I’ve got to give credit to the planners who designed Savannah’s historic district. Every few blocks, running parallel to the Savannah River, are pretty little squares — like a string of pearls running through town.
Each square is a little patch of peacefulness, with its own distinctive features. Some have fountains, some have statues, some have huge live oak trees — and one has a basketball court and another is a concrete slab. I like the green, shady, mossy ones best.
If you lived in the old town part of Savannah, I expect you would have a favorite square — one where you might go to drink a cup of coffee and read a book and do some people-watching on a warm spring day. You would enjoy the deep shade and the wet smell of the earth and appreciate the far-sighted city planners who graced Savannah with its lovely squares in the first place.
Has there ever been any city dweller, in the history of the world, who has been heard to complain that their city has too many parks or green spaces? I’d love it if sprawling Columbus had more of Savannah’s squares.
High Street is one of Columbus’ main drags. It runs north-south through the heart of downtown and connects it to German Village, the Arena District, the Short North, the University District, and Clintonville. Now city planners and the Central Ohio Transit Authority are wrestling with a thorny question: Should High Street also be one of Columbus’ main bus routes — or even be a bus route at all?
Currently, High Street is a primary bus artery. Sixty-six buses an hour — more than one a minute — rumble north to south down High Street during peak hours. A COTA consultant recommended cutting that number to 46, and after people complained that the plan didn’t go far enough COTA proposed additional modifications that will reduce the number to 26 north-south buses an hour. The new plan would move much of the bus traffic to Front, Third, and Fourth Streets and is contingent on the city agreeing to convert Front Street from a one-way to a two-way street.
This exercise in urban planning is a tough balancing act. Many people (like the Bus-Riding Conservative) take the bus to workplaces in downtown Columbus, and COTA would like to encourage even more to do so. Moving bus stops to places several blocks away wouldn’t exactly encourage more ridership. At the same time, the buses are loud and contribute greatly to traffic congestion. In addition, many High Street business owners feel that the transfer stations, where bus riders gather to wait for their rides, may be used as locations for drug dealing, discourage foot traffic by potential customers, and are unsightly, besides. If may just be coincidence, but while downtown generally is bustling with rehabbing and construction, there remain many vacant storefronts and parking lots on High Street.
Earlier this week I walked to a High Street restaurant on a path that took me past the busy transfer station at Broad and High, where pedestrians must follow a gauntlet between the sidewalk structure and groups of people sitting on the wall in front of the Statehouse. It’s not exactly a pleasant walk, and it doesn’t show off the Statehouse in a great light, either. Although I recognize that urban planning shouldn’t be all about how I personally am affected, I’ll be happy to see fewer buses, and transfer stations, on High Street.