Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parking Oriented Transit: Walkability Around 39th Street Station

Images for this blog post are located on my Flickr page with notes accompanying the images for further description and clarification.

Ideally, transit and walkability would reinforce one another but there are a number of LRT stations in Calgary that are clearly oriented toward park and ride usage.  The stations in the Northwest beyond Lion's Park Station are the clearest examples of the park and ride orientation and those stations successfully funnel riders from neighbouring communities from bus routes onto the LRT.  As the LRT turns south to serve the stations south of Stampede Park there might be some question about how the continued orientation to park and rides when there is so much more retail, commercial and light industrial business in those areas.  At Chinook Station the shuttle from there to Chinook Centre for retail customers underscores the large numbers of pedestrians that use that station and perhaps suggest that the station could have better served the area west rather than east of MacLeod Trail.

In this post, however, I'd like to turn my attention to 39th Street Station for the lack of infrastructure to support or encourage pedestrian use of the station.  There is some residential use on the opposite side of MacLeod Trail, but pedestrians might find the distance a bit prohibitive.  In the immediate vicinity of the station, there are a few car lots, a hotel, a building supplies store and municipal impound yard. Despite the large amounts of parking in the area and other aspects that favour car use, there is a reasonable amount of pedestrian traffic.  I don't have a scientific measure of the amount of pedestrian traffic, but there are places where pedestrian short cuts have beaten clear paths through grass.

The sidewalks that are in the vicinity of the station and are among the most uninviting in the city.  On MacLeod Trail, there is sufficient cement around, but the vehicular traffic on MacLeod and the lack of inviting destinations in the area undermines the walkability of the area.  (Ironically enough, crews were paving the interior of a median on MacLeod Trail on the day I took the images for this post.)  East of MacLeod the walking infrastructure is abysmal.  There are parts of sidewalks that have been unattended despite significant deterioration.  In some spots there are little to no curbs to separate the sidewalks from the road or driving areas and truncations for various driveways and railway tracks.  On 42nd Avenue between MacLeod Trail and Blackfoot Trail, the sidewalk on the south side of the street is unmaintained throughout the autumn and winter, despite it being the more suitable walking surface.  The only rationale that I can think of for this is that pedestrians using 39th Street Station would have to cross the street to get to that more user-friendly path.  On the north side of 42nd Avenue, the sidewalk has curb cuts that directs pedestrians into the oncoming traffic when it has any and there is a large stretch of the sidewalk that consists of disintegrating patio stone slabs that are being encroached upon by near by grass.  Despite the signage that the south side of the street is not maintained during the winter, (something that may suggest that the north side would be maintained) the snow removal on the north side is minimal to non-existent.

Despite the difficult sidewalks in the area, it is still used by some pedestrians.  It may not be a number that meets a threshold to require better maintenance but there is some.  Improvements to the walking in the area would not have to start with a complete overhaul of the paths on the north side of 42nd Avenue, which disappears entirely over the last 50-75 metres heading east to Blackfoot Trail.  One solution would be to put in a pedestrian crossing signal directly south of 39th Street Station to allow pedestrians to cross safely to the wider sidewalk on the south side of the street.  This would also require that the sidewalk be maintained year-round with snow removal.  The intersection of 42nd Avenue and Blackfoot may also need to be assessed to ensure that pedestrians have enough time to cross that intersection safely if their destination happens to be on the north side of 42nd Avenue.

I may be understating matters when talking about walkability.  Given some of the conditions, it may be necessary to call into question pedestrian safety in the areas where they would have to get into the traffic on 42nd Avenue because of the absence of any sidewalks whatsoever.  Hopefully the decision is not to leave pedestrians to use 42nd Avenue at their own risk until there is enough pedestrian traffic to justify giving more attention to the sidewalks in this area.

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