After watching the latest Bond film at the Livermore Cinemas and then strolling over to First Street Alehouse, it struck me just how successful Livermore's pedestrian-friendly downtown has become.
This was a Wednesday night, and the theater and the alehouse had a sizable crowd. I parked at the parking garage because it's so close to the theater, but the fact is, I rarely use the garage when going downtown. There's plenty of parking along First and Second streets and Railroad Avenue. Unlike in other popular downtowns in the Bay Area, parking is never stressful in Livermore.
In Walnut Creek, for example, parking can be stressful, with fast-moving cars behind you pressuring you to keep moving even if a spot opens up alongside the road. Oftentimes you miss the spot and then have to circle around again, hoping someone else didn't grab it. Walnut Creek recently gave the OK to decrease the width of Mt. Diablo Boulevard from its current width of 100 feet. Downtown Livermore is a shining example of what narrowing a street downtown does.
In Livermore, the cars driving down First Street between North L and Maple seem to be happy to stop and let a car pull into a spot or wait while a car backs out of a spot. Pedestrians can safely and casually cross the road at any of the intersections.
It's not that Livermore doesn't have its traffic problems. They just pushed them outside of downtown and onto Interstate 580.
With the opening of the Paragon Outlets just in time for holiday shopping, I have been sitting in traffic backed up to Airway Boulevard on I-580 on my way to work. I have not been to the outlets, but they seem to be doing very well. The parking lot looked full as I drove by the outlets around 2 a.m. on Black Friday. Hopefully when the shopping craze dies down, the traffic won't be an issue. We'll see.
As an amateur observer in city planning, it seems as if Livermore did a few things right, however, in planning its downtown. They kept the major retailers such as those found at the Paragon Outlets far away from the main downtown and close to I-580. The same goes for Wal-Mart and Target. Walnut Creek has their major retailers right in the mix in their downtown, which is located just off I-680 and State Route 24. The Livermore downtown is well away from freeway exits, and First Street is no longer a viable option for people cutting through Livermore on their commute.
Earlier this year I talked with the owner of Donut Wheel. He is one of the few business owners whose business was hurt by the narrowing of First Street downtown. Just anecdotally, it seems as if most of the businesses downtown are doing well. I know people from the Tracy and Stockton areas who come to Livermore for its downtown eateries and shopping. As someone who grew up here, I never thought that would be possible.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.