Streetscape refers to urban roadway design and conditions as they impact street users and nearby residents. Streetscaping recognizes that streets are places where people engage in various activities, including but not limited to motor vehicle travel. Streetscapes are an important component of the public realm (public spaces where people interact), which helps define a community’s aesthetic quality, identity, economic activity, health, social cohesion and opportunity, not just its mobility.
Streetscaping (programs to improve streetscape conditions) can include:
- changes to the road cross section (ex., narrowing travel lanes to provide room for on-street bicycle facilities),
- traffic management (implementing features such as curb bulb-outs, speed humps, chicanes, etc., to slow/manage traffic),
- sidewalk conditions,
- landscaping (particularly tree cover),
- street furnishings (utility pole treatments or placement, benches, garbage cans, etc.),
- building fronts (building facades, awnings, architectural details, etc.),
- materials specifications (street pavers, pavement markings, street furnishings, etc.), and
- improved signage (way-finding, directional, regulatory, etc.).
Streetscape can have a significant effect on how people perceive and interact with their community. If streetscapes are safe and inviting to pedestrians, people are more likely to walk which can help reduce automobile traffic, improve public health, stimulate local economic activity, and attract residents and visitors to a community.
Streetscapes as Part of the Transportation System
Urban roadways have diverse functions. Streets accommodate automobile, public transit traffic, bicycle and pedestrian traffic; provide access to adjacent buildings and other destinations; provide space for commercial and recreational activities; and function as linear parks. Streetscaping therefore must account for various impacts and balance various planning objectives.
Streetscaping can help create more diverse transportation systems and more accessible communities by improving nonmotorized travel conditions, creating more attractive urban environments, and integrating special design features such as Pedestrian Improvements, Cycling Improvements, Traffic Calming, HOV Priority and Road Space Reallocation. Streetscaping is an important component of Transit Oriented Development and other efforts to redevelop urban areas. It often includes wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bus pullouts, and improved on-street parking design.
Streetscape features, such as street lights, trees and landscaping, and street furniture can contribute to the unique character of a block or entire neighborhood. Additionally, streetscapes have been proven to calm traffic and encourage bicycle and pedestrian traffic by creating safe spaces. Enhancements to the streetscape such as special paving treatments and street furnishings can contribute to the experience for pedestrians and help define neighborhood character. Well-designed streetscapes can support activities in neighborhood business districts, and make walking an attractive choice for getting around the city.
NCTCOG recognizes and supports the range of benefits a well-designed streetscape provides for all pedestrians, including people with disabilities. For these reasons, careful review of streetscape design elements for all projects should be conducted to ensure that all of the materials, dimensions and design elements meet safety and accessibility requirements. ADA requires a minimum of five feet of clear sidewalk space for two wheel chair users to pass one another. TxDOT prefers six feet of unobstructed, linear sidewalk space that is free of street furniture, street trees, planters, and other vertical elements. These minimum widths are required to provide access to people with mobility impairments.
Curb space to accommodate bike lanes, parking, loading zones, transit zones, and other street elements should also be included. While wide sidewalks and planting strips may meet many City and neighborhood goals, on-street parking spaces in business districts may also meet multiple policies and goals. Trade-offs are often necessary among the numerous uses competing for limited amounts of curb space. Removing parking to add other street elements is possible in many locations and always requires careful consideration of business and neighborhood parking needs. Transit system needs, including bus zones, must be accommodated to support quick and reliable transit service throughout the city. The following features should be considered when developing a streetscape.
- Curbline (including curb bulbs, etc.) or roadway edge;
- Special curb space zones (e.g., loading zones, bus layover zones);
- Parking, on-street location and configuration;
- Roadway network in grid form;
- Short blocks (300’ – 500’);
- Traffic operations;
- Transit routes (bus, light rail or streetcar);
- Service access and delivery needs; and
- Street classifications within a quarter mile of the proposed site.
- Sidewalks, walkways, or other pedestrian space (location and dimensions);
- Bicycle parking;
- Paving material design;
- Pedestrian oriented buildings;
- Trees and landscaping design, location and specimen type;
- Street furniture (e.g., benches, planters, waste receptacles);
- Weather protection (e.g., awnings);
- Signage, especially any non-standard or special signs;
- Public art or other unique features; and
- Transit stops or stations.
The replacement of traditional incandescent bulbs in traffic signals with LED lamps provides an energy savings opportunity to local governments that translates into a reduction of ozone precursor pollutants emitted from electric power generator plants within the region. Local governments have confirmed positive experiences with conversions to this cost-effective alternative. LED technology has proven to be more reliable because of its increased life expectancy and reduced maintenance needs.