Sunday, May 3, 2015

Downtown Vineyard and the New Eco Speedway

Downtown Vineyard and the New Eco Speedway We were asked to select two environments that are part of our daily life, and create scenarios that repair and transform the problems with their mobility, buildings, and consumer life. In doing so we are to provide elegant alternatives to the current situations that therein lie. The two environments that I have selected are my girlfriend’s house, which is located in Vineyard, Utah, and my place of work in American Fork, Utah.

I have decided to break this paper up into four parts: background or overview of the chosen environments, and their mobility, buildings, and consumer life. After I have given background on these locations I will provide my elegant alternatives for both environments in each of the mentioned categories. Each category will be thoroughly explained and all three areas for each environment will blend together to enhance their social, environmental, and economic well-being.

 I have lived in Orem for several years now and am excited about the changes taking place there. (They are currently looking to redevelop the University Mall and the State Street corridor making it a more complete street with protected bike lanes and mixed use development, thus making it more walkable. It’s exciting!) Connected to Orem is the little, but growing, town of Vineyard. I have had friends and acquaintances that have lived in Vineyard and so have made infrequent trips there for the last five years. Recently, as mentioned above, I started dating a young lady from Vineyard and the trips have become daily, giving me the opportunity to really notice detail and the town’s evolution.

Vineyard has always pretty much looked the same, until recently. Orem hit its boarders for growth and developers have started looking elsewhere. Vineyard being right next door, with ample “undeveloped” or unbuilt space, was the logical place to develop next. The sad thing about that is several of the same mistakes Orem made are happening all over again. Vineyard has made improvements on the lack of planning in Orem, but greater improvements can and should be made. That is why I have chosen Vineyard as my first environment in which I can create an elegant biophilic town replete with complete streets, protected bikeways, street lamps, and mixed use developments.

 As a planner we are to seek to better understand the individuals or stakeholders for which the ideas and plan will be carefully crafted. In order to do this I have spent time with some of the residents of Vineyard, gathering background and history of the people and town. I would like to proceed by giving an overview of the town, including the layout, history, occupational backgrounds, and built and unbuilt environments. This overview will also delve into the background of its people, because as stated so many times in class, nothing about us without us is for us. In the case of Vineyard this concept includes the wildlife.

In our Green Communities class we had a few opportunities for group projects. The first assignment we worked on, we were able to take the neighborhood of Poplar Grove and envision a better future for it in order to help the community grow environmentally, socially, and economically. We discussed policy changes, distance from major trafficked roads, community programs, and the rezoning of spaces for commercial, mixed use, and high density developments. Although Vineyard isn’t within 300 yards of I-15, it does boarder and run along Geneva Road.

Geneva Road, before Orem reached its boundaries, was infrequently trafficked having fewer than a thousand vehicles per day. Since the construction of the new developments, which several were constructed along Geneva, traffic has more than doubled and will continue to increase as the area is earmarked for even more developments. That is why this is one of the area’s many issues.

In the 2010 census Vineyard, Utah had a population of 139 all of which lived on the same street. That population was a mix of about 3 extended families and was made up predominantly of farmers. In 2012 the population increased to 232, and more than doubled in 2013 with several neighborhoods and streets, thus losing the original integrity of a rural family town. It was a wildlife area with dots of the built environment. Now it is a built environment with dots of wildlife.

At the end of 2015 the estimated population of Vineyard is in the thousands, with a vast diversity of occupations and housing types. This type of growth anticipated has led to larger roads, cleared wildlife areas and marshes, and large box homes with little yards.

Although there is a higher density, and is in part an improvement from Orem’s extreme sprawl and little to no mixed use developments, Vineyard is not taking into consideration the massive habitat loss that is taking place there. Currently there are frequent deer crossings on what will be Vineyard’s main street, and the deer and other wildlife’s habitats are being rapidly destroyed. There is a wreath on the door of my girlfriend’s house, and because trees and other sanctuaries have been cleared a bird has made its nest there.

Vineyard city is is 6.6 square miles, with 4.4 of those square miles being land, and 2.2 being the Utah Lake. The reason this is important is the unbuilt environment of Vineyard is, as mentioned briefly above, home to migratory birds, deer, and other animals. The other sections of previously developed land were predominantly parks and farming. As the unbuilt environment decreases the animal populations are being pushed elsewhere or going extinct, because there is no away when you take someone’s home. I can only imagine the solophilia the animals and original town residents must be feeling as they watch the drastic changes to their environments and communities.

My vision for the future of Vineyard includes cultural relativism, or the principle that an individual human’s beliefs and activities should be understood, and in this case understood before they are completely destroyed. It also includes solutions to the loss community, farming area, and animal populations. My vision includes vertical gardens, animal crossings, and family owned commercial establishments. The development will focus on 3600 North, which runs along Vineyard’s town hall, and span outward to help protect the wildlife areas still left, and preserve the friendly community feeling.

The second environment I have chosen is the strip of developments between the Orem and American Fork Frontrunner Stations, which includes the North Pointe Business Park where my work is located. I have worked at Marketecture since November, 2012, and have made that commute by car almost daily. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to make a change, and it was this change that helped persuade me to choose this section as my second environment. I now make the commute by bike and Frontrunner, and although the commute is longer and must be planned around the Frontrunner’s schedule it has given me daily exercise and time to read. My commute in the car took 9-12 minutes depending on the traffic on I-15, and now takes 40 minutes almost consistently.

Background on this area was a lot more difficult as it spans four towns (Orem, Vineyard, Lindon, and American Fork) and goes through residential, rural, wildlife, and commercial areas. Due to this fact I chose to focus on the section between the American Fork Frontrunner station and the North Pointe Business Park for targeted background on this area.

Along this 3.3 mile stretch of land there are roads riddled with potholes, no street lights or marked bike paths, and almost no sidewalks. Drivers honk frequently at other modes of transportation trying to share the road, and drive incredibly fast. Because this section isn’t a main vain of vehicle traffic the wall of I-15 and the backs of warehouses, and other buildings are the predominate view along this path. In between the area buildings occupy, are a few patches of wildlife. Overall the path is pretty bleak and dangerous, definitely not encouraging or the ideal place for a bike ride or commute.

The only other route I could take would be a 1.1 mile bus ride further into American Fork then a 2.3 mile bike ride down a main road and over the freeway. Taking this route would make me leave 30 minutes earlier because the schedules of public transport don’t mesh well in this area. It would also put my commute time at 55 minutes to go 7.9 miles. I could just as easily bike the entire way and get there faster.

With the background of the two environments in place I would now like to discuss my vision or ideas for the mobility, buildings, and consumer life of both places. For Vineyard I will focus my vision and ideas, as previously stated, on 3600 North. My second environment, the American Fork section, I will be focusing my vision on an 18 mile stretch between the Lehi and Provo Frontrunner stations, as this helps to create a better healthier future for all of Utah Valley and resolves an enormous issue with the area.

Vineyard’s 3600 North Street is currently four lanes with an island in the middle, and a large berm separates the street from a serpentine pedestrian/bike path on the north side of the street. Two roundabouts break up the monotony of the fairly straight road and the capable speeds of the road, but do little more. This street is also a location of frequent deer crossings and is loaded with runners and bikers who end up taking up part of the road because there isn’t enough room on the serpentine path. With the diversity of those stakeholders for the mobility of this area, greater things need to be done then just creating a complete street.

As I thought about how to redevelop the street with bikers, runners and walkers, animals, and cars in mind the potential solutions became extremely interesting. Each solution piece builds to an extremely elegant mobility system intertwined yet separate.

The first piece was based on wildlife crossings. There were several potential solutions, but the idea that would be most affordable and safest for all modes of transportation was an under road green space animal crossing. These green space crossings would allow animals a safe place to cross from one wildlife preserve or park to another without fear of crossing, and decrease damage to bikes and cars. This solution would reduce the current frequency of wrecks occurring on the road and would be placed in the natural areas where deer and other wildlife currently cross. They would also be planted with native plants persuading the animals to continue to cross at these areas.

To build on this idea bikers, walkers, and runners needed safe places as well. The street needed to be reimagined to make it safer for everyone. In effort to do so the island would be planted with shrubs and gardens, which would offer detail and a feeling of place. This would help vehicle traffic reduce speeds. The width of the lanes would decrease as well making drivers pay more attention to driving thus helping reduce speeds further. A protected bike lane planted with shrubs and trees, with pedestrian sidewalks on both sides of the street would allow a semi-transparent separation from vehicle traffic and other forms of transportation. Raised textured crosswalks would be added with solar lamppost to light up the street. This would help increase visibility and awareness of all modes of transport at all times of the day, and would allow all modes of transport to safely and comfortably travel through the space.

The buildings of this area would be developed to both increase sustainability and walkability of the community. Stores and shops would be brought up closer to the street creating a downtown area and encouraging citizens to acquaint themselves one with another. These buildings would be mixed use with commercial establishments on the bottom floors and residential housing on the upper floors. This would create jobs and local economy and offer security and housing for more residents and efficiency of space. In addition to these main street buildings two vertical farms would be created along the main street similar to the farms in Singapore that we were shown midway through the semester. These farms will be constructed in several other areas of Vineyard, but the two on the main street would serve both as a reminder of the town’s roots (literally and figuratively) and a source of food for local restaurants and grocery stores. The farms and rooftop gardens would also be developed to compensate for the area previously occupied by farmland allowing equal amounts of crops to grow.

These buildings along the main street would rejuvenate the small town feeling where you know your neighbors, and would allow consumers to spend money where the tax goes back into their own community helping to improve it. It would also make it possible for consumers of Vineyard to walk to stores and have shorter distances from their home to the grocery store, or other commercial places. The remaining pitches where gardens aren’t planted would by covered with solar panels and photovoltaics to allow the area to be almost completely self-sustaining. It would become a model for other local and national cities and one of the best and nicest places to live in Utah, being a sanctuary for all its residents, wildlife and human alike.

For my second environment, the 18 mile stretch between the Lehi and Provo Frontrunner stations, I got the idea from a video we watched midway through the semester. I saw a bike highway in the video and researched its integration with other modes of transportation. As I researched bike highways more I came across the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In thinking about the needs of Utah Valley I thought it best to create an adaptation of the Midtown Greenway.

The name I decided would be best, with help of my roommate, was the Utah Valley Eco Speedway. I chose this name because normally car transportation is thought of as the fastest mode of transportation, and I wanted to break down that idea while promoting bike transportation as a viable ecofriendly and fast alternative mode of transportation. This again was developed with Utah Valley citizens in mind. In speaking with some of the valley’s citizens whether they mean to or not the majority are looking to get from point a to point b in a fast manner because of their busy schedules.

The Utah Valley Eco Speedway would allow them to use public transportation and current city bike lanes as a supplement to bike commutes. The Eco Speedway would go through the connected towns at the most level areas and connect parks and main business districts to residential districts. At strategic points on the Eco Speedway, express bus stops will be added to allow straight shots to Frontrunner stops, downtowns and other main attractions. At sections where elevation cannot be helped, specifically the Provo to Orem section, bike escalators will be installed.

Along the bike speedway new commercial and recreational areas would be developed catered toward bike oriented traffic. The architectural design of these buildings would allow for greater detail to be infused back into our culture opening up new demands for skilled trades. These buildings would be bike shops, bike parking, bike share programs, as well as mixed use housing, farmers markets, delis, and other more intimate businesses allowing a community and culture to form.

A secondary goal of this bike speedway would seek to draw larger crowds and bike traffic helping to expand the speedway’s reach and connectivity loosening the grip of our dependency on cars. This would in turn help small business be able to thrive again, decreasing our dependency on big box stores and imported high impact goods.

Another goal of the speedway would be to help drive social justice, greater health and quality of life, and job opportunity, while changing mentalities in Utah and the rest of the United States of what equality really is. The social justice would in part come through job creation and access, and the mentality of consumerism in the US will decrease and get back to the personal scale and the idea of quality over quantity as seen in most chain stores.

All people, professions, and cultures would again be pushed together and push collaboration and connectivity, “biking” (instead of driving) openness, and fresh new ideas. These ideas are what (drive) understanding and equality and bring vibrancy to the ecology of place.

Obviously these types of changes will take time and most cities in Utah don’t have the same scenario as Vineyard or the new Eco Speedway would. Transition strategies are about improving communities through redevelopment or in more developed areas pin pricks of urban acupuncture until they reach a point where the community drives development. These are just some of the environments that I believe an ecocity or biophilic community can be established. They will be able to serve as models in helping reshape Utah to be healthier and self-sustaining; after all, our work is to transition these places back to health.


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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.