I was looking at Amsterdam via Google Street View. The transportation system there is unbelievable! LRT on most roads, BRT, bike lanes on every street, barely any cars on roads, streets where cars aren't allowed into, and very interesting road networks.
Imagine the Region of Waterloo like this... it would be beautiful and amazing!! I would really like to see some streets in this region (North America in general) to have "Pedestrian Zones" where cars are not allowed to drive through these areas. Only LRT, bike lanes, and pedestrians. I think in some countries in Europe it's the law to have these "Pedestrian Zones" in areas where the population is over 10 000 people. It would be nice if King Street in Uptown Waterloo, and Downtown Kitchener did this... maybe make Charles and Duke one-way roads and somehow do the same in Uptown Waterloo.
Let me know what you think!
Downtown King was pedestrianized for a number of summers back when it was still a retail destination - it was OK but I am not sure what the point would be now (if Amsterdam is your inspiration, maybe King St could be made into a canal ). Charles and Duke were both one way until very recently, but in my view they work better now as two way streets. If there were to be a pedestrianized zone Downtown, I would look at starting with Gaukel Street from King to the park and Hall's Lane (which would need a lot of work, but could be very cool if lined with shops, pubs and cafes). Something like you suggest might also be worth trying areas around the Kitchener Market. I would also enhance Downtown by converting the King/Francis/Charles/Victoria block into a municipal square to house the Cenotaph, among other things.
I like your dream, but it won't happen. King street is a major through fare in both Kitchener and Waterloo so it won't be pedestrianized. They talked about doing it in Kitchener and shut the idea down. And we're trying to get rid of one way streets like Bridgeport and Erb, so why add more like Charles and Duke? I don't see the benefit.
I agree with panamaniac, if any area downtown Kitchener is going to happen it's Gaukel. Although in it's current state, it would kind of suck. There's nothing along it. You'd need to redevelop the bus station, the everest college lot and the gas station lot at a minimum. I would like to see it happen in the future though.
I've heard people talk about halls lane before too, and I can't really picture it. Not that it wouldn't happen, but given what all of the backs of the buildings look like, I can't see how it'd be any good. You'd need significant renovations to ALL of them, and many are heritage buildings and can't be altered.
The Market District like you said would be another ideal spot to try it. They should have made Market Lane pedestrian only in my opinion.
Panamaniac: Do you think they'd move the Cenotaph AGAIN? And do you mean using that whole block as a square or just a part of it?
Spokes I hadn't considered the implications of buildings backing on Hall's Lane having heritage designation (in my mind, parts of it could have a gas-lamp, Jack the Ripper kind of vibe, which appeals to me). On my comment about a public square, yes, I meant that whole block, which I think would be awesome. That said, the south half facing the Tannery could be a more modest version, or perhaps a first step toward the bigger version (Rome wasn't built in a day and all). Re the Cenotaph, I really find the current location inadequate so yes, if it were the whole block, I could see it being moved there to give it a place of honour that it deserves. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what effect the plaza in front of the new courthouse will have on Duke/Frederick - it will certainly open things up there so perhaps the Cenotaph will show a bit better than it does now.
Do I recall a City of Kitchener document in recent years that suggested a transformation of Frederick Street into something akin to Las Ramblas in Barcelona? Even it were more "Las Ramblas on a bad day", that could take Downtown to a whole new level as an appealing urban environment. It is fun to imagine things like this, I find.
Not that the Halls lane thing wouldn't work, but I just can't picture it. I just see it as an alley behind a bunch of buildings. If it were a really wide block and you had separate buildings I could see it more, but as it is now, you'd just be going in the back of King or Charles facing buildings.
That'd be a HUGE public square as that's a big block. I can't picture the whole thing being one, especially with how much value that block has. I'd rather see the public space at Frederick and Duke fixed up (and the one at Queen and Duke) than creating a new one.
I remember seeing that too. It'd require narrowing things to one lane each way. I think it'd look great. Not sure if it was seriously considered or just that there was potential for that.
One step at a time...
Waterloo Region is not Amsterdam. It's a way smaller, predominately suburban city in North America. Though I do think we can be miles ahead of where we are now in a relatively short period of time.
The streetscape improvements have been great, as have the new bike racks downtown. There is solid growth in the uptown-downtown corridor in terms of jobs and population. And successes only seem to be building on other successes.
So let's continue on our current path, but make sure design is of a good quality. Invest in the transit and trail/bike path linkages that we are still behind on. I think we are still a long way away from being able to support an extensive pedestrian-only zone in the city. The possibility of this will come as our core areas become denser, wealthier, and busier. But it will take time. If I can see pedestian-only working anywhere, it would be on a side street in or near the core areas. Baldwin street in Toronto could potentially serve as a source of inspiration, or Hess Village in Hamilton.
(Note: Neither of these places are pedestian-only, but both are the kinds of areas that have the potential to be)
The reality is that most of our urban form is here to say. You can't bullzone endless tracts of suburban development and start anew. We have to work with what we have, but that doesn't mean we can't create better from here.