San Jose, Then and Now

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 26, 2007

I just came across an eye-popping before-and-after photo tour of downtown San Jose, California.

Near the epicentre, both physical and temporal, of 20th century automobile sprawl, San Jose in 1975 was a motorist's dream, featuring wide, one-way streets, abundant parking, and flat, horizontal malls.

Little money or space was wasted on such ephemera as trees, and pedestrian infrastructure and public transit appears to have been marginal or non-existent.

Fast forward to 2005, and the downtown is transformed into a dense, tree-lined, well-framed people place. Streets are narrower, sidewalks are wider, light rail trundles along thoroughfares, surface parking lots are filled with destinations, and some streets are closed to automobiles altogether and turned into pedestrian plazas.

The difference is remarkable and needs to be seen to be appreciated.

Before: cars dominate this street
Before: cars dominate this street

After: the street is now a classic people place
After: the street is now a classic people place

Please do click through and look at all the photos. The transformation of sprawling thoroughfares into lush urban streetwalls is remarkable, and an inspiration for what Hamilton could look like in the near future.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.


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