by Mateja Mihinjac
Public transportation hubs provide commuting assets to every city. That’s why it’s crucial that they are well thought-out and become well integrated into the city ecosystem.
A key form of transport hub is the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) - a new Smart Growth form of city planning used in many cities to improve the integration of central stations and connecting services, as well as to promote the connectivity of services to populated parts of cities.
I wrote about TODs in Vancouver and Greg wrote about the central corridor TOD in St Paul, Minnesota. The Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana could benefit greatly from these considerations to improve currently underwhelming public transportation options.
I’ve recently joined the Institute for Spatial Policies’ (IPOP) Jane’s Walk where the participants discussed the proposed redevelopment of the new central station and transportation hub in Ljubljana.
The beginnings of this project date back to 2002. In 2006, the first building plan was approved but followed several revisions and the 2 public-private partnerships were dissolved in the process. The project was also put on hold due to historical archaeological findings dating back to Roman Ljubljana – Emona, and ensuing excavations on the site.
Fast forward 20 years and in April this year, new plans were announced envisioning a mixed-use development with commercial and business facilities, large parking facilities, a hotel, and exclusive apartments.
However, it appears as if the transportation hub is now of secondary importance to this project, which is also alluded to on the project’s website:
“…A modern development that will be a hub of activity. It offers retail and entertainment experiences, state-of-the-art workplaces, a welcoming hotel and long-stay apartments. It offers first-class connectivity together with modern, stylish, urban places to live. It’s the heart of the city where life happens. It’s Ljubljana’s urban forum.”
Unsurprisingly, the proposal was met with several criticisms. In one piece, Katarina Žakelj of the Coalition for Sustainable Transport Politics questioned whether the project is still focused on the central station or whether it is a fiasco in the city centre?
We held similar discussions at the recent Jane’s Walk I attended where I heard concerns about insufficient time given to public consultations, problems with a large number of planned parking surfaces, and a lack of greenery which could worsen the heat island effect.
The site envisions 1700 new parking places for motor vehicles, around 900 of these will be for visitors, and the remaining for business and office facilities. With the municipality’s intention of reducing car traffic and car dependency by 20% before 2027, this plan appears counterintuitive. One US report recognises that while there are numerous benefits of a transportation hub, we need to reduce reliance on cars and instead integrate those provisions with better public transportation services.
RETAIL & BUSINESS FOCUS
At the Jane’s Walk, one of the participants exclaimed “not another shopping mall!” Both the retail and business focus of the development at this prime location appear counter-intuitive.
This new shopping venue might affect the existing retail in the city and independent shops thus leading to vacant storefronts. According to some sources, Slovenia has one of the highest square footage of retail space per capita in the EU.
Additionally, as many have expressed the preference for working from home, future cities should be more focused on the provision of social infrastructure.
One point of contention concerns intermodality. For example, currently, Ljubljana has no unified system under which one could use the same ticket for different modes of transport. The concept called ZMAJ proposes this much-needed change together with the development of Emonika. As well, realizing the UN-Habitat concept of a 15-minute city means that micromobility and other flexible transportation options are also needed.
TODs AND SAFETY
TODs are an integrative and sustainable way to build future cities, but Emonika needs to consider issues such as growing population, environmental, economic and social sustainability, and futureproofing, not just commercial needs. Among the most important needs is the personal safety and security of the site.
To my knowledge, these topics have not yet been explicitly discussed on any of the forums I was able to source. The developers should not neglect the potential CPTED-related topics such as after-hours safety and social activity at micro-locations.
After 20 years of waiting the residents of Ljubljana deserve a transportation hub fit for purpose.
by Gregory Saville
Amazon is a global, corporate superstar. Arvada is a suburban city 15 miles from downtown Denver, with 120,000 people spread in dozens of residential neighborhoods. The annual Arvada budget is $250 million compared to Amazon’s $1.6 trillion. It's David and Goliath.
So you might wonder how Arvada could resist when Amazon showed up with a plan to build a 112,000 square foot distribution center - a delivery hub - onto a 36-acre undeveloped site. Amazon came with an offer of 2,000 jobs, tax revenues, and a green buffer to shield nearby housing.
Yesterday Arvada council rejected the proposal.
Triggered by a local citizen anti-development campaign, and a petition of 10,000 residents who opposed the plan, City Council voted 5-2 to reject the Amazon proposal. Why? And what does this have to do with neighborhood crime?
Did the residents oppose Amazon’s taxation history (e.g.: media stories that they don’t pay enough)? Nope, that was not a main point of contention. Were there complaints about Amazon’s global environmental record? Nope. In fact, Amazon co-founded the Climate Pledge and Global Optimism program aiming for net-zero carbon in the next 20 years, ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, and spent $100 million into the Right Now Climate fund to focus on solutions to climate warming. Wow! That should impress even the naysayers.
Not so in Arvada.
One environmental group complained that the development would destroy a nearby active wildlife habitat. But it was traffic congestion that carried the day, namely, complaints about hundreds of delivery vehicles and a 1,000 vehicle parking lot.
In a car-dependent suburb, where walking takes second place to driving, vehicle congestion is the thing. It obviously was on the minds of the 5 councillors who voted it down. I’m sure 10,000 opposing petition signatures caught their attention.
HOW IS THIS CRIME RELATED?
The vote, of course, might have gone the other way. Amazon made a strong case and everyone loves to get stuff delivered promptly by Amazon – especially during this pandemic. Add to that two thousand jobs - not an insignificant number!
But traffic jams and growing congestion is a powerful motivator in the face of a weak bus system and a new, but grossly underutilized, commuter rail line to downtown Denver. In American suburbs, cars rule!
The takeaway? When it comes to changing future cities for the better, it is crucial that we understand the politics, dynamics, and economics of land acquisition and usage. All the slick 3-D renderings, public statements, comprehensive plans, zoning regulations, and design guidelines, (such as CPTED design guidelines), do not matter one iota if resident expectations are unfulfilled.
Nor does it matter to complain about racism, gentrification, or the “flat white urbanism” planning bias if new developments flail and falter at the altar of public expectations. (Not that any of those things were part of this story).
A REALISTIC WAY FORWARD
If we want to bring forth a new form of neighborhood safety planning (and in SafeGrowth, we do), we need to dive deeply into the mindset of local residents. We need to avoid NIMBY name-calling and figure how to work alongside residents from the get-go.
In SafeGrowth we use co-planning workshops, Livability Academies, and other types of intense neighborhood engagement. This must happen long before development proposals are written up in some distant office.
I’m unsure if a more exciting and beneficial outcome might have emerged from a more collaborative planning process. I suspect the answer is yes. This week in Arvada, the answer was no! David slew Goliath.