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Underpass Design and Improvements

mdrejhon

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Since underpasses are an udderly underrated unforunate ugly fact of life...

...and toronto finally got token movement towards tolerable underpasses.

Finally we see beautiful ones by Canadian standards even -- which is "slightly better than mediocrity" -- this is now a brand new hidden transportation issue (literally!) worthy of milking as a new topic, as urban planners do read these forums and we need to see more of this happening at a couple more underpasses tomorrow.

Good ranking criteria include enhancements for:
1. landscaping
2. nice pedestrian safety fence (nice looking)
3. aesthetics of all elements
4. raised sidewalk for improved pedestrian attractiveness (less uphill walking after)
5. artsy surfaces, fewer blank surfaces for fewer grafitti-magnets
6. sidewalk lighting (preferably colored)
7. bike lanes
 
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mdrejhon

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A brand new local example is the BlueGold Variations colored LED lighting retrofit of the local Windsmere underpass.

It adds luminous-veil-style lighting to an ugly underpass.

BEFORE (not pedestrian-attractive):

CFdLRJfWoAAAgwV.png

(Credit: Mark McAllister)

AFTER (far more pedestrian-attractive):

IMG_4247-crop.jpg
(Credit: Revington Studio website)

Windsmere Underpass Lighting Upgrade

Improves following:
3. aesthetics of some elements (especially at night)
6. sidewalk lighting
 

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mdrejhon

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One non-local example by drum118 in the GO Construction Thread

20103924615_29a687c874_b.jpg


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Credit: drum118 in GO Construction Thread

Weber St E Grade Separation, Kitchener

Meets majority of criteria:
1. landscaping
2. nice pedestrian fence
3. aesthetics of all elements
4. raised sidewalk; little uphill walking afterwards
5. artsy surfaces, grafitti-unfriendly
6. sidewalk lighting included, even if not colored
7. bike lanes
 
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mdrejhon

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salsa also posted our prettier-than-average Sheppard E underpass, from Google Street View:

screen-shot-2015-07-29-at-7-46-28-pm-png.51641


Credit: Snapshot posted by salsa of a Google Street View

Sheppard E Underpass

Meets several criteria:
2. nice pedestrian fence
3. aesthetics of all elements
4. raised sidewalk; little uphill walking afterwards
5. artsy surfaces, grafitti-unfriendly
6. some sidewalk lighting (albiet not much -- though it's a fairly narrow underpass)

Supposed to come:
7. bike lanes (when LRT is installed)
 

mdrejhon

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A few years ago, Concord CityPlace condos has added fancy lighting in the pedestrian sidewalk underneath the Spadina Avenue underpass, on the south edge of the rail corridor.

3909043350_15842c21b7.jpg

(Credit: JB Warehouse blog)

Spadina Avenue Underpass over Union Station Rail Corridor

Meets:
3. minor aesthetic improvement (very fancy-sculpted light fixtures)
6. minor improvement to sidewalk lighting
 

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mdrejhon

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Side Topic -- Underpass Safety Lighting Improvements

-- Funky Color LED retrofits for a few, not all underpasses --

...I believe Lighting retrofits of underpasses can enhance safety, especially as prices of colored LED systems slowly fall to not being much more than the cost of non-colored systems. While we do not want disco under all of Toronto underpasses, we probably should have at least 2 or 3 more local underpasses (preferably more) gaining retrofits, perhaps community funded.

Here's a good example of a retrofit in a formerly pedestrian-unattractive underpasses:

This is Birmingham, Alabama, USA. This was an abandoned 1931 underpass, no longer used by Amtrak
9504136253_1b6d26bd4e_o (1).jpg

Plus many other images

This is San Antonio, Texas, USA. More car-happy than Toronto!
Passing_through_Light.jpg

6a00e553dd622388340168ea2adcdb970c.jpg

Plus many other images

UK Cumbernauld pedestrian underpass, DAYTIME-and-NIGHTIME:
Bigg_Design_Cumbernauld16.jpg
-- daytime!
BIG-Designs-LED-Lighting-Underpass-Cumbernauld-pink.jpg
-- nighttime!
And many other images
Look at how blue-led downlights cheaply "paint" the surface.
It's just only a mural, plus hidden lights at the bottom edges, and LED downlights in small holes in metal panel at top -- cost of materials is likely under 10,000 dollars (labour and artist assembly probably cost more!)


The prices of lighting retrofits are rapidly falling, especially as home users can purchase reels of waterproof colored LED ribbon for under $10 off eBay.
But these are infrastructure-grade colored LED lighting designed to last for years -- and many newer installations are falling in cost quickly (especially smaller installs -- not a big Luminous Veil style install). A few have been multimillion in the past, but several of these are under a million now -- and now smaller retrofits have finally fallen far under 100,000 dollars, and pedestrian-size ones for under 10,000 nowadays (not including labour, design, assembly and maintenance cost, which may cost far more).

The smaller projects are low cost enough for community fundraising, with zero taxpayer dollar, some installs are now funded by IndieGoGo and Kickstarter!... Currently, Toronto city bureaucracy is the main cost (time-wise), which is why the Windsmere underpass took longer than expected locally -- it was supposed to open far sooner than the Luminous Veil.

All the above were boring drab concrete underpasses that look dramatically better for night-time users. By an aesthetic improvement, they are one of the cheaper retrofits to beautify an underpass (even if only nighttime).

While Good, This does not solve other underpass problems

Safety fences, bike lanes, landscaping, some of which cost more than newer lighting installs using newer cheaper colored LED tech. However, new-underpass-builds need to make as many other improvement criteria is met, as possible, so they don't "divide" a neighbourhood as badly as the freeway-revolt era 60s....
 

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mdrejhon

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As a reference point, the typical average Canadian underpass:

st-denis-underpass-cyclists-jpg.51608

(Credit: CBC Montreal -- St. denis underpass)

It meets none of the criteria, and is very unattractive to pedestrians and cyclists (who want to follow the law!). Very neighbourhood dividing.

Especially with things like upcoming LRTs creating underpass modifications, new GO rail grade separations, Davenport bridge, closed-pedestrian-underpass rehabilitation, future road widenings (retrofitting cycle/pedestrian paths/LRT), upcoming bridge span replacements for crumbing underpasses, we'll get more. We can't allow further ugly status quo to continue. And once in a while, retrofit a few existing underpasses with a cheap improvement or two. And occasionally, install a knockout of a rave review in select locations.

Let's discuss how we can prevent new underpass builds from being this terrible.
 
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mdrejhon

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Alas, sometimes, parts of Toronto looks stitched-together like the mosiac photos of a Google Street View...

...but for this location, I can assure you the railing looks fine in real life. :p
 

CDL.TO

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Here's one near my place in Amsterdam. Lights on the sides show animated animals walking through the underpass.

DSCF3204.jpg

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DSCF3208.jpg


Sadly, when I passed through on Tuesday it wasn't working any more. Seems that vandals keep breaking it, so the city might give up on fixing it.

Unfortunately, maintenance of anything fancy needs to be considered.
 

mdrejhon

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Unfortunately, maintenance of anything fancy needs to be considered.
This be true.
(ouch -- your city should get a small wireless motion-sensitive security camera in this location)

Fortunately, there are mitigation methods -- for a Toronto style install:
-- The Winsmere Ave underpass installs LED strip floods only on the ceiling where they're essentially inaccessible.
-- Same for the Luminous Veil, the LEDs shine downwards from a very high place that's hard to reach.
-- Also, that San Antonio Texas underpass simply are color LED floodlights that are mounted in inaccessibly high areas.

These installs would be quite difficult to vandalize the lighting of.

Additional consideration: Security of the main "Control Box" for lighting
Also, for installation-wide breakdowns (zap!), the security of the centralized control box is a big consideration -- this is common for synchronized color lightings. Light-change control boxes for the existing Toronto installations would seem to be in fairly inaccessible locations (like a steel box mounted to a ceiling, or in enclosures similar to traffic light cabinets). FWIW, the protocol, used for most installs that has color light synchronization, is the common DMX512 lighting controlling protocol (around since the mid 1980s, and frequently found at casinos, also used by the CN tower lighting, and of course, modern amusement rides, Luminous Veil, etc). New more weather-resistant vandal-resistant controllers, installed in security enclosures similiar to those boxes protecting traffic light electronics. These would break down less in harsh environments, and many infrastructure-rated controls now exist as synchronized lighting becomes even more common.
 
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salsa

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In Mississauga there is lighting on the Confederation Pkwy bridge over the 403.

conf_bridge-e1337955539678.jpg
 

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mdrejhon

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salsa, I see a thin purple color shining on the railing at the top. Is there colored lighting visible to pedestrians above?
 

mdrejhon

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The photo was done with a long exposure, so the purple is probably just the tail lights from the cars.
Aw, man. Just a cheap-out install. (Typical.)

But yes, still far better than nothing -- it might just be a couple grand worth of weatherproofed blue LED ribbon lighting (static; no light effects). Considering the lack of colorful underpasses in Canada, and basic LED ribbon/rope may even be cheaper than painting the underpasses nowadays. No "control box" involved!

But I'm bored of simple blue (formerly a rare LED color until this century) -- which they often install on edges of office buildings nowadays to produce a building outline. Sometimes for better visibility near Pearson.
 
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