I've been recently exploring ideas from Minneapolis, where I visited this summer to look at the Phillips Partnership, a public-private venture to improve the Phillips neighborhood in that city.
One of the things I saw in Minneapolis was a "green street." The green street was located on a three-block stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, in an area of the city probably built in the 1920s. It felt like the east isthmus. About thirty years ago, the city and neighborhood residents decided to rebuild their street in a fascinating way.
Essentially, what they did was replace the street with grass and trees, leaving the sidewalk on one side and a wider lane on the other to accommodate emergency vehicles. Residents who drive can park in small parking lots created on the back of the block, and walk to their homes via another sidewalk that runs behind their homes. Trash and recycling bins are kept in attractively fenced corrals near the small parking pods.
But the concept requires treatment of a three-street area for one green street. That's because it requires access from behind the green street. So, what works so well for the green street itself exacts a certain toll on the streets on either side, because they lose space for parking. As a result, this idea probably has limited applicability as a retrofit option in most of Madison.
The idea has been suggested for one street in the plan for the Greenbush neighborhood. It could work there or maybe as a retrofit on a street like West Mifflin. Replacing the backyard parking in those neighborhoods would be a good thing anyway, and this is one more or less painless way to do it.
What would really be interesting is if the city would explore the concept for new developments, like the massive northeast neighborhoods that have yet to be built.