That’s why urban planning relies on models, hypothetical theory, and inductive reasoning. Pretty much the only thing that planners and civic engineers can reliably study are the movement of cars, crime, and the taxable value of real estate. (Data for anything else, such as people moving on foot or happiness is almost impossibly tricky.) That’s no small reason why car volumes and real estate values become the main emphases for city policy.
But have no fear. All that can change thanks to these easy to follow Real Life Planning Experiments. There are a few places in the Twin Cities where you can experience two sets of scenarios right here, on these very streets. These are places where you have a “control group” (Test Case #A) and an “experimental group” (Urban Street Subject 5.2-C5). These are places where the conditions are similar enough that you can come to some preliminary conclusions about different urban designs, different treatments, different planning approaches.
Following these easy steps, you can conduct your own Real World Experiment. Walk, bike, and drive through the city. Find out for yourself whether urban design really makes a difference. The world is your laboratory.
Experiment #2: LRT Traffic Calming on University
Though the train itself will not run down the tracks for another nine months, the tracks and streetscape modifications are already in place.
|[University Avenue pre-existing conditions.]|
|[University Avenue: the before picture.]|
Working Hypothesis: Even without the LRT operating, the streetscape and traffic calming effects of the LRT dramatically change the experience of University Avenue, slowing down traffic and improving the experience of people on foot.
|[University Avenue: the after picture.]|
Methodology: Imagine that there will be no train, that the tracks are simply an elaborate design for traffic calming. Choose an interesting segment of University Avenue and go for a walk.
Think back to the street as it was before construction. How does it compare today? Is it a more or less pleasant experience? How fast do cars seem to be moving? Can you cross the street? Can you comfortably carry on a conversation with a friend or stranger?
Repeat this experiment while driving a car, or on a bicycle (with caution).
|[A post-LRT sidewalk.]|