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Old 09-08-2014, 03:11 PM
 
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(Disclaimer, I live outside of Boston in a formerly rural town that has little suburban sprawl).

I have dinner regularly with a young friend who has become a city planner/conservation agent. We meet in the city of Lowell (MA) which, as far as I can see, is a tangle of curved streets and has no discernible grid. The original road patterns seem to be based on the location of the many mill buildings, most of which are now converted into business and residential use.

I don't have a GPS in my car (although will likely get one integrated in my next car). I do like to have a sense of where places are in relation to other places, to know where things really are. My young friend says I like the grid for cities way too much. I wonder if cities like Lowell have trouble attracting residents or business customers from outside the city because of the lack of a grid, plus, it seems harder to operate useful public transportation. (Another disclaimer- I grew up going into Philadelphia to escape the suburbs, and found that gridded city very easy to navigate by every means).

Is my young friend right? Is the grid something that is outmoded and am I too attached to that idea? I look forward to the input of those who know something in the planning field.
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:17 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brightdoglover View Post
(Disclaimer, I live outside of Boston in a formerly rural town that has little suburban sprawl).

I have dinner regularly with a young friend who has become a city planner/conservation agent. We meet in the city of Lowell (MA) which, as far as I can see, is a tangle of curved streets and has no discernible grid. The original road patterns seem to be based on the location of the many mill buildings, most of which are now converted into business and residential use.

I don't have a GPS in my car (although will likely get one integrated in my next car). I do like to have a sense of where places are in relation to other places, to know where things really are. My young friend says I like the grid for cities way too much. I wonder if cities like Lowell have trouble attracting residents or business customers from outside the city because of the lack of a grid, plus, it seems harder to operate useful public transportation. (Another disclaimer- I grew up going into Philadelphia to escape the suburbs, and found that gridded city very easy to navigate by every means).

Is my young friend right? Is the grid something that is outmoded and am I too attached to that idea? I look forward to the input of those who know something in the planning field.
You're asking global-level questions--is the grid an attractor or deterrent to businesses and residents--for which I haven't seen a consensus from any of the planning blogs I follow.

Yes, it offers great value to pedestrians, to bikers, and for traffic and PT. But, "the grid" can be done poorly; it only helps pedestrians if they want to be in a given area in the first place, drivers if it allows for efficient signal timing. At the same time, un-gridded areas can build cut-throughs, generous sidewalks, and abundant and safe crossings if they want to engender walking.
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:24 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by darkeconomist View Post
At the same time, un-gridded areas can build cut-throughs, generous sidewalks, and abundant and safe crossings if they want to engender walking.
It sounds like you're suggesting those are more natural to a gridded area rather than ungridded area. The only benefit of a grid for pedestrians I can see is ease of not getting lost, which more important for visitors rather than locals.

As for grids impacting businesses, Lowell hasn't done that badly as old mill cities go. I suspect it's a minor factor at most.
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Old 09-09-2014, 08:27 AM
 
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I worked in Lowell for a year in a rehabbed mill and it was beautiful, plus there were many local restaurants that were walkable. (This was before the Tsongas Center). I still never got the hang of driving in Lowell. I have long thought Lowell is very underrated as an urban environment.
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Old 09-09-2014, 09:09 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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I thought it would be good to share this argument for grids:

https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_down...nd?language=en
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Old 09-11-2014, 07:51 PM
 
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Ancient cities, and even Manhattan below 14th St, were not laid out in grids. Somehow people found their way around, though maybe they rarely left their neighborhood. I think the grid idea is largely because developers found it more efficient to build that way.
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Old 09-14-2014, 08:33 AM
 
Location: Norfolk, VA
6,371 posts, read 5,991,738 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brightdoglover View Post
(Disclaimer, I live outside of Boston in a formerly rural town that has little suburban sprawl).

I have dinner regularly with a young friend who has become a city planner/conservation agent. We meet in the city of Lowell (MA) which, as far as I can see, is a tangle of curved streets and has no discernible grid. The original road patterns seem to be based on the location of the many mill buildings, most of which are now converted into business and residential use.

I don't have a GPS in my car (although will likely get one integrated in my next car). I do like to have a sense of where places are in relation to other places, to know where things really are. My young friend says I like the grid for cities way too much. I wonder if cities like Lowell have trouble attracting residents or business customers from outside the city because of the lack of a grid, plus, it seems harder to operate useful public transportation. (Another disclaimer- I grew up going into Philadelphia to escape the suburbs, and found that gridded city very easy to navigate by every means).

Is my young friend right? Is the grid something that is outmoded and am I too attached to that idea? I look forward to the input of those who know something in the planning field.
It is not outmoded, but it is overrated. Grids were never built for the automobile, they are pre-automobile and the reasons that most cities either do not have a grid, or have grids in only certain neighborhoods within the city are rather complex. A city could institute a grid at the municipal level, force people to accept it, but the irreparable damage that would occur with the process of removing buildings and roads, and then the following reconstruction; most cities would never recover from such efforts. The last time American cities did that was in the twentieth century when expressways tore through neighborhoods.

The grid, and the automobile, are contradictions of each other. The grid also made it easier to build subways that could move in a straight line throughout cities. One thing I do not like about the grid system is that it is difficult to see around corners in densely populated areas where a huge building or a series of tries obstructs the view. Then you end up with a "no right on red" policy and traffic management becomes even more complex.
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Old 09-14-2014, 09:46 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by goofy328 View Post

The grid, and the automobile, are contradictions of each other. The grid also made it easier to build subways that could move in a straight line throughout cities. One thing I do not like about the grid system is that it is difficult to see around corners in densely populated areas where a huge building or a series of tries obstructs the view. Then you end up with a "no right on red" policy and traffic management becomes even more complex.
Subways don't really need a grid, they work well in pre-gridded cities with narrow streets, while surface transit can have troubles. I would think non-gridded area would have the same issue of being blocked by big buildings
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Old 09-14-2014, 10:18 AM
 
Location: Norfolk, VA
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
Subways don't really need a grid, they work well in pre-gridded cities with narrow streets, while surface transit can have troubles. I would think non-gridded area would have the same issue of being blocked by big buildings
I may be thinking of how the system in NYC was constructed. I really wish we had a subway here. Flooding has always been touted as the primary reason that we do not but there are tunnels in certain areas.
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Old 09-14-2014, 11:45 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
45,983 posts, read 41,921,149 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goofy328 View Post
I may be thinking of how the system in NYC was constructed. I really wish we had a subway here. Flooding has always been touted as the primary reason that we do not but there are tunnels in certain areas.
The densest section of NYC's network is in mostly ungridded lower manhattan. London has a large subway network without a grid. In ungridded old cities, subways still follow a direct path.
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