Spring is finally here, and all of us who have suffered through another long winter long for al fresco everything. Well, maybe not everything (NSFW).
Just the other night I was in Ithaca and stopped to eat at Viva Taqueria. When I saw how busy & crowded the place was, my first thought was to yell “cucaracha!’ in an effort to scare off enough other patrons that we might be seated that week. My second thought was, “I would really love to sit outside.” Granted, the temperature was only in the 50’s, but that’s the thing about surviving upstate New York winters – they make you want to maximize any outdoor time you can squeeze into the relatively warmer months. Ithaca – and many other cities large & small – allow space on their sidewalks for outdoor seating. What about Corning?
True – a few places like Atlas Pizza and Poppleton’s do manage to fit tiny cafe tables with seating for two – and Market Street Brewing Company has their biergarten and rooftop seating as part of the actual property – but overall we’re pretty lacking. The biggest reason is the most obvious one: too little space on the sidewalks. Market Street sidewalks average eleven and a half feet (from building to curb), but in that space we have to accommodate two-way foot traffic, lampposts, garbage cans, and trees among other things.
Question: How could we provide nearly every eatery on Market Street the option of offering copious and comfortable outdoor seating – without sacrificing the other duties the sidewalk must perform? Answer: make Market Street one-way.
Converting Market Street to a single lane of one-way traffic would allow the sidewalks to be built out far enough to provide pedestrians plenty of room around the outside of the tree line, while accommodating bona fide seating sections in front of select buildings. What’s that you ask? What about all the parking spaces we would lose? Look no further than 14th Street in Elmira Heights to see the benefits of pull-in diagonal parking.
Adopting a 45 degree parking strategy could allow 50% more cars (3 wherever there are currently 2) in the same amount of street real estate. If we only need to devote 12-15′ for a one-way traffic lane, additional street width can be devoted to a mix of diagonal parking and extra sidewalk.
Look out, here comes some math: The current 2-way traffic lane is 21′ 6″ wide, and the current width of a parallel parking space is 9′ 4″. Even if we play it safe and go with the 12′ figure for a single lane of one-way traffic, we still have plenty of space that can be repurposed on one or both sides of the street. 45 degree angled parking spaces stick out about 19′ – so it may not be possible to adopt that strategy on both sides of the street. At the very least it could be done on one side – keeping parallel parking on the other. As long as we net an overall increase in parking spaces per unit of street real estate in front of buildings that have no need for outdoor seating, we could build out the sidewalk in front of those buildings that could benefit from it.
In order to keep traffic flowing and to provide the easiest means to circle a block or simply exit Market Street for Denison Parkway, the logical choice would be to make Market Street one-way flowing East. Drivers could circle around from any block by making two rights to get onto the Parkway – as easily as they can now.
Are there downsides? Sure. Traffic flow might slow a bit on Market Street itself – and maybe in the Westbound lane of Denison Parkway. And if Market Street is your destination and you’re traveling from the East, you’d have to overshoot your target by a block and circle back. Nothing this good comes without some cost. Heck, I might lose one of my favorite pastimes: watching scenes like this.
And I’ll admit I have no idea how feasible this really is. I simply got an idea, Googled some university parking studies & DOT guidelines, and then went out with two friends and a tape measure. I remember our “Big Dig” and how disruptive that was to… well, everything. So I’m sure another massive Market Street construction project is not the most palatable idea to everyone in town. I’m sure there would be arguments over which buildings should get the “sidewalk buildout treatment.” In fact, I’m sure there are all sorts of reasons this hasn’t already been considered. But you can’t convince me it wouldn’t be cool enough to be worth it (really, you can’t… in fact several people have already tried to and I’m not wavering).
What do you think about making Market Street one-way to accommodate more sidewalk seating?