Finding Inspiration From Seoul For Cincinnati’s Public Staircases

ArtWorks has become well-known for its mural program. Over the past eight years, the program has created 90 murals that have added to the vibrancy of 36 city neighborhoods.

This year, however, ArtWorks started to branch out a bit more. In addition to 10 mural projects, they also installed more than 50 public art pieces throughout the city. Some were poetic, while others charming. Regardless of the project, they have always worked to actively engage young people in the city with the artist community.

The program’s impact on the visual appearance of the city cannot be overlooked. Public spaces have been dressed up and walls have been decorated in truly Cincinnati fashion. When considering one of Cincinnati’s most defining features – its hillsides – another opportunity seems to be sitting in waiting for future ArtWorks programs.

Over the years The Hillside Trust has worked to promote and preserve the city’s hillsides and the view sheds that they offer. At the same time, many of the city’s public staircases, which long served as a critical component of the sidewalk network, have fallen into disrepair. In many cases, due to either lack of maintenance or neighborhood distrust, public staircases have been closed off altogether.

This should not be the case.

One potential way to address this would be to focus an ArtWorks program on the city’s public staircases. Artists could be engaged to come up with creative mural designs for the stairs themselves, or perhaps suggest other installations. These could then be complimented by lighting installations that would not on

ly add an artistic touch after dusk, but also make the corridors safer for their users and the neighborhoods around them.

Seoul’s Ihwa neighborhood has done exactly this.

Set on the side of a steep hill leading to Seoul’s historic fortification wall, the neighborhood has seen many of its staircases painted, along with surrounding building walls, to create a truly unique environment. A variety of art installations were also undertaken in order to create an even more dynamic experience.

Today visitors flock to the area to view the murals and experience the other installations some 60 artists created in 2006 as part of Naksan Project. Due to this influx of people, small cafes, galleries and restaurants are now prevalent throughout the neighborhood.

While Cincinnati’s hillsides and surrounding neighborhoods present a different challenge than what exists in Ihwa, there are equal, yet different, opportunities that also exist.

Right now Cincinnati’s hillsides and their public staircases are mostly viewed as barriers and have been constrained to afterthoughts in the city’s public psyche. ArtWorks has changed the way we viewed vacant walls and barren streetscapes. Here’s hoping they can work similar magic on the city’s long-forgotten staircases.

Should SORTA redraw its entire system? And if so, how?

On the latest episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast we discussed some ideas that Cincinnati would be smart to copy from other cities. One of the items discussed was a complete overhaul of the region’s bus network. Metropolitan Seoul did it in the early aughts, and Houston is in the process of doing it now. While there are numerous ways in which to go about doing this, one approach could be to crowd-source ideas from people using this bus routing tool. More from CityLab:

Not only does the tool give agencies a visually appealing way to present potential routes, but it enables them to respond to ideas—or, let’s face it, complaints—in real-time. If someone wants to move a bus route one street over, for instance, planners can just drag a line a few blocks and show that for an extra $250,000 the bus will now pick up just 10 more people a day.

“Transit for a lot of riders seems like just lines on the map,” he says. “This tool can really communicate to folks—much, much quicker than we’ve ever been able to— what changes to the system mean.”

Episode #38: Seoul

CheonggyecheonOn the 38th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, our guest Yoon-Sun Chang joins Randy in Seoul to talks with John and Travis back in Cincinnati. We discuss some of the experiences of Randy, an American now residing in Korea, and Yoon-Sun, a Korean who studied at DAAP in Cincinnati.

We talk about the large scale of growth that Seoul is experiencing, the urban form of new developments, the approach to historic preservation, and the transportation systems that enable the city to function. This includes projects such as the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park, the reclaimed CheonggyecheonGwanghwamun Square Project, and Hangang Renaissance Project.

Finally, we talk about Korean and Asian culture in Cincinnati, and how it differs from the authentic experience.

Photo of Cheonggyecheon provided by Flickr user fukagawa.

Metro Has Begun Installing New 24-Hour Ticketing Kiosks Throughout City

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) has made a new push to expand ticket and stored-value cards by adding new locations and options for riders to make their purchases.

The first announcement was that Metro would begin selling passes at Cincinnati City Hall, starting April 1, inside the city’s Treasury Department in Room 202. The sales office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, and will offer Zone 1 and 2 Metro 30-day rolling passes, $20 stored-value cards and Metro/TANK passes.

The new location marks the twelfth sales office for Metro including three others Downtown and locations in Walnut Hills, Tri-County, Western Hills, North College Hill, Over-the-Rhine, Roselawn, College Hill and Avondale.

The region’s largest transit agency also installed its first ticket vending machine. The new kiosk is located at Government Square and is available for use 24 hours a day. The machine only accepts cash and credit cards, and offers Metro 30-day rolling passes including Metro/TANK passes, and $10, $20 and $30 stored-value cards.

According to Metro officials, this is the first of more ticketing machines to come with the stations in the Uptown Transit District to be the next locations to get them. Future additions, officials say, will be chosen based on the amount of ridership at given transit hubs throughout the system.

The new sales options come after Metro introduced a new electronic fare payment system in 2011. The new modern options of payment and ticketing proved so popular that after just one year, Metro officials cited the updated technology as one of the primary drivers for its ridership growth.

While the new initiatives show progress for the 41-year-old transit agency, they also show just how far behind the times it is.

The best fare payment systems in the world are tap and go systems that allow riders to charge their cards with whatever value they would like, thus eliminating any confusion of needing specific cards for certain time periods or values. Such cards also allow for perfect interoperability between various modes of transport including bus, rail, ferry, bikeshare and taxi.

In other instances, like Seoul’s T-Money Card and London’s Oyster Card, the systems even allow for the tap and go payment systems to accept credit cards and bank cards enabled with the technology – totally eliminating any barrier for potential riders wary of signing up for a new card they may not use all that often.

Similar to the fare payment cards, the new ticketing machines are outdated on arrival. Transit agencies throughout the United States that have had ticketing machines for years, like Chicago and New York, are currently in the process of transitioning to touch screen kiosks that are more user-friendly.

Where UrbanCincy Stands and Where We’re Going

When I first moved to Seoul at the end of 2010 I was quickly overwhelmed. The city is huge and the region boasts some 24.5 million people. That’s endlessly big…something to which only one or two other places on Earth can compare. But after being there for nearly three months that year, and then returning to Seoul for another nine months in 2011, I easily fell in love with the place.

Seoul is interesting not just because it is big, but because it is unique.

It is a special time in Korean culture. The younger generations are the first to have grown up in a completely modern, free and democratic society. Korea’s rapid industrialization, the fastest the world has ever seen, is now in its rear-view mirror and the people are now looking to improve their standards of living as opposed to simply throwing up housing as quickly as possible.

Seoul
Looking south over Seoul’s Jongno district. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

The obvious result has been a public policy response centered in the nation’s political and economic capital. Seoul’s mayors, if well-performing, often go on to run for president. One of the more notable cases is Lee, Myoung Bak, or otherwise known casually as MB.

MB made the very controversial decision to tear down a 5.2-mile stretch of elevated highway through the heart of Seoul and replace it with a linear park following a day-lighted stream. Many were skeptical of the unproven idea, and had it not worked it would have spelled the end of MB’s political career. As we know, the Cheonggyecheon has been a massive success by almost all measurable accounts and MB went on to serve as the president of the Republic of Korea from 2008 to 2013

While in office, MB pursued sustainability. Korea’s 2009 stimulus, following the global recession, was the world’s most sustainable, investing more than 80% of its funds on sustainable energies, transportation or technology. Songdo, one of the world’s early pilot LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot projects also began construction in 2008.

On top of all this, the younger generations have shifted their focus squarely on design. You can see it reflected in food preparation and café design. You can see it in the creative street art and gallery culture. And you most certainly see it in the new public spaces and buildings being built in Seoul and elsewhere throughout the 50.2-million person country.

It is from this cultural shift that earned Seoul the title of World Design Capital in 2010, and why formerly drab spaces all throughout Seoul are being transformed into works of inspired design.

I suspect these trends will only continue, and will continue to fuel Seoul’s international rise. And this is why I am so excited to return.

On September 10 I flew back to Seoul to work on new sustainable planning and design projects with my company Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The move comes with some trepidation, but much excitement and I will be sure to share my journey with those of you who are interested in following me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Perhaps more importantly for you, the reader, is that UrbanCincy will continue in its current form. I will still contribute to the site from time-to-time, but John Yung will take on a greater leadership role for the site.

John will be joined by long-time contributors such as technologist Travis Estell and writer/photographer Jake Mecklenborg, as well as three new contributors that you may have seen publishing content over the past few months: Eric Fazzini, Paige Malott and Jacob Fessler. Get to know them at one of our monthly URBANexchange events.

This is a more than capable group and they have largely been running the site for the past several months.

UrbanCincy never has and never will be about one person, one project or one idea. It is about supporting urbanism in Cincinnati and pushing for things that will improve this great city we all love. We hope you will continue to read our stories and listen to our podcasts as we shift into the next exciting chapter for UrbanCincy.