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Elements of Urban Design - Alleys

biscuit

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#41
JNL said:
Apart from 'driving my girlfriend home', where are you based biscuit?
The steel city, Pittsburgh, PA

Here's a photo of the neighborhood (not my street) where I'm currently living. I'm going to be moving out this winter when my lease is up and hopefully buying a place with more closet space before I get married...the girl has a lot of shoes.
 

mendelman

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#42
NU=alleys=NU

Michael Stumpf said:
Granted, that is an ugly house. Yet many New Urban neighborhoods do have front-loading garages and driveways to the street. They impose design controls to ensure that homes like that one are not permitted. Again, alleys are just one technique. They may be appropriate in one place but not others. Not everything built needs to look like a turn-of-the-20th-century city neighborhood. [/QUOTE

Once again, we need to remember that alleys are not solely a component of New Urbanist developments. "New Urbanism" is a simple marketing ploy by DPZ.

I hope that people do not think that alleys must be in all new developments or that we must retrofit suburbia or anywhere else. Alleys are a sophistcated component of urban design. If a developer is going to do a high density development (8+ units per acre) they should defintely consider utliizing alleys. Especially for single-family development. At these densities, the number of curb cuts would become excessive.

In terms of historical context, I think it was more a function of the level of transportation technology which dictated the use of alleys. We were a much less mobile society 80+ years ago, so if you wanted to be able to maximize the utility of your property, alleys give you access to two instead of one sides, particularly for block interior lots, and one needed to be as close as to the train lines or the street cars.
 

Wannaplan?

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#43
Re: NU=alleys=NU

Mendelman,

Just a few things about your post.

...alleys are a sophistcated component of urban design...


How are they sophisticated? And even if they really are sophisticated, who cares? What function do they serve in the 21st century? Don't get me wrong, I love old neighborhoods with alleys - I'm just playing Devil's Advocate. Saying that they are sophisticated does not make them sophisticated.


If a developer is going to do a high density development (8+ units per acre) they should defintely consider utliizing alleys. Especially for single-family development. At these densities, the number of curb cuts would become excessive.


Please, define "excessive." Perhaps eight units of single-family detached homes to the acre is excessive and compromises the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the local community. Get rid of the density and you eliminate the "excessive" curb cuts.


We were a much less mobile society 80+ years ago, so if you wanted to be able to maximize the utility of your property, alleys give you access to two instead of one sides, particularly for block interior lots, and one needed to be as close as to the train lines or the street cars.
...which is why alleys in the 21st century are anachronistic. How many subdivisions built in the last 50 years have train lines going down their streets? Not too many, right? Probably just a few.
 

jresta

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#44
Alan said:
Sure. But how often are the cars backing out of and pulling into the driveways? If it's a neighborhood full of single-family homes, then the queing of automobiles through the driveways and into the streets is minimal. As long as there are sidewalks, then pedestrians will have no trouble moving past all the driveways. The amount of auto traffic through a neighborhood is minimal and the sidewalk provides a safe and comfortable realm away from the street. This can be achieved without a dependence on alleyways.
Are you saying alleyways are appropriate in farm country?

I've seen plenty of subdivisions sprout up with houses on quarter-acre lots and each driveway has 3 or 4 cars in it. On the collector roads within the subdivision the traffic is astounding for the number of households in it. The speed is even worse. The back and forth traffic is particularly accute during the summer in neighborhoods with a lot of teenagers.

People without small children don't normally walk around subdivisions. They need a reason. If primary uses aren't located within a 5-10 minute walking range of a household the sidewalks are not going to get used. They're also not going to be used if the sidewalk is lined with garage doors and/or the trip to the store or doctor's office requires crossing some busy arterial not designed with the pedestrian in mind.

Every suburban house in north america was built in farm country.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
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#45
jresta said:
I've seen plenty of subdivisions sprout up with houses on quarter-acre lots and each driveway has 3 or 4 cars in it. On the collector roads within the subdivision the traffic is astounding for the number of households in it. The speed is even worse. The back and forth traffic is particularly accute during the summer in neighborhoods with a lot of teenagers.

People without small children don't normally walk around subdivisions. They need a reason. If primary uses aren't located within a 5-10 minute walking range of a household the sidewalks are not going to get used. They're also not going to be used if the sidewalk is lined with garage doors and/or the trip to the store or doctor's office requires crossing some busy arterial not designed with the pedestrian in mind.

Every suburban house in north america was built in farm country.
Ummm... okay. But we're talking about alleys. Do you have anything to say about them?
 

jordanb

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#46
His point is, I think, that you need density to reduce auto-dependence, and you often need alleys to make such density work.
 

Wannaplan?

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#47
jordanb said:
His point is, I think, that you need density to reduce auto-dependence, and you often need alleys to make such density work.
...or parking garages, either above or under ground.

But what about those towers in major cities that house all those people? Where are the alleys for those structures? If we're talking about achieving density with single-family detached homes, then sure, alleys can help get to density. But that seems inefficient to me. How about an eight-story structure with first floor commerical and offices and the remaining seven floors be either apartments or condos, all located next to a transit line? That's probably a better wat to get to density.

Some one please tell me how alleys are relevant to the design of a detached single-family home subdivision in the 21st century. I feel they are anachronistic, yet I would like to be shown otherwise.
 

mendelman

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#48
to Alan

I live in a four-story mixed use apartment building. We have an alley which bisects our block and services the rear of almost all properties on the block. It works great for the temporary storage of trash particularly.

In terms of large mixed-use, muti-story buildings, such as present in Chicago's Loop, they are serviced by alleys. The alleys are efficent for pickup/delivery of goods and trash removal. Since one ROW services the buildings on the block, the delivery and trash trucks will not need to circle a block to service each building. This can also be applied to the large apartment/condo buildings on the shoreline up and down Lake Michigan. The trash from that level of density would be horrid, if it were put on the curb. The results would be the streets of NYC on any given morning.

As for the use of alleys for single-family developments above 8+ unit per acre, they need to be strongly considered because the curb cuts required would be a great imposition on the pedestrian (sidewalk) environment. At such denisty, one needs to start thinking more for greater separation of pedestrian and the car.

Could you explain why you think alleys are anachronisms?
 

Wannaplan?

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#49
Re: to Alan

mendelman said:
Could you explain why you think alleys are anachronisms?
In detached single-family home neighborhoods that have attached garages and are at densities of no more than two dwellings per acre, they seem supefulous. The functions of alleys in this scenario can be replaced by putting trash to the curb and by parking the car in the garage, without forcing additional development costs to the developer. Further, excluding alleys in the development makes the job of the police force, firefighters, and trash trucks much easier.

At higher densities I will freely admit that there may be benefits of the alley that go beyond "sophisticated" urban design. I am not against alleys per se, but this discussion has been all over the map and I'm trying to tease-out situations in which alleys may or may not be appropriate or cost-effective. The thread started with very little focus and I'm trying to explore how practical alleys really are. Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not against alleys - I just want this interesting discussion to go beyond its original broad scope and into territories that consider alleys and their surrounding contexts.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
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#51
Hey, no problem. Great topic! I'll lay off my "alleys are anachronistic" screed if some one else wants to take this discussion off into another direction.
 

jresta

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#52
Alan said:
Ummm... okay. But we're talking about alleys. Do you have anything to say about them?
actually, you weren't talking about alleys.

but since you decided you are now, i'll throw in my two cents.

Alleys in single-use suburban areas are pointless.

In any mixed use development they're necessary whether it's a suburban or urban environment. They're necessary to foster a pedestrian environment, for deliveries, and for trash collection.

The town i used to live in had a main st. that stretched for 6 blocks. An alley used to run behind the entire length of the commercial strip but over the last 80 years it had been encroached upon from both sides. With the exception of a two block stretch on the north side of the Avenue it's mostly useless now. Trash collection is now on the main drag and all deliveries are in and out of the front doors of all of these businesses. Trucks are always double-parked. Loading ramps and rollers stretch across the sidewalk. It's a serious mess.
Any new development should include alleys to avoid these problems.

Depending on the density of the residential component they may or may not be necessary or even cost effective. Such low-density developments are generally few and far between around here.
 
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#54
I am wondering why some of the defenders of alleys are so adamant that no other form of development can be a pedestrian-friendly, clean, safe, and desirable neighborhood. I do not think anyone here has said that alleys should not be constructed anymore, but rather that dense neighborhoods with alleys are but one of a number of ways to build communities.

I have known many -- a Chicago neighborhood of two-flats and alleys, an older single-family subdivision, large low-rise suburban apartment complexes, a small town, and the rural countryside. All of these work in their own way. All of these have design features that address the same issues in alternative ways. All of these are appropriate in some conexts, but not in others.
 

Wannaplan?

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#56
Michael Stumpf said:
All of these have design features that address the same issues in alternative ways. All of these are appropriate in some conexts, but not in others...
Ditto.
 

boiker

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#57
the alley's are known solution to avoiding front-loading driveways...and provide rear loading driveways!

The american public, and builders, and government officials need to decide what is more deserable in the residential strucutre... houses with a front cars go into? or a house with a front people go into? Alleys do provide the option to store your car 'appliance' in the back yard with the lawnmower, garden tools, and basketball.

Alleys in commercial areas serve exactly the same purpose as loading and service areas in strip centers, behind grocery stores, etc serve. loading and unloading and a place to hide the nasties. Of course, the alley is publicly owned and probably providing the community more control over its usage, double-parking, etc.

Alley's are good at what they do and should be considered in 21st century development.

there's gaps here i need to fill in later.
 

Suburb Repairman

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#59
alleys are a tool, but not a requirement

Personally, I love alleys. I'm a big fan of side-load alleys since they usually allow for a little more backyard and provide pedestrians shortcuts to adjacent blocks.

I believe most of the principles of New Urbanism can be preserved while using front-load driveways. You can limit driveway width to one car-width until the driveway crosses the sidewalk. And I mean a real car-width, not an oversized 12-foot driveway! You don't get to hide the nasties as well, but a strong homeowners association can pressure residents not to have trash cans out any longer than necessary.

There are some situations where alleys are impractical or unnecssary, but overall I think they are an important tool.
 

Runner

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#60
Obviously not all front-loading garages are the same. The narrow (single car width) driveway with a garage behind the house or at least no closer to the street than the house itself can be acceptable. Alleys are just less subject to design abuse than allowing front loading. One bad example is snout houses.

One anecdote: A while back I was driving my Dad through a new urbanist leaning development that had many things right including alleys. After driving around awhile I took a connecting street to show the difference to a Centex neighborhood that was going in next door. As we drove down one road I commented that he might notice a difference as now we were driving down a street oriented towards cars, full of driveways and garages. My Dad (who is development neutral as far as New Urbanism goes) commented back in complete seriousness "Oh, I though this was another alley"... So much for the curb appeal of that neighborhood!
 
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