Rescape your street!

What if you could create a sketch design of your street, with new bike lanes, pocket parks and more?

A Rescaped street in Somerville, MA

This summer, planner and software developer Andy Likuski joined OpenPlans on a fellowship to work on his Rescape software, a sketch tool for street designs. Rescape adds tools to Google Sketchup that makes it easier to do neighborhood redesigns with an emphasis on carfree or car-light streets and comprehensive transit, in three dimensions. Andy writes:

I started planning and working on Rescape about a year ago for my master’s thesis at Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. As a software developer lacking urban design skills, I needed a tool that would help me visualize compelling improvements that are made possibly when neighborhoods are built for people and cars become exceptional instead of dominant. I enjoyed the free and friendly user interface of Google Sketchup, but I found that even knowing the fundamentals of the software were not enough to do neighborhood designs efficiently. I began to create a mental list of features that would help me design faster for accuracy of layouts and visual impact. I found myself mostly interested in improving the streets, since this is the dominant form of public space and has the most potential to be reallocated to better uses.

In the short term I have many features to add, such as the ability to distribute components from the 3D Warehouse along a created surface. For instance, the user should be able to download bicyclists and have Sketchup distribute copies of them along cycle tracks. There are still many limitations to working with Rescape. Roads that change levels for overpasses are not yet handled elegantly and there is no way to account for elevation changes. Some of these challenges may be surmountable using other Sketchup features and plugins. Others will be too advanced for a “sketching” tool, and will require traditional professional urban modeling software.

The long-term vision of Rescape is to give people the ability to see what their neighborhood could look like with more space for people, transit, and people-oriented amenities. My hope is that Rescape and other freely available software products will contribute to this goal.

Today is Andy’s last day here, he’s heading back to Somerville to finish up writing his thesis. Read his summer wrap-up, and read the Rescape Frequently Asked Questions, and check out the project’s code repository. Let’s Rescape those streets!