This past Saturday, 20 May 2017, Talking Streets explored Claremont CBD to unpack what transit-oriented development (TOD) could mean for street design in Cape Town. We had a diverse group of built-environment professionals, students, and those who work in the area. This Talking Streets was aimed at continuing the discussion from the recent Street Minds talk about TOD. It has been noted that current TOD strategies in Cape Town focus extensively on large-scale issues and have yet to determine what TOD means at the street level. Through this Talking Streets, we hope to contribute to this ongoing discussion and debate. The morning focused on practical aspects of street design, which need to be thought through carefully to realise the vision of an improved urban environment through the implementation of TOD. This included three main questions:
- How should pedestrians be prioritised in the CBD of Claremont and TOD in general?
- How can parking and servicing requirements be designed to enable better street environments in TOD nodes?
- How can land-use zoning and development facilitation effectively support TOD?
To respond to each of these questions, Jody Paterson, an urban designer at NM & Associates, shared her insight and led the discussions as we walked through Claremont CBD. The discussion began with understanding TOD and how it might look different in the context of Cape Town compared to where it has already been implemented internationally.
Some key insights in response to the main questions for the morning were:
Pedestrian priority: As pedestrians move from the station to Main Road, they are confronted with limited waiting space and multiple barriers. To improve pedestrian priority is to enable easy movement. It was discussed that this could be achieved by raising the road to the height of the pavements or by lowering the pavement to the road so as to create a shared space – cars are more likely to slow down if it is less obvious where they should be.
Parking and servicing: Currently parking and servicing, whether on street or accommodated internally, do not create a safe and inviting edge condition. This seems to undermine the economic viability and vitality of streets and the surrounding buildings because pedestrians do not linger but rather pass through these spaces quickly. With fewer pedestrians using this street, it also limits the opportunities for smaller retailers. Unsafe and underused areas are also more expensive to maintain and manage.
Land use and development facilitation: In Claremont, there are large retailers who do not need visibility from the street and clearly do not want accessibility from the street as they have blocked their entrances off Main Road. Smaller retailers however, do require this visibility and accessibility from active streets like Main Road. These smaller retailers help to create improved street environments and should be encouraged along active streets. Another consideration is that of permeability of large blocks to offer pedestrians more direct routes to encourage walking. There should be a focus on the needs of different tenants and users in the development and design of TOD nodes. The Shoprite building offers an interesting example of how this might be achieved.
The discussion then concluded with these relevant questions and considerations that should be engaged with for future TOD nodes:
- How do you design TOD and facilitate development to get value from streets?
- How much space is really needed for parking and services? Perhaps the norms and standards should be revised.
- Where are the opportunities for intersectional spaces, where people can meet and interact through planned or unplanned activities?
- People are making meaning and taking ownership of public spaces and streets already. How does TOD support and enhance authentic space making rather then remove it?
- The City should understand its role in the delivery of TOD nodes well enough to act strategically and not try to control everything, while at the same time exercising strength in decision making to ensure the vision is delivered.
As TOD begins to be implemented in Cape Town, we will need to continue these conversations and unpack and understand how it can add value to our streets and moving through our city.
This was the final Talking Streets in this series. Stay tuned for the more!