Tuscaloosa's Greater Downtown Plan Spurns Vehicles

The City of Tuscaloosa, AL, is three years into a new downtown development plan focused on economic development. Find out how walkability plays a major role


What Happened?

Students from the University of Alabama recently submitted city planning proposals including different strategies to make the Tuscaloosa campus more walker-friendly to accommodate the student population that does not have access to a vehicle. Increasing the walkability of Tuscaloosa is part of the city’s Greater Downtown Plan that originated in 2010.

Goal

Historically, Tuscaloosa has been very auto-dependent, offering minimal amenities for pedestrians or cyclists navigating the city. During the day, the downtown area experienced limited activity, while at night many areas were left abandoned and underutilized. To redevelop the downtown region, Tuscaloosa officials are looking to build out public transportation resources and pedestrian-friendly amenities to encourage more activity to support businesses.

To implement more walker-friendly changes to Tuscaloosa, officials are working on a new system of codes and adjusting regulations to accommodate new developments and land use. Many abandoned buildings and vacant space will be set aside and repurposed for local businesses and green space.

By making Tuscaloosa more walker-friendly, officials hope to spur economic development and activity driven by increased foot traffic to local business centers. Enabling students without cars to explore the downtown area will make more businesses visible to these customers.

Partnership

Tuscaloosa officials are not only gathering city planning ideas from students of the University of Alabama, but also collaborating with UA to ensure there are connections between the campus and downtown areas. Students will conduct a corridor study on University Boulevard, which would create clear connection between the school and redevelopment projects.

Because the projects will be creating mobility options for both local residents and the student population, outreach and awareness will be diverse. Officials anticipate pedestrians and cyclists will learn about their mobility options as the projects unfold, and seek out more information regarding the benefits of all the infrastructure changes.

Testing for Walkability

Tuscaloosa’s walkability project is similar to other development plans sweeping the nation. In fact, the Michigan Department of Transportation will be conducting walkability reviews of four communities to provide feedback on how pedestrians and cyclists could peruse the regions more easily with some changes to planning and development.

The walkability reviews will be grant-funded and involve consultants walking throughout a city and taking notes on certain features or infrastructure that inhibit pedestrians and cyclists, and how best to improve the obstacles. After each review, the consultants will sit down with city planners and other decision makers to offer insight on improving the walkability score as well as information regarding the benefits of a more pedestrian-friendly plan.

Some of the cities involved in the reviews are currently working on, or planning out, new trails that would go through the heart of the town, as well as complete street ordinances to optimize available space. Cities interested in drastic changes to public transportation, trail networks or other walker-friendly amenities can then develop a plan and submit their proposals to state and federal governments for funding assistance to complete the projects.

Enable the Walk

Gov1 has kept an eye on the evolving interest in walkability scores across the country and efforts cities are making to boost their ratings.

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