How to Increase Walkability Around the Train Station

Lately, in anticipation of coming commuter rail, I’ve been writing about the new Frontrunner train station in Provo. It has it’s problems, but is still reasonably walkable in relation to both downtown and the mall.

So how can it be even better?

One big way would be to increase population density in that area, dramatically if possible. Research indicates that the population will increase anyway, and that many people will want to live in an urban (read: dense) setting. (Increasing population density is such a fundamental idea in urban design right now that I couldn’t decide what to link to. So instead, I’m linking to The Atlantic Cities density section, where you can read several articles about this idea.)

But another way to increase the walkability around the train station (or anywhere, really) is to eliminate or smooth out the psychological barriers in the area. In other words, the area around the station seems remote and perception of the distance around it “warps” long. We should work to reverse that, making it seem shorter than it does now — and ideally even shorter than it actually is.

I find the ideas of Kevin Lynch once again useful here. As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t yet read his book The Image of the City, but I’ve read a lot of writing that is influenced by it.

Specifically, Lynch has pointed out that people identify “districts” and “edges,” among other things, as they navigate a city. As downtown Provo is currently laid out, I’d argue that there are at least two districts between the Frontrunner station and Center Street. The first district seems to be the area below 300 South. It’s an industrial and occasionally commercial area that appears badly neglected.

The next district, I think, extends from 300 South up to either 100 South or even Center Street itself. This area isn’t quite as blighted as it’s neighboring district, but it’s still not great.

The major north-south edges in this area seem to be 300 South, 600 South, and the roundabout just before the mall.

The point is that these divisions, psychological as they may be, make the Frontrunner station seem far away.

Consequently, the best way to improve the area around the station, encourage walkability, and even motivate drivers to use the train is to smooth out these divisions. I’m well away that the city hopes to revitalize downtown and that the long-term goal is to improve everything in between Center Street and the station.

But as we do that, we need to keep in mind that if it continues to feel distant from everything, people will be less likely to use it. In other words, revitalization is only half the battle. The other half is a smooth an integrated transition — or a single “district” free from major “edges” — from the train station to downtown.



Filed under biking, commuting, Development, Downtown, travel, urban

4 responses to “How to Increase Walkability Around the Train Station

  1. Pingback: Benefits of Public Transit | (pro(vo)cation)

  2. Paul Glauser

    And while we are strategizing about how to improve the area between Center Street and the Frontrunner station and make it a more pleasant, shorter-feeling walk, let’s consider ways to make it more interesting. There likely isn’t enough retail demand to fill the ground floor of every new building in this corridor with interesting window displays, but where there is new retail let’s locate it up against the sidewalk and in buildings designed to draw the attention of passersby to what’s going on inside. And where there isn’t retail, let’s at least be sure we don’t line the street with dull, blank walls, parking lots, and other features which make the walk seem dull or even unsafe.

  3. Pingback: Commuter Rail Officially Rail Arrives in December | (pro(vo)cation)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s