational and professional venues, and visible online on the UW Department of Architecture site.

By highlighting unbuilt architectural projects under development by Washington design firms and organizations, Headlines offers the public, professionals, and campus communities a glimpse of work rarely seen outside the studio.

Schedule of HEADLINES exhibition:

April 15th to April 30th – University of Washington, Gould Hall Court
TBD – Architecture Institute of British Columbia, Vancouver
TBD – Washington State University, Pullman
TBD – Washington State University, Spokane
TBD – Montana State University
TBD – Portland State University
TBD – University of Oregon

We chose to feature the following two projects:

Evergreen Line – path of possibility
The Evergreen Line is designed as a new 11km rapid transit line in Metro Vancouver. It will seamlessly connect the municipalities of Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody through six stations to the region’s successful SkyTrain system, local bus service and the West Coast Express commuter rail.

SR99 Tunnel Vent Buildings – urban strata
The designers were asked to develop designs for two vent buildings, located at the north and south portals of the proposed SR99 Tunnel. While the functional criteria for the two buildings are very similar, the designers were faced with drastically different infrastructures, neighborhoods and built environments.

The designers were challenged to develop a flexible material palette, which would allow each building to express an identity unique to its context, while maintaining threads of continuity that make known the connectivity and kinship of the two structures across the city.

By utilizing ideas of geology and stratification, the designers developed a simple set of materials – glass, precast concrete panels, metal panels. By incorporating minor variations in each, the designers were able to develop a rich and vibrant facade, calling to mind the urban strata of which it is a part.

by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture

In my last post I addressed some of the common objections to the proposal of removing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts and mentioned some examples of similar initiatives. In this post I’d like to discuss some of the urban design benefits that could result.


Traffic on the viaducts has been steadily declining over the past 15 years. Studies show that most of the traffic accessing the downtown core via the viaducts originates in East Vancouver. In other words, this route is not part of the larger freeway/commuter network.

The viaducts during morning rush hour (8:10am Tuesday)

So if there’s really not that much traffic on Prior Street, why do the residents of Strathcona care about making it into a local street? In this case it’s a matter of quality over quantity. Prior Street may not boast the traffic volume of freeway, but the traffic certainly has the quality of major artery. The viaducts were constructed as part of a never-finished freeway network, but Prior Street was essentially designed as a neighbourhood street. There are no shoulders, large street trees, and minimal front yards. The character of this street is that of a residential collector. Functionally, Prior Street is a very uncomfortable hybrid, wherein a street that is designed to be residential gets used as freeway.

Prior Street at Jackson

Despite the 50km/h speed limit drivers often use freeway speeds. They run the red lights all the time because, in the freeway mind set, they simply don’t see them. In the two years that I’ve lived in the neighbourhood I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve jumped out the way of someone tearing through a red light, or witnessed a cyclist getting hit while crossing at a green light. The road is divisive, not because of the amount of traffic, but because it acts like a freeway.

Looking North across the viaducts towards Hogan’s Alley


Even if only 20% of the viaducts were removed, it would open up the parcel of land south of Hogan’s Alley for redevelopment. The parcel is currently bisected by the viaducts. The remnants of land are nominally park space, but they feel more like left over land – empty and slightly dangerous. The block, which has seen a tremendous resurgence in the last few years, is bordered on three sides by residences. If the viaducts did not exist, no one in their right mind would think it was a good idea to put a piece of freeway infrastructure right in the middle of a low-scale residential neighbourhood.

Houses along Gore Street next to the Viaducts

Removing the portion east of Main Street would make a dramatic improvement in to the area in terms of safety, walkability and the aesthetics of the neighbourhood. It would also reconnect Chinatown to the newer residential developments to the south, to the Skytrain station, the seawall, and to Thornton Park, which holds the summer Farmer’s Market.

Looking west towards Main Street: the viaducts divide the neighbourhood north-south

North East False Creek

One look at the aerial image of North East False Creek reveals how much of an impact the viaducts have on development potential of the area. In the Terms of Reference for the city’s High Level Review of the area, one of the priorities is creating a “normalized” street network which is either at grade or has useful transitions to grade. Studying the potential to remove the viaducts is one of the tasks for the review. Creating a strong and flexible street grid and animating it through good urban design are crucial to the liveability of the neighbourhood. For a neighbourhood so close to the downtown core there’s simply no excuse not to design a strong pedestrian realm and make walkability a priority. The viaducts disrupt this potential pedestrian realm by eliminating the potential for frequent north-south connections, casting shadows, and creating dark “underneath” areas. Transitioning between an elevated and at-grade road network is always going to be problematic, as evidenced by the fact that pacific boulevard basically duplicates the viaducts route. The elevated roads create problems architecturally as well as in terms of urban design. There are privacy and noise issues created by having a freeway buzz past a second or third storey that are difficult, if not impossible to resolve.

The original Georgia viaduct was built between 1913 and 1915 to cross over what were then CPR rail yards. The current viaducts were built in 1972 to replace the existing structure which had long since become unsound. They were built as part of an ambitious plan to build a freeway system through downtown Vancouver that would have included a tunnel beneath Burrard inlet known as the “Third Crossing.” The plan was eventually scrapped due to overwhelming opposition from Vancouver residents, especially those in Strathcona and Chinatown where mass demolition was slated to make way for the proposed freeway. However, before the city allowed the public consultation to occur, a large swath of Hogan’s Alley, then a predominantly African neighbourhood was bulldozed and the current viaducts were built.

The viaducts are Vancouver’s most glaring anachronism; leftover remnants of an age when freeway expansion meant progress and economic growth. However, in hindsight, most people would agree that the best planning decision that Vancouver ever made was to stop the freeway through downtown. As we proceed with planning decisions regarding the fate of the viaducts, we should learn from our past successes.

by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture

The 50’s and 60’s were the heyday of urban expansion and economic growth in North America. Miles and miles of freeways were constructed and the resultant increase in mobility led to economic growth that went far beyond the stimulus cost of the actual construction. By the 70’s and 80’s the first generation of freeways were beginning to need maintenance and repair. The cost associated with this infrastructure continued, while the economic growth it brought about had already happened.

Recently a new trend has emerged related to freeway infrastructure in North American cities: highways are being removed for the sake of urban renewal, redevelopment and the economic prospects associated with better urban design and more sophisticated transportation networks. Cities like New Haven, South Bronx, and New Orleans are getting on board. Some of them are even receiving federal funding in the form of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. (Ref. Planetizen article This recent NPR article summarizes some of the reasons for and objections to these US examples.

Here in Vancouver, the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts has been a topic of conversation for the past two years, but the conversation has recently picked up steam – and widespread support. City Counsellor Geoff Meggs has been responsible for promoting the idea with the City, but other prominent urbanists such and Bing Thom and Larry Beasley are also in favour.

On April 7th SFU’s city program hosted a public forum on the future of the viaducts. Over 200 people packed the theatre, and the discussion was generally supportive. The remaining question seems to be how soon and how much of the viaducts can be feasibly removed. The following options were presented by Dave Turner, the City’s transportation consultant:

  1. 20% in 5 years
  2. 50% in 10 years
  3. 100% in 20 years.

The Vancouver Sun describes these options in more depth here.

As with most highway removal proposals, the major objections are the cost of implementing the infrastructural change and the potential for increased traffic congestion. In the case of Vancouver’s viaducts, neither of these poses a serious obstacle. Certainly, there is a capital cost associated with the work of demolishing portions of the viaducts, however, if they are left in place sooner or later there will be a cost associated with maintaining them or rebuilding them. At the moment the viaducts are considered to be strong and in good condition but, as with any infrastructure, they will deteriorate over time. Highway infrastructure, even on flat ground, is incredibly expensive to maintain. This article has some statistics on highway costs in the US.

In addition to the future savings in maintaining or replacing the viaducts, the cost of tearing them down would be offset in the present by the gain in developable land. (Bing Thom estimates several hundred million worth of real estate could be reclaimed). The potential to redevelop parcels of land currently occupied by the viaducts is a timely consideration, given the recent and somewhat contentious review of the NE False Creek Area Plan. Removing even portions of the viaducts opens up all sorts of new land use possibilities for the area.

potential redevelopment parcels

The second and possibly more ardent objection to removing the viaducts is the increase in traffic congestion it would cause. However, there is no evidence to support the theory that traffic congestion would increase. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. The viaducts were closed for 21 days during the Olympics, with no noticeable traffic impacts. Granted, the Olympics were a bit of an extreme example and for residents of Strathcona and the Commercial Drive area it was a bit of a pain to have to detour down to Hastings or up to Pacific to get into town.

It’s important to note that in two of the three options that are currently being proposed, there would still be a local connection to the downtown core, but it would be a normal, at-grade road with traffic lights and intersections, instead of a giant overpass. In other words, it would not prevent local residents from accessing downtown via Georgia/Dunsmuir. As for drivers arriving from further east, according to Turner, neighbouring routes are not currently at capacity and could support an increase in volume. This was certainly borne out during the Olympic closures.

Turner noted that diverting extra traffic to neighbouring routes would result in some increased congestion, but that it would also encourage commuters to use transit or other transportation modes. While he’s right about the second part, there’s good evidence to suggest that even if the overall traffic numbers remained constant, removing one route would not cause increased congestion. It has to do with principles of network optimization and how drivers make decisions on which route is the most efficient. This article in Scientific American describes these principles and some recent research on traffic flow.

The best recent example of this is from Seoul, Korea. In 2003, the city demolished a six-lane freeway through the center of town and replaced it with a park. Sceptics were shocked as traffic flow in the city actually improved as a result.

Coming up: Part 2: Why should we remove the viaducts?

JP Thornton, our Director of Practice in the Vancouver office was just featured in Grand & Toy. Here’s an excerpt:

Q: What’s your elevator pitch?

A: Our goal is to move beyond designing the right building and instead design the right building in the right place. We believe architecture extends past the property line and into the community. Through collaboration, we create connective communities ‘via’ architecture, that’s where our name comes from. We connect the live, the work, the play, the move and the recreational aspect of a community into an interrelated, livable, sustainable and human experience.

Q: How do you keep staff motivated and engaged?

A: Because we’re a studio our employees aren’t doing the same thing every day. One moment they may be presenting to clients, the next they may be detailing a construction project. We encourage collaboration by making sure everybody is aware of what is happening on all projects. The worst thing in the word is people working in silos and not knowing why they’re doing what they’re doing. We’re also innovative and early adopters of new technology.

To check out the rest of the Q&A, click here.

Monday News Roundup

Apr 04, 2011

GORGEOUS “Luna” faucet and shower (Design Milk)
Check out this beautiful faucet and matching showerhead, inspired by the moon and stars.

Before I Die, by Candy Chang (Design Milk)
[love this] In her New Orleans neighborhood, Candy turned an abandoned, graffiti-ed house into something inspiring. She covered an entire side of the house with giant chalkboards with the words stenciled “Before I die I want to _________.” She then left pieces of chalk for residents and passers-by to fill in the most important things they want to do in their lifetimes.

Mobility’s diminishing returns (Strong Towns)
We like to believe that the United States is the land of opportunity. We also believe, for good reason, that increasing mobility increases opportunity. But when does this correlation break down? When do we go too far, to the point where the cost of improving and maintaining mobility actually stifles opportunity?

First Crescent in South Africa (Design Milk)
The original home on this site was demolished with the exception of a small basement area, converted into a guest suite. The oddly-shaped lot offers beautiful views of the Camps Bay beach and Lion’s Head to the north. Everything about this home takes advantage of the views from the windows to the outside space and cantilevered roof.

Is sprawl over? (The Transportationist)
In what is believed to be a turning point in American history, new figures from the U.S. Census indicate that suburban sprawl might be coming to an end.

Ideas for achieving an urban forest (Vancouver Sun)
Instead of stricter bylaws, perhaps what is needed is a heightened sensitivity to the value of trees

Will Seattle look to Portland to make bicycling safer? (Seattle PI)
It’s not a new idea but it has enough appeal that one City Councilwoman is trying to accelerate the development of special bike corridors on side streets, perhaps with new trees. natural drains and vehicle limitations to lure new cyclists outdoors and into the neighborhoods.

Outdoors: Ceramic Lanterns from CB2 (Remodelista)
Spring is here (and summer is just around the corner), and we’re thinking about outdoor lighting: we like these simple Ceramic Lanterns from CB2.

Monday News Roundup

Mar 28, 2011

Interesting articles and posts you may have missed last week:

9 Urban Fails (yUrbanism)
(these are hilarious)

Roundup of some great alcove beds (Remodelista)
Thomas Jefferson understood the appeal of alcove beds (see his iconic alcove bed at Monticello here); here’s a roundup of some modern favorites.

Tall or sprawl, Metro Vancouver has it all (Vancouver Sun)
Metro Vancouver is losing nine square feet of land per second to urban sprawl. Author David Owen, however, still puts Vancouver among a short list of “green” places to live, due to their high density and lack of carbon footprint per capita. Here are six places Owen considers green – and six that, by his definition, are “brown,” or not representing sustainable living.

Great studio retrofit of an aging printing press in downtown Barcelona (Inhabitat)
The allure of the old infused with the new could not be more pronounced in this studio retrofit of an aging printing press in downtown Barcelona.

Check out this kitchen island that disappears into the floor (Design Milk)
Tim Thaler wanted to maximize the floor space in his kitchen, but also needed a solution for an island. How could he have both? By hiding the island in the floor. Tim’s island comes up and down with the touch of a button on his iPhone — there’s an app for that.

Taking a green roof to the extreme (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Art Vandelay of Golden Colorado has taken the concept a little too far for the local building inspector. Called simply The Tree House, he says his vision is now complete after a ten year grow-in period and numerous structural improvements.

Tearing down freeways to make room for a new bicycling economy (Grist)
Here’s one way to fund bicycle infrastructure: Stop building freeways in cities. Better yet, tear down the ones we already have.

New media makes transit more attractive (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Last week, we released the results for our “Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System” study, a collaboration between Latitude Research and Next American City. The study asked regular drivers in Boston and San Francisco to go car-free for one whole week, sharing their experiences and recommendations along the way.

As Americans get larger, FTA raises standard for average transit passenger weight (Good)
Last month, we heard that Americans are now fat enough to need larger ambulances. Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration bowed to the inevitable and submitted a proposal to change its bus testing regulations “to more accurately reflect average passenger weights and actual transit vehicle loads.”

What emerging generations want:  a piazza (Sustainable Cities Collective)
As the 1600+ entries in this blog provide evidence for, emerging generations are moving into downtowns, driving less, walking more, living in smaller homes they can actually afford, preferring local businesses and slower food, prioritizing health,going green and valuing community and social networking like never before. It keeps coming up again and again, that the one amenity that does a remarkable job of fulfilling these values is the timeless piazza.

New idea:  Food Halls (Sustainable Cities Collective)
When you hear the term “food court”, most of us automatically think, “fast food in a mall”. What if the experience was more about slow food efficiently prepared, with a multitude of sit-down dining choices in environments designed for you to enjoy your food, sprinkled with specialty food shopping choices? Enter the “food hall”.

The link between thriving towns and a sustainable rural landscape (Switchboard at NRDC)
Yesterday, the Eastern Shore (MD) Land Conservancy announced the launching of a new Center for Towns to support “models of sustainable, walkable, diverse, well-defined and vibrant communities within our beautiful rural landscape.”  The Center was announced at a press event attended by yours truly in the beautiful town of Easton, where the Conservancy is also holding a conference.

Interactive urban agriculture map (Grown in the City)
Grown in the City has launched an “Interactive Urban Agriculture Zoning Map” to track urban agriculture zoning across the United States.

The future of urban agriculture (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Dr. Cohen’s current research focuses on urban food policy, particularly innovative planning strategies to support food production in the urban and peri-urban landscape, public policies to engage citizens in sustainable food production, urban planning and food access, and civic agriculture in cities and suburbs.

by Brian O’Reilly, Super Designer for VIA Architecture

In this series of tutorials I’ll be going through a few techniques you can use to enhance both hand and digital drawings. In this case, I was given hand drawn site plans for a local farm from our Director of Community Sustainability, and asked to take them from a sketch to a full color plan:

(click image to view larger)

To begin, I used trace paper to redraw certain portions of the original drawing to simplify the overlays that will be used in the Photoshop portion of the exercise. It seemed to make sense to draw the trees and vegetation (Figure 3), the rock walls (Figure 4), the paths and buildings (Figure 5), and the shadows (Figure 6) each separately. This is a pretty flexible part of the process – you need to consider what elements you want to have individual control over in terms of brightness, contrast, color, etc. Also, one of the most important considerations is selection, that is, what portions of your drawing you’ll want to be able to easily select in Photoshop with, for instance, the magic wand tool (more on that later…

Another important thing to remember when combining a number of drawings into one is to establish reference points. You’ll notice that in each of the separate layers I drew, I’ve included four crosshairs (see Figure 7) – one at each corner of the property line. This will make it much easier to align the drawings when combining them in Photoshop.

Once I have all my linework drawn and scanned (all with the same resolution and file type), I’ll begin combining them into a Photoshop file, again using the crosshairs to align them. With each layer, I use ‘Free Transform’ (ctrl-t) to move and rotate the layer into the correct alignment. However, DO NOT rescale the drawing. Because each drawing was scanned at the same resolution, they should all be at a consistent scale, and therefore no resizing is necessary.

Also, when these drawings are brought into PS, they are opaque, and you can’t see one through the other. The method for dealing with this will be, most typically, to go into the ‘Layers’ window to the ‘Blending Mode’ drop down menu, and select ‘Multiply’ for each of your layers (see Figure 8).

Figure 8

‘Multiply’ causes anything in the layer that is white to have 0% opacity (completely transparent), and anything that is black to have 100% opacity (completely opaque). Anything in between (gray tones or color) will have an opacity somewhere between – e.g. a gray tone with a K value of 50% will have 50% opacity. It is extremely useful when overlaying linework on a drawing. Once all my layers have their Blending Mode set to Multiply, this is what it looks like (Figure 9).

Figure 9

Now, you may have noticed that we have some artifacts from the scanning, not to mention that it’s looking a little of kilter. To eliminate unwanted pencil lines and shading from scanning you’ll need to go to each layer in remove them, either with the eraser tool, a white brush, or my preferred method, the clipping mask.

The clipping mask is an excellent, and most importantly, non-destructive tool for modifying a layer in Photoshop. Here’s how it works:

I’ll start by turning off all of the layers but the one I’m working on, in this case the Trees layer. With the Trees layer selected, I click on the ‘Clipping Mask’ button at the bottom of the Layers window (see Figure 10), creating a clipping mask for that layer (see Figure 11).

Figure 10

Figure 11

The clipping mask does what you might expect – it creates a mask that hides parts of the layer and reveals others. Parts of a clipping mask painted black will hide that portion of the layer, those painted white will reveal that portion of the layer (gray tones will have an opacity equal to their K-value). Unless you have something selected, the clipping mask will start out white, so we’ll want to select a brush and set our foreground color to black so we can start eliminating parts of the drawing. As we paint over these parts of our drawing, it will disappear. However, what is convenient about the clipping mask is that it does not directly affect the original (hence the ‘non-destructive’). If we make a mistake, simply switch the foreground color to white and you can reveal parts of your drawing you may have accidentally hidden. (more on clipping masks later…)

Figure 12 shows our drawing with the clipping done to all the layers, as well as a background layer with a white fill that covers up any holes we might end up with. I’ve also moved the drawing into the center of the artboard.

Figure 12

Now, it looks to me like the drawing is a little off kilter, and I’d like to straighten it out. Select the ‘Ruler’ tool by clicking and holding the ‘Eyedropper’ on the toolbar (Figure 13). Then use the ruler tool to delineate a horizontal or vertical line on your drawing (Figure 14). Then, on the Menu bar click Image -> Image Rotation ->Arbitrary (Figure 15). This will bring up a dialogue box that is already filled in with the necessary value of rotation to make your ruler line perfectly orthogonal.

Figure 14

Figure 15

So that’s all for this week. Next time we’ll get into adding color, Photoshop brushes, more on clipping masks, and more!

(Tuesday) News Roundup

Mar 22, 2011

Belltown Apartments Planned (DJC)
Our latest project, Joseph Arnold Lofts, featured in the DJC today.

Commuters rely on bicycles in aftermath of Japan’s earthquake (Sustainable Cities Collective)
In the outcome of Japan’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and consequent tsunami, commuters relied on bicycles for quick and reliable transportation.

Check out this kitchen island that disappears into the floor (Design Milk)
Tim Thaler wanted to maximize the floor space in his kitchen, but also needed a solution for an island. How could he have both? By hiding the island in the floor. Tim’s island comes up and down with the touch of a button on his iPhone — there’s an app for that.

Abandonded Skyscraper in Venezuela is the World’s Tallest Shanty Town (Inhabitat)
In the middle of downtown Caracas in Venezuela is an abandoned 45 story tower that has been reclaimed by squatters who have turned it into a thriving vertical shanty town.

‘Citysumers” define powerful new urban trend (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Citysumers – The hundreds of millions (and growing!) of experienced and sophisticated urbanites (with disposable income), from San Francisco to Shanghai to São Paulo, who are ever more demanding and more open-minded, but also more proud, more connected, more spontaneous and more try-out-prone, eagerly snapping up a whole host of new urban goods, services, experiences, campaigns and conversations.”

How Seattle transformed itself (NYTimes)
As the 2010 Census rolls out, much of the attention of news organizations is focused on the continuing growth of Texas and Florida, but there is much to be learned from the less extreme, but still significant, population growth in less sunny places, like Seattle.

First breath of food revolution reaches BC (Vancouver Sun)
While the world reels from global oil shock and rising food prices, the time is ripe to revolutionize the way we produce food and local food systems, according to evangelizing farmer Joel Salatin.

Stimulate your local economy and your wallet by getting rid of your car (GOOD)
The big numbers are impressive: a city can keep over $127 million in the local economy by reducing car ownership by just 15,000 cars.

Transit benches that can withstand the sits, leans and etchings of time (GOOD)
As any public transit rider will agree, the worst part of waiting for any train or bus has to be taking a seat on that grungy, funky public transit bench. So that’s why fabricators at Veyko in Philadelphia decided to reinvent the typical molded-plastic afterthought into a sculptural, durable centerpiece of one of Philly’s SEPTA stations.

How much could you save by riding transit instead of driving? (Grist)
According to the American Public Transportation Association, an average two-person American household can save $825 a month by giving up one car in favor of public transit (those figures include parking).

Bike lane bickering in NYC (Sustainable Cities Collective)
As a native of the neighborhood at the center of the bicycle lane controversy now tearing apart the New York intelligentsia, I have watched the drama unfold with conflicted bemusement.

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture

Click here for Part 1 of Integrating Transport Planning and Land-Use Strategy as a Solution: Case Study – Syria
Click here for Part 2

Parking Policy

Parking Policy is a very important planning tool in balancing the supply and demand for parking spaces. With the objective of minimizing additional traffic by controlling and restricting parking we can decrease congestion and car usage while simultaneously ensuring the economic viability of the city centre and its popular spots.

(Photo Credit: Emad Al Sagheer)

A recent article5 by Ethan Baron in The Province led me to a very important study6 that was published by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, the study emphasises the fact that “Parking policy can be a powerful tool to encourage people to take public transportation or to bike,” The study also blames the chaos of parking in the downtown areas of many cities world-wide on the absence of parking policies, which, evidently, is quite correct. It then concludes that “Parking regulation is the best way to regulate car use.”

Therefore, parking is a very critical part to any integrated transport system because it has a significant influence on car use. When parking is not available at our final destination, car usage will be questioned and consequently minimised.

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

Here are a few parking policy strategies that can be used in city centres to help decrease car dependency and return public spaces to citizens:

  • Limit or remove on-street parking in city centres. This way popular city spots will give the city the space it needs to breath and for its citizens to use as walkways, café patios, public spaces, parks, and even bikeways.
  • Build new smart parking where possible. Maximize or upgrade existing parking in the downtown core using stalked parking but also freeze the numbers of car allowed in those parking areas.
  • Raise parking fees in downtown areas. This will result in reducing congestion and car dependency.
  • Encourage the use of public transportation and other modes of traveling.
  • With regards to parking policy in the residential neighbourhoods of the city; studies and research are highly recommended on the micro scale (neighbourhood and street) to determine where the best locations for the neighbourhoods’ residents parking should be.
  • By building and investing in smart parking that contains parked cars within the perimeter of each residence within each neighbourhood around the city we can perhaps be able to empty the streets from parked cars and create areas of high quality public spaces.

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

  • Implement strict rules of how many cars any building can have according to its capacity
  • Encourage electric and compact-sized cars
  • Introduce the culture of car sharing and car-pooling

5- Baron, Ethan. Making Parking Difficult Makes for Better Cities. The Province, January 20, 2011.
6- Kodransky, Michael and Hermann, Gabrielle. Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation. Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, Spring, 2011.

Traffic and Road Management

“While travel is essential to economic productivity, many of the additional miles we are forced to drive simply because of the layout of our cities and a lack of options might be dubbed “empty miles”7

(Photo Credit: Wojciech Ogrodowczyk)

All city traffic consists of a hierarchy of road networks interacting with smaller local roads and various facilities and it is this connection that sometimes leads to conflicts. In order for the traffic on these road networks to flow properly it has to be balanced and therefore we need to have Traffic and Road management.

In general, the Traffic and Road management objectives are to:

  • Reduce the impact of arterial roads on activity centres and residential neighbourhoods
  • Reduce the barrier effect that arterial routes impose on the city’s urban fabric
  • Increase public transportation priority and performance on the roads
  • Reduce private vehicle dependency going into city centres and popular areas
  • Reduce vehicle speeds in residential areas.
  • Improve safety for all road users

The following are several effective strategies that work in managing traffic flows:

  • Propose the Congestion tool/pricing as a tool for managing congestions in the downtown area. The income can be used for upgrading public transportation. “A Congestion pricing or congestion charge is a system of surcharging users of a transport network in periods of peak demand to reduce traffic congestion. This variable pricing strategy regulates demand, making it possible to manage congestion without increasing supply. Market economics theory, which encompasses the congestion pricing concept, postulates that users will be forced to pay for the negative externalities they create, making them conscious of the costs they impose upon each other when consuming during the peak demand, and more aware of their impact on the environment.”8
  •  The old city of Damascus is a car-free zone 24/7 except for emergency and some commercial loading/unloading in specific hours between (cars being hazardous materials should a fire erupt)
  • Enforce and promote safe driving attitudes on the streets since driving habits play a major role in giving pedestrians a sense of security during travel and within their meeting places.
  • The frequency of public use of the streets will impact the vehicle speed zone. The more pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation vehicles on the streets the slower the traffic will be.

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

  • Promote the health and environmental benefits of walking, cycling and using public transportation. Introduce fun and constructive ideas for the public (i.e. Walking day, Car-free day, Biking Day, Painting pavement day etc.) Introduce incentives that encourage people to consider walking to work or use public transportation.
  • Create an inter-regional partnership of job-housing balancing system that will work on not only on the micro planning level but also on the macro planning level.
  • Environmental justice needs to be addressed in detail for every neighbourhood and region of Syria. Through a special dedicated national fund Syrian citizens can support green projects such as brownfield rehabilitation projects and reviving natural elements (rivers, forests, green corridors)
  • Create a Department of Street and Public Life: Copenhagen, Denmark is an example where the public life and the way citizens interact with the city become an entity by itself.

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

7 – Kooshian, Chuck. Winkelman, Steve. Growing Wealthier; Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity, Center for Clean Air Policy, January 2011.
8 –”

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture

Click here for Part 1 of Integrating Transport Planning and Land-Use Strategy as a Solution: Case Study – Syria

The main Transport Planning elements we need to integrate in the land Use strategy — Part 1 will cover Public Transportation, and Walking and Cycling, and Part 2 will cover Parking Policy and Traffic Management.

Public Transportation

It is necessary to develop a comprehensive public transportation policy that is embedded within the city’s vision, and integrating an accessible, safe, comfortable and clean transportation system. Introducing a workable public transportation system is seriously needed if we want any Syrian city to have healthy growth and the ability to sustain that growth. This is the first step of many toward a sustainable urbanism in Syria.

The majority of our people already depend on public transportation, which means large volumes of transportation vehicles are needed in the streets to do the job. Yet, without any reduction of private car dependency, the outcome will end with even more pressure on an already maximized street capacity. A solution for this problem might be reducing car use while building high density, separated guideways for high speed and frequent service. This can be achieved by introducing several types of rapid transit including: the Subway system (Metro), Elevated system (Monorail/Skytrain) and Grade level system (Bus Rapid Transit BRT, Light Rail Transit LRT).

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

Thinking from a financial point of view, the BRT system might be the more affordable and more achievable system to adopt in the short-term for the Syrian cities.

Many cities around the world enjoy the BRT system: Curitiba, Brazil; Guangzhou, China; Ahmedabad, India; Johannesburg, South Africa; Tehran, Iran; and Istanbul, Turkey. If we provide this kind of high quality service that respects people’s dignity, they will use public transit more and help their city grow in a better way.

The ultimate goal, however, should be a multimodal public transportation system (Subway and Elevated) for the long term if we decided to go full speed on improving public transportation.

To solve the many issues that our cities suffer from, including air pollution, pedestrian traffic, car dependency and traffic congestions, we must start with creating a reliable and sustainable public transportation system. Without it nothing can move forward neither traffic nor development and definitely not the public spaces or aesthetic features we aspire for.

Additionally, let’s not forget the financial gain that public transportation introduces by creating new jobs, attracting private investments and promoting a new culture of urban development.

Walking and cycling

“There’s no great urbanism without a walkable environment, without active streets, and without diverse communities.”3

(photo credit: Wojciech Ogrodowczyk)

Jan Gehl, the Danish urban designer, outlined in his latest book; “Cities For People”4, that the first step in fixing our cities is to address the human dimension which has been overlooked and neglected in connection with urban development for the last 50 years and regardless of the city’s global location, economic viability and stage of development: “Making city life viable will require careful work with people’s conditions for walking, bicycling and using the city outdoor space” he wrote, and at the end of his book Ghel wrote this: “It is cheap, simple, healthy and sustainable to build cities for people” which I totally agree with.

The fact is walking and cycling have a valuable role to play in any integrated land use and transport planning strategy. These two activities are accessible to a large proportion of citizens and have positive social benefits yet minimal environmental impacts.

A pleasant walking and cycling environment needs to be created to encourage people to use these modes. By encouraging the culture of walking and cycling our society will receive tremendous health and environmental benefits. From a financial point of view, by reducing trip lengths and speed, people will start to notice, and will likely support, local businesses and services on their way to work, to school, or to where ever their daily activities takes them.

Walking in the streets of Damascus, for example, can be as stressful as driving. In this case, the problem is a combination of low quality pedestrian pavements with uneven surfaces and the absence of feeling safe because of the presence of and the priority for cars. Vehicles are constantly taking over pedestrian spaces and there is a general lack of design standards that helps distinguish pedestrian pavements from the rest of the street.

(photo credit: Wojciech Ogrodowczyk)

Designated pedestrian networks are needed. A comprehensive study of how to give pedestrians dedicated routes for a safe and connected journey throughout the city must be introduced if we want to encourage people to walk and become less car-dependent. Many studies have proven that when people live in connected areas they use their cars less often. This is precisely what we need in Syrian cities.

While Damascus is not a mega city by international standards, it is compact and dense and yet somehow still a charming city, full of potential. Its surface area is still manageable, which makes possible the implementation of some simple and affordable ideas for pedestrian and public spaces.

Promoting cycling will be a challenge in the Syrian culture especially when the general view of cyclists does not go beyond the stereotypes of ‘the poor’ or ‘food delivery workers’. However, this image can easily change when people discover that modern cyclists in the city are often just the average high school or university student, the working youth and the average middle class educated citizen.

(photo credit: Samer Kallas)

To encourage cycling to and from educational institutes and city centres, a good start could include building safe bike lanes around the university and the major schools and paralleled to the BRT roads. Doing these projects should not be seen as luxury but an evolution toward a healthier lifestyle and better environment. Bike culture is a green and healthy culture that is missing in our cities today and we need to begin introducing it.

Bike sharing and renting can also be implemented later in the second or third phase of the plan after a sound foundation of cycling networks has been laid.

Once introduced, and in order to continue to grow this culture of walking and cycling we need to integrate the needs of pedestrians and cyclists into any new development and to ensure new developments are permeable for pedestrians and cyclists.

(photo credit: Ali Bazzi)

3- Interview with Calthorpe, Peter. Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change. February 08, 2011.

4- Gehl, Jan. Cities For People, Island Press, September 6, 2010.