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EngineerScotty


A question for ya, Jarrett.... other than some of the cultural expectations you mention in this post, what (if anything) restrains the "Walmartifaction" of Aussie retail? As you note, full-service grocers (or larger retail outlets) have mostly replaced independent food vendors in the US, and the independent food stores which remain generally provide specialty products (ethnic foods, high-end merchandise, etc.) where the major retailers are unable to develop economies of scale.

IS the square footage (or meterage) of individual stores limited? Is it that fewer customers are coming with autos, and thus unlikely to do a weeks worth of grocery shopping in a single trip? After all, it's worth noting that it's the "small towns" where WalMart and its ilk have been most effective at displacing independent merchants.

Also, have you any comment on the rise of faux-pedestrian malls (such as Bridgeport Village or the Streets of Tanasbourne here in Portland)--generally large swaths of retail surrounding outdoor pedestrian "streets", and adjacent to a Very Big Parking Lot?

anonymouse

In the US, every one of those little shops would be required to have its own little parking lot, though in some cases, they can clump together around a single medium-sized parking lot, forming a strip mall. I think the main difference then becomes that the American version has the parking in front rather than in the back, and the stores all front on the parking lot. If you take your typical suburban shopping plaza and fold it in half around the supermarket, you'd pretty much get what Jarrett describes.

ant6n

Burlington, VT has a nice pedestrian mall through downtown. So there is at least one example in the US. ;)

Jeffrey Jakucyk

It seems like here in America many of the pedestrian malls are created out of urban shopping streets. There's not many pedestrian malls here that were deliberately designed as one, to operate as a town center. The ones that were are just regular malls that happen to not be enclosed, but they're still in the suburbs surrounded by parking lots. By the time we got to the point where we were designing such places, the car was already the dominant factor in planning.

The real question though is why they fail, not why they weren't built. The ones made out of existing urban fabric seem like they should be successful since when many of those areas were first built (in the 1800s usually) the street was just as available for pedestrians to use as the sidewalk. So what happened there? I think much of the issue is with crime, or the perception of crime. On a street where most of the shops are closed there's still traffic on the street, so you have some security in knowing that if something happens there's other people there who might be able to help. In a pedestrian only zone, there's none of that through traffic, so when the stores close the place gets very scary. Unfortunately, the same perception is true at other times when it's simply not very busy. Since these pedestrian malls were usually implemented in areas that were already distressed, this lack of hustle and bustle only made the the scary emptiness of the place even worse. This is why restoring the street to traffic later usually helps. Not only do you get the feeling of safety by having vehicles moving through, but the pedestrians are concentrated onto the sidewalk so there seems to be more of them than there were when they were dispersed across the entire space.

Another factor which may be more perceptual than real is the notion of incidental customers. The idea held by many shopkeepers is that making it easy for someone to "just drop by" will increase customers. Since most of those customers come and go by car instead of transit, then not having some parking right out front reduces those incidental visits and makes a trip to the pedestrian mall more of a chore than it would be otherwise.

Whatever the other underlying reasons, a critical factor for a successful pedestrian mall is a feeling of safety, and if it's not busy enough it will not feel safe.

Zoltán

NEWSAGENTS SELLING BUS TICKETS.

This is the only way to buy them in Italy, preferably buying a dozen and putting them in your wallet. There are machines to validate the tickets on the bus and periodic inspections (we're talking proof of payment, in other words) and the effect on journey times is phenomenal.

So that seems a pretty good option for agencies that haven't got to stored value cards yet. Even dropping them into a farebox is far quicker than slowly inserting the dollar bills one by one. I really wish that they could do this in Leeds, where "corner shops: are abundant, and the present driver-gives-change business makes buses infernally slow.

Daniel

"There are no newspaper vending machines in Australia."

Not quite true. You do occasionally see them. For instance in Melbourne while many suburban railway stations have a news stand that operates in the morning peak, those that don't will often have a newspaper vending machine instead.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Sorry, I should have said "In four years of living in Australia I've
not seen a newspaper vending machine."

David Sucher

I hope you'll show us a sketch -- a typical plan view illustrating your points.
Thx.

mikekinseattle

Pearl Street in Boulder, CO, is another example of a pedestrian mall in the US. It's a real people magnet.

Phillip Sauve

Great insight. That was one of the differences I noticed when I visited Australia that I couldn't quite put into words.

Keiran

Oooh, a positive article about Australian planning. Me likey!

I guess I hadn't thought about it before, but pedestrian malls do tend to stick in your memory of a town in Australia. Rundle Mall in Adelaide. Queen Street Mall in Brisbane. Pitt Street Mall in Sydney...

cph

In the United States, some ped malls have definitely done better than others.

In Riverside (about 60 miles east of LA) there is a downtown pedestrian mall near the Mission Inn. Mostly restaurants and "boutique" gift shops. It's quite busy and popular throughout the day and there is some night use as well.

The Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica has gone through varying levels of popularity. Back in the 80's it was car-free during the day, but not at night. And the stores were nothing to write home about. From about 10 years ago, though, it is much improved, with higher-quality stores, street performers, artwork, kiosks, etc. Totally car-free.

There have been also some that have been total flops, like Pomona back in the 80's, and Fresno...

jack horner

Just to clarify: the Lyneham 'pedestrian mall' is the circulation space between a few buildings which do not face the street, in a smallish neighbourhood shopping centre. There is a shared off street parking lot within 50 metres.

This style is common in Canberra, which has a different planning history from other Australian cities because of its status as a 'created' capital city (other examples: Mawson, Dickson, Curtin).

It's not common elsewhere. Generally in Australia, apart from getting bread and milk at the corner shop, you are more likely to be shopping either on a historic strip on an arterial road, or in a big box shopping centre.

In some places the historic shopping strip still prospers (sometimes because planners have forced the big boys to locate close by) ; in other places the big box shopping centre has almost killed it.

There are plenty of pedestrian malls in the sense of 'streets that have been closed to traffic', but not all of them prosper, and there have been proposals to reopen some to traffic in the hope that more activity (even if it's just people driving past) would improve things (eg Hunte r St Newcastle, New South Wales).

In other words, predictably, creating a pedestrian mall cannot by itself restore the fortunes of a historic shopping strip that has been mortally wounded by building a car-dependent big box shopping centre 3 kilometers away.

Where they exist the big box shopping centres, as a destroyer of civic life, are as noxious in Australia as anywhere. If you look at Woden, Canberra, on google earth, you can see the big box shopping centre (northeast of Hindmarsh Drive/Melrose Drive), which is always packed, and beside it (accessed through a small glass door), immediately north east of the tall white building, the 'town square', a dreary space surrounded by office buildings, which is almost always deserted.

Some more recent shopping malls try to pretend they are real town centres by creating a bunch of internal lanes open to the sky (eg visible on google earth, Rouse Hill New South Wales, Robina Queensland, Harbourtown cnr Gold Coast Hwy & Oxley Drive Labrador Qld). Of course if you started busking or handing out political flyers the property owner's goons would pretty quickly move you on.

If Australian shopping is less Walmartified than the US, it's probably because town planning controls are generally a bit stronger. At least in Sydney there are policies that try to prevent big boxes from locating in places where they will kill existing transit-friendly shopping centres (the big box developers whinge mightily about this and exceptions are common enough).

There are also a few specific restraints on trade that favour small shop keepers - for example, only pharmacists can sell certain pharmacy stuff (the supermarket operators whinge mightily about this too).

It's probably *not* because Australian shoppers in post World War 2 suburbs are any less car-dependent than their US counterparts. You're looking at areas where a good public transport mode share is 5 per cent and a bad one is 2 per cent. That difference can't make much difference to the character of shopping for the majority.

BTW See Tuggeranong, Canberra, for an interesting early 1990s attempt to create a 'real' streetscape in a new town centre, by putting parking in the middle of the blocks (eg Reed St Nth/ Scollay/ Soward/ Anketell).

The streets are pretty much deserted because everyone gets to the shops from the parking lot. But it’s a bit better than a big box (Tuggeranong has one of them too but at least it addresses the street).

Situpvancouver

You didn't comment on Robson in Vancouver again: given that the Vancouverites are so keen to undo their car-centric past (0.4% roadspace for bikes! a new record!) why hasn't Robson been pedestrianised, or at least monolaned?

jack horner

PS concerning the observation that shopkeepers in proposed pedestrian malls are afraid of losing the parking spaces outside the shop:

The big box developers aren't worried by this. In any big shopping mall you may be parking 200m from the front door, and if you spend a morning there you will probably walk two kilometres.

The moral is, people will walk *providing you make the environment pleasant for walking*.

J

The USA is packed with pedestrian streets lined with many stores.

We just call them "malls" because they're so common, no need to clarify that it's for pedestrians only.

Usually they're sheltered, because unlike most of europe and australia, the US experiences some extreme temperatures, from -40 to 125f. Of course, in places like Miami and LA, these pedestrian malls do not have climate control.

Chris M

Yeah J, no extreme temperatures in Australia or Europe. Sometimes it's hard to tell when I go outside whether I'm in Alice Springs or Oslo.

Some of the nicest pedestrian malls I've ever been in have been in north America. Burlington, VT has a very nice one, as does Ithaca, NY. My experience of them in the UK is typically less positive (although living here I've seen many more). The problem with a lot of them is that they're built up against an indoor shopping centre (mall) so you can feel rather trapped on the street. Market Street in Manchester is a case in point. The south side of the street is regularly broken by side streets and alleys into the old Victoria business district. The north side is the monolithic Arndale centre, which presents a 1/4 mile of shop fronts but no streets. Walking down it at night is intimidating because if confronted your only choice is to go down an alley into an abandoned business core, which is hardly ideal.

I think pedestrian malls can work, but not when they're combined with big indoor stores and centres, and not when they're an excuse to destroy the street plan.

Felix the Cassowary

In Australian shopping centres where there's a major supermarket, there's always a butcher, and baker and a fruit&veg shop there too (candlestick makers aren't so common anymore). So how has Australia resisted the "Walmartisation" of shopping? Because when you've parked your car, you probably walk past the butcher, the baker and the fruit & veg before you get to the supermarket. You know (or at least believe) you'll get better value-for-money at these local shops, and there's an excellent chance you'll be served by the guy who owns the place instead of some anonymous teenager who could be (and increasingly is) replaced by a machine.

The "historic shopping street" that Jack Horner talks about, which are probably more common, and allow cars (and in Melbourne, usually trams), but they usually have malls on the side streets. You won't notice that when you're just passing by; but if you live in that area, you'll know them.

Of course, as I understand it Walmart has everything in it, not just groceries ("hypermarkets"). Apparently Coles tried that some years ago, but it failed and they put walls in between, dividing them into a supermarket and a discount department store. That's what Wikipedia tells me; I wasn't up to remembering anything back in those days.

I don't get Jeffrey Jakucyk's safety concern. If the shops are closed, and there's no-one there, then there's no reason for you to be there feeling unsafe, surely?

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Jack.

Perhaps we hang in different landscapes. Certainly I don't spend a
lot of time in the most car-oriented outer suburbia, though I've
toured Western Sydney in great detail while designing bus routes.
Perhaps, too, some of what you call big box would look rather ped-
friendly compared to the American version. But I've seen a lot of ped
malls in a lot of small cities.

The particular pattern illustrated in Lyneham is often reproduced,
sometimes on private property, in the grocery-oriented Aussie shopping
centre: smaller shops in front on the street, a walkway lined with
small shops leading to the big grocery store, with the parking lot
behind that. From the street it looks like part of a commercial
mainstreet,, though from the parking lot it probably looks big-box.
From my observations, many of the centres that you describe as big box
are considerably ped-friendly by American standards. I've seen a few
big-box horrors in Aus, bt very few compared to US cities.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Situp. This is a transit blog! What do you propose to do with the
Robson trolleybus?

Nwali

What about public transport facilities next to malls? Who is responsible in ensuring that there are bus shelters/bus stops near malls? Is it the developer or the municipality?

Eric

A relevant difference in this comparison to factor and think about in this comparison is the fact that the U.S. consumer has 20 sq.ft. of retail space per person and Aussies have a more concentrated 8 sq. ft. per person. Part of that is different planning, lending and economic cultures. Commercial development in the US is driven by a science dictated on much shorter use of real estate cycles, for one.

But there is another related effect. The much larger footprint of consumer "choices" in the U.S. drives the "sprawl" of those commercial spaces that provide them, meaning U.S. consumers really do depend on autos more than Aussies to find the same diversity of options. We look for parking convenience to access in the US. If options are nearby we would walk more, but the fact is, we would dramatically limit our options more. Your average commercial real estate developer in the US thinks hard about limiting options. The Starbucks economy wants to eliminate nearby options.

One of the biggest reasons the indoor mall is disappearing from commercial development is the fact that consumers (consciously or not) associate the on-street parking available in faux-urban strip centers with parking distance to access convenience. They can literally park near the establishments they want to visit (right next to the wall!) instead of park way out in some tarmac and walk the circuitous route to through the mall entrance or department store to shop. Inbuilt into this logic of patronage is that they can skip the walking altogether. (But note this is not the same logic used by those US patrons used to transit and walking). The economics of this perceived "convenience" of parking distance to access has made the mall a dinosaur in US commercial development. The US consumer wants to drive up and park near that thing (and after that, then drive right up to the next thing).

Teresa

Jarrett, I would be interested to know what age group the people who said they wish to live in a small town are. Every person under the age of 40 I encounter seems to want to go to the big cities. It's the retirees who nostalgically yearn for "small towns".

And as far as pedestrian malls in the USA, they are usually regular city streets that have been converted to an all pedestrian format, and not successfully. The streets built for car traffic NEED car traffic on them. There is a notable example in a town slightly south of mine, where they've converted the main shopping street in town to all pedestrian, and it has become a creepy zone where one does not want to linger after hours. When it was carred, it felt natural to be on that street in the evening; there was always traffic moving through. Without the cars, the people who hang out there are not the ones you want to hang out with.

T.

EngineerScotty


One other related point. Some parts of the world make it easier than others for vendors operating carts to set up shop in the street. Just as many indoor malls have taken to filling their concourses with kiosks and stands of all sorts, outdoor pedestrian environments benefit from small vendors IN the street.

In some cases (several streets in the Hong Kong neighborhood of Mong Kok come to mind), the vendors and shops literally fill the street--even though you're outside, you feel like you're inside, as many of the shops themselves are covered, and the outside walkway between the rows of shops is only a meter or two across.

In many places of the world, this sort of activity is greatly restricted, though. If there's only a narrow sidewalk separating buildings from traffic, there's no place obviously for anything larger than a hot-dog cart, and even that might be unwelcome. But even in places where there IS room, often times the local fixed merchants will do whatever it takes to drive the carts and kiosks away, viewing them as competition. Here in Portland, we have a thriving food cart scene downtown (as well as out in Beaverton, where I live)--despite a never-ending harassment campaign by the restaurant lobby (which seeks to classify these things as "restaurants" and thus required to provide toilet facilities, seating, and other things clearly inappropriate for a food cart). In fairness to the restaurant lobby; often times building codes require THEM to do things which they night not otherwise do voluntarily (and which are not necessary for public safety).

And Chicago's war on its food cart industry is legendary.

Gord Price

For pics and comments on malls throughout Australia, readers might enjoy this issue of Price Tags: http://www.sightline.org/publications/enewsletters/price_tags/pricetags55.pdf

Plattypus1

cph beat me to it, but my hometown of Riverside, CA does take some pride in our downtown pedestrian mall. Though I do wish they'd stop it with the annoying piped-in music... I don't need to be fed bad 90's pop tunes to enjoy walking around.

Simon

Many thanks for replying to my email on this Jarrett, and thanks for the detailed post. Great to see so many other examples of good pedestrian malls in the comments.

As for the Robson trolleybuses in Vancouver. They haven't run length of Robson all summer because the stretch through Robson Square by the art gallery is closed for repairs. Two different routes serve the different halves of the street, and link to different skytrain stations. Couldn't this be a long term fix, with more of Robson closed to vehicles? Or run the bus route (for at least some of the way) on West Georgia which runs parallel 200m away.

Scott

@ "J" who thinks US Malls are pedestrian malls.

The major difference is that generally no one lives above the mall. Pedestrian malls often times have residences above the stores. Also pedestrian malls are generally built to be walkable as opposed to US malls that need escalators and other means of assisted travel to get people to the shops.

A pedestrian mall is a civic, public space and a US mall is a retail, private space.

Alon Levy

Not all pedestrian malls include residences. Many are in single-use commercial areas - for examples, parts of Lower Manhattan, and the pedestrianized segments of Broadway in Midtown.

Simon

But a pedestrian mall should be accessible after the stores close, i.e. public. Not locked, i.e private.

EngineerScotty

Many US shopping malls open the mall doors long before any shops open (and stay open well beyond shops closing). And many of them have non-retail civic amenities as well--I can think of quite a few library branches, police precincts, and even city halls located within shopping malls.

But still, the difference exists. Many privately-owned malls prohibit activity which is accepted in the public square, such as politicking; OTOH, private malls have greater hand to kick out those engaged in activities widely seen as undesirable (such as panhandling).

Retailers of some controversial trades may find a private shopping mall a refuge from protesters (many Portland furriers have left downtown for the malls; as private malls can keep animal-rights protesters from disrupting their business). Retailers in other controversial trades may find location within malls impossible--I can't imaging too many suburban shopping malls permitting a head shop to operate within, for instance.

Whether these things are good or not some may debate (some folks believe that forcing the general public to be confronted with homelessness is a good thing; others obviously disagree).

Alon Levy

In California, free speech is a positive right, and malls are obliged to permit political speech on the premises.

Aside from speech, there isn't much that really distinguishes private and public retail spaces. Malls close overnight; so do such public spaces as parks and subway systems. Malls sometimes forbid controversial stores; so do some public spaces, through zoning and deed restrictions. Malls can keep out the homeless; so does Times Square.

Richard Ure

I was thinking Queens Street Mall, Brisbane too, one of the best I’ve seen.

Then there is Martin Plaza in Sydney which is surrounded by….banks! Both of these host the entrances to railway or bus stations as does Bondi Junction Plaza.

Then the are pedestrian areas at Circular Quay, Sydney from The Rocks to the Opera House and, of course, the Corso at Manly whose pedestrian traffic is refreshed on the half hour by the next load of tourists and locals alighting from the ferry.

Parramatta had a mall which has been returned to road traffic when the shops complained of falling trade, but a major Westfield and related transport interchange may have been the real culprits. The Pitt Street Mall was resisted by shop owners for years, now it is packed with pedestrians and is a magnet for buskers during business hours. Retailers would loose a great deal if it reverted to road traffic. They are also vocal if trams down Pitt Street are even whispered.

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