Safety, Connectivity, Revitalization: How the Greenline Boosts Quality of Life

Last month, we highlighted the health benefits of the Kingston Greenline, our active transportation initiative that weaves together trails and complete streets to make Kingston a more connected community. The Kingston Greenline also serves as a useful tool in promoting greater “quality of life” in our city. By creating safer streets and bikeways, reconnecting fragmented neighborhoods, and rejuvenating existing community structures, the Kingston Greenline represents a tremendous opportunity to boost Kingston’s ongoing renaissance by enhancing a range of community indicators that make for greater quality of life.

Safe, accessible and comfortable walking and biking infrastructure is a vital part of a community’s quality of life. With a series of trails, bike lanes and complete streets, the Kingston Greenline will help to create a safer mode of transportation, and promote physical activity. According to Hidden Health Care Costs of Transportation, conducted by Urban Design 4 Health, traffic crashes in 2008 killed nearly 35,000 nationally, with pedestrians making up over 10% of those fatalities. Data from Active Living Research explains that traffic calming efforts such as medians, speed bumps and other methods reduce the number of automobile crashes involving pedestrian injuries by up to 15%.

Improvements to the overall design of our non-motorized transportation routes would aid in making the community safer for people who walk and bike. As the Hidden Health Costs of Transportation report states, transportation improvements such as narrower streets with sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and prominent crossings for pedestrians can slow traffic and reduce the number of severe crashes. With the Kingston Greenline’s connections that include bike lanes and prominent crossings, we could see theses types of improvements directly benefiting high traffic locations. It is worth noting that there are highly trafficked pedestrian routes that the Kingston Greenline would directly affect: Route 9W in Kingston, John F Kennedy Elementary School, and Kingston High School, all of which have large populations of school children that rely on these routes for daily commuting. Overall, the safety of pedestrians is an important component of a community’s quality of life, and the Kingston Greenline works to ensure the safety of its users through utilizing an active transport design that is conscious of pedestrian safety.

Another contribution the Greenline offers to the community is connection between separate areas. The portion of the Kingston Greenline known as the Kingston Point Rail Trail offers an opportunity to bridge the gaps between neighborhoods that have long been divided by US Route 9W. The trail establishes a new psychological and physical connection between the disconnected neighborhoods of  Midtown, Ponckhockie and the Roundout. Valuable connections would be created between important community assets and institutions including schools, museums, the YMCA of Kingston, churches, and the Roundout Community Center. A more physically connected community can promote stronger feelings of unity and offer a better quality of life.

Hand-in-hand with a better connected community comes revitalization. According to the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, “Greenways and trails can be catalysts for community revitalization.” Ever since Frederick Law Olmstead’s first-of-its-kind study of Central Park’s impact on surrounding real estate showed that proximity to the park increased values, communities have used parks and greenspaces as tools for revitalization. More recently, in a model pioneered along the Great Allegheny Passage, connecting Pittsburgh to Baltimore, targeted promotion and trail-side amenities were used to maximize the benefit from trail visitor spending, generating significant increases in sales tax and economic activity for communities long starved after the decline of the lumber and coal industries. In one article, the Katy Trail in Dallas was credited by real estate developers as generating a whopping 25% premium on property values.

Further, the opportunity that the Kingston Greenline offers as an agent of revitalization has been recognized by local government. With the creation of the “Building a Better Broadway” transportation study, the City of Kingston is beginning to undertake the process of renovating the physical layout of Broadway. Some goals of the study include helping to improve mobility, accessibility, and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. An essential part of this study includes the development of a Corridor Plan that includes proposed bike lanes and sidewalk improvements. This plan includes part of the Kingston Greenline known as the “Midtown Hub,” which connects together the three other sections of the Greenline (Rondout, Uptown, Wallkill). Through its inclusion in this transportation study, the Kingston Greenline can be seen as a vital part of the process in renovating and revitalizing Broadway

Whether it is through creating a safer mode of pedestrian travel, making a more connected community, or revitalizing active transport in the City of Kingston, the Kingston Greenline has a major stake in helping to improve the community’s overall quality of life.

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