My Turn: Build joint garage and transit center downtown

Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The city's Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee is charged to advise the Juneau Assembly on issues related to an accessible capital. The committee focuses on how best to mediate the needs of persons who experience some degree of disability. Deliberations are usually in a context of universal design; best expressed as, when a community removes a barrier for one citizen, it is removed for all citizens. This focus guides the advisory committee to think in terms of the effect of design on inclusiveness for all Juneau residents and visitors.

We are committed to the concept of universal design for the proposed transit center and parking garage in its widest usage. The committee is unaware of any published conceptual design for either the parking garage or the transit center. We would hope the concept we are proposing must have surfaced somewhere in the creative interaction. We see structures coming down but no final design going up.

We wish to add our support to a design concept that jumps out as the most obvious functional answer to these project. This design concept follows a theme for which Juneau has received national visibility in our downtown library.

We are grateful that Juneau citizens saw the urgent need for both structures. We feel the responsibility to suggest one solution that could vindicate the citizens' trust to carry through with a design that will enhance both the aesthetic quality of the capital city and will be functionally serviceable to meet the transportation requirements of visitors and Juneau residents.

We suggest that the parking garage and the transit center be integrated into one facility following the downtown branch library concept, and we see at least one step further.

1. The basic parking garage structural design would consist of at least three floors with the ground floor level being the transit center. The ground level transit center would be functionally suitable for buses, convenient for easy entrance and exit and comfortable and consumer-friendly for all citizens and visitors to be out of the elements, summer and winter, with restrooms and a coffee shop. A once-every-30-minute mini-bus loop around the downtown area would enhance the facility as a transit center and be visitor-friendly in the capital city. The second floor could be the standard covered parking. A third floor should be added with one of the following two ideas:

• Covered parking with restaurants overlooking the city and channel. The commercial areas on the first and third floors would bring revenue to the city in addition to parking fees.

• Tear down our outdated, totally inadequate city hall and add to the transit center and parking garage facility our new city hall as the third floor with a fourth floor for restaurants.

Such city planning would free up the downtown area from being a barrier zone to one that has greater freedom of movement for many types of traffic.

Indeed, in a one-stop society, consolidation of merely parking and transit seems rather like limited thinking when our city hall/parking/transit/service center could become the symbol of the creative future in Alaska in its capital.

We can't expect to be heard in our call for a new capitol unless we exhibit our own belief in Juneau as capital. This might best be indicated by placing our new city hall as the third floor of the transit center. This is an idea whose time has come.

In as much as we seem to be in idle on the capitol building, it seems to be appropriate to suggest, in the context of accessibility, that the new capitol is best placed on a hill overlooking Auke Lake. A capitol for this state requires a state-like setting of beauty that typifies the state, not downtown Chicago. It is the city hall that must be the architectural gem of downtown Juneau. Let people of the world drive around Auke Lake in Juneau to see an Alaskan capitol in an Alaskan setting.

• Juneau resident Earl D. Clark is a former two-time chairman and member of the city of Juneau ADA Advisory Committee.



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