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A Grand Boulevard for Columbia: Assembly Street Improvements

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The Free Times reports on the ULI meeting last week:

Assembly_today.jpg

Assembly Street today (above) and a plan to reduce lanes to make it more pedestrian-friendly (below).

Drawings courtesy Urban Land Institute.

Assembly_future.jpg

“Speed is the number one thing you need to get right if you want a more walkable city,” [panelist Tracy] Helger said. “We don’t want to get rid of vehicles, but we need to tame them so it’s comfortable for pedestrians.”

Getting speeds under 35 mph not only makes pedestrians feel safe, she said — it increases their chances of surviving if they get hit by a car.

Participants also proposed a road diet for Gervais, which is six lanes wide between the bridge and the bottom of the Vista. A more pedestrian-friendly Gervais would help the city connect more with its rivers, said the panelists.

“Connecting to the water is critical,” said Charleston developer John Knott, who chaired the panel. “You come to this city and you’re here; you have no sense of the river. It’s a very hot climate. You look at Assembly, there’s no trees.”

As a focal point for the projects, the corner of Gervais and Assembly could host a park, a water feature, a paved plaza, a farmers market or some other “big idea,” panelists said.

“It’s important that it be bigger than having some bricks, some signs,” said Eddie Bello, a Charleston architect and former city official.

But the panelists saw Columbians as a disconnected group — a major impediment to progress.

Among the observations that informed their work: “Columbia is a city of committees but no connecting group”; it’s a “political city and everyone thinks they are in charge”; there’s no long-term strategy, but too many plans; there’s too little coordination.

“The issue of connectivity is not only a lack of physical connectivity,” said Knott.

The linear park has me intrigued. I know we've discussed planted medians, but I don't think we talked about a linear park. I wouldn't see it being well-utilized in the beginning since it would take time for Assembly to be lined with uses that would generate a good bit of pedestrian traffic, especially since the momentum in that area is on Gervais and Main. I'm not sure if you could get Assembly in the mix right now without possibly detracting from the other two corridors; I think it would have to come a little later, but I might be wrong.

As far as how they might look, it seems that Georgia's cities are notorious for their wide thoroughfares with planted medians/linear parks, so they might give us an idea. Here are some examples:

Columbus

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downtown-columbus.jpg

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Augusta

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5877915769_8607f5c4d2.jpg

Macon

Macon+Street+pic.jpg

vfiles16811.jpg

441630291_a4b61635c5_z.jpg

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A lot of those remind me of Morgan Square in Spartanburg.

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That cross section is nice, but I'd like to see how the plan addresses people using that center path at intersections. If you can't continue straight on the path all the way down Assembly St then it loses a lot of its utility and basically becomes a landscaped median.

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Six lanes of traffic speeding by at 40 miles an hour can be a daunting challenge for pedestrians trying to cross Assembly Street. The Columbia thoroughfare runs right through the heart of town and the USC campus, and plans are being drawn up to make crossing the massive road a little easier.

Joshua Shaw has to cross the 150-foot-wide river of asphalt twice a day. "Nine times out of 10 if someone's crossing here, they're running," said Shaw. "It's a cross run not a crosswalk."

http://www.wistv.com/story/15940046/plans-drawn-up-to-help-pedestrians-on-assembly-street

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Six lanes of traffic speeding by at 40 miles an hour can be a daunting challenge for pedestrians trying to cross Assembly Street. The Columbia thoroughfare runs right through the heart of town and the USC campus, and plans are being drawn up to make crossing the massive road a little easier.

Joshua Shaw has to cross the 150-foot-wide river of asphalt twice a day. "Nine times out of 10 if someone's crossing here, they're running," said Shaw. "It's a cross run not a crosswalk."

http://www.wistv.com...assembly-street

I'm all for the improvements from both aesthetics and safety standpoints, but I have watched many times as people cross, and I have concluded that if they can't make it across Assembly Street in the time given by the walk sign they should get a cab. After the walk sign has been on forever it changes to a clock that ticks down, starting at 26 seconds. The biggest danger to pedestrians crossing Assembly is getting run over by motorists sick of waiting so long for the light to turn green. The obstacle is all psychological, but perception trumps reality every time.

Edited by CorgiMatt

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It would be great if the post office on Assembly were gone and that land were used to expand Finlay Park to front Assembly and connect to the proposed linear greenspace running down the median.

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At least Columbia Green and downtown residents recently planted shrubs in front of the P.O. along Assembly. I've always thought townhouses and stacked condos should surround that end of Finlay Park. Alleyways could cut through from Assembly to the park.

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When Columbia finally makes the decision to put pedestrians first, downtown will get a lot better. They are moving in that direction, but it's not there yet. There is no reason for anybody to be going 40mph in downtown Columbia. Part of that move would mean more red lights for drivers but at shorter intervals. This benefits pedestrians because they dont have to stand around as long to wait on the signal to change... most peds will just jaywalk rather than wait.

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At least Columbia Green and downtown residents recently planted shrubs in front of the P.O. along Assembly. I've always thought townhouses and stacked condos should surround that end of Finlay Park. Alleyways could cut through from Assembly to the park.

Another small detail that I'd also like to see, ideally in concert with narrowing Taylor Street and converting it to a two-way street, is changing up the border of the park along Taylor. I'm not a fan of the wooden posts and ropes that serve as a boundary of the park. Instead, the sidewalks should be extended and the park should open up to the street by removing the posts and ropes and possibly placing tree planters along the edge of the sidewalk, similar to how Greensboro did with Center City Park:

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When Columbia finally makes the decision to put pedestrians first, downtown will get a lot better. They are moving in that direction, but it's not there yet. There is no reason for anybody to be going 40mph in downtown Columbia. Part of that move would mean more red lights for drivers but at shorter intervals. This benefits pedestrians because they dont have to stand around as long to wait on the signal to change... most peds will just jaywalk rather than wait.

What I've said previously is that there needs to be an overarching master plan for downtown. Right now, there's a lot of energy being focused on different parts of downtown (Main, Vista, Bull Street campus, Assembly, etc.) and an effort to make them connect better to their surroundings, but a master plan is needed so that it will be clear how each part is pertinent to the whole and it can also help to prioritize and coordinate efforts across downtown.

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The Urban Land Institute released its study regarding a potential overhaul for Assembly. As noted before, the recommendations include narrowing the thoroughfare to four lanes and building a linear park along the street. Two additional ones not previously mentioned include utilizing the underground parking garage that serves the State House and associated offices after hours and on Mondays and Fridays, and building a pedestrian bridge at Gervais Street.

The comments section is a trip. Sounds like a bunch of suburbanites who only care about getting to their downtown destinations as quickly as possible. Thankfully, there are a few voices of reason among area residents.

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The Urban Land Institute released its study regarding a potential overhaul for Assembly. As noted before, the recommendations include narrowing the thoroughfare to four lanes and building a linear park along the street. Two additional ones not previously mentioned include utilizing the underground parking garage that serves the State House and associated offices after hours and on Mondays and Fridays, and building a pedestrian bridge at Gervais Street.

The comments section is a trip. Sounds like a bunch of suburbanites who only care about getting to their downtown destinations as quickly as possible. Thankfully, there are a few voices of reason among area residents.

I'm confused on the pedestrian bridge idea... Isn't a MAJOR point of this overhaul to increase pedestrian friendliness, and therefore alleviate the need for taking people above the street?

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The only reason I would be for a pedestrian bridge is that the State House grounds at the corner are so high in the first place. As long as they don't go diagonal with it and as long as they make it beautiful I wouldn't mind it. The bigger story to me is the suggestion that the intersection should be transformed from a nondescript crossroads to the intersection of South Carolina. That's only a fitting concept, being that it's at the corner of the State House grounds.

In a local news report the Urban Land Institute speaker said Columbia is a city with tremendous assets in different districts and neighborhoods that need to be connected. There's no word on how the connectivity would be funded. Stay tuned.

Edited by CorgiMatt

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I'm confused on the pedestrian bridge idea... Isn't a MAJOR point of this overhaul to increase pedestrian friendliness, and therefore alleviate the need for taking people above the street?

I was thinking the same thing myself. Even with the elevated nature of the Statehouse grounds, there are steps that lead down to the sidewalk. I think it might be unnecessary.

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The South Carolina Department of Transportation has scheduled a public information meeting May 8 concerning plans to improve approximately one-half mile of Assembly Street in Columbia.

The meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Donor Room at the Koger Center for the Arts, at 1051 Greene St. in Columbia.

The meeting will have an informal drop-in format with displays.

SCDOT is currently developing plans to improve approximately one-half mile of Assembly Street from Pendleton Street to Blossom Street and along Greene Street from Main Street to Assembly Street.

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The South Carolina Department of Transportation has scheduled a public information meeting May 8 concerning plans to improve approximately one-half mile of Assembly Street in Columbia.

The meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Donor Room at the Koger Center for the Arts, at 1051 Greene St. in Columbia.

The meeting will have an informal drop-in format with displays.

SCDOT is currently developing plans to improve approximately one-half mile of Assembly Street from Pendleton Street to Blossom Street and along Greene Street from Main Street to Assembly Street.

Sounds like a good start and I'm glad to hear everyone partnering up for this. I'm sure USC had a big part in this because I believe they want Green Street to become an axis for the school. Hope some people from this forum can drop in and give good insight, then bring back what was discussed.

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Sounds like a good start and I'm glad to hear everyone partnering up for this. I'm sure USC had a big part in this because I believe they want Green Street to become an axis for the school. Hope some people from this forum can drop in and give good insight, then bring back what was discussed.

Already planning to go. i set up my calender to go.

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From the public hearing held this past Tuesday by the city, USC, and SCDOT concerning Assembly Street improvements, which are estimated to begin this fall:

Proposed changes include a landscaped median in the center of Assembly Street to replace metered parking spots, a fence to prohibit jaywalking, extended curbs at the intersections, improved sidewalks and the addition of bus stop shelters.

All metered parking on Greene Street will be removed for the addition of bike lanes.

The intersection at Greene and Assembly streets will restrict left turns in all directions, and the Assembly intersections at Greene and College streets will prohibit right turns on red.

I'm assuming the mention of the fence to prevent jaywalking refers to a fenced median, similar to this one in downtown Atlanta on Marietta Street as it runs between the CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park:

6920235304_75efa4d67c_z.jpg

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here are the PDF files for the Assembly street project.

You will like the details on the renderings.

http://www.scdot.org...n_2012_0507.pdf

http://www.scdot.org...l_2012_0507.pdf

http://www.scdot.org...l_2012_0507.pdf

http://www.scdot.org...g_2012_0507.pdf

All of the people who are against this should note that there will be the same number of lanes so they don't have to worry about a road diet and say this will add congestion. That is the biggest problem a lot of suburban drivers are worried about but they shouldn't as these plans show. The parallel parking will just be taken out and left and right had turns will be restricted at certain intersections.

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I can't tell from the schematics, but since no lanes are being eliminated, are they at least being narrowed?

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I can't tell from the schematics, but since no lanes are being eliminated, are they at least being narrowed?

The schematics say the lanes will be 12 feet wide which is the standard for interstates so I'm assuming they aren't narrowing them any unless it is worse than we thought and Assembly currently has lanes that are wider than standard interstate lanes. :shok:

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USC’s Board of Trustees decided at its monthly board meeting to proceed with an agreement with the city of Columbia – essentially the last step needed to pursue federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration. Assembly Street improvements could begin as early as next year if federal funding comes through later this summer.

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Well, the links don't work. Not having seen the plans I can only make assumptions.

General thoughts:

Bike lanes are not needed on Greene Street. Parking w/ sharrows would be amore effective use of space.

A landscaped median on that portion of Assembly will be fantastic. A few more trees will make that area way better for pedestrians. I'm not a huge fans of fences though. I'd rather them allocate less space to cars.

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I'm all for Fencing is Discourage Jaywalkers. trust me i've almost hit a few jaywalkers before driving down Assembly

I'm all for Fencing is Discourage Jaywalkers. trust me i've almost hit a few jaywalkers before driving down Assembly

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Well, the links don't work. Not having seen the plans I can only make assumptions.

General thoughts:

Bike lanes are not needed on Greene Street. Parking w/ sharrows would be amore effective use of space.

A landscaped median on that portion of Assembly will be fantastic. A few more trees will make that area way better for pedestrians. I'm not a huge fans of fences though. I'd rather them allocate less space to cars.

I think the fences are a good way to make sure that people don't cross except at the intersections where people are more likely to notice them.

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