Home > Public Spaces

Soon after automobiles were invented, they became the focal point of urban development. The United States has over one billion parking spaces and when you include streets, cities dedicate nearly 50-60% of their real estate to vehicles. Vehicles aren’t alone on the road, but they are dominant – if only by the nature of their size and capacity to do harm. A poignant illustration by Swedish artist Karl Jing depicts the dangers of a car-centric streetscape with roads imagined as gorges and crosswalks as thin boards across them.

While the coronavirus pandemic decreased the volume of cars on the road, the fatality rate of vehicle accidents has increased as a result of reckless driving.5 However, we’ve also seen some positive outcomes from reduced driving as a result of the pandemic. Air quality in major cities has increased substantially.6 More people are biking and walking and as residents crowd parks, hiking lanes, and bike paths, additional space for active transportation is needed.7

Reclaiming city streets for pedestrians and bicyclists was a growing trend before the pandemic but as cities and residents see the dramatic benefits of reduced driving, the urgency to make lasting changes to public space allocation is quickly rising

The action plan below will help government agencies, non-profits, universities, and the private sector create a scoring system to issue right-of-way for new project investments in line with changing stakeholder priorities.

Action Plan

Define the target of the scoring system

  • Define the boundaries of the scoring system so all stakeholders have a common understanding. Are you targeting a specific corridor, neighborhood, street network, or entire city?
  • Cities often target the most trafficked areas. Denver, for example, introduced walking and bike lanes on 16th and 11th avenues. Vancouver closed the east bound lane of Beach Avenue to pedestrians.

Inventory and analyze public spaces within the target area

  • Include a user demand analysis (vehicle counts, bike counts, pedestrian counts)
  • Document time-of-day use to the best of your ability. This could highlight any underused right-of-way by the day-of-week and/or time-of-day.
  • Analyze your data. For example, where and when is there congestion and/or when is the right-of-way underused?

Engage the community to discuss which mobility modes are most valued

  • Engage the community in a variety of ways to provide multiple opportunities for input and co-creation
  • Sometimes community members will come to you, such as the 1,100-person strong petition to close Philadelphia’s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard 9 to vehicles, but most often, you will need to directly engage the community to ensure the scoring system accurately reflects stakeholder priorities.
  • Provide an easy to access online platform that accepts public comment and feedback
  • Consistently evaluate and ask whose voices are not being heard. Conduct targeted outreach to members of the community who may not traditionally participate in public outreach events and elevate and share diverse perspectives.

Develop criteria for scoring system

  • Using what you learned through your inventory analysis and community engagement, as well as the future vision for your city, determine the criteria for prioritization of public spaces in your scoring model.
  • Clearly document the process through which criteria are prioritized – you will be asked for this later.

Determine data to make measurements against the criteria

  • Start with the data collected in the inventory analysis and add data sets, if needed, that are consistent with community values and the prioritization of public spaces.

Run initial analysis and get stakeholder feedback

  • Present the prioritization and possible re-prioritization of the public right-of-way to the stakeholders

AECOM Resources

Example of integrating data to consider all vehicles, not just fleet, and tying back to air quality : Transport and air quality: supporting resilient communities through collaboration

Rethinking Mobility. Source: AECOM.com Rethinking mobility: the role of cycling in the post-pandemic recovery

As Easy as Riding a Bike Improving urban wellbeing: as easy as riding a bike

Right here, right now: the future is Mobility as a Service. Source: AECOM.com Right here, right now: the future is Mobility as a Service

Unintended Consequences: Coronavirus, Air Quality, and Transport Trends: Unintended consequences: coronavirus, air quality and transport trends