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While recent policies directed toward multimodal or complete streets have encouraged increased funding for bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented projects, many streets are still plagued by unsafe conditions. This is especially true for one-way streets, which studies show often create unsafe crossing conditions. This study evaluates changes to street dynamics after a two-way street conversion in Louisville, Kentucky. We find that traffic flow increased after implementation of two-way flow, but traffic accidents decreased. We also note other ancillary benefits, such as increase in property values and reduced crime. These results provide evidence that conversions can promote mobility, safety, and livability.
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DOI: 10.1177/0739456X15593147
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Research-Based Article
Streets are the lifeblood of a city; they shape many aspects of
neighborhood life, like housing values, health, safety, fore-
closures, and crime. Three years before the Death and Life of
Great American Cities came out, Jane Jacobs (1958) wrote,
“The best place to look at first is the street. . . . The street
works harder than any other part of downtown. It is the ner-
vous system; it communicates the flavor, the feel, the sights.
It is the major point of transaction and communication. Users
of downtown know very well that downtown needs not fewer
streets, but more, especially for pedestrians” (p. 127). At a
time when many are moving to urban centers in search of
walkable, livable, and sustainable neighborhoods, cities
must reevaluate streetscapes designed for auto mobility
(Ehrenhalt 2009; J. Jacobs 1958, 1961). Autocentric life-
styles are a consequence of the post-1950s suburban revolu-
tion, when planners and engineers facilitated the creation of
multilane, one-way streets to accommodate quick transport
(Appleyard 1981; Hall 1996; Handy, Paterson, and Butler
2003; Jackson, 1987). New York, for example, had no one-
way streets until the 1950s (Dover and Massengale 2013).
Some of the greatest urban thinkers, from Jane Jacobs to
Andres Duany, have recognized the potential destructiveness
of the multilane, one-way street (Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and
Speck 2001). Many believe that these streets create unsafe
and unfriendly conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists
(Edwards 2002) as well as stifle commercial corridors—
leaving neighborhoods open to decay (Ehrenhalt 2012). In
spite of these concerns, there has been scant evaluation of the
impact that converting these corridors to two-way streets
would have. Therein lies the purpose of this study—to
explore the impacts of the conversion of one-way, multilane
streets to two-way streets.
Louisville, Kentucky, exemplifies the type of midsized
urban center that once had a thriving downtown with two-
way streets (as depicted in Figures 1 to 3). In the 1950s and
1960s, the city had converted these downtown streets into
thoroughfares to allow for efficient travel between the city
and suburbs. Recently, however, Louisville began converting
these multilane, one-way streets back to two-way flow. We
evaluate the before-and-after impacts of this conversion on
(1) traffic collisions, (2) crime, and (3) property values.
Beyond theory, we are unaware of any studies that have com-
pleted detailed, quasiempirical examinations of what hap-
pens when multilane one-way streets are converted. We first
introduce the background and literature on the topic. We then
describe our methodology and the evaluation of the street
conversions in this before-and-after case study. This leads to
our discussion and conclusions.
Background
Prior to the 1950s, two-way streets were the predominant
design in urban areas. Though they were deemphasized for a
number of years, the concept is now resurgent, based on work
593147JPEXXX10.1177/0739456X15593147Journal of Planning Education and ResearchRiggs and Gilderbloom
research-article2015
Initial submission, March 2014; revised submissions, November 2014 and
January 2015; final acceptance, March 2015
1California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
2University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA
Corresponding Author:
William Riggs, Department of City and Regional Planning, California
Polytechnic State University, 1 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo,
CA 93407, USA.
Email: wriggs@calpoly.edu
Two-Way Street Conversion: Evidence of
Increased Livability in Louisville
William Riggs1 and John Gilderbloom2
Abstract
While recent policies directed toward multimodal or complete streets have encouraged increased funding for bicycle- and
pedestrian-oriented projects, many streets are still plagued by unsafe conditions. This is especially true for one-way streets,
which studies show often create unsafe crossing conditions. This study evaluates changes to street dynamics after a two-way
street conversion in Louisville, Kentucky. We find that traffic flow increased after implementation of two-way flow, but traffic
accidents decreased. We also note other ancillary benefits, such as increase in property values and reduced crime. These
results provide evidence that conversions can promote mobility, safety, and livability.
Keywords
one-way streets, two-way streets, traffic, housing, livability
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2 Journal of Planning Education and Research
by Jacobs, Appleyard, Southworth, Ewing, and Cervero.
Jacobs and Appleyard developed the concept of the street’s
relation to livability (Appleyard 1981; A. Jacobs 1993; A.
Jacobs and Appleyard 1987). Jacobs and Macdonald designed
places, such as the Octavia corridor in San Francisco, that had
tree-lined medians separating slow residential streets from
two-way lanes of traffic. This design theory employed some
of the same virtues of two-way boulevards espoused by
Frederick Law Olmsted. These well-designed, narrow streets
had generous sidewalks and pedestrian amenities associated
with increased walking and cycling behavior (Cervero and
Kockelman 1997; Ewing et al. 2006; Southworth 2005).
Only a handful of studies have specifically looked at the
quantitative implications of multilane, one-way street con-
versions. Cross-sectional evaluations are more common in
the literature and have shown that multilane, one-way streets
are often less safe than their two-way counterparts (Ewing
and Dumbaugh 2009). Other literature has established that
one-way streets allow motorists to speed from one destina-
tion to another (Schneider, Grembek, and Braughton 2013),
increasing the risk to pedestrian safety (Swift, Painter, and
Goldstein 1998). Increased speed poses negative safety
implications for communities (Papaioannou 2007; Stemley
1998), and one study suggests that multilane, one-way streets
are a psychological issue for drivers—providing a false sense
of security that can promote faster driving (Holahan 2013).
Though multilane one-way streets benefit auto mobility,
research shows that this benefit comes at the expense of the
young and elderly, who are more at risk to be involved in a
crash (Oxley et al. 2005; Oxley, Fildes, and Dewar 2004;
Petch and Henson 2000; Wazana et al. 2000). Oxley et al.
(2005) emphasizes the potential safety benefits of reduced
lanes and crossing distances, something that has been rein-
forced by literature showing the safety benefits of road diets
(Dumbaugh and Rae 2009; Huang, Stewart, and Zegeer
2002; Schneider et al. 2010). Research also shows a strong
correlation between higher traffic speeds and greater chance
that pedestrians and drivers will die in collisions (Edwards
and Mason 2014; Rifaat, Tay, and de Barros 2011). For
example, a bike rider hit by a motorist going faster than 15
miles per hour is 14.1 times more likely to need hospital
attention and 2.6 times more likely to be killed (Rivara,
Thompson, and Thompson 1997; Vanderbilt 2008).
Speed is directly correlated with street width (Swift et al.,
1998); and since wider streets are a characteristic of one-way
streets, one might infer by association that there could be
potential benefits of two-way versus one-way streets. Yet,
very little quantitative social science exists on the full range
of impacts of multilane, one-way streets or their impacts on
communities. One of the few quantitative studies suggests
that two-way streets can be designed to serve a greater auto-
mobile capacity if left turns are banned (Gayah and Daganzo
2012). In this way, both livability and efficiency objectives
can be achieved in parallel. Such work draws on more flexi-
ble interpretation of American Association of State Highway
and Transportation Officials guidelines but does not provide
actual case studies or concretely define livability implica-
tions of varying street typologies (Chiu, Zhou, and Hernandez
2007). One non-peer-reviewed paper documented the pro-
cess of completing street conversions in Denver with a quali-
tative bent but did not assess the impacts (Dorroh and
Kochevar 1996). A few other papers advocate “placemak-
ing” theory, which supports one-way–to–two-way conver-
sions and offers methods to explore them but not the actual
implications of these conversions (Lyles, Faulkner, and Syed
Figure 1. 1890s downtown Louisville, Kentucky; two-way street
traffic, street cars, and pedestrians.
Source: University of Louisville Photo Archives (http://digital.library.
louisville.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/potter/id/640/rec/214/rec/214).
Figure 2. 1950s downtown Louisville, Kentucky; two-way street
traffic and abundant pedestrians.
Source: University of Louisville Photo Archives (http://digital.library.
louisville.edu).
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Riggs and Gilderbloom 3
2000; Walker, Kulash, and McHugh 2000). There are some
professionally oriented reports that discuss the potential ben-
efits of conversions with a more qualitative bent. For exam-
ple, the Urban Land Institute suggests, in many of its
publications, that converting from one-way to two-way
streets should be a part of urban development and regenera-
tion strategies (Beyard, Pawlukiewicz, and Bond 2003;
Dunphy, Myerson, and Pawlukiewicz 2003).
Given this background, we posit that the multilane, one-
way street design can be harmful to downtown communities
and that conversion to two-way streets can positively affect
downtown communities in terms of mobility, safety, eco-
nomic resilience, and livability. Some qualitative work
already suggests that multilane, one-way streets lower hous-
ing values and hurt businesses. When motorists travel at high
speeds, houses and businesses are less appealing, and it is
more difficult to notice and curtail illegal activities and crime
(Hanka and Gilderbloom 2008). While these are complex,
multivariate issues, we hypothesize that two-way streets can
positively impact urban communities in a variety of ways,
including increased pedestrian safety, decreased traffic and
traffic collisions, reduced crime rates, and increased property
values. This paper will further detail and analyze the validity
and scope of these potential impacts.
Methodology
Study Site
This study explores the consequences of converting multi-
lane, one-way streets to two-directional traffic. It measures
the effects of conversion by quantifying changes along
stretches of two major one-way thoroughfares, the couplet of
Brook Street and 1st Street, in Louisville, Kentucky, which
was converted from one-way to two-way in 2011. This con-
version occurred at a cost of roughly $250,000, for both
1.25-mile segments and was funded using a portion of pro-
grammed regional State Transportation Improvement
Program (STIP) funding. The budget included stoplight and
sign conversion, along with signal timing and restriping. We
compare these changes with an adjacent couplet, 2nd and 3rd
Streets, which remained one-way.
The respective street segments span approximately 1.25
miles over 10 blocks and five census tracts in Louisville’s
urban core, in a neighborhood known as Old Louisville.
Historically, this was one of the city’s first suburbs, and it is
still located within 2 miles of downtown along the Ohio
River to the north. In the late 1800s it was home to wealthy
Ohio River ship captains, and in the 1920s it was glamorized
as the home of rich socialite Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott
Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. (Old Louisville is still known
for having one of the largest collections of Victorian houses
in the nation.) While the streets were originally designed as
two-way, after World War II (as the city expanded to house
returning GIs), transportation engineers began to focus more
on automobile speed and mobility. Similar to many urban
locations, the Old Louisville neighborhood experienced dis-
investment, when affluent homeowners left and the concen-
tration of minorities, primarily black, increased (Gilderbloom,
Riggs, and Meares 2015; Riggs 2014). Today the neighbor-
hood has approximately 13,000 residents. While it is racially
mixed, it still has a large share of blacks (44 percent). As
indicated in Table 1, 83 percent of the housing is rental, with
many older homes converted to low-income housing. The
median income ranges from $16,000 to $27,000, far lower
than the median income of $45,352 for Louisville as a whole.
Louisville is an ideal choice for our research. It is a mid-
sized U.S. city that, unlike megacities, such as like New York
or Los Angeles or San Francisco, is representative of hun-
dreds of other small to midsized cities in the United States
and internationally (Applebaum 1976; Gilderbloom and
Appelbaum, 1987). Louisville has a relatively monocentric
Figure 3. 1929 and 2013 segment comparison.
Source: University of Louisville Photo Archives (http://digital.library.louisville.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cs/id/970/rec/17).
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4 Journal of Planning Education and Research
urban landscape, with surrounding suburban rings of decen-
tralized development, which is characteristic of older indus-
trial cities grappling with the effects of deindustrialization
and suburbanization (Appelbaum 1978; Appelbaum et al.
1976; Gilderbloom, Meares, and Riggs 2014).
The conversion to two-way streets resulted from concerns
of local Louisville citizens and politicians, which began in
2010. These individuals argued that two-way streets would
improve the neighborhood’s economic vitality and livability
and believed the conversion would increase safety. Since the
streets were wide, there was room for two lanes of traffic and
a bike lane, with no impact on parking. With the help of local
authorities, the neighborhood procured regional transporta-
tion funding to conduct the conversions. When interviewed
by the media, Louisville Metro councilman David James, a
former Louisville police officer, described his support of the
street conversion as follows:
My number one responsibility to the residents . . . is their
safety. This ordinance offers an effective means to regulate
traffic and makes these neighborhoods safer for everyone. At
the same time, it will enhance the unique character of the Old
Louisville area. More two-way streets are an important part
of our strategy to renew historic neighborhoods near
downtown. . . . Slowing this traffic down not only means
safer streets for families, but also additional economic
development in the neighborhood. Storefront exposures go
through the roof when traffic is slowed, as opposed to cars
simply driving by only paying attention to the cars around
them and how fast they are going. (James 2011)
Analysis Procedure
Data for 1st and Brook Streets was collected and analyzed
before and after the 2011 conversion began. Nearby 2nd and
3rd Streets operated as a control, since these streets remained
one-way. The parallel and adjacent 2nd and 3rd Streets make
an appropriate control group to benchmark, because they
have operated as a couplet with Brook and 1st since they
were converted to two-way streets in the 1950s. Both street
couplets share similar geography and design typologies.
Both have posted speed limits of thirty-five miles per hour,
neither has marked bike lanes, and none of the conversions
were accompanied by reduced speed limits. There was higher
average daily traffic on 2nd and 3rd because of two large
retail establishments along the corridor—a land use that had
always struggled on Brook and 1st.
There were three variables studied: (1) traffic collisions,
(2) crime, and (3) property values. In addition to quantita-
tive analysis, qualitative research was conducted in the
form of personal interviews and neighborhood canvassing,
using a snowball sampling method. We interviewed twenty-
eight neighborhood residents and community leaders to
uncover additional contextual aspects related to these con-
versions. Figure 4 illustrates the relative location of the
streets in the city.
Collisions and Traffic Volume
Collision data came from the Kentucky Collision Analysis
for the Public and the Kentucky State Police. It includes
crashes between vehicles, between vehicles and bicycles,
and between vehicles and pedestrians. Incidents between
bicycles and pedestrians are not accounted for, due to lack of
reliable recording mechanisms. These data were comple-
mented by traffic volume data from the Kentuckiana
Regional Planning and Development Agency Regional
Traffic Count Database, which was verified by the Kentucky
Transportation Cabinet.
Table 1. Neighborhood Demographics.
Old Louisville Louisville Metro
Demographic
Tract
51 n
Tract
50 n
Tract
52 n
Tract
62 n
Tract
66 nTotal n%n%
White 1,788 704 2,501 477 1,391 6,861 51 552,976 75
Black or African American 1,382 883 814 2,229 606 5,914 44 164,196 22
American Indian and Alaska Native 52 14 64 32 30 192 1 5,581 1
Asian 35 68 90 16 42 251 2 19,824 3
Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander 3 7 4 10 2 26 0 1,058 0
Some other race 29 23 40 32 16 140 1 15,474 2
Median age (years) 47.2 47.3 28.8 25.1 31.7 37.9
Total housing units 2,490 1,150 2,265 1,115 1,370 8,390 100 337,616 100
Occupied housing units 2,149 896 2,004 875 1,106 7,030 84 309,175 92
Owner-occupied housing units 193 99 374 217 334 1,217 17 194,997 63
Renter-occupied housing units 1,956 797 1,630 658 772 5,813 83 114,178 37
Average household size 1.44 1.52 1.68 2.82 1.8 2.35
Median household income (dollars) 16,920 15,638 24,987 17,875 27,896 45,352
Per capita income (dollars) 12,855 19,702 27,834 11,269 20,330 26,473
Source: 2010 Census, Demographic Profile (DP) 1; 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates, DP3.
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Riggs and Gilderbloom 5
To measure potential change, monthly collision rates
from three time periods were analyzed. The rates/periods
studied included (1) the average number of collisions per
month during the five-year period before the conversion, (2)
the average number of collisions per month in the twelve
months immediately following the conversion, and (3) the
average number of crimes per month in the year following
the first year. One limitation of the analysis is that the twelve
months postconversion were dramatically different than
prior years. Nevertheless, this three-step comparison, com-
bined with traffic volume information, provided a normaliz-
ing effect. To further mitigate this limitation, we collected
the same data on an adjacent, parallel segment, 2nd and 3rd
Streets, as a control group.
For the period prior to conversion, the monthly collision
rate along Brook and 1st Streets was calculated over a five-
year period. This was done to develop a normalized trend.
To evaluate potential impacts or changes after the conver-
sion, we evaluated the two post-conversion years separately.
We assumed that the first twelve months immediately fol-
lowing the conversion involved some volatility, as drivers
adjusted to new traffic patterns and route decisions. The sec-
ond twelve-month period was evaluated using a monthly
average, compared to the preconversion period. Here we
show the data, for each of the two twelve-month periods
after conversion, to illustrate impacts and minimize the
skewing effects caused by externalities and moderating fac-
tors. Pre- and postconversion collision data were statisti-
cally significant, at the 95 percent confidence interval, with
a 5 percent margin of error.
Crime
Crime data come from the Louisville Metro Police
Department. Total crime was tabulated for Brook and 1st
Streets as well for our control group, 2nd and 3rd Streets, in
a similar manner to the data collected for collisions. This
includes all types of crimes reported along the entire corridor
for the four study streets; however, we categorized by auto
and property crimes, for illustrative purposes. The crime
totals for each street were broken down by (1) average num-
ber of crimes per month during the five-year period before
the conversion, (2) average number of crimes per month in
the twelve months immediately following the conversion,
and (3) average number of crimes per month in the year fol-
lowing the first year. We calculated the monthly average by
analyzing five years of crime data over the five-year period
previous to the street conversion. Data collected over this
duration were less likely to be skewed by one specific event
along the corridor. It is also worth noting that the area around
Brook and 1st Streets is a high-crime area. Thus, it is unlikely
that a decrease or increase in crime rates, following the street
conversion, is an anomaly but illustrates a relationship
between the street conversion and crime. Pre- and postcon-
version crime levels were statistically significant, at the 95
percent confidence interval, with a 7 percent margin of error.
Property Values
Property value data came from Jefferson County Property
Value Administration (PVA). The PVA sales history data
were collected for the entire converted sections of Brook and
Figure 4. Location of two-way conversion and control streets.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau; Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency Regional Traffic Count Database; Louisville/Jefferson County
Information Consortium.
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6 Journal of Planning Education and Research
1st Streets. These data were compared to sales data of paral-
lel segments of the control couplet, 2nd and 3rd Streets.
Looking at sales data allowed for an estimation of positive,
negative, or no change in property value assessment, from
the most recent date prior to the 2011 conversion to the most
recent date after the 2011 conversion, in comparison to a
nearby location with no conversion. Once the sales history
data were gathered, the annual percentage growth rate was
calculated to determine how much a particular property in
the study area increased, decreased, or remained the same in
between sales dates. The median value change was also
determined for each street. These data provided an accurate
picture of property values between multilane, one-way and
two streets.
The following formula was applied to determine the
annual percentage growth rate:
Annual Growth Rate
present value
past value
past
%=
vvalue
()
×100
Annual Growth Rate Total from 1
N
%=
N = Present Value Year – Past Value Year
The following formula was applied to determine the average
annual percentage growth rate:
Average Annual Growth Rate
Total Annual
Growth Rate
%
%
=
Total Number
of Properties
In addition to property assessment and sales history data,
current sales prices of properties on Brook, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
Streets were compared to their most recent sales prices.
Current property sales prices were collected from Zillow.com.
The annual percentage growth rate was calculated for current
properties for sale. The property assessment data analysis
determined how many properties had increased, decreased, or
stayed the same, from the most recent preconversion assess-
ment to the most recent postconversion assessment. Pre- and
postconversion PVA data were statistically significant, at the
95 percent confidence interval, with a 7 percent margin of
error. While we report the summary of our results, for the
interested, detailed tables are provided in an online supple-
mental appendix.
Interviews
A total of forty interviews in these neighborhoods comple-
mented quantitative assessment of crash and volume data,
using a snowball sampling method that focused on neighbor-
hood residents and community leaders. These interviews
gleaned information unavailable through analytical work.
The interviews were typically ten to forty-five minutes long.
Participants were split almost equally between men and
women, although the sample somewhat skewed toward
women. Most were neighborhood residents, with a few busi-
nesses owners. The rough question framework was as fol-
lows: (1) Have you noticed changes since the conversion
from one- to two-way streets? If so, what kind? (2) In your
opinion, what is the benefit(s) of one-way streets? Of two-
way streets? (3) What do you think makes a street more invit-
ing and “livable”? Responses were transcribed and coded
using qualitative software. They were then analyzed using a
code co-occurrence framework to look for common themes
in the data. All interviews were anonymous and complied
with appropriate protection-of-human-subjects protocols.
Results and Discussion
Traffic Collisions
Our results confirmed existing literature that shows a relative
decrease in collisions when streets change to two-way. As
shown in Table 2, following the conversion of Brook and 1st
Streets, there was a 36 percent and 60 percent reduction in
total collisions per month, respectively. On 2nd and 3rd
Streets, data showed a 23 percent increase and a 7 percent
decrease in total collisions per month, respectively. Since
Brook and 1st Streets and 2nd and 3rd Streets acted as cou-
plets, we expected traffic would shift from Brook and 1st to
2nd and 3rd to avoid slower speeds after the conversion. We
assumed many drivers would prefer multilane, one-way
streets so they could take advantage of the faster travel
speeds along those routes (Vanderbilt, 2008).
Table 2. Number of Collisions Pre- and Postconversion.
Street
Collisions
previous 5
years
Collisions per
mo. previous
5 years
Collisions
first year
postconversion
Collisions per
mo. first year
postconversion % Change
Collisions
>1 year
postconversion
Collisions per
mo. >1 year
postconversion % Change
BrookConversion 193.00 3.22 28.00 2.33 –27.46 31.00 2.07 –35.75
1stConversion 229.00 3.82 40.00 3.33 –12.66 23.00 1.53 –59.83
2ndOne-Way 312.00 5.20 75.00 6.25 20.19 96.00 6.40 23.08
3rdOne-Way 250.00 4.17 56.00 4.67 12.00 58.00 3.87 –7.20
Source: Collision Analysis for the Public; Kentucky State Police.
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Riggs and Gilderbloom 7
We discovered the opposite was true. There was a 13 per-
cent increase in traffic on Brook Street and a 40 percent
increase on 1st Street. This traffic increase was accompanied
by 13 percent reduction on 2nd Street and 11 percent reduc-
tion on 3rd Street in traffic volume. The net traffic volume
along all four streets combined was unchanged. These data
confirm literature that suggests that two-way streets can
function at a higher capacity while being safer. It flips the
conventional wisdom of traffic engineers who assume that
drivers choose the fastest route from point A to point B. In
fact, people might choose a route based on other factors—
beauty, interesting historical sites, safety, scenery, restau-
rants—and choose lower speeds. It is also one of our more
surprising findings since traffic engineers typically claim
that two-ways reduce maximum capacity of a road, making it
inefficient use of tax payer money and resources (Vanderbilt
2008, 7).
This finding is consistent with literature that evaluates the
impacts of information, education, and experiences on indi-
vidual agents (Axhausen et al. 2002; Ben-Elia, Erev, and
Shiftan 2008). For example, travel behavior, taken from (or
“scraped” from) online reviews, may indicate different trends
whereby route distance does not dictate trip (Mondschein
2014). Furthermore, literature suggests that for immigrant
communities and other vulnerable populations, traditional
utility-based mode choice and traffic modeling frameworks
may not be as effective, given stark differences in the socio-
cultural environmental (Hutabarat 2009a, 2009b, 2011).
Though it appears that faster cars may have shifted to 2nd
and 3rd Streets (perhaps resulting in total crash increases
even as total traffic volume fell), local traffic appears to have
shifted to Brook and 1st in response to the vastly increased
mobility options (no more circling the block back and forth in
order to find the one-way street leading to a destination). In
order to get an accurate measurement of collision rate changes
on the streets, it was necessary to calculate a per capita rate—
a rate of crashes per number of vehicles traveling along the
street. To do this, the daily traffic average was multiplied by
365 and then divided by 12 to get a monthly vehicle average
for each street, which could then be compared to the number
of collisions per months by dividing them. This comparison
led to one of the most startling and compelling arguments of
all. While Brook Street saw a 43 percent reduction in the
number of collisions per vehicle driven, 1st Street saw a 71
percent reduction in collisions, as shown in Table 3. What had
been the most dangerous street statistically, prior to the con-
version, became the safest by far.
Paralleling the reduction in collisions, and consistent with
our hypothesis, an improvement was noted in neighborhood
livability, with reduced crime and increases in property val-
ues. While these factors may be somewhat linked to one
another, our data show striking improvements in a short
period, which should provide additional justification for two-
way conversion.
Crime
Results of the crime analysis (shown in Figure 5) show 15
percent and 30 percent reductions in overall crime on Brook
and 1st Streets, respectively. On 2nd and 3rd Streets, the
crime statistics were dissimilar: crime increased by 16 per-
cent on 2nd street and decreased by 16 percent on 3rd Street.
These trends occurred against a 5 percent overall increase in
crime within Louisville Metro between 2010 and 2013. The
likeliest explanation of these trends is that a shift in crime
from Brook and 1st Streets to 2nd Street occurred as a result
of reduced speeds, making a “getaway” more difficult. Auto
thefts and robberies decreased specifically. Auto thefts on
Brook and 1st Streets reduced by 33 percent and 23 percent,
respectively. The robbery rate along Brook and 1st Streets
dropped 33 percent and 50 percent, respectively, while the
robbery rate in the neighborhood trended down overall
between the preconversion and postconversion periods. On
2nd and 3rd Streets, we found 13 percent and 10 percent
reductions, respectively. Figures 6 and 7 show these changes.
Property Assessments
With regard to property values, our assessment showed
overall property assessments increased after the 2011
Table 3. Traffic and Collision Rate Pre- and Postconversion.
Preconversion Postconversion
Street ADT
Monthly
traffica
Collisions
per month
Total
collisions ADT
Monthly
traffica
Collisions
per month
Total
collisions
Percentage
change
BrookConversion 3,473 105,647 3.22 32,843 3,934 119,659 2.07 57,899 –43.27
1stConversion 3,673 111,730 3.82 29,274 5,145 156,493 1.53 102,061 –71.32
2ndOne-Way 8,880 270,100 5.20 51,942 7,700 234,208 6.40 36,595 41.94
3rdOne-Way 8,440 256,716 4.17 61,612 7,550 229,645 3.87 59,391 3.74
Source: Collision Analysis for the Public; Kentucky State Police; Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency Regional Traffic Count Database.
Note: ADT = average daily traffic.
aMonthly traffic was calculated by multiplying the ADT by 365 and dividing by 12.
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8 Journal of Planning Education and Research
two-way street conversion. This increase in property values
occurred at a time when Louisville’s housing prices, as a
whole, were declining slightly (Federal Housing Finance
Agency [FHFA] 2013). Of the seventeen properties on
Brook Street that sold in 2013, eleven properties had a posi-
tive annual growth percentage since their last sale, five
properties had a negative annual growth percentage since
their last sale date, and one property had neither a positive
nor a negative annual growth percentage since its last sale.1
The average annual percentage growth rate for Brook Street
was 38.97 percent. The median property value change was
2.55 percent. In comparison to the data collection and analy-
sis of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Streets, the Brook Street average
annual percentage was surprisingly high. These data suggest
Figure 5. Total crimes per month.
Source: Louisville Metro Police Department.
Figure 6. Auto thefts per month.
Source: Louisville Metro Police Department.
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Riggs and Gilderbloom 9
that property values on Brook Street increased as a conse-
quence of the 2011 street conversion.
For 1st Street, twenty-three properties received property
valuation assessments prior to and after the 2011 conversion.
Overall, property assessments increased after the 2011 two-
way street conversion.
Of the twenty-four properties on 1st Street that sold in
2013, sixteen properties had a positive annual growth per-
centage since their last sale, and eight properties had a nega-
tive annual growth percentage since their last sale date. The
average annual percentage growth rate for 1st Street was
2.78 percent. In comparison to the data collection and analy-
sis of 2nd and 3rd Streets, this average annual percentage is
a slight increase, with a median value change of 0.96. It is
reasonable to accept that property values on 1st Street have
started increasing due to the two-way street conversion.
Time and future property sales will determine if property val-
ues are indeed increasing in sync with the street conversion
as seen on neighboring Brook Street.
Of the ten properties on 2nd Street that sold in 2013, six
properties had a positive annual growth percentage since
their last sale, three properties had a negative annual growth
percentage since their last sale date, and one property had
neither a positive nor negative annual growth percentage
since its last sale date. The average annual percentage growth
rate for 2nd Street was –0.38 percent once an outlier (rezon-
ing/change of use) was removed. The median value change
was 0.58. Property values on 2nd Street have decreased
slightly since the 2011 conversion.
On 3rd Street, of the eleven properties that sold in 2013,
six properties had a positive annual growth percentage since
their last sale, and five properties had a negative annual
growth percentage since their last sale date. The average
annual percentage growth rate—once two outliers were
removed—was 0.44 percent. The median value change was
0.35. Property values on 3rd Street have decreased slightly
since the 2011 conversion.
Overall, property values and current property listings
increased on both Brook and 1st Street since the 2011 two-
way street conversion. The annual percentage growth rate
was 21.62 percent. Since outside factors, such as the eco-
nomic recession, may have influenced property values in the
focus area, time is a critical element in determining the rela-
tionship between property value increases and street conver-
sion versus a receding or recovering economy. However, one
additional data point increases the odds that property values
increased because of the two-way street conversion. The fed-
eral government’s housing price index for Louisville,
Kentucky, for the five-year period between 2008 and 2013
was –0.67 (FHFA 2013). This indicates that housing prices
were down roughly 1 percent, as a whole, during that period.
Assuming this is representative of the Louisville market, one
can justly surmise that the two-way conversions did impact
property values.
Qualitative Analysis
Though the collected data are limited to just one area, they do
offer insights into the benefits of converting one-way streets
to two-way. Our quantitative data illustrate that converting
one-way to two-way streets can result in reduced traffic colli-
sions, reduced crime, and improved property values. In the
Figure 7. Robberies per month.
Source: Louisville Metro Police Department.
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10 Journal of Planning Education and Research
three years since the conversion, traffic collisions decreased
by 43 percent and 71 percent, while volumes of traffic
increased. Conversely, traffic volumes decreased in the con-
trol sample of 2nd and 3rd Street, while collisions increased—
something that should have been an anomaly, given the
decrease in traffic. Data suggest that something about two-
way streets makes them safer, more pleasant, and valuable—
something that is perhaps better indicated through qualitative
discussions and social ethnography.
In discussions with the community, the character of the
streets was of great concern, but other themes emerged. Our
interviews showed that, though most residents cite speed
and safety first, they consistently discuss factors that influ-
enced quality of life. As one resident noted, “Before the con-
version we had several horrific car crashes that caused
needless loss of life—several of whom were children.” The
same individual then went on to explain how the increased
“sense of neighborhood brings pride of ownership.” This
inverse quantitative relationship between perceived livabil-
ity and traffic speed is confirmed by a look at a co-occur-
rence chart that coded all mentions of these topics. As shown
in Table 4, safety and speed are the dominant emerging
themes. However, more ephemeral factors, such as “quality
of life,” “neighborhood pride,” and being “good for busi-
ness,” are often mentioned. Some interviewed said they had
opposed the conversion, and disagreed with the use of fund-
ing for that purpose, but felt the neighborhood had improved
as a result of the conversion projects, perhaps because of the
increased volume of traffic bringing business into the area.
One vehement voice opposing conversion has since mel-
lowed. His business has transformed, from struggling to
profitable, and now he wishes to see adjoining streets con-
verted from one-way to two-way because he thinks it would
further increase profits.
Business owners in particular were vocal in identifying
the positive effects of conversion: “Two-way streets are good
for businesses and good for neighborhoods,” with more
pedestrians walking around the area and “a tremendous drop
in cars flying by.” This drop in cars did not mean a reduction
in the number. Many were clear that there more cars were
traveling slower and that this was a net benefit to business.
As one man put it, “Speeding cars are bad for business and
pedestrians.” As another said, “Business is better two-way.
People can see window displays easier because of a two-way,
because traffic is slower, but also traffic increases consider-
ably as well, so it is a win-win for business and neighbor-
hoods.” It is worth restating that there was no regulatory
reduction in speed limit at conversion, making it likely that
the slower traffic perceived by residents was a product of
increased volumes.
In spite of the positive consequences of street conver-
sions described here, some persons were not satisfied with
the improvements. Most of these individuals felt that the
improvements had either taken too long or not gone far
enough. A few individuals argued that 2nd and 3rd Streets
should have been converted as well. They described the con-
fusion not about either the one-way or two-way streets but
about the confluence of both—for example, turning into a
street that turns out to be one-way. They also felt total con-
version would increase business revenues even more. The
information we collected helps provide insight into the rea-
sons people give for avoiding downtown. They said things
like “I hate going downtown because of the confusion and
anxiety . . . [and] the lack of the proper signage that tells
drivers which is the ‘right way’ and how to avoid the ‘wrong
way.’”
Taking the wrong way on a one-way street and seeing four
lanes of cars barreling down the street can be terrifying and
sometimes deadly if one “accidently” goes down the wrong
way. It can create panic, confusion, and fear for drivers who
choose to avoid the potential for deadly harm. In addition to
these feelings of fear, in our observations, drivers felt that
mixed types of streets created an opportunity for conflict.
They stated that when one- and two-way streets were used
together, “the seams” suffered and that more one-way streets
needed to be converted to benefit local neighborhoods. By
and large, however, the majority of these individuals felt that
improvements were too few and too slow, and they wanted
more—something that appeared to resonate when comparing
the similar statements from other adjacent neighborhoods
that have started to post signs lobbying for the city to bring
two-way streets back to their neighborhoods as well (see
Figure 8).
Conclusion
Given this analysis, we can conclude that there something
about two-way streets that makes them safer and more desir-
able than one-way, multilane streets. Our empirical analysis
shows that conversions can result in busier yet slower streets
that have the potential to increase the vitality of an area and
promote economic regeneration through fewer traffic colli-
sions, reductions in crime, and increased property values.
In the area of traffic, we show that after the conversion of
Brook and 1st Streets to two-way flow, there was a 36 per-
cent and 60 percent reduction in total collisions. This was
accompanied by an increase in traffic volume that was per-
ceived as slower and beneficial, providing support for work
that suggests that traffic engineers, business owners, and
residents with children may speak a different language and
have differing agendas when considering traffic flow. This is
consistent with the observations of Vanderbilt (2008), who
indicates that “to a traffic engineer, a ‘traffic problem’ might
mean that a street is running below capacity. For a parent liv-
ing on that street the ‘traffic problem’ could be too many
cars, or cars going too fast. For a store owner on that same
streets, a ‘traffic problem’ might mean there is not enough
traffic” (p. 7). It is also consistent with the qualitative work
of Appleyard (1980), who advocated for embracing “livable
streets” in the United States. Slowing down traffic and
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11
Table 4. Emergent Themes from Interviews Based on Code Co-occurrence Framework.
Beatification Crime
Housing
quality/
improvement
More
sales for
business
More
slower
traffic
Neighborhood
pride/sense of
ownership
Property
values
Quality
of life Safety Speed
Traffic
calming Total
Beatification 1 1 1 2 1 1 7
Crime 1 1 2 1 1 4 4 3 17
Housing quality/improvement 1 1 3 2 1 1 9
More sales for business 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 2 3 14
More slower traffic 1 1 1 1 4
Neighborhood pride/sense of ownership 2 1 3 4 3 1 14
Property values 2 1 3 1 2 1 2 12
Quality of life 1 1 2 3 3 2 5 5 1 23
Safety 4 1 2 1 4 1 5 7 4 29
Speed 1 4 1 3 1 3 2 5 7 2 29
Traffic calming 3 1 1 1 4 2 12
Total 9 18 12 17 4 18 16 31 36 37 12
Note: Darker shading indicates increased response frequency.
Source: Authors.
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12 Journal of Planning Education and Research
forcing drivers to pay attention to their surroundings can help
increase safety and livability.
Second, we show a dramatic reduction in crime. Nearly
three years after the conversions took place, crime dropped
23 percent. Auto theft alone decreased by almost a third on
the converted streets, even as it climbed to 36 percent on the
nearby multilane, one-way streets that composed our control
group. Our interviews revealed that the conversion from one-
way to two-way creates conditions for improved police sur-
veillance and more evenly distributes cars. They indicate that
crimes may be harder to get away with on multilane, one-
way streets. Cars going both ways may mean more eyes on
the street are looking in two different directions. This sce-
nario counters the frantic commuter rush in the early morn-
ing or late afternoon, in which drivers travel at higher speeds.
Finally, we show benefit of increased property values.
Property values have increased on these two-way streets,
while those on nearby one-way streets (2nd and 3rd) have
declined. The houses sold on both 2nd and 3rd Streets have
seen a depreciation of 0.4 percent annually since their previ-
ous sale, while homes on the converted 1st Street saw an
annual appreciation of 2.8 percent. Houses on Brook Street
experienced an average annual appreciation of 11.6 percent.
Now two-way, Brook Street has seen a 39 percent increase in
properties sold after the change, perhaps benefiting from
increased mobility, lower crime rates, and reduced traffic
speeds. Given these facts, assuming home value appreciation
is an indicator of neighborhood improvement, one can infer
that a street conversion to facilitate traffic calming has some
impact on neighborhood improvement.
All of this is not to say that neighborhood improvement
and community development are simple. The issues affecting
traffic and neighborhood safety and livability are complex
and multivariate issues; we recognize there is no magical,
quick fix. Although we provide proper controls in our research
design, our study does not capture all local roadway dynam-
ics, and the scope of our analysis is limited in duration.
Furthermore, we recognize the costs associated with such
conversions can be prohibitive for some cities. Costs include
flipping signs and lights, changing signal timing, and the
opportunity cost of lost street parking, in some cases (in
Louisville, no parking was lost). The cost to convert both
1.25-mile segments (roughly ten blocks) in Louisville was
estimated at $250,000 after pulling the two streets out of the
regional STIP allocation bundle. This is within the same order
of magnitude to other case studies provided by the U.S.
Department of Transportation, which showed costs of conver-
sion ranged from $124,000 to $140,000 (Harkey and Zegeer,
2004; Hopper, 2012). Larger, high-cost cities, like Vancouver
and Minneapolis, have shown slightly higher costs that were
surmountable (Ehrenhalt, 2009). In these cases, rather than
waiting long periods to allocate regional Transportation
Improvement Program funding, these locations chose to pro-
gram local budgets for conversions. For example, Raleigh,
North Carolina, programmed $2 million in city road mainte-
nance funding to make such changes (Schrader, 2014), illus-
trating that when dedicated self-help transportation funding is
available, cities can afford to make such changes. In the case
of Louisville, regional funding was available and the city and
community were willing to bear the costs, given the broader
benefit of place making and urban regeneration that could
save time, money, and lives.
And by every measurable aspect, 1st and Brook Streets
are better places since they have been converted to two-way
traffic. Yet Louisville is not an anomaly. Neighborhoods in
cities around the country have multilane one-ways, often in
areas that may be historically disadvantaged by race and
class (Harwood, 2003). Though there is no panacea for
improving neighborhoods, our case shows a clear example of
road diets and traffic calming as ways to change the character
of a neighborhood and that one-way to two-way street con-
versions can assist in redeveloping a community. The
reduced traffic speeds and improved safety can allow streets
to blossom with improvements: benches, trees and plantings,
bike lanes, community gardens, public art, building renova-
tions and improved property. Put simply, street conversions
can be a win-win for neighborhoods—creating a more liv-
able, safe, and prosperous environment that better reflects
the rich past and vibrant, sustainable future of our cities.
Acknowledgments
We would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their
support in the preparation of this manuscript: CalPoly, San Luis
Obispo, faculty, for general support and encouragement; University
of Louisville Department of Urban and Public Affairs students Brad
Cronin, Winston Mitchell, Zaria Murrell, and Samantha Alexis
Smith, who assisted with early data collection; and Dr. David
Simpson, for strategic input on this research; Dr. Robert Schneider
from University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and Dr. Ian Carlton,
Figure 8. Yard sign from an adjacent neighborhood lobbying for
two-way streets.
Source: Authors.
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Riggs and Gilderbloom 13
Director of the Institute for Quality Communities at the University
of Oklahoma, for valuable insights and tough critique during the
revision process; Megyn Rugh and Kimberley Crum, who helped us
polish the work; and to the editor and referees at the Journal of
Planning Education and Research, whose feedback and insights
made this paper stronger.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
Supplemental Material
Supplemental material for this article is available online at http://
jper.sagepub.com/supplemental.
Note
1. Annual percentage growth rates for each property sold on
Brooke and 1st can be found in the appendices.
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Author Biographies
William Riggs is an assistant professor at California Polytechnic
State University, San Luis Obispo, focusing on transportation, hous-
ing, economics, and technology.
John Gilderbloom is a professor at the University of Louisville.
His research focuses on livability and urban sustainability.
by guest on July 16, 2015jpe.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Many studies focusing on urban roads are struggling with these questions, but so far, there is no consensus on the optimal organization of transport aimed at improving urban mobility. Some publications deal with the change from a bidirectional to unidirectional circuit [9][10][11][12], while others address the change from reverse to one-way to two-way [13][14][15][16][17][18]. Especially in the U.S.A., there has been a noticeable trend in recent years when there is a conversion from one-way traffic to two-way traffic [19]. ...
... As can be seen in Table 11, Variant C also results in quality-level reduction in each road section. In addition, if we consider other negative impacts of one-way traffic, such as a higher accident rate in the publication [13], higher distance traveled or economic impacts [14], then Variant A appears to be the most suitable alternative. On the other hand, there are cases in which one-way traffic can effectively reduce the total travel time of travelers in a certain congested urban area. ...
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... Safety is a major concern in the Western literature, including crime prevention in public spaces (Hillier 2004;Jacobs 1961; Park and Garcia 2019) and traffic hazard reduction (Appleyard and Lintell 1972;Dumbaugh 2005;Riggs and Gilderbloom 2016). In Shanghai, 27% of informants mentioned 'safety' as an important liveability factor. ...
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... Increasing pedestrian movement and use of bicycles can promote health and safety in neighborhoods. According to research by Riggs and Gilderbloom (2015) conversion of a one-way street to two-directional traffic promotes safety, mobility and livability in cities. Walkability has a positive impact on neighbourhood crime. Good public transport can reduce the use of cars in residential places. ...
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