Monday, November 5, 2012

Stroad - Street or Road

Up until a few years ago, I used the terms street and road interchangeably. I have discovered recently that the work 'road' is generally used to describe a place that allows us to move between places. Try to change the words in 'railroad', or the 'road to Donnelly' to 'rail street' or 'street to Donnelly' and the image that comes to mind changes drastically, or doesn't make any sense.

When we talk about streets, we are talking about the places outside our homes and businesses. It's a place you generally want to go to that has the potential for lots of activity. Streets are where you run into a friend, stop and enjoy some popcorn, or enjoy an event. Streets create value and enhance the area around it. Change the word street in 'Street festival' or 'street car' to road festival and road car, and again, more nonsensical or different pictures come to mind.

So street and road are two different things, and we should try to be more clear about what we are talking about a structure(street) that enhances the area around it and is a place for everyone, or if we are talking about a structure(road) that makes it easier to get to another place.

The problem today is that we try to combine the street and road for many places. Thus, my friend Chuck Marohn came up with the word 'stroad' to describe these places that try to be both a street and a road, but does neither very well.

One example of what I refer to as a stroad is Commerce Boulevard, south of Shoreline Drive. This is the old downtown store fronts that were built in a time when one could park in the street in front of the place you wanted to get to, and generally could safely walk from one side of the street to the other. At some point in the past, 'experts' decided that downtown Mound could be better if on street parking was removed so cars could drive through Mound unimpeded.

Commerce Boulevard, Mound, MN, No on street parking here so cars can drive by fast. Why would a city allow this to happen?
Commerce Blvd, a car dominated area.
The other example we talk about extensively here is Bartlett Boulevard, as well as all the other Boulevards in Mound, like Three Points, and Tuxedo. Bartlett between Wilshire and Shoreline is wide and straight. When one drives down it, you have no reason to slow down to the 30 mph speed limit. To be a walker or biker on this 'street' is terrible experience. When you have cars whizzing by you at 40 mph, you want to get off the street.

 Bartlett Blvd, a car dominated place.
Here is the sad part about this...'stroads' hurt the places around it. We have talked to many of the businesses along Commerce, and none of them think the street in front of their place of business makes it a better place. Anyone who lives in the Shirley Hills neighborhood can tell you that Bartlett Boulevard doesn't enhance their neighborhood, and in fact, are frustrated with fast cars driving by their home.

Is it rational to continue having, and supporting places like the two stroads I've just talked about? Does it make sense to continue to have places that suck the life out of the businesses and homes around it? How do we, as a city, respond to these circumstances?

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