For decades, we have been building transportation through communities, rather than creating communities through transportation. Streets designed only to move cars can work so much harder. They can certainly carry more people by more modes of transportation—but they can also become great places in their own right.
Transit is a component, but by no means the extent, of your experience at a station that is a place. Memorable and enjoyable stations and stops that create value for neighborhoods are perfectly attainable. In fact, a transit station or stop can serve much more than a transportation function; it can be a setting for community interaction, a place that fosters a diversity of activities.
The traditional Main Street is one of the most iconic images of America. With its unique blend of housing, retail, and civic uses, Main Street served as the social and commercial hub of communities until World War II. Since then, suburban development favoring shopping malls and single-use zoning have driven resources away from these vital places. Thankfully, today various organizations and communities are working to restore the historic functions of main streets and reestablish them as the centers of towns and cities.
The second annual Future of Places Conference, held in Buenos Aires in September 2014, highlighted the importance of thinking about streets as a fundamental mechanism of intervention for driving successful urban development at multiple scales.