Views of the Street: Using Community Surveys and Focus Groups to Inform Context-Sensitive Design

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, planning - surveys, land use - planning, policy - fares, place - urban, mode - mass transit, mode - subway/metro, mode - pedestrian, mode - community transport


Urban transportation, Urban transit, Urban planning, Transit, Traffic operations, Town planning, Through highways, Thoroughfares, Thorofares, Surveys, Socioeconomic factors, Socioeconomic aspects, San Francisco Bay Area, Road design, Ridership, Revitalization (Neighborhoods), Revitalization (Communities), Public transit, Public participation, Public involvement, Pedestrian traffic, Patronage (Transit ridership), Neighborhoods, Metropolitan area planning, Mass transit, Main roads, Local transit, Local participation, Land use, Intracity transportation, Highway operations, Highway design, Focus groups, Context sensitive design, Community transportation, Community planning, City planning, Citizen participation, Boulevards, Arterial streets, Arterial highways


Urban transportation planners need community involvement to design the urban transportation system for its users and for those who experience its spillovers and externalities, positive and negative. The people in the urban transportation system include travelers, residents of nearby neighborhoods, transit service providers, and others. These groups often overlap. This paper discusses methods and findings from an effort to involve residents in the planning for the redesign and revitalization of San Pablo Avenue, an urban arterial running along the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay, California. The viewpoints of residents of neighborhoods of Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, and El Cerrito, California, the six cities along the southern portion of the avenue, were gathered through resident surveys and focus groups. These residents experience the avenue as travelers and also as its neighbors, whose everyday lives are influenced by activities on the street. Resident surveys and focus groups show that even on a major arterial serving multiple jurisdictions, local residents account for a major share of shopping and personal business along the arterial, and local trips are a major portion of the pedestrian traffic, transit ridership, and auto use in the corridor. Further, residents have intimate knowledge of the way the street functions and malfunctions and can offer useful suggestions for street redesign, operational improvements, land use changes, and related social programs. The paper shows that context-sensitive design needs to respond not only to the physical environment but also to social and economic conditions, including neighborhood concerns and aspirations.