Last month, the University City District unveiled the new "pedestrian plaza" at 48th and Baltimore. Once, this intersection was a confusing accident magnet for cars and pedestrians alike. Though the improvements are both attractive and useful, the cost to the city ($30,000), and the total cost (about $60,000), seem a little high.
The plaza does provide much needed direction at a confusing intersection. And it's clear that the "bumpouts" (areas carved out of the streets) will both reduce the time that pedestrians are in the crosswalk, and will slow traffic down. The plaza uses a theory of placemaking similar to the one employed to create The Porch: the addition of a few thoughtfully placed elements to an underutilized space can change it for the better without the need for large scale construction.
In a city with a serious school funding crisis, though, is there a pressing need for $60,000 sets of rocks and planters? The University City District matched the city's contribution to the project, so the entire cost didn't come out of the city's coffers, but aren't there more urgent projects for the UCD too? The Pedestrian Plaza probably will improve the flow of traffic at the intersection of 48th and Baltimore, but is the city tackling small problems because the bigger ones are harder to solve?
· University City District creates new Baltimore Crossing pedestrian plaza [Plan Philly]
· Tom Ford [Official Site]