Recap of Final San Antonio Better Block for 2012 – Case Study:Transportation and Retail Study Testing

The final better block of 2012 and 3rd in San Antonio, TX occurred this past weekend (Dec. 8th). The City of San Antonio’s City Center Development Office contracted Team Better Block of Dallas alongside the Project for Public Spaces in New York City, which worked together to develop a site plan that narrowed a segment of West Commerce Street from 4 lanes to 3 lanes in order to create a more inviting pedestrian experience. In Full Bloom Creative out of San Antonio transformed a parking lot into a plaza with an outdoor market, street furniture, and landscaping. The goal for the project was to bring to life the West Commerce Street road diet recommendations from the recently completed Downtown Transportation Study and show how the “West Commerce District” could host greater retail outlets as proposed in a recent Study.

Bryan Geraghty of New York’s Project for Public Spaces holds up the street plan for the West Commerce Better Block project

 The plan was to take West Commerce, a major east-west one-way arterial in Downtown from 4 lanes to 3 lanes with an expanded pedestrian area, better bus stops, cafes, landscaping and a market. Do all of this in a period of three hours of set-up using temporary materials, gauge the reaction, capture data and take down before the sun sets. With a handful of dedicated volunteers we set out.

Andrew Howard of Team Better Block radar guns West Commerce prior to the project installation.

Speed before 25MPH

Volunteers begin applying crosswalks

 

Volunteers lay out inset-parking and temporary bulb-outs using straw wattles to thin the street and create a more inviting presence while slowing traffic.
Street trees and landscaping arrives
Landscape installation
Reclaimed public space.
Revised roadway nearly complete! From 4 lanes, to 3 lanes with pedestrian amenities.

Speed after averaged 20 MPH. The experiment worked! The addition of landscaping, on-street parking and wider sidewalks reduced speeds to a safe range. Studies indicate that every MPH under 20 MPH significantly reduces the frequency and severity of traffic accidents. A safer environment for pedestrians and cars means greater viability for retail and cafes.

Parking lot converted to outdoor market

Street furniture built from reclaimed wood
Existing businesses began embracing the reclaimed street space by bringing out outdoor seating, shade umbrellas, and merchandise.
Safe and playful transit stops.
Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard of Team Better Block

Click here to view the San Antonio Express write-up on the project including a photo essay. Many thanks to all the wonderful volunteers that made this project a success. San Antonio is truly lucky to have so many people that care of love for their city. This is the last project of the year for Team Better Block. Next year, they’ll be  Australia, France, and Canada demonstrating street improvements to international audiences. Next stops in the U. S. are St Paul, MN and Norfolk, VA. Check back soon for more details.

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