Street design, traffic, and fear of crime : moving from gated communities to transit villages
Author(s)Switzky, Joshua (Joshua Edward), 1974-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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The first phase of Tren Urbano, a rail rapid transit system in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is currently under construction, with future phases in the planning stages. San Juan's built landscape is presently dominated and dramatically fragmented by gated developments, which poses fundamental problems for the success of Tren Urbano. This thesis documents and explores the negative impacts of widespread gated communities on transit use and transit-conducive development, including inhibitions on the directness of pedestrian access to stations, the quality of the pedestrian realm, the ability to sustain mixed land uses (and thus the ability of transit riders to "trip-chain"), the ability to plan efficient feeder transit service, and residents' socio-geographical perspectives of their relationships to their neighborhoods, transit, and the form of the city. If there is a way to ameliorate residents' fears of crime and achieve the sought-after benefits of gated developments while facilitating more connective pedestrian-oriented transit-supportive settlement patterns, then alternative models should be understood and promoted. The extent to which measures less restrictive than gated developments in other cities have indeed mitigated fears of crime (and actual crime) and produced more neighborhood satisfaction could provide a new model for San Juan to follow, especially around Tren Urbano stations. To arrive at such an alternative model, this research asks why Sanjuaneros are attracted to gated communities and explores urban design paradigms that take a different tack at satisfying these concerns in a more connected context. Analysis of the underlying roots of fear of crime and other perceived benefits of gated communities in San Juan reveals a common denominator concern with the physical and sociological effects of auto traffic. Gated communities provide a lure of restricted access, a refuge from the auto which brings with it the perception of uncontrollable and unpredictable threats to personal security, neighborhood livability, sense of place, and community integrity. Delving into the related physical and sociological neighborhood impacts of auto traffic enables us to work from the ground up toward pedestrian-oriented alternative models of neighborhood development. Experiments with street modification and traffic calming in Chicago neighborhoods participating in the city's Community Security Infrastructure Program confirm that by altering perceptions and use parameters of street space as well as the strutucure of the street network, residents feel enhanced control of their neighborhood domain, enhanced personal and community safety, more comfortable using public space, and generally more satisfied with their neighborhood environment. Ultimately, from the Chicago experience emerges a set of street and neighborhood design principles, that address both the space of streets and the structure of movement networks. I outline a set of urban design principles that should be applied to residential neighborhoods to satisfy individual and communal reasons that make gated communities attractive, however based on highly-connective and rich pedestrian networks within a fabric that maintains the integrity of mixed uses oriented around transit. This fabric optimizes pedestrian permeability while maintaining defined neighborhoods where the flow of movement and the tone of activity is community-defined and set within the comfort zone of the residents. The five principles that facilitate these goals are: (1) Use street space to articulate a constructive and positive vision of neighborhood activity by physically expanding the pedestrian domain to encompass the street holistically; (2) Stress elements in the street realm that act as neighborhood amenities; (3) Use street elements that exude the symbolism of invitation and accommodation by serving the dual functions of traffic control and inter-neighborhood zones of exchange; (4) Optimize the pedestrian network and constrain the auto network with street design elements that recognize and take advantage of the potential overlapping duality of these networks and their respective relationships to the same built fabric; and (5) Extend the comfort and identification zone of "home" and "neighborhood" via permeation of integrated street design and careful articulation of boundaries, potentially encompassing the transit station. While Tren Urbano first needs to figure out why gated communities are so attractive to Sanjuaneros and develop an urban design model that meets these needs while satisfying the needs of pedestrians and transit, implementation of these design principles is the next challenge. Of the strategic options available, the current realities in San Juan make (1) the creation of development incentives for building along a parallel set of design guidelines and (2) sponsoring and marketing demonstration projects the most feasible and likely to succeed at the present in forging a new direction and opening the city's eyes to new options in urban living.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2001."June 2001."Includes bibliographical references (leaves 143-149).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.