One of the to-do items for our SSA is a “walking map,” a combination business directory, wayfinding/navigation aid, historic guide, and outline of transportation alternatives. Some best practices of similar maps:
Getting the word out:
- The most basic idea is a foldable map designed consistent with the SSA’s branding. This should be available in businesses and at key visitor points — airports, hotels, visitor centers. Custom brochure stands/boxes and window posters could be developed to draw attention and to extend the brand.
- Capitol Hill in DC has small pedestrian-scale historic placards supplemented by paper brochures to be found in shops along the way.
- Cities like Philadelphia and Charlotte have useful, well-designed maps and markers along their sidewalks. Charlotte paid for theirs with CMAQ funds (justifying the air quality benefits of getting cars to parking garages faster). Famously inscrutable London is now considering a similar, although more far-ranging, scheme. Here’s Charlotte:
- Currently, each JCDecaux bus shelter has a useful (if small) transit map inside — but just a blank space on the back of that (with an inlaid city logo). It seems, from their construction, that it would be easy to insert another map on the reverse side, facing out from the shelter onto the sidewalk. I’m sure that they would welcome an invitation to add more bus shelters — and/or those “City Information” billboards.
- Flat-panel or projection screens installed in “L” station houses (similar to those installed in recent Loop subway station revamps) could feature SSA content in between short films, poems, RSS-ed news headlines, and other local content. Similar displays could also go into otherwise empty bank windows.
- The map should be the signature branding element for the SSA and Chamber, the item distributed at sponsored street festivals and the like. As such, I’d prefer not to go off-brand with sponsored ad placements.
What content it should have:
- The map should outline subdistricts of the SSA and, to reduce clutter, might not list all businesses separately — that info is perhaps better suited for the web. Perhaps a Mobile Web companion map could tie in to an existing business listing service, like Metromix, Citysearch, or Yelp. (FWIW, wp-bt[.com/etc.] is available in all varieties.)
- The Rockford visitors’ bureau, like many others, offers downloadable MP3 walking tours of local historic business districts, an online companion to the physical brochures.
- Building on that theme, Philadelphia offers both downloadable walking tours linked to printable Gmaps — and gives “locals” the ability to create their own themed walking tours (see “User Created Tours”). A similar project in Pittsburgh’s Hill District uses similar technology to let neighbors share great walking routes around the neighborhood, as part of a local Active Living campaign. An interesting adjunct might be “celebrity” tours, using famous-for-Chicago locals like John Cusack, Rick Bayless, and Liz Phair.
- Overlays should outline all available transportation options, like the Bus Bike & Walk Maps available from Seattle In Motion (that city’s neighborhood targeted TDM program). For instance, crosstown bus routes connect WP/BT to Lake View (route 9), Lincoln Square (49), Andersonville (50, turning at Clark), Roscoe Village (50), the Gold Coast (70, which turns a scant block from Oak Street), and Lincoln Park (72, 73), and Metra heads from Clybourn to most of the north/northwest suburbs — but most residents here, much less out there, don’t know. (Include running hours and headways for the routes, too.) Transit advertising might be a useful adjunct.
Additional funds have been appropriated to support healthful transportation options. Examples of thoughtful, low-key programs (the Bike 2015 Plan lists some others):
- Discounts for transit riders, like SEPTA PassPerks for Philadelphia monthly passholders, Hop & Shop Lake Street for Minneapolis bus riders, and Eco Pass Xtra in Boulder. Cyclists could get the same discount for showing a helmet. Or, simply “validate your fare” — give away preloaded $2 Transit Cards with purchases over a certain amount.
- Fund a simple block party for bicyclists. I say this is simple because I organized one in 2002, and it’s really quite easy to get a bunch of bicyclists together — even easier given several bike businesses in the ‘hood. A more succesful example than mine is the City Reliquary’s annual Bicycle Fetish Day in Williamsburg: one block, balloons, a few informational booths, a few vendors, and some music. People and their bicycles will follow.
Similarly, transit card holders could be treated to occasional special events, rockin’ or not.
Further up the TDM ambition scale:
- Install custom bicycle racks, or maybe even have JCDecaux install them.
- Make the map an integral part of a Go Healthy! campaign, extended from Logan Square with the financial support of area hospitals and foundations. Good maps are an integral part of many targeted TDM programs, like Seattle’s (above) as well as those in Australia. (TravelSmart’s methodology is useful: change must be voluntary, include direct contact, focus on personal benefits, rely on practical information, and provide positive reinforcement.)
- Offer Eco Passes (bulk transit passes) to Chamber businesses. Eco Passes go far beyond Transit Check (which few small businesses offer) and automatically enroll all employees in a monthly pass program.
The most obvious funding mechanism for any or all of the above, provided the city of Chicago is willing, is to create a parking benefit and management district that could manage on-street parking as well as shared off-street parking lots (and/or public spaces in any new private garages to be built). New public garages are a cash sinkhole, especially since there should be ample space between several underutilized institutional lots at the neighborhood’s fringe and several large soft sites closer to the neighborhood core.