As photographs illustrate, the Spanish Steps features wonderful amphitheatre type stairs [great viewing angles], a focal point fountain, historic architecture as backdrop, and both vehicular and pedestrian access points around its 360 degree circumference.
Additional pedestrian friendly amenities abound-- seating, bike-racks, and especially the small scale rough textured cobblestones that control vehicular traffic without the use of curbstones. Curbs divide, while textured paving promotes sharing between cars and people.
Even though Piazza di Spagna services more vehicular traffic in two hours than Niagara Square does in a full day, the paving and the attention to pedestrian details forces traffic to proceed slower and, ultimately, safer. Miraculously, little traffic signage is required. Piazza di Spagna also features many more vehicular access points than Niagara Square. Naturally, service and maintenance needs for shop keepers and sanitation require regular vehicular only access. By observation, these visits are scheduled very late at night/early in the morning so as not to be disruptive.
The bottom line: Cars and people can function very well and safely together when the uses are understood and then thoughtful design is properly executed!
How do we more permanently transform Niagara Square to resemble Piazza di Spagna?
We know that Niagara Sq was originally envisioned as THE Civic arrival lobby for the City. Its ceremonial purpose far outweighed its use as major traffic artery; like its great European predecessors, NS served as a place to celebrate, to gather, NOT just to get from one place to another.
I suggest the following, based on existing conditions analysis of infrastructure and traffic patterns:
-Reduce vehicular traffic lanes by at least 25% City Population now 270,000 not almost 600,000 when current Square was implemented
-Widen sidewalks and plant lots of mature trees to perimeter of Square ie in front of Statler, Federal Courthouse, [especially]City Hall, Post Office Building, City Courts to soften these areas, increase feeling of intimacy and improve wind protection
-Create landscaped islands to narrow pedestrian access points, to promote a more human-friendly scale, and eliminate unnecessary raised curbs wherever possible
-Reinforce pedestrian "desire lines" by repaving significant portions of the existing driving surfaces with cobblestone type paving material, especially at most intensive points of pedestrian-vehicular conflict including:
o the steps of City Hall to the Square
o across Court Street to the Square
o future entry points from the Statler directly to the Square
o from new federal courthouse front steps/plaza to the Square
Finally, create and implement a comprehensive landscaping plan at the base of City Hall--even integrating the garden treatment with the entrance stairways to create a welcome mat, to soften the edges, reduce the intimidation factor of the hall, provide pedestrian scale transitional element, and finally to better link the Hall entry experience to the Square.
Future essays will explore:
·Niagara Square as an important link to the Waterfront via Genesee Street,
·Establishing Niagara Square as the civic terminus for a pedestrian friendly connection to Canalside/Commercial Slip