Rethinking foot traffic

Urban planners tend to applaud when pedestrians replace cars (something NYC is now considering for Times Square.) But officials in Boston are now considering the ...
by | March 10, 2009

Urban planners tend to applaud when pedestrians replace cars (something NYC is now considering for Times Square.)

But officials in Boston are now considering the opposite course of action: They want to take the troubled Downtown Crossing pedestrian shopping mall and turn it back into a street.

Exhibit 1 for the argument that cars on the street will bring pedestrians back is Chicago's State Street. From the Boston Globe:

The historic downtown shopping destination, once anchored by classic department stores like Marshall Field and Goldblatt's, was dirty, dangerous, and down on its knees. The city had blocked off traffic on the street, turning it into a pedestrian mall in hopes of competing with suburban malls.

But instead of enlivening the street, the mall isolated it from the rest of downtown. Businesses closed, shoppers fled, pigeons and trash proliferated, and the street emptied into a wasteland at night. Like their counterparts in Boston, Chicago officials dispatched fruit vendors, hoping they would bring back shoppers. They didn't.

Under mounting pressure from business owners, the city made a fateful decision in 1996. Like hundreds of cities across the country, it decided to rip up its pedestrian mall and reconnect State Street to downtown.

These days, State Street is at the heart of a downtown renaissance.

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