I was tidying up me email archive and stumbled on this old article from 2009 on New York's plans (at that time) to close parts of Broadway to traffic. This was to implement the transport aspects of the plaNYC strategy to enhance the livability and sustainability of living in New York. I have posted on this topic several times but I thought this article was well worth resurrecting because it discussed the question of why many pedestrian malls in the USA failed in the 1970's and 80's giving them a bad name.
Well Times Square now has chairs and tables, yoga classes and impromptu forests in the middle of what used to be a road and it is definitely not in a state of decline - as can be seen on the Times Square web site. As well as the community benefits of this open space, there are other benefits - in April NYC launched a report on how air quality in the square has been massively improved by removing cars.
The annual report on NYC transport trends also shows several positive impacts of these and other initiatives, like huge safety improvements, reduced travel time for deliveries, increasing mode share for buses and massive increases in cycling.
But back to pedestrian malls. What makes pedestrian malls like Queen Street Mall (Australia's biggest grossing retail area) successful but meant the end of many high streets in America and England. I would say there are three keys:
Access - people need to be able to, and want to get there. The bus station at Queen Street is a big generator of pedestrian traffic through the mall, but there is also a lot of parking. It would be interesting to know the mode of access for retail customers in Queen Street mall.
Activity - retail cannot be the only draw-card. Unless people are employed or live and shop in the area there is not much attraction to go there to shop if it is not all that easy to access.
Attraction - this is as much about what is there as it is about what is elsewhere. The extent of retail offering and ease of access of the suburban shopping mall can be a killer for the CBD mall.
It is all a fine balancing act. Brisbane got it right in Queen Street. But can we create the same product at our Principle Activity Centres of Chermside, Indooroopilly and Mt Gravatt? These are built around shopping malls - a type of pedestrian mall. But can the vibrancy within the mall overflow into the surrounding area to create a PAC? And with so many cars accessing parking at the mall, how do you create a pleasant and safe environment for pedestrians around it?