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Thread: Visual assessment of major thoroughfares

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Visual assessment of major thoroughfares

    Is there a recommended way to assess thoroughfare visual appearances?

    I am interested in priorities of routes to be assessed, and what are important elements to be noted or compared.

    I am also interested in establishing a priority of need/appearances for our city of less than 50,000.

    Costs are not a factor to be evaluated at this point, but probable cost effectiveness would probably be a factor.

    There should also be assessment of both public and private property appearance as to landscaping and utilities. I think signage is not a problem in our fair city at this time.

    The intent is to show the city fathers an independent evaluation of the appearance of our main access thoroughfares, in order to bring an systematic assessment of overall conditions to their attention in a systematic manner.

    The purpose would be to see if improvements are needed, can be systematically prioritized, and would be matters that the city would/could/should consider.

    Has anyone already done this sort of thing?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    It kind of sounds like you want a design standard for the city and some selected areas. I'll just throw out some ideas, but this is something the city might want to hire a consultant to do.

    For prioritizing locations it's really up to the values of the city. Typical priorities are:
    City entrances and gateways - I like to prioritize by the amount of traffic.
    Particularly ugly or blighted areas - You're trying to make a community better
    Easy targets - Take something new or good and make it better for an easy win

    For design stuff you have to think on the scale of the projects.
    City scale - design items that are done to the whole city.
    Special traffic signs or street lights - this works great for suburbs
    Little things like manhole covers
    Specific trees or landscape features
    Neighborhood/Region features - designs for a specific city region or a neighborhood - works for corridors too
    You can use the items above, but you can do more.
    Focus more on landscape features
    Special building aesthetic requirements
    The important part is forming a boundary for the design requirements

    Obviously citywide stuff costs more and takes more time.

    To get opinion you can use a visual survey. Show people a few options and see what they like.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Thanks! That is exactly the thing I am looking for.

    Does anyone know of an existing format or framework?

    And what kind of consultant does that sort of thing?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Here's a link to a survey the City of Topeka did.

    http://www2.topeka.org/planning/vis_..._results.shtml

    They uses a company called Nelessen & Assoc. You want a company that does a lot of urban design. Some planning firms or landscape architecture firms might be able to help out. If I were doing one I would put out an RFQ (request for qualifications) and then the city can pick the most qualified firm.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Thanks for the additional info.

    I think one of the most difficult things will be to convince the powers-that-be that such an assessment is needed if it is not done for free.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Actually, Land. Arch. based firms do a lot of streetscape design and urban design work. In the CA DOT, LA's do visual impact assessments of projects. Another thought, BLM has a visual impact assessment matrix system - it's typically used for CEQA aesthetic analysis - but I imagine it could be used for a urban landscape analysis as well. http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/Rec...nal/RMS/2.html

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Wow! A very detailed and systematic yet basic approach to visual analysis of whatever may be encountered!

    It is like starting an analysis by constructing an alphabet then a vocabulary.

    Someone put a lot of thought into this, and provided excellent illustrations to explain their points.

    Thanks.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Glad I could help! I'd be interested in finding out how you utilize the VRM for an urban (design) landscape. In theory, you should be able to modify and define values and then score modifications/design alternatives against those values to determine best fit. Of course, when 'defining' things, that means politics will get involved. I think the CA DOT uses something similar but seems specialized for roadway construction: http://www.dot.ca.gov/ser/vol1/sec3/...p27via.htm#via

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