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Livable Streets for the Future

Todd Ziebarth reviews Metro's Creating Livable Streets: Street Design Guidelines for 2040

Metro's Creating Livable Streets: Street Design Guidelines for 2040The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to himself, his mobile Walden Pond.
                            — Edward McDonagh

In November 1997, Metro Regional Services, the regional government encompassing the Portland, Oregon area, released Creating Livable Streets: Street Design Guidelines for 2040. This 88-page publication provides the Portland metropolitan area with regional street design guidelines to support the goals of the Metro 2040 Growth Concept and the Regional Transportation Plan.

It is extensive in coverage (providing guidelines for everything from street connectivity to building street frontages) and pragmatic in its vision (an advantage, from my perspective) in its design of a regional street system. Within this vision, it recognizes the above quote from Edward McDonagh, and incorporates this seeming inevitability within its guidelines. In other words, its approach seems to be: The automobile is here; how can we create a pattern of mobility that uses it in the most effective and least harmful manner?

As it states, it seeks "to promote community livability by balancing all modes of transportation."

The Street Realm illustration.

This balance comes into further play in its design considerations:

  • Provide travel mode choice
  • Support regional multi-modal travel
  • Support the economic vitality of the region
  • Create pedestrian and bicycle accessibility
  • Support public social contact
  • Provide orientation and identity to the region
  • Provide a safe environment
  • Provide for physical comfort
  • Provide spatial definition by orienting buildings to the street
  • Provide high quality of construction and design
  • Maintain the quality of the environment.

Because of its extensive coverage and pragmatic vision, this publication is quite applicable to other locales. Of course, this assumes that the locale is interested in the challenge of redesigning its street system to more effectively incorporate the automobile and other forms of mobility. If so, its recommendations are particularly appropriate.


Todd Ziebarth is a policy analyst at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. He is also a founding editor of Terrain.org. In addition to his regular Terrain.org column, Ziebarth sometimes reviews books and CDs for the journal. He has a master's degree in public administration and a master's degree in urban and regional planning.
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Creating Livable Streets: Street Design Guidelines for 2040

Metro Regional Services
Portland, Oregon
November 1997

Copies of the handbook are available from Metro for $10, including postage and handling. Contact Metro at (503) 797-1900 for further information.





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