Creating better cities by
improving the value of the public realm

Articles

What planning and design devices are essential for mixed use centres?

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It is important for town centre planning to ensure that high level regulation provides a stable platform for design controls in town centres. What is required is a statement about the role of public space and the role of streets and buildings within town centres. In Australia we have Local Environmental Plans (LEPs or Planning Schemes) at the high level and Development Control Plans at the more detailed level. In New Zealand these high level plans are District or City Plans.

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How do you subjugate the role of retail to get better centres?

chadstoneredIn town centre planning, centre performance is far more important than retail performance. This is a fundamental economic, environmental, cultural and social issue. As can be seen from the graphic, malls are closed systems and have poor urban interfaces and hard transitions to surrounding uses.

However malls can’t compete if the objectives set for the centre are triple or quadruple bottom line performance.

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What is the effect of traffic on the pedestrian experience in centres?

street and carsredFor town centre design, traffic congestion is generally the friend of vibrant centres if we look outside of continental Europe. In USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand we generally do not have the benefit of the European pre – car settlement and street pattern. Some European consultants score streets in non European countries on the basis of car volumes (lower is better). This indicates an overly simplitic view of the role of traffic in modern towns and cities.

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How does public transport affect the performance of centres and streets?

Public transport has an important role in centres. Research shows that the delivery of intensity of use and mixed use improves the performance of public transport. Where streets are activated by retail stores, intensity of use and mixed use is generally a feature of the centre. In town centre planning, integrated, mixed use centres are required in order to optimise the performance of public transport. However the location of public transport stops can have both negative and positive effects on centres and streets and a balance needs to be found between the often conflicting priorties of public transport performance (especially travel time) and centre performance.

crows nest bus priorityredWe need to be careful with buses to ensure that the stops, whilst convenient do not unduly affect the immediate retail environment. Bus stops can in some case be pulled beyond the parking lane and stop momentarily in the travel lane to pick up and let off passengers. This, like signals, platoons the traffic and allows informal crossing of the street by pedestrians (see image). However such an outcome is not suited to all streets and is not universally popular with traffic engineers (which is usually a good sign).

Public transport stops should always be in high exposure and safe locations in centres. This may not mean that they should always be in the core.

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