Converting a Stroad to a Street

Editors note: in the last issue, Stroads and why they are unwise was discussed, along with the benefits of differentiating between streets and roads. Below, a local example and discussed.

Center Street from Harding to the cross-town free is a Stroad. It offers 4 lanes of one-way traffic from north to south. Because of its attempted dual purpose, it contributes to the isolation of Stockton’s waterfront, City Hall, and Cesar Chavez Park and Library. Its multiple lanes encourage higher speeds that discourage people from wanting to walk beside or along Center Street.

Center Street needs to become a street. It needs two lanes of traffic–one heading in each direction. Parking needs to be vertical to create a broader space between vehicles in motion and people walking on the sidewalks. The sidewalks need to be enlarged, with trees planted along them and sitting areas where people can eat, drink coffee, play games, contemplate the historical architecture, and experience Stockton’s amazing waterfront.

Stroads unrealistically treat people and vehicles equally. In reality, neither is served well, and people–whether walking or driving—suffer. By prioritizing people over automobiles, the environment surrounding Center Street can be welcoming. Small shops could populate storefronts. Restaurants, coffee houses, and other small businesses would thrive.

Presently, Center Street is dangerous for people on foot. Even if one can find a parallel parking space, one has to risk having her car door ripped off by a passing vehicle. Once out of the car, the choices are few: head to city hall or the library to do whatever business must be done, or risk your life crossing four lanes of traffic to get to the water front.

Center Street as a Stroad isolates each amenity and diminishes their individual and collective value.

It is easy to imagine someone walking along the waterfront, grabbing a sandwich or cup of coffee and relaxing before or after going to City Hall, Community Development, or the library. One can imagine a family going to the library to explore, check-out material, and then having a picnic in the park or taking a stroll along the waterfront.

These human experiences that give life to an area doesn’t happen now because each “amenity” is an island, separated by large roadways that are hostile to people walking or riding bikes. There is no seamlessness, no invitation to easily transition from one activity to another. The result is predictable and bad: people stay away unless they are on a specific task to complete; once accomplished, they are gone.

Communities that have successfully integrated their waterfronts into a walkable city thrive. Those that have not flounder. Stockton need not falter. Its success is only dependent upon a willingness to maximize Stockton’s natural advantages. It takes small efforts from many people, working incrementally to improve our city; that isn’t necessarily headline-grabbing, but it is the only effort that repeatedly succeeds.

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