Pop-Up Streetscapes

The city has partnered with a transportation group to create “pop-up streetscapes” around Bozeman.

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A Bozeman group is trying to change the way people think about getting around town.

As rain drizzled Thursday morning, Dani Hess with the Western Transportation Institute and Bozeman Street Superintendent John Van Delinder watched traffic at the corner of Tracy Avenue and Tamarack Street.

Hess said the area typically acts as a cross-through street, meaning drivers tend to go too fast and don’t look for walkers.

But through Sunday, barriers along Tamarack Street will mark where an extended curb would allow people to stand in sight of cars. In the center of the road, an island of plants borders recently painted crosswalks.

The temporary display was created by a partnership between Western Transportation Institute and the city on a project called Transportation Demand Management, which kicked off in August last year.

“As Bozeman grows, instead of having to go build out all of these additional five-lane roads and widen our streets and build more parking, we can look at ways to use what we have more effectively,” Hess said.

She said that ranges from increasing transit services to encouraging more people to bike or walk from place to place.

The temporary displays are cheap. Hess said that helps the transportation team gauge whether people are interested in looking for long-term replacements before spending a lot of money.

On Monday, the cohort set up a one-day pop-up downtown with couches and outdoor furniture in front of Wild Joe’s.

Hess said the setup took two parking spaces.

“That was to demonstrate how much space is taken up by parking on Main Street and how we might better use that space to encourage active modes of transportation downtown,” she said.

Van Delinder said as the team sorts through community feedback, they’ll look at whether there’s support — and dollars — to make the pop-up displays permanent.

But he said that could be a challenge.

In Bozeman, the job of paying for things like the project along Tracy and Tamarack fall on neighboring homeowners. Van Delinder said sometimes after the city determines the price tag for a project, communities back out because of the cost.

“The biggest help would be changing that policy,” Van Delinder said. “Instead of individuals having to pay, maybe the city has a fund for projects like this.”

With city elections coming up in November and as Bozeman narrows down who will be the next city manager, he said it’s a good time to talk about that possibility.

He said while the project’s feedback has typically been positive, some people have asked why the group hasn’t just posted more speed limit signs.

“I’m a believer signs don’t work,” Van Delinder said, explaining that people seem to develop a tolerance to ignore those reminders.

But he said putting walkers into drivers’ view through extended curbs or making a lane seem more narrow by breaking up a street with an island causes drivers more hesitation before pressing the gas pedal.

Hess said some feedback has also come from people who were frustrated the project took away parking spaces downtown Monday.

Hess said that didn’t surprise her too much.

“Our streets are used to move cars — that’s been the philosophy in engineering streets,” she said. “Now we’re looking at the fact that our streets can be used to move as many people as possible, not just cars.”

Hess said for many people, that could take some getting used to.

To add your take on the pop-up streetscape, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BozemanPopUp.

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Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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