Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Shared Streets 2021

At the Tourism Board meeting last night, Tamar Adler, a member of the board, presented what she called "Pedestrian Streets Economic Data." The information came from data collected by urban designer Jeff Speck, who as director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007 presided over The Mayors' Institute on City Design and the Governors' Institute on Community Design. The numbers demonstrate the economic benefits of pedestrians--both in savings to a community and in revenue. The following is quoted from the data Alder presented:
  • City services are more expensive with cars than with walkers and public transit users.
    • People driving costs a city, in public services like policing and ambulances, on average $9.20 
    • People taking public transit costs a city, on average, $1.50
    • People walking costs the city, on average, $0.01 
  • Pedestrians spend more money than drivers.
    • In downtown Miami, a two-block stretch, pedestrian street saw a year over year increase in revenue of 25 to 30 percent by closing to cars except for access to a condo garage, according to Street Plans
    • Other cities have seen increases of up to 65 percent more
  • Pedestrian-friendly streets lead to more employment
    • In Dublin, a redesigned, pedestrian-friendly street saw a 300 percent increase in employment
The conclusion drawn from these statistics was that, overall, biking and walking provide an estimated return on investment (ROI) of $11.80 for every $1 invested. Adler also made the point that, in Hudson, sales tax in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2020 went up $39,000 and $61,000 respectively from 2019.

Photo: JD Urban|Hudson Hall
Adler proposed that in 2021, Warren Street be closed on weekends to all cars except for those picking up purchases from restaurants, food shops, wine stores, and other shops. The prohibition would not apply to emergency vehicles, trucks making deliveries, or the cars of residents of the street. 

It appears that in 2021 the visioning and management of Shared Streets will be taken over by the Tourism Board. Last night, a subcommittee, made up of Kate Treacy, Hannah Black, and Tamar Adler, was formed to pursue the planning for the summer. Assurances were made that Peter Spear, of Future Hudson, and Kaja Kuehl, of Design for Six Feet, were "poised and ready to be part of 2021." There was some question if Hudson Hall, which played a major role in implementing the Shared Streets program in 2020, would again be involved. Tambra Dillon, executive director of Hudson Hall, noted that staffing at Hudson Hall was down 50 percent, owing to the pandemic, but said they could "step up or step down"; they were just looking for direction. Dillon continued, "Hudson Hall wants to help the city recover and rebuild as much as we can, but we're not urban planners."

Tourism Board member Cece Graham expressed concern about funding, since the lodging tax money had been, in her words, "taken from us." She shared an idea for generating revenue for the Tourism Board, which she attributed to Larissa Thomas, who for a few months at the beginning of 2012 served as alderman for the First Ward. The idea was to create "memorabilia"--souvenir stuff, tourist swag-- that would brand Hudson and could be sold in the abandoned kiosk in Seventh Street Park. Particular items mentioned were T-shirts, key chains, slippers, and maps. The concept met with such comments as "Great!" and "Awesome idea!" from her colleagues on the board. Inevitably, whales were mentioned. First Ward alderman Jane Trombley spoke of the long tradition of gear with the iconic image of a black Lab sold by the Black Dog Tavern in Martha's Vineyard and said Hudson now had "destination juice." Another subcommittee was formed, consisting of Chris McManus and Hannah Black, to pursue this idea.


  1. Great, pay someone 12 dollars an hour to sell Hudson t-shirts and hats for 6 months of the year a block away from Warren Street. Sounds like big money. When Cece is offering business ideas, we are all in trouble.

  2. I’m sorry but I have to strongly disagree. Granted, some of the information shared is mildly interesting in an academic way but not at all relevant to our situation in Hudson. I’m sure that someone else could find statistics from other cities that prove just the opposite. Who wants to bother buying a large object from an antique shop on Warren, just for example, when they are told that they cannot drive their car up to the shop? This idea will do more harm than good. People are already free to walk the sidewalks on Warren, why would closing it off to cars somehow improve that foot traffic?

  3. The statistics about city services costing more for cars that for pedestrians, is that per year? Seems like a random statistic, how could they possibly come to that? Believe me, I’m all in favor of walking and biking! I hadn’t owned a car for 25 years before I finally broke down a bought an old used car last year. I’m a lifelong biker, but I quickly learned when I moved here that Hudson is definitely NOT biker friendly. I grew up in Milwaukee and lived in Albany and Philadelphia, all of which are very biker friendly.

  4. Assuming Hudson does want to commit to a model that attracts people from outside of town -- which it sometimes seems to resent -- then open streets that are attractively landscaped are a huge attraction for businesses that rely on sales (rather than services like plumbing and hairdressing, for instance) -- Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado, and Church Street in Burlington, VT come to mind, as well as numerous other smaller cities that have brought additional revenues to downtown streets through expanding shopping and dining capabilities. There are people such as the former head of one of these programs in Charlottesville, VA, who advise communities on how to succeed. For Hudson, one of the most important things to do, regardless of the open streets, is to provide kiosks for water and beverages (and even ice cream) in the summer. I've had so many visitors stop me desperate to know where to find a non-sit-down restaurant so they can buy water on a hot day. There are no signs telling you where to go for things like this, so you have to keep walking and the blocks are LONG. I would also suggest looking at Fredericksburg, Maryland, which doesn't close streets but which has a very good program including big street banners hanging from light posts showing you what is ahead and what is behind you in terms of food, drink, etc. They are very attractive, as are the ones in Franklin, TN, which also does not close its streets but is a shopping magnet for Nashville.
    Promotions for "Fred" are here -- https://www.visitfrederick.org/downtown-frederick/ In Hudson, it is very difficult to know if there is a coffee/beverage place handy until you happen upon it. Likewise, seating, with umbrellas. Furthermore, you could provide some jobs for locals by simply implementing some more attractive but moveable decking, planter boxes, etc, than what was cobbled together this summer (good job in adapting, but can be improved). I speak as a landscape historian, a field that includes city layouts, believe it or not, but not as a town planner -- but I know there are resources available to help this succeed and word of mouth is important, esp re whether or not you had an exhausting day or a great day and would go again. The underlying assumption here is that Hudson WANTS to bring revenues to downtown and, hopefully, provide more jobs than some of the single-owner-operated antique shops do. Find a few hubs/anchor points and revolve around those, with the organizing device the axial Warren Street.

    1. I’m sure they have great signage at Disneyland, but do we want to look like Disneyland?

  5. Bicycle tourism should be a major focus of the Tourism Board. The Albany Hudson Electric Trail, a new rail-trail linking Hudson to Kinderhook, Stuyvesant Falls, and Albany, is now complete and open to the public. Brochures with maps and directions of local bicycle tour routes should be created to distribute at hotels in Hudson. In turn, hotels should offer bike-tour packages that include meals, accommodations, bike rentals, and guided bike tours in the area.

    1. I STRONGLY agree. The people in charge of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail are doing an amazing job.

  6. It's good to see that the city is looking at revenue streams and this is some good data for tourism.
    It's not lost on me though, that pre-pandemic, brining up tourism, growth and sales tax was so taboo and brought out levels of anger from some of the same folks).
    Yet, now it's embraced.
    The only difference was it was proactive strategy when things were good (pre-covid) and this is just reactive strategy.

    One would hope that a lesson would be, you can have multiple ideas and revenues and that it is important to plan for future solvency, even when the going looks good.

  7. I think that Hudson is unique in that Warren Street is obviously our main thoroughfare and it is one long strip. I don’t think that elderly visitors want to walk from Promenade Hill to 8th Street and back, that is a LONG walk.