InTransition Magazine
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InTransition Magazine : Transportation Planning, Practice & Progress

Archive Edition

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Transportation and Creative Placemaking

By Mark Solof

The Creative Placemaking movement advocates a type of art-based community redevelopment in which the arts and transportation often play mutually supportive roles. Below are a few examples of the interplay between the two:

Good Access—Artists and arts activities gravitate to dense neighborhoods, particularly those with easy access by transit. The access ensures people can participate in and support the arts community. The 15-block Valley Arts District in Orange, New Jersey, surrounds NJ Transit’s Highland Avenue station and its success is “inextricably linked” to the station, according to Patrick Morrissy of Hands, Inc. the district’s developer.

Boosting Ridership—Arts events and destinations help boost transit ridership. On one weekend in 2012, NJ Transit realized record ridership serving two simultaneous major arts events—the Bamboozle music festival in the Meadowlands and to the Daisy Electric dance festival in Asbury Park.

Amtrak train passing decorated building

Steve Weinik for the Mural Arts Program

A Philadelphia Mural Arts project completed in May brightened

industrial buildings along the Amtrak railroad corridor.

Transit Art—Since 1994, NJ Transit’s Transit Arts program has integrated art into the architectural design of its rails stations and other facilities in consultation with residents. The 150 art installations “create a sense of pride and ownership in the community,” said Sheila McKoy, director of the program. The Liberty State Park light rail station features glass tiles representing a number of “fallen flag” railroad logos.

Creating Gateways—The Philadelphia Mural Arts program has audited areas where people enter or leave the city to locate prime areas for public art that can serve as gateways, “telling the story of the city.” One gateway project involved wrapping of airport parking decks with giant murals, created with the help of thousands of city residents, depicting dancers with the title “How Philly Moves.”

Enhancing Streetscapes—Art can enhance the livability of streets and support local businesses. The art can range from large sculptures and murals to decorative building storefronts and even the metal or concrete bollards put in place to protect pedestrians. When painted the bollards can “become public art” and add a decorative and entertaining element to walkable streets, said Leo Vazquez, executive director of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking.

Highlighting Corridors—The Amtrak corridor in Philadelphia is lined by many aging and abandoned industrial properties and has been long neglected. The Mural Arts Project added abstract art with vibrant colors to the sides of buildings for passing train riders to view, bringing attention to the corridor and spurring conversation about its future.

Mark Solof is the director of public affairs and communications at the NJTPA.

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