Daylighting urban streams has long made sense aesthetically, but now the environmental, traffic calming, and air pollution benefits can be quantified based on new studies of the famous Cheonggyecheon running through downtown Seoul.
From the New York Times:
Cities from San Antonio to Singapore have been resuscitating rivers and turning storm drains into streams. In Los Angeles, residents’ groups and some elected officials are looking anew at buried or concrete-lined creeks as assets instead of inconveniences, inspired partly by Seoul’s example.
By building green corridors around the exposed waters, cities hope to attract affluent and educated workers and residents who appreciate the feel of a natural environment in an urban setting.
Environmentalists point out other benefits. Open watercourses handle flooding rains better than buried sewers do, a big consideration as global warming leads to heavier downpours. The streams also tend to cool areas overheated by sun-baked asphalt and to nourish greenery that lures wildlife as well as pedestrians.
But four years after the stream was uncovered, city officials say, the environmental benefits can now be quantified. Data show that the ecosystem along the Cheonggyecheon (pronounced chung-gye-chun) has been greatly enriched, with the number of fish species increasing to 25 from 4. Bird species have multiplied to 36 from 6, and insect species to 192 from 15.
The recovery project, which removed three miles of elevated highway as well, also substantially cut air pollution from cars along the corridor and reduced air temperatures. Small-particle air pollution along the corridor dropped to 48 micrograms per cubic meter from 74, and summer temperatures are now often five degrees cooler than those of nearby areas, according to data cited by city officials.
And even with the loss of some vehicle lanes, traffic speeds have picked up because of related transportation changes like expanded bus service, restrictions on cars and higher parking fees.
“We’ve basically gone from a car-oriented city to a human-oriented city,” said Lee In-keun, Seoul’s assistant mayor for infrastructure, who has been invited to places as distant as Los Angeles to describe the project to other urban planners.