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Nelson/Nygaard's big reveal for University Circle: "(Y)our mission is not parking"

Marc Lefkowitz  |  10/29/14 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Vibrant cities, Transportation choices

By now, you've probably heard that University Circle is doing a transportation study. Formally, it’s called the Moving Greater University Circle Transportation & Mobility Study. But, what is it? And how exactly could it help make University Circle a more inviting place to walk, bike, take transit, or drive?

We spoke to David Fields, Principal of Nelson/Nygaard, the planning firm that is working simultaneously on this study and on the redesign of Public Square (in particular on the effect of closing Ontario Avenue through the square—more on that in a later post).

Fields says they’re gathering ideas on where to make improvements on campus—through a series of public meetings this week and online (through a WiKi map and survey).

Share alike<br />Bike share in University Circle adds to the mobility optionsRapid improvements<br />The new University-Cedar Rapid station

“The area’s growing. If we can shift the trajectory from so many parking spaces per square feet of developed land to less parking—that is found land," he explains. "We can reduce the cost of development with it and use that land for more active things.”

Specifically, they're looking for "anything in the transportation system that’s holding University Circle back.”

Can you bike safely from the University-Cedar Rapid Station or Euclid Avenue to a museum? Can you walk from Wade Oval to Uptown if you have limited mobility? Or, if you drive, does the patchwork of parking lot operators make it an unpleasant experience?

Rewind two weeks. Fields presented the findings of a parking study to University Circle institutions who are doing this to manage growth. The major finding, he said, is that the bulk of the district’s 30,000 parking spaces are used by commuters and residents—not museum goers. It gives them something to work with.

“This is actually good news because the employees who commute regularly are most open to transportation demand management strategies (TDM),” Fields says. “If we can get 5% of them to do something else, that’s a pretty big number.”

To unpack that statement, Fields offered a glimpse of what has enticed other Eds and Meds district commuters to leave the car at home.

“If there’s a safety net for what happens not on a normal day, people will make rational choices,” Fields explains.

Programs like carsharing and a Guaranteed Ride Home have a good track record. Enterprise currently offers three carshare cars in University Circle and NOACA offers its Guaranteed Ride Home for anyone who signs up for its Rideshare program. Nelson/Nygaard won’t figure out the potential for more, but will have a more general idea of how to build in alternatives to driving.

“One of the big connections between the phases of the study (is) if we manage parking correctly—even parking once—that helps add vitality to the street.

"It’s important for University Circle to own it," he concludes. "To be able to say, ‘our mission is not to provide parking, it’s to provide the best healthcare or research.'”

Today (Wednesday) is the second public meeting. Participants will be asked to draw obstacles to walking and biking on a map. Immediately following the session, Fields will lead a walking audit of University Circle to get a feet first perspective of barriers and opportunities. Tomorrow (Thursday) from 10-noon at the new Tinkham-Veale Student Center will be another information gathering session. A third and final session will be on November 5 at Cleveland Clinic’s green “Drive to Change” event.

If you can’t make it in person, they ask for your input on the Wiki map and survey.

“The WiKi map has revolutionize things,” Fields says. “If we can overlay everyone’s feedback and can see where change needs to be, it’s the same as statistical research. We can hone in, for example, where tons of people are saying you have a street that would be easier to bike on if...”

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Janet Neary
3 years ago

Great to find some optimism (Most parkers are employees and amenable to planning) about parking issues! Great to find best practices elsewhere.

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