Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wonderful Things Happen When Quality Of Life Takes Precedence

Seoul tears down an urban highway and the city can breathe again



"As a sustainability-loving transportation planner, I was thrilled to learn that Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang would be visiting Vancouver and talking about the project that has made Seoul, Korea a legend in urban planning circles: the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project.

What he and his colleagues accomplished -- tearing down a busy, elevated freeway, re-daylighting the river that had been buried beneath it, and creating a spectacular downtown green space, all in under two and a half years -- is nothing short of amazing, not because it actually worked (there was plenty of evidence from other cities to suggest that it could), but because they were able to get public support for it. It's the stuff urban planners dream about -- not to mention a timeline for a major freeway project that would make Seattle drool.

I went to the lecture ready to record all the juicy stats I was sure he was going to throw out: peak hour traffic flows, mode shares, level of service, lane miles. What I got instead was a story told not in numbers and data, but a story about people and the profound impact the project had on the city.

The story of the Cheonggyecheon (pronounced chung-yay-chun) started hundreds of years ago during the reign of the Joseon Dynasty, when the kingdom's castle was considered the "head" of Seoul and the river the "body". That was its glorious past.

By the early 20th century, as Seoul was burgeoning into the megacity of 10 million it is today, the river was bordered by a slum and used as a dumping ground, resulting in an eyesore of polluted water. As Dr. Hwang said, "sometimes it was blue, sometimes black, sometimes red." It seemed a logical decision, then, to cover it up and build a freeway over it in the 1950s. By 1976, the four-lane elevated Cheonggyecheon Freeway -- similar in form to Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct -- was standing as a symbol of successful industrialization and modernization of Korea.

What followed, however, was not only traffic, pollution, and the decline of downtown Seoul -- which the river and then the freeway ran through the heart of -- but also decades of horrible luck that befell a succession of Korean leaders. Some were shot to death, others imprisoned for bribery. It became known as the "Cheonggyecheon Curse."

"If the sun is blocked, bad things happen," Dr. Hwang told us during his story, referring to the covered river.


highway columns were left up as a reminder

Fast-forward to 2001. As Dr. Hwang said, "some crazy people got together" and dreamed up the project. Hwang developed a traffic model to see what would happen if they took out what was considered a vital traffic artery carrying 168,000 cars per day. In the model, he included adjustments to other streets and increased transit to see if Seoul could survive without the freeway. (Is this now sounding vaguely familiar to a particular proposal regarding the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, Seattle?)

The results of the model surprised him: not only could it work, but it would actually improve travel times in downtown Seoul.

But the model was the easy part. Getting public and political buy-in was going to be harder -- not to mention that people kept telling him this was "suicide" as a transportation planner and that if the project were built it would create "gridlock!" and "traffic chaos!" (Yet another familiar refrain heard in Seattle when mention of the "Transit and Streets" proposal for replacing the Viaduct is made -- not to mention other successful freeway removals in Portland, San Francisco, New York, and Milwaukee).

With a mayoral election coming up, Dr. Hwang and his "crazy" colleagues decided to shop the idea around to the candidates and found one willing to make it part of his central campaign platform: Lee Myung-bak. He ran on tearing down the elevated freeway and restoring the river -- and won. There's an ironic twist to the story at this point that made me happy to sacrifice all those stats in order to hear this fascinating tale: Lee Myung-bak had been the president of the construction company that built the freeway. Who better than he to admit it was a mistake to have been done in the first place?

It would seem ,from Dr. Hwang's telling, that political campaigns in Korea are strikingly similar to those in North America. Now that the election was over, he didn't expect that the new mayor would actually make good on his promise. But to the contrary, the project was announced and commenced on inauguration day. Dr. Hwang was swiftly appointed as the director of the Research Center for the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project at the Seoul Development Institute and was directed to complete what should've been a two-year design process in six months.

That isn't to say that the project sailed through the public process. Far from it. In addition to the wary business owners in the corridor (if the cars were removed, the cars they were sure their business would go with it), there were 3,000 street vendors who made their living selling their wares to the people stuck in traffic. Some even threatened to kill themselves if the project went forward. Fortunately the mayor anticipated the backlash and set up a staff of public engagement personnel just as large as the design team. In the end, they were able to get enough support to begin construction, and the project was completed and opened to the public in 2005.

The results were nothing short of spectacular. The pictures tell the story better than any words can. In place of a blight-perpetrating freeway, the mayor created an astounding public amenity. A 3.6-mile linear, green river park that beautified downtown Seoul and gave its residents a spectacular setting in which to walk, splash, linger, and truly enjoy the city."

Photobucket

8 Comments:

Anonymous greencrow said...

OMG! Allowing people to cross a river on semi-submerged rocks? Think of the risk to government insurance policies.

People could fall in and sue the city.

This could NEVER happen here!

gc

10/5/11 11:14 PM  
Blogger nolocontendere said...

In a day to day miasma of filth and corruption, this story really touched me. They were bold enough to turn 180 degrees and it enriched their lives immensely.
You're right, it could never happen here.

11/5/11 1:15 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

ninest123 16.01
michael kors outlet, prada outlet, michael kors, ugg boots, prada handbags, oakley sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, nike outlet, louis vuitton, louis vuitton outlet, ray ban sunglasses, chanel handbags, oakley sunglasses, tiffany and co, polo ralph lauren outlet, tiffany jewelry, longchamp outlet, longchamp outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, ugg boots, oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, nike free, louboutin shoes, louis vuitton, nike air max, tory burch outlet, replica watches, jordan shoes, christian louboutin outlet, burberry, ugg boots, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, louboutin, cheap oakley sunglasses, longchamp, uggs on sale, nike air max, gucci outlet, burberry outlet online, louis vuitton, louboutin outlet, ugg boots, louis vuitton outlet, replica watches

17/1/16 10:31 PM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

longchamp, louboutin pas cher, michael kors, nike blazer, ray ban uk, vanessa bruno, nike roshe, michael kors, air max, nike air max, nike air max, true religion jeans, nike air max, nike huarache, ralph lauren uk, true religion outlet, michael kors, nike free run uk, true religion jeans, abercrombie and fitch, air jordan pas cher, coach outlet, oakley pas cher, longchamp pas cher, vans pas cher, north face, hollister, hogan, nike free, nike trainers, hollister pas cher, north face, hermes, burberry, true religion jeans, michael kors, replica handbags, coach purses, converse pas cher, ralph lauren pas cher, mulberry, tn pas cher, timberland, sac longchamp, air force, new balance pas cher, nike roshe run, sac guess, lacoste pas cher, ray ban pas cher, lululemon

17/1/16 10:34 PM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

p90x workout, nike roshe, jimmy choo shoes, ralph lauren, chi flat iron, herve leger, beats by dre, oakley, vans shoes, ray ban, s5 cases, vans, valentino shoes, instyler, hollister, iphone 5s cases, mcm handbags, iphone 6s plus cases, bottega veneta, ipad cases, insanity workout, ferragamo shoes, louboutin, nfl jerseys, converse, iphone 6s cases, iphone cases, asics running shoes, wedding dresses, lululemon, north face outlet, mac cosmetics, new balance, giuseppe zanotti, gucci, baseball bats, iphone 6 plus cases, nike air max, timberland boots, soccer shoes, celine handbags, iphone 6 cases, birkin bag, hollister, abercrombie and fitch, babyliss, reebok shoes, ghd, nike air max, mont blanc, north face outlet, soccer jerseys

17/1/16 10:37 PM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

lancel, canada goose outlet, moncler outlet, links of london, replica watches, coach outlet, doudoune canada goose, swarovski crystal, moncler, moncler, pandora jewelry, moncler, karen millen, moncler, canada goose outlet, doke gabbana outlet, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, pandora jewelry, juicy couture outlet, supra shoes, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, canada goose, pandora charms, canada goose, moncler, converse outlet, louis vuitton, moncler, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, louis vuitton, thomas sabo, ugg boots uk, canada goose, moncler, pandora charms, sac louis vuitton pas cher, barbour jackets, wedding dresses, ugg pas cher, swarovski, toms shoes, louis vuitton, marc jacobs, hollister, canada goose, juicy couture outlet, bottes ugg, barbour, canada goose uk
ninest123 16.01

17/1/16 10:39 PM  
Blogger Richika Sarkar said...

It is nice post
Visit Links:
Packers and Movers Mumbai
Packers and Movers Andheri
Packers and Movers Airoli
Packers and Movers Borivali
Packers and Movers Bandra
Packers and Movers Kalyan
Packers and Movers Kharghar
Packers and Movers Kandivali
Packers and Movers Thane

21/3/16 11:37 PM  
Blogger happy 123 said...

ralph lauren outlet
ugg boots
nike huarache
louboutin shoes
nhl jerseys
air jordan uk
nike store
ugg boots
ugg boots
ed hardy uk
20170806

6/8/17 12:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.