Urban planners have been trying to develop ideal formations of neighborhoods and cities in terms of street, landscape and architectural designs, for centuries. A plethora of designs and theories have been created by numerous planners and designers throughout history that all share the common goal of attempting to make people’s lives easier, safer and simpler. Unfortunately, many urban designs implemented in the past are now problematic because future issues such as over population, increases in stormwater runoff due to the large amount of impervious surfaces and automobile congestion were not accounted for (Campbell, 1996).
Two very popular types of urban designs that are most prevalent today, especially in New Jersey, are called Neotraditionalism, or “New Urbanism,” and Edge City (Contemporary Urban Planning, Levy). This blog post will examine some of the issues of old city planning, while introducing the differences between neotraditionalism and edge city by using the College Avenue Campus at Rutgers University New Brunswick as a real life example.
As mentioned before, urban planning is shifting its focus towards addressing key issues that were not particularly accounted for in the past. Newer forms of urbanism, such as neotraditionalism, focus on reducing automobile traffic, making streets more pedestrian friendly and incorporating mixed uses of development to make more of a connected street (Contemporary Urban Planning, Levy).
Portrayed in the picture above is almost exactly that of the goals of a neotraditionalist. College Avenue has been planning to re-design their campus for years in order to make it safer for students. The College Avenue Road where most of the classes and bus stops are, is constantly backed up with traffic and students dangerously walking and riding bicycles in and across the street. In fact, in the article titled “College Avenue’s Design Partly Responsible for RUPD-Pedestrian Accident” written by Charlie Kratovil, describes the accident that occurred at Rutgers in 2012 where a student was hit by a police officer vehicle. It can be argued that this accident was not only caused by, what neotraditionalists may call, the automobile happy design that is currently College Avenue, but also acted as the final push to get construction and development going to redevelop the non-pedestrian friendly street into one that promotes less traffic and more safety for student welfare.
Neotraditionalism promotes very structured and organized design layouts that promotes walking and discourages driving. Edge City, on the other hand, is a very unstructured design in which the use of automobiles for a primary means of transportation is not only encouraged, but necessary. In the article “Edge City-An Overview of Edge Cities,” Matt Rosenberg explains how other common names for this design are “suburban business districts, major diversified centers, suburban cores, minicities, suburban activity centers, cities of realms, galactic cities, urban subcenters, pepperoni-pizza cities, superburbia, technoburbs, nucleations, disurbs, service cities, perimeter cities, peripheral centers, urban villages, and suburban downtowns” (Rosenberg).
Now, although plenty of people walk and bicycle around College Avenue, one may argue that it has had more Edge City characteristics than Neotraditional characteristics. Other characteristics of an Edge City, according to Contemporary and Urban Planning, include :
- Having more jobs than bedrooms
- Perceived by the public as “one place”
- Has good highway access
- Is driven by economic forces
Although College Avenue isn’t exactly an Edge City, I think its safe to say that it hasn’t been very pedestrian friendly. In fact, in the article discussed previously, the author claims that “at peak times, 62 buses stop at the bus shelter every hour, making it the most popular transit stop on the campus and among the top five at the University” (Kratovil, 2012). Unfortunately, I think that having a police officer hit a student may just have been what was needed for College Avenue to transform from an Edge City to Neotraditional. I have a good feeling about the future of College Avenue and would love to be able to see less cars, more walkways and more GREEN.
Do you think that the redevelopment of College Avenue is going to be more beneficial or not? To learn more about it, click here.