New Standards Could Make Roadways Usable For All Modes Of Transportation

November 08, 2013

(Photo by Mark Brodie-KJZZ)
Grand Avenue, near downtown Phoenix.

The Phoenix City Council early next year is expected to vote on a new set of standards for street design in the city. The Complete Streets policy aims to make roadways usable for all modes of transportation, not just cars, and for users of all ages and abilities, not just drivers.

Phoenix-based urban designer Jeremy Stapleton has been working on this issue with the city for a few years. Stapleton met me on Grand Avenue near 10th Avenue. He said it is a recently completed and good example of what he would like to see across Phoenix.

Stapleton said complete streets are not just good for the ears, they are also good for the bottom line. Ruben Gonzales agrees. He owns Eleventh Monk3y on Grand Avenue. He designs and sells T-shirts, as well as lighting fixtures and furniture, among other things. He moved in about three months ago after spending two years along Roosevelt Row.

"So, we moved in maybe three weeks before it got done, and you would see people speeding down this road, like 80 miles per hour, and the minute these started getting put in, it literally was slowing traffic down, and when you slow traffic down, people tend to look what’s around them, and with that happening, this shop has never been busier," Gonzales explained.

Gonzales said he has done more business in the last two months in his current spot than he did in his last six months on Roosevelt, and supporters say narrower roads are not just good for retailers. Kirby Hoyt is a landscape architect and urban designer with a studio pretty much across the street from Gonzales’ space.

"As the business grows and as I hire more people, I want to have them be able to look at this as being an attractive place to work, and so calming down the streets and creating what’s been happening, I think is a catalyst for more retail, more bars and restaurants, those kinds of things that are destination opportunities," Hoyt said.

Hoyt said these kinds of streetscapes could be a recruiting tool for potential employees. He said the process of converting the street was fairly quick and did not really impact him.

Back outside, Stapleton said projects like the ones on Grand Avenue and 1st Street downtown should be high on Phoenix’s priority list.

Stapleton compares Phoenix’s streets to desert river beds and said the roadways are engineered to have flash floods twice a day, preventing anything from taking hold, but he said, it does not have to be this way. Stapleton wants different communities within the city to design streets that work for them, and he said he is confident the council will adopt complete streets. If it does, he said Phoenix will join the more than 250 other communities across the country that have already done so.