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Thread: One way to two way conversions on main street

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    One way to two way conversions on main street

    I am trying to gather precedents on one-way to two-way conversions on commercial main streets that provide data demonstrating improved business after the conversion.

    I have found tons of cities that are doing this, with a goal of revitalizing the downtown. I have found plenty of articles stating that this change will improve business performance. I've found reports, from consultants, experts or even PhD's, stating that converting main streets from one way to two way will improve business.

    But I have not found a single article citing any data that this actually happened, save for one article on Vancouver, WA that quotes downtown merchants.

    I believe the one-way to two-way conversion is a good thing. I think it makes common sense for those who know urban areas. But I am looking for something a little more conclusive, something actually backed up by data ...

    Any leads?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    You may have a problem finding incontrovertible data because, as with many other planning and transportation issues, there are so many variables that affect the economic health of a particular location that you probably wonít be able to attribute it to any one change. In particular, if a community is trying to revitalize itís downtown it will probably institute a number of changes, including tax breaks, grants, improvements to public facilities, and marketing campaigns, along with conversion of streets to two-ways. You would never be able to attribute the success of the area to just the conversion of the street to two-way traffic. Even if you had two similar areas of a downtown that had similar incentives given but one had one-way streets and the other two-way streets, it would be very difficult to attribute the difference in success to just the street configuration because simply their geographic location could have an impact that would be very difficult to filter out.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    This is like the question of whether bypasses impact downtowns economically. There are plenty of examples of one-way to two-way conversions (or vice versa) and there are plenty examples of bypassed downtowns. There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence, but no economic analysis to back it up. Unfortunately, this stems from a lack of data. To do an analysis we would want multiple years of occupancy data (vacancies, rental rates, etc.) before and after the event, but nobody has collected this information. We would also want detailed business mix and sales data. Arguably, we could use sales tax collections as a surrogate for the latter, but they are not realeased at the level of a district or specific business, which would provide the greatest understanding of the impacts. Business mix data is important to determine if the change improves or detracts from the district's viability as a location for different kinds of businesses.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks

    Thanks, good points.

    I suppose this is why much of planning remains an art more than a science - which certainly keeps it interesting for the practitioner. I like to think we have built up enough case study and experience that we don't do things the way we did in the past, such as instituting "pedestrian malls" where they won't succeed, simply demolishing the entire downtown to prepare it for investment, or driving elevated highways through our historic neighborhoods. Then again, these were all called good ideas at the time, and I sometimes question the good ideas of today.

    I suppose one will have to go on sound analysis and case studies that share similar context to the area in question, while waiting for that PhD thesis that will gather the data to prove the point ... I know the Brookings Institute and others have come up with good analysis in areas such as downtown planning, from looking at hundreds of case studies and drawing lessons rather than trying to quantify ...

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Unfortunately planning hardly ever finishes the loop of determining if what was done was really effective. This is part of the problem with being told to constantly look forward without having or taking an opportunity to look back.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Evaluate the impact this conversion would have on parking. The management of parking along a main street is as important (if not more important) as the traffic circulation through that main street.

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