Quick Rewind: The City of Kent, Kent State University and the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA) obtained federal transit funds to evaluate the possibility of building a multi-modal transportation center in downtown Kent. With as many students as we have commuting to campus each day, it seemed to make sense to explore opportunities to reduce car use and expand transit use which these days eventually leads to a discussion of multi-modal centers. Cities have found transit centers to be activity hubs concentrating people in a public space and where there’s people businesses are soon to follow. Working that formula backwards, many cities have turned to multi-modal centers to be a catalyst for economic development. Here’s a short update on where the Kent study is at.
The Steering Team for the Multi-Modal project includes representatives from the University, City staff, downtown businesses, City Council, PARTA, and Kent residents. This group has been working with the consultant, Transystems, to lead the study and guide the feasibility analysis. The study has been underway for nine months with the consultant hosting a series of public input sessions to understand the community’s expectations, hopes and concerns related to consideration of a possible downtown transit center.
Using this data the consultant proceeded to evaluate possible sites in the central business district based on the criteria identified from the public meetings. Some 6 to 10 areas were explored and rated based on the criteria and through that process the consultant found 2 areas to have the most to offer for a possible transit center. Those areas included the north and south sides of Haymaker Parkway between Lincoln Street and Depeyster.
Those areas were shared with the community in public meetings and more feedback was received that led to further quantitative and qualitative analysis. In particular, the consultant has been looking at numerous scenarios for how to lay-out the transit center. In the vernacular of planners and architects the consultants are looking at building massings and assessing the pro’s and con’s of the various scenarios.
Should the center be built into the hillside? Should the center run parallel to Haymaker Parkway or perpendicular? How should the bus lanes and lay-by’s be configured? Is there room to build in retail to the center? How much community space can be built into the center? How can the pedestrian connection be built between downtown and the campus? Where will the bike center be located? How much parking is needed? Is the parking located on the site in a way that allows it to support other downtown retail needs?
To be able to answer these sorts of questions the consultant has been developing different schematics that might work. The next step is to take those schematics that have the greatest prospect for success and to share them with the public for additional feedback. We met with the consultant last week to talk about those next steps and it seems that they are shooting for another round of public meetings in April for people to poke and prod at the different concepts.
From my perspective, the transit center is another piece of the downtown puzzle that we are working hard to put together. At this point, we’re still just trying to determine if the piece belongs in the downtown puzzle at all and if so where. But now is definitely the time to be having this conversation since our downtown work is still fluid enough to allow changes but likewise it has enough form around the edges to determine if the idea has merit or not.
As I listen to merchants on Main Street talk about the constraints that parking has put on their plans to expand their businesses, I can’t help but wonder if we can’t leverage the transit center to get more bus and bike riders in downtown stores and also expand our parking base to support adjacent business growth. These are the kinds of conversations that I think would greatly benefit from the downtown reinvestment plan that I talked about on yesterday’s blog post.
That’s it for now, I’ll keep you posted as the dates for the next round of public meetings are scheduled.
And if you’re wondering what could be done in a transit center to promote more biking, here’s some good descriptions of the bike centers that are often found in transit centers (source: springwise.com).
Gas prices, urban congestion and environmental concerns have brought about a veritable renaissance in bicycle riding, spawning initiatives like citywide bike-rental schemes and bank-sponsored bike-sharing programs, among others. A trend we haven’t yet highlighted, however, is the growing number of urban bike stations.
The most recent example we’ve spotted just opened in New Zealand. Located in the Britomart in Auckland (a public transport hub), BikeCentral offers bicycling enthusiasts and commuters a welcoming place to park their bikes and transition into the next part of their day. In addition to safe, secure bicycle parking, BikeCentral members have access to private lockers, showers and changing areas. Coffee, fresh food and free wireless internet are also available, as are rental bicycles and an on-site repair service for minor repairs. All-inclusive rates start at NZD 25 per week.
Chicago’s McDonald’s Cycle Center at Millennium Park, which launched in 2004, is a 16,448-square-foot heated facility that includes free indoor parking for 300 bikes, showers and lockers, bicycle rental and repair, and a cafÉ. A monthly membership pass costs USD 20. Finally, on the West Coast, Bikestation is a not-for-profit organization that offers secure bicycle parking and more. Stations in five California cities plus Seattle offer a variety of services including bicycle rentals and repair, showers and lockers as well as 24-hour secure bike parking. Monthly fees are USD 12.
The way things are going, demand for centers like these will only increase. And how a combination of bike stations and shared working spaces? Help consumers reduce their carbon footprints, help the planet, and help yourself to some well-deserved profits!