For a year and a half, the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP) has been advocating for a redesign of the Arcata Plaza that puts people first. Currently, over 60 percent of the Plaza’s area is devoted to parking and driving. We think there are more important uses for Arcata’s prime civic real estate. We also know, based on extensive academic research, two important things about the use of public space:
1. Designing for pedestrian comfort and safety is one of the key requirements for a public space to be successful—that is, for it to be a fun, lively, safe, well-used place. In other words, people of all ages and mobility levels have to feel comfortable and safe when they’re not in a vehicle.
2. When we build public infrastructure for cars, more people drive. Conversely, when we build infrastructure for pedestrians, more people walk. Of course, there are limits to this phenomenon (called “induced demand”). Most important are the limits imposed by land use patterns—after all, most people will only walk so far. But Arcata has plenty of short-distance car trips that could be converted to walking.
We also know that in order to meet critical greenhouse gas reduction goals, Americans are going to have to drive a lot less and walk, bike, and take the bus a lot more. And it doesn’t make much sense that a community like Arcata, which is so committed to tackling the climate crisis, would devote more than half of its central square to automobiles.
Partly as a result of our advocacy, the Arcata City Council created a Task Force earlier this year to consider improvements to the Plaza. We have begun circulating a petition to present to the Task Force and the City Council showing broad-based support for a redesign of the Plaza that puts people first. Here’s what the petition says:
“I support proposals such as the Living Plaza concept which prioritize pedestrians and ensure that people can use and enjoy the Arcata Plaza safely and comfortably by foot, bicycle or assisted mobility device. Research shows that this kind of design encourages more climate-friendly modes of transportation, community-friendly social and civic gatherings, and economy-friendly spending at local businesses. I encourage the City Council and Plaza Improvement Task Force to prioritizepedestrians and other non-vehicular users in their plans to revitalize the Plaza.”
As of this writing, we’re well over halfway to our goal of 500 signatures. If you haven’t signed yet, you can sign online at www.transportationpriorities.org/plaza. You can also read more about the Living Plaza concept while you’re on our website.
You don’t have to be a resident of Arcata to sign the petition—you just have to be someone who uses the Plaza and wants to see it thrive! And if you have time, you can also attend a Task Force meeting to let them know what you think. Times and dates of meetings will be posted on the City of Arcata’s website.