Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Proposed Rumbula Residental Area: the Transportation Problems

The most recent european10 architect competition in Riga was dedicated to Rumbula district. The idea of transforming the abandoned military airfield and allotment gardens to modern residential neighborhoods has been included in development papers for years but nothing has been done yet. Despite the wonderful waterfront Rumbula is not attracting developers – let’s see what is wrong and what can be done with that.

Biggest Problem - Distance to the Center
Rumbula development site is about 10km from the Old Town (city hall) with is big distance in case of Riga. Residential areas like Bolderāja, Vecmilgrāvis and Jugla are located about the same distance from the center and only one – Daugavgrīva are located even further. All of named districts are considered to be inconvenient for commuting, the estate prices are lower and all of them (at least initially) were providing notable number of jobs (sea-port, manufacturing etc).
There are a number of possible development areas which are suitable for public and private residential development closer or at the same distance to the CBD so Rumbula have to withstand competition. As mentioned earlier the main advantage of the site is river Daugava. Also A6 highway to Daugavpils and other cities may be used as an advantage.

Main Strategy - Good Connectivity
Theory says that travel time is more important than the covered distance thus fast connections should be the focus in site preparation. Other strategy could be making self-sufficient community with small or no need to commute but arrival of labor-consuming and well paid business is less predictable than arrival of dwellers and can actually turn the district to a ghetto with low property prices.
The core of all transportation strategy I propose is fast public transportation branch from station Gaisma to the primary hub of district – station Jaunrubula and secondary hub – station Lidlauks. The link may be realized as city rail derived from suburban rail service or bus rapid transit line derived from trolley-bus line number 15 running along the existing rail. The line would link Rumbula to the CBD, airport, Akropole shopping and some secondary business districts – Skanste and Spilve.
The existing high standard tram line number 7 which ends at Dole can be prolonged to station Jaunrumbula trough station Zoom. It would also be possible to continue tram service to station Lidlauks if connectivity with rail/BRT system is provided.

As the riverfront will be the pedestrian area, connections between stations Jaunrumbula and Lidlauks and the riverside must be created. In case of station Jaunrumbula – a wide pedestrian street with retail on booth sides must become the mayor attraction of the neighborhoods. On the other side of river Daugava Nature Park Doles sala is located - ferry connection from Rumbula to recreation areas in Doles sala would bring extra attractiveness to Rumbula.
Already now car-based manufacturing, offices and retail is based along the highway so no need to change that. The district will see more commerce if the local streets and car access is brought up to date.
If all of this is realized Rumbula will became truly attractive place for living, working of recreation. To pay for the entire infrastructure needed the neighborhood must be urbanized very densely. The main question is still open: isn’t there cheaper development site somewhere in the city with better transport and are there so many costumers willing to pay for living/working near the river?

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