TACTICAL URBANISM Short-term Action || Long-Term Change
A Summary Report for the Hamilton/Burlington Society of Architects
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Contents Introduction................................................ 01 Opportunity Sites....................................... 03 Tactical Urbanism Workshop Results Queen Street S. + Herkimer Street ............. 05 Main Street E. + King Street E.................... 07 Upper James Street + Mohawk Road.......... 09 King Street E. + Dundurn Street S............... 11 Cannon Street E. + Mary Street................... 13 Locke Street S. and Herkimer Street........ 15 Locke + Herkimer Project Timeline.......... 18 Conclusion + Recommendations............. 21
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Introduction In the spring of 2013, The Hamilton/Burlington Society of Architects (HBSA) retained The Street Plans Collaborative (Street Plans) to facilitate a tactical urbanism workshop and to deliver a Doors Open Hamilton keynote lecture. Tactical urbanism utilizes direct, low-risk, and low-cost action to inform and help cities and citizens catalyze longterm social and physical change. While tactical urbanism is not necessarily new in Hamilton Parking Meter Parties, the Sew Hungry Food Truck Festival, and Open Streets are three local examples the workshop aimed to further educate the citizenry about similar actions being taken across North America and to inspire citizens to become more involved in the physical improvement of their city. A variety of architects, professional planners, neighbourhood residents, journalists, and advocacy group representatives attended the April 19th, 2013 workshop. Following an introductory lecture led by Mike Lydon of Street Plans, participants were divided into five teams and tasked with identifying the challenges and opportunities associated with one of five sites (illustrated on page 03) representing a variety of conditions found within the city. Each team was then asked to develop low-cost and low risk interventions intended to communicate possibilities for creating positive change in both the short and long-term. Seed money was then provided by HBSA for the implementation of a select number of projects before the public lecture, which was scheduled for May 2. The results of the workshop and impact of the projects carried forward are explained briefly in the pages ahead. To download Tactical Urbanism, Vol. 2, visit: www.streetplans.org
The Sew Hungry Food Festival showcases local entrepreneurs and activates downtown Hamilton. Image: Eat St.
Opportunity Sites Five Sites From urban to suburban, east to west and north to south, five sites were selected for the Tactical Urbanism: Hamilton Workshop. The sites represent a variety of existing challenges to creating a more livable and economically vibrant city. A common thread running between each site is the overt privileging of the automobile. While driving is an important mode of transportation, most of Hamilton’s streets do not adequately meet the needs of those who travel by bike, foot, or bus. It should come as no surprise that the interventions described herein sought to not only balance the city’s approach to transportation, but to also increase each neighbourhood’s resiliency and sense of place.
1. Queen St. E. + Herkimer St.
The intersection of Queen Street and Herkimer Street is confusing, ugly, and caters to fast moving vehicles.
2. Main St. E. + King St. E. (The Delta)
3. Upper James St. + Mohawk Rd.
The “bow tie” intersection of Main and King could become a place to go to, not just a place to drive through.
The intersection of Upper James Street and Mohawk Road features auto-oriented land uses and street design.
4. King Street E. + Dundurn St.
5. Cannon St. E. + Mary St.
The intersection of King Street. and Mary Street is difficult to traverse by foot and uncomfortable for bicycling.
The intersection of Cannon Street and Mary Street features no safe pedestrian crossings, which is problematic given the street’s width and the speed of traffic.
Tactical Urbanism Workshop Results Queen Street East + Herkimer Street
The intersection of Herkimer Street and Queen Street is a difficult one to cross when traveling by foot or bicycle. The street is currently designed to move traffic quickly between downtown Hamilton and the mountain with little regard to the street’s neighbourhood context. At present, the offset intersection is designed for the convergence of oneway and two-way motor vehicle travel, which is not only confusing for people driving, but also those walking and bicycling. The presence of a “pork chop” traffic island diverter provides some refuge, but there are no crosswalks to and from the island or across the intersection. It is also ugly and uninviting Workshop participants sought to improve the experience for all users by developing a three-step approach to reclaiming the intersection: 1) Calm traffic 2) Reclaim roadway space for other uses 3) Recreate an environment that balances all modes of travel and offers opportunities for placemaking. The workshop team developed six possible interventions (visualized at right) that could be implemented at low-cost and in the short-term. They focused on adding signs, creating a small node of activity and improving roadway surface treatments. As of the writing of this report, none of the six interventions have come to fruition. This is most likely because the focus shifted two blocks west after the workshop to prioritize needs identified at the intersection of Locke and Herkimer Street. A summary of this intervention is documented on page 15 and described sequentially by the project timeline on page 18 - 19.
Tactical Urbanism Workshop Results Main Street East + King Street East
The unique bow tie shaped intersection of Main Street East and King Street East was selected as an opportunity area. Sometimes referred to as “The Delta,” the intersection may one day integrate a light rail station that could transform the area into an iconic transit-oriented neighborhood center. Whether that happens or not, the intersection plays a prominent role today as an eastern gateway to Gage Park and Hamilton’s urban core. Yet, walking is more precarious than it should be and there remains a need to further develop the area’s identity. Workshop participants decided to address these challenges by developing an action-based plan for three time horizons: 1) Immediate action 2) One month 3) Long-term Within two weeks, participants set out to gather public input by posting pedestrian-oriented signs on telephone polls in the area. The signs, which said “I would walk the Delta but...”, sought feedback from passersby on what would make the intersection a destination, one that is more friendly for people. 07
Tactical Urbanism Workshop Results Upper James Street + Mohawk Road
The convergence of multiple lanes of auto traffic, low-rise buildings set far back from the street, and ample surface parking lots make for a hostile walking and bicycling experience at Upper James Street and Mohawk Road. In response, the workshop team developed â€œeverything must go, â€? a project theme referencing the sales commonly found in the retaildominated area, as well as the urban design concept of shared space. Shared space projects removes traffic signals, curbs, signs and all other forms of traffic control and mode separation. By making it unclear who has the right of way, drivers reduce their speed and increase their awareness. An increasingly popular design treatment in Europe, the team created a working model (above) to illustrate how shared space could create a more safe and attractive intersection. Recognizing the political, economic, and social gap between concept and implementation, the team developed a shortterm intervention. One part performance art, one part awareness building, several posters were created to convey that the intersection is not working well for all users and that alternatives should be considered. Participants used shopping carts to display their posters as they proceeded to wheel them around the intersection, handing out information to any interested drivers. The message boards included a full rendering of what shared space might look like.
Image: Jeff Tessier
Image: Jeff Tessier
Tactical Urbanism Workshop Results King Street + Dundurn Street
Proximity to highway 403 and the importance of King Street as a major east-west thoroughfare makes this intersection an important gateway to Hamiltonâ€™s urban core. However, the intersection is not designed to serve this purpose: gas stations, fast food restaurants and a strip shopping center provide useful goods and services but are car-oriented and provide a placeless entrance to what is otherwise a unique urban neighborhood. Also, pedestrian mobility is difficult if not downright dangerous because people drive at high speeds as they race to the highway, make fast turns on and off of King Street, and/or access parking lots through a veritable spaghetti bowl of curb cuts (see diagram at right). Workshop participants sought to rebalance the intersection and to create a sense of place with a number of small and relatively inexpensive interventions that might set the stage for an eventual land use overhaul allowing for denser, mixed-use development. The short-term projects include improving the crosswalk visibility at three legs of the intersection; activating an unprogrammed but well-traveled greenspace (see left) at the corner at the southwest corner of the intersection; and providing improvements to the well-used, but sparsely amenitized bus stops. As of the writing of this report, action has yet to be taken. 11
Tactical Urbanism Workshop Results Cannon Street East + Mary Street
Passing to the north of downtown Hamilton, Cannon Street features four lanes of one-way, westbound traffic. While most one-way streets are typically paired with a parallel street moving traffic in the opposite direction, no such street pairing exists. As such, the design of the street seems unnecessary and the speed at which people drive inappropriate for the neighbourhood context; walking and bicycling along and across Cannon Street is a challenge. Such conditions require a “road diet” to rightsize the street, which could include redesigning the street to allow for two-way traffic. Workshop participants developed a variety of interventions to not only balance the street but to also build community through the integration of an existing soup kitchen and the vacant industrial loft building located across the street. Bicycle lanes were proposed along Cannon, crosswalks added, tree plantings expanded, and community events such as “streeting” (eating in the street with neighbors) were proposed as relatively low cost projects to improve the neighbourhood’s safety and sense of place. As with other workshop proposals, action was taken almost immediately. Step one implementation included temporarily painting a much-needed crosswalk, which helped spark citywide dialogue about the use of tactical urbanism in the creation of complete streets.
A temporary crosswalk was striped by the community within only a few weeks of the workshop. Image: Tactical Urbanism Hamilton.
Locke Street and Herkimer Street:
An Tactical Urbanism Intervention Gone Right
Image: Tactical Urbanism Hamilton
The intersection Herkimer and Locke Street was not one of the original five sites selected for the Tactical Urbanism Workshop. However, a few enterprising participants found the amount of foot traffic on Locke, the location of the elementary school, and the autocentric design ripe for a tactical intervention. During the middle of the night, a small group of tactical urbanists placed painted traffic cones around the northwest and southeast street corners. These “guerrilla bumpouts” were designed so that people walking, especially the schoolchildren, would have less distance to cross and be more visible to people driving through the intersection. As reported by RaiseTheHammer.org, a school crossing guard at the corner of Locke and Herkimer said the addition of the guerrilla bumpouts “really controls the traffic” as cars were speeding aggressively through
the intersection, especially when making right hand turns. Similarly, another group of neighborhood tacticians painted a temporary crosswalk across Cannon Street at Mary Street where a permanent crosswalk did not yet exist but is deemed necessary by the community. The two projects were implemented just before and after the Open Doors Hamilton lecture and were done without the permission of the City of Hamilton. While the response from the community was immediately positive, Public Works General Manager Gerry Davis sent a memo to the Hamilton City Council on May 7th that reported “unauthorized activities on our city streets” and referenced the recent tactical urbanism workshops and lecture as a possible culprit. 15
Image: Tactical Urbanism Hamilton
Davis stated in his memo: “These changes to City streets are illegal, potentially unsafe and adding to the City’s costs of maintenance and repair. The City can consider this as vandalism, with the potential for serious health and safety consequences for citizens, particularly pedestrians. There is potential liability and risk management claims to both the City and the individuals involved.” Following Davis’ memo, the temporary crosswalks and bumpouts were removed. However, as RaiseTheHammer.org reported, the memo failed to account for the unsafe pedestrian and cycling conditions that served as the catalyst for the tactical urbanism interventions by concerned residents.
Furthermore, while Davis referenced several traffic safety plans for the city’s neighbourhoods, RaiseTheHammer.org countered further that it had taken years of citizen advocacy, petitions, and presentations to get the Hamilton Traffic Department to install a single crosswalk at the intersection of Aberdeen Avenue and Kent Street. Thus, the interventions were not only needed and justified but also consistent with existing city plans and policies. Following the dust-up, the HBSA responded to Davis’ memo by explaining why tactical urbanism can be beneficial to the city, as it “takes the approach that short-term action can lead to long-term change while building social capital between neighbours, neighbourhoods, local associations, organizations, and City staff and Councillors.”
The organization also met with the City of Hamilton to further explain their position and how the acts of civil disobedience offered many possibilities to harness civic energy and demonstrate to citizens that the city could be responsive to residents’ concerns. In the week following the meeting, the City of Hamilton reversed their position by embracing the tactical urbanism efforts of local citizens. Indeed, they City decided to take the short-term interventions previously deemed illegal as inspiration for developing a new “pilot project” program to implement a variety of initiatives outlined in the City’s Traffic Calming Master Plan. As a result, painted bumpouts, pylons, and high-visibility crosswalks were quickly installed in the same location on Locke and Herkimer Streets. They will remain there for one year while
the city measures their impact and gathers feedback from the community. The same approach has also been used in neighbourhoods as a means to improve safety immediately and to educate citizens about the City’s long-term traffic plans. The goal is to build momentum towards the implementation of permanent infrastructure. As this work demonstrates, short-term action indeed leads to long-term change.
April 30/ May 1
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“I like it! It really controls the traffic. It was getting scary.” - crossing guard
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Locke and Herkimer:
A Tactical Intervention Timeline
Image: Jason Leach
Conclusion The work funded and led by the HBSA and OAA has gained national and even international attention from a variety of news outlets and blogs. More important than press coverage is that the community-driven process resulted in nearly instantaneous results. Indeed, what was first dismissed as illegal activity soon provided the City of Hamilton with an opportunity to harness positive acts of civic pride and to rethink how policy moves from paper to the pavement. The workshops, projects, and resulting conversations have clearly offered one way to improve Hamilton. However, a lot of work remains for both City and citizen.
Recommendations The following five recommendations are not intended to be comprehensive, but merely provide a framework for how the momentum generated during the workshop may continue to improve the livability Hamilton.
1. Scale Down to Scale Up Some of the best project ideas start small and very simply. The development of small-scale, temporary, and low-cost projects allow for the testing and refinement of new ideas or previously unrealized concepts. As projects take root, they can be applied elsewhere at a larger scale and with more public and political support. The recent rollout of pilot pedestrian projects is one example, but should be applied to many, many other project types aimed at improving the safety and livability of Hamilton’s neighborhoods.
2. Pilot test projects from existing plans There is never a shortage of ideas. Most cities have shelves full of them in the form of previously approved plans and policies. Thus, spending more money to develop new plans is often unwarranted because there are already so many existing, unrealized projects that can be pulled off the shelf and actually implemented. The HBSA should continue working in an organized fashion with interested citizens, organizations, and the City of Hamilton to identify and prioritize such opportunities.
3. Integrate tactical urbanism into the municipal project delivery process Every city has a process for developing and delivering projects of all kinds. While a new light rail system may not be developed fully through tactical urbanism, it is recommended that the HBSA work with the City of Hamilton and other stakeholders to develop project protocols development and delivery protocols whereby tactical urbanism is an optional, but legitimized part of improving the city’s built and natural environment.
4. Find multipliers From food truck rallies and music festivals, to open streets and parking meter parties, a wide variety of events and initiatives are already bringing people to downtown Hamilton. These events are generally looked upon favorably, as they allow people from all over the region to engage in the revitalization of downtown Hamilton. Such initiatives should be increased in number and frequency. They should also be considered as laboratories for testing project ideas. The opportunity to co-produce events and tactical urbanism allows the benefits of both to multiply. More people get exposed to proposed physical changes while also engaging in a bevy of fun activities. Indeed, the implementation of temporary projects, such as “build a better block” that alter the rightof-way can only benefit from having large captive audiences that allow project organizers to collect preliminary data and obtain feedback of all types.
5. Find more partners to put skin in the game From idea development, design, construction, and ongoing maintenance, funding is a critical element of advancing any project. One-off volunteer teams, with donated materials, create many small-scale projects. Such efforts are difficult to sustain without formal financial, political, and in-kind or volunteer partnerships. Thus, it is recommended that the HBSA consider organizing a core team of multidisciplinary “tacticians” willing to engage in the practice of tactical urbanism. Members should represent public, private, and non-profit sector interests and be focused solely on developing, funding, and carrying forward shortterm actions intended to deliver long-term change.