Thursday, April 19, 2018

Excitement is Building in Downtown Richardson

Excitement is building in downtown Richardson. Or at least that's what the city said about its information outreach Wednesday evening, where it showed posters for the "Main Street Infrastructure Project," a redevelopment of streets, sidewalks, parking, and landscaping. I can't link to the drawings the city showed because, I confess, I can't find them online, even after about fifteen minutes of searching the city's new, user-friendly website.

My takeaways, in no particular order:
  • Sidewalks are being widened, at the expense of taking away on-street parking. This is good and bad. Wider sidewalks are, of course, good, but to what use can the wider sidewalks be put if the traffic buffer previously afforded by that on-street parking is gone? The city brags that businesses can "utilize the space for outdoor seating." Not if traffic is speeding by now even closer to those outdoor seats. Taking away on-street parking removes a hazard that drivers currently have to take into consideration as they navigate downtown. And by "take into consideration" I mean "slow down for."
  • Another change to traffic is the demolition of the two businesses on the northwest corner of Main Street and Greenville Avenue in order to smooth out the intersection. And by "smooth out the intersection" I mean allow traffic to speed through that intersection at higher speed. I go through that intersection now and I always have to slow down, even when the light is green, because of the congestion caused in part by that angle Main Street makes as it crosses Greenville Avenue.
  • A dedicated right-turn-only lane will be created for westbound traffic at Greenville Avenue "for improved traffic flow." And by "for improved traffic flow," the city means "for deteriorated pedestrian and bicycle safety." Right-turn-only lanes serve only one purpose, clearing the through-lanes of turning traffic to speed the through traffic straight through an intersection. It's hard enough for pedestrians to cross four lanes of traffic. Making them cross five lanes (update: six lanes), including one right-turn-only lane that is pretty much continuous movement, is not being done to increase walkability. It's all about "traffic flow," by which the city means "moving more cars through the intersection faster."
  • Speaking of demolition of the two buildings on the northwest corner, that will kill another corner of that intersection for another thirty years. And downtown doesn't have enough commercial real estate as it is. Recently, the reconstruction of the public safety building in the northeast corner of that intersection has resulted in a small landscaped area in that corner, hardly the highest and best use of land in a downtown desperate for revitalization. Now the city talks of replacing the commercial businesses in the northwest corner with another small open square, where "a Christmas tree could be erected." (And using some of the land to replace some of that parking lost on the street—sigh.) How about the city giving up its control of both corners in exchange for more commercial development, creating some reason for people to be downtown to enjoy that Christmas tree in the first place? As it is, it looks to me like downtown is being re-engineered to look nice for people in cars going through that intersection at higher speeds.

Other than that, the plans look pretty. But pretty enough to be excited about? You decide.


Mark Steger said...

The more I think about it, the more I think the City of Richardson is trying to make Main Street do too many things -- make it an arterial for moving cars and make it a pedestrian promenade. Worse, I'm not sure the city is thinking of how the redone Main Street fits into a whole. For example, how the traffic pattern will flow through the rest of the downtown area. Or how the main street infrastructure changes will encourage developers to do things on Texas Street, or McKinney, or Greenville.

Mark Steger said...

Another doubt I have about the redesigned Main Street is how left turns off Main Street onto McKinney Street will be eliminated. This is obviously intended to speed traffic through downtown, not to make it easier to navigate the street grid that Main Street is just one part of. I can't see how this decision will help development on those side streets or on the streets parallel to Main Street. Blocking McKinney makes those streets harder to reach.