Comments on Parklet Program Northampton

Comments on Parklet Program Northampton

Considerations for a Citywide Parklet Program
October 21, 2016

To: Wayne Feiden, City of Northampton

From: Stacey Beuttell and Adi Nochur, WalkBoston

As the City of Northampton considers developing parklets at various locations, WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to provide guidance based upon a review of parklet literature, including parklet guides created by several other municipalities (see Appendix A for a full list of resources reviewed). Parklets can advance numerous goals related to walkability, including expanding the amount of open space available in a community, creating new walkable destinations at specific locations, creating new walking connections along and between key corridors and town centers, and calming traffic by narrowing vehicular travel lanes and providing visual cues to people driving. The traffic calming effects of parklets may be somewhat limited, as much of the literature recommends that they be sited on slower streets with prevailing speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less. However, this does not negate the role that parklets can play more broadly in creating a safer and more comfortable pedestrian environment.

With respect to siting parklets at specific locations, there are a number of programmatic, technical and design criteria for planners to consider. These are further detailed in the attached Parklet Site Evaluation Matrix, which WalkBoston developed based upon the literature review mentioned above. This Matrix is intended to help City staff evaluate potential parklet sites based upon their physical characteristics, as well as their potential to help advance broader goals related to walkability.

As Northampton moves forward with its parklet efforts – including several mobile parklet tests scheduled for the coming months – WalkBoston encourages the City to continue to consider issues related to community engagement, funding and resources, design, maintenance, and evaluation. While the City has already identified several potential parklet sites on city-owned land, community stakeholders may be interested in proposing additional sites on public or private property as well. Under either circumstance, the City will need a process for gauging and/or mobilizing public support to advance individual parklet projects. The City will also have to determine – potentially on a case-by-case basis – who will be responsible for designing, constructing, funding and maintaining parklets, and whether the City itself can or should provide design guidelines and resources towards these ends.

Finally, the City should consider how it might evaluate the success of individual parklet locations and its parklet program overall. A 2011 parklet impact study from the San Francisco Great Streets Project provides some insights in this regard. Through a combination of pedestrian counts, stationary activity counts, pedestrian surveys and business surveys, the Great Streets Project found that the number of people stopping to socialize and engage in positive behavior increased significantly at three parklet locations studied. With the exception of the business surveys, the Great Streets Project utilized all these methodologies both before and after the installation of the parklets. WalkBoston recommends that the City of Northampton pursue similar methodologies both pre- and post-parklet installation to gather both quantitative and qualitative information to evaluate its efforts.

Appendix A: Resources Reviewed

CityLab. “These Whimsical Parklets Promote Walkability.” July 4, 2016.

Livability. “From Parking to Park.” February 19, 2015.

Los Angeles Parklet Application Manual

Minneapolis Parklet Application Manual

NACTO Urban Street Design Guide – Parklets.

Philadelphia Parklet Program Guidelines

PlanetShifter Magazine. “The Invisible Pedestrian.” June 30, 2013.

Redding, CA “Recommendations to Improve Pedestrian Safety” report

San Francisco Great Streets Project Parklet Impact Study

San Francisco Parklet Manual

Seattle Parklet Handbook

Smart Growth America Parklet Policy Toolkit

University City District (Philadelphia) “The Case for Parklets” report

UCLA “Reclaiming the Right of Way” toolkit for creating and implementing parklets

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