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Steps ahead: making streets that work in Seattle, Washington

Landscape and Urban Planning
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0169-2046(96)00313-1
  • Urban Village
  • Pedestrianisation
  • Street
  • Design
  • Engineering


Abstract Seattle's new Comprehensive Plan outlines the development of existing and new pedestrian-oriented, moderate density and mixed-use urban villages. The Comprehensive Plan provides a vision and framework for collaborative, urban village-based neighbourhood planning, in which streets and street design are a high priority. This paper will explore the dimensions of collaboration developing around ‘Streets that Work’ as part of implementing the Comprehensive Plan. It will describe programmes and initiatives in Seattle that promote streets as valuable resources contributing to the health and vitality of the city. These include the authors' perspectives from within city engineering, planning, and design commission activities. Section 1 introduces Seattle's street planning and design milieu: the city's physical conditions and historical development, the formidable challenges and obstacles to pedestrian-friendly street design, and the current focus of debate around streets. Section 2 identifies the Comprehensive Plan as the context for making pedestrian improvements as part of realizing the urban village strategy. An assessment of the first 4 years' experience of the city Pedestrian Programme is the subject of Section 3. Section 4 explores the background and charge of the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board. Section 5 describes a design awards programme focusing on good street design. Section 6 explores a range of collaborative and complementary activities focused on realizing the pedestrian-orientated vision of the Comprehensive Plan's urban village strategy. The paper closes with thoughts on possible futures for Seattle's streets, and an epilogue added 5 months after the initial writing of this paper that summarizes the progress made towards making streets that work in Seattle.

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