Fayetteville Street’s Road Diet

This video by Streetfilms talks about the results of New York City’s closing of parts of Broadway to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians have taken over and created a space for themselves. There is also no increase in traffic problems after two months of the streets being limited to cars.

Fayetteville Street was once a pedestrian mall from 1977 to 2006. Five blocks from the capitol to the old civic center were pedestrian only. Streetfilms brings up the term, Road Diet described as:

A road diet is a technique in transportation planning whereby a road is reduced in number of travel lanes and/or effective width in order to achieve systemic improvements.

Was the Fayetteville Street pedestrian mall too much of a diet or did it come at too early of a time for Raleigh?

If you look at a picture of Fayetteville Street before the 1977 makeover, you can see that it was much wider then it is today. Actually, the original width of all four roads leading from the capitol, those being Hillsborough, Halifax, New Bern, and Fayetteville, were at one point 99 feet wide, according to the original plan by William Christmas. I’m pretty sure Hillsborough Street still retains the original planned width so you can use it as a reference.

There are lots of factors to consider here but I’ll try and keep it simple. Currently, Fayetteville Street’s road is thinner, compared to its original layout, resulting in wider sidewalks and a more pedestrian friendly environment. The balance between cars and pedestrians seems appropriate for the way Raleigh has developed over the last 30 years. The pedestrian mall never stood a chance with the way Raleigh sprawled out and forced people to buy cars and love highways. However, with green being so hot right now, people driving less, and mass transit being pushed, a long walkable area may slowly start to seem like a good idea.

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  1. The mall was too much too soon. (And you could never compare NY to Raleigh, where everyone has a car.)
    But you’re probably right about the old Fay street being too wide to be good for pedestrian uses. The new Fay Street has struck a balance….accessible to those in cars, but still wide sidewalks for pedestrians, sidewalk cafes, benches and all that.
    It’ll take a few more years to reach that potential….we’ve got a few decades of a “major mistake” to get over. Hopefully when the recession eases, more businesses will take up retail spots along the street (and have hours past sundown!).

  2. In my mind, this linked film isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison to Fayetteville Street. In fact, the opposite occured; F’ville was closed, and the space died. The reason that the businesses will continue to thrive in NYC is that it’s adjacent to Times Square, the downtown core of one of the most populous cities in the world and the cultural epicenter of the known universe. ;)

    I’m a big fan of the Broadway conversion, as it improved the public space and it simplified traffic flow. The improved traffic came from the elimination of the extra legs of the intersections (remember that Broadway is on a skew from the rest of the Manhattan grid), which made the signals simpler.

    The complaint here about Hargett and Martin was that the traffic was *too* efficient, so the addition of the cross-street and the subsequent one-way to two-way conversion was meant to induce congestion and slow traffic down in order to make things safer for pedestrians.

    And not only is the new Fayetteville a better shared space on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a great street to close for special events and gatherings. And I’m really looking forward to the new plaza to really seal the deal…

  3. I actually wish Fayetteville Street were wider than it is today. I’ll echo the above poster that the problem with the Fayetteville Street Mall was that the space felt empty, too quiet for a prominent street in a medium-sized city’s downtown. Although I’m glad they’ve opened Fayetteville up to cars, I think it still lacks the energy that comes with a little hustle and bustle now and then. Take Austin’s main downtown street, Congress Ave. (which is laid out in a similar fashion to Fayetteville St. – the skyscrapers line one street that ends when it hits the capitol on the north end). Congress Ave. is open to four/five lanes of traffic, and has a much better feel than present-day Fayetteville Street (and when the street is as quiet as it is, the chirping crosswalk sounds don’t help to the austere atmosphere).

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