To the Editor:
The Feb. 14 column by Gabriel Sender ’25 calling for the pedestrianization of Brown and Thayer streets is an ambitious and important proposal from a number of perspectives. The elimination of personal vehicles in and around campus is an idea that has been bandied about for years, and now is the time to actually take steps in that direction.
The University has been interested in this idea since at least 2012 when President Ruth Simmons’ negotiations with the city for payments in lieu of taxes resulted in an agreement in which Providence handed over control of three streets to the University in order to improve the quality of life in the core of campus. Given this, Brown Street from George to Charlesfield streets, Benevolent Street from Brown to Bannister streets and Olive Street from Thayer to Brown streets could be transformed into pedestrian walkways, free of cars and other non-essential vehicles. Unfortunately, the pedestrianization of those streets has not since come to pass.
Imagine for a moment being able to walk in the heart of campus without the noise, pollution and danger of automobiles in those areas. Aesthetically, it would dramatically enhance the charm and beauty of our campus, and practically, it would improve the quality of life for the neighborhood and University community.
In a moment of substantial campus development at Brown, opportunities abound for this kind of pedestrian conversion. In particular, the building of the Performing Arts Center offers the opportunity to eliminate cars from the middle section of Olive Street. As described in the first amendment to the Institutional Master Plan, Olive Street “will likely be closed to regular vehicle traffic” between Thayer and Brown streets after the PAC is completed. Hopefully, next fall, upon the completion of the project, this concept will be implemented on Olive.
My hope is that the Brown community will have the vision to embrace Sender’s bold ideas in the coming years. To get started, let’s ensure the University follows through on its master plan and closes Olive Street, and let’s put to use Brown’s control of Benevolent and Brown streets to finally pedestrianize these areas of campus. To be sure, there will be resistance from those who park or drive on those streets, but the greater good demands that Brown and the community recognize the substantial benefit which would follow from closing them.
Peter Mackie ’59