Incomplete Streets: Operationalizing Jan Gehl's 12 Quality Criteria on Ballard Avenue
Lykken, Aaron Christopher
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The purpose of streets is far more than to just get from one place to another. Substantial progress has been made in establishing operative definitions of some of the qualities that make streets great. But progress has been slow and much still remains undefined. This paper seeks to see how we are doing now and what else we could be doing with regards to street design in Seattle. As a foundation, this research used a well-established methodology for evaluating the quality of public spaces and applied it to Ballard Avenue NW, a popular street in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. Ballard Avenue NW was evaluated using a modified version of Jan Gehl's 12 Quality Criteria covering the general quality areas of Protection, Comfort, and Enjoyment. Each of the 12 Quality Criteria was graded on a scale of how effectively it met the individual metrics established by Gehl. The research used structured observational studies along Ballard Avenue NW and evaluated how the street performs as a public space. Suggestions for improvements were based on a combination of academic literature and the City of Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan. Through these evaluations, this research revealed how Jan Gehl's 12 Quality Criteria can be operationalized and applied to a street in Seattle to identify areas of success and for improvement. Overall Ballard Avenue NW scores slightly above average. My results show that Ballard Avenue NW relies heavily on its historical character and the design of the past but both the City of Seattle and the Ballard Avenue Landmark District do little to improve upon it. As cities again rethink street design we need to continue to develop holistic street evaluation tools. But informed design only accomplishes so much. Seattle should also innovate new to tools such as establishing an inventory of model streets for matching with specific situations and the establishment of a pedestrian specific street classification. All of these tools combined may offer the best chance at recreating the good qualities of historical Ballard Avenue NW for other Seattle streets. The best new streets need not be the same as the old, but by serving as models, our successful old streets still have much to teach us about designing streets for today and tomorrow.
- Urban planning