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Revolutionizing Urban Landscapes with Green Infrastructure: EQT's Innovations in Green Streets

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

How our streets are built and designed came about within the last quarter of the 20th century, being built for cars and in service of the suburbs instead of being made for people and urban density. Many of us feel these design decisions every day, whether we’re hurriedly crossing a street, avoiding specific bike paths because they aren’t protected, or when we’re annoyed at having to take a quick drive to pick up something little that is just out of walking distance. We also feel it in communities where we’re more disconnected from one another and the wider city in our individual pods. 

Not only did it not used to be like this, but much of the world doesn’t live like this, and we don't have to either. We can build streets to serve people over cars, making connecting with your neighborhood and broader community more accessible and making walking and riding your bike with your family safe. EQT By Design is proud to have participated in an innovative project aimed at doing precisely that.

The American Planning Association Wisconsin-Chapter (APAW), during their annual 2023 Conference, awarded the City of Madison “Best Practices” for their Complete Green Streets (CGS) initiative. EQT By Design is proud to have taken part in this project with our partners in  TOOL Design and the City of Madison; through diligent community engagement, we provided a community-oriented equity design process, now built within the City of Madison’s new approach to Complete Green Streets.

So what is this approach, and why is it so different? The first thing it does is invert priorities.

EQT By Design worked behind the scenes, in and with communities, to help design this innovative approach to street design for the City of Madison. Throughout our process, we engaged in equity engineering to embed equity within and throughout the project, making its way into the entire process of street redevelopment.

We launched multiple cycles of community engagement to accomplish this. The first phase being listening, the second phase designing, and the third, is affirmation that we correctly incorporated the voices of communities into the design to ensure the city's process can do its best to meet the needs of our most marginalized communities. 

One community we want to highlight is the Darbo/Worthington community, one of Madison's most underserved communities. The multiple focus groups held within this community were pivotal to ensuring equity was engineered within the project. With the assistance of Will Green from Mentoring Positives, we engaged a group of women and mother community leaders to ensure this project would address their needs and concerns. 

With this information, in partnership with TOOL Design, we developed a multi-layered process to ensure communities like Darbo/Worthington would be prioritized, have community needs and concerns met in street design, and ensure broader community concerns are addressed by deepening the city's approach to equity in government.

We created an Equity “Sphere of Influence” and an “Equity Process through these listening engagements.” The Sphere ensures wider issues of equity, beyond streets, are addressed. The City report states, “Some neighborhoods in Madison experience systemic inequities. The City needs to pay special attention in those areas and prioritize them for investment across all departments (for example, parks, health, housing, and utilities).” 

This Equity Framework was designed to create a more holistic process to address local inequities. From here, a process was built, ensuring greater engagement and listening by City Transportation Department staff, prioritization of marginalized communities, and increased cooperation between city departments to address inequities. 

This systems approach to solving problems of inequities is the EQT By Design approach; when we engage with communities and with entities, we work to address the systems or inputs to increase equitable outcomes. 

This equity process integrates with Complete Green Streets by marking these communities “Equity Priority Areas” or EPAs and by making pedestrian and bike safety, public transportation access, and wider city resources at the center of street design.

This equity process, including the EPAs and overlay, was our small part of the project, and the City of Madison is already taking full steam with this approach. South Park St, one of Madison’s most diverse communities yet most car-centric roads, will be the first road to be redeveloped under this innovative Complete Green Streets approach. 

We’re excited to see how South Park Street evolves from its current state, serving commuters coming into Madison, to one that serves those who live on and around Park Street on the South Side of Madison. We're looking forward to seeing how other communities benefit and evolve from Complete Green Streets in the coming years, as we build a city that is built for its people to safely live and move, making this city greater than it already is.



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