Sunday, December 9, 2018

Proper Urban Planning Prevents Piss Poor Transportation Performance

Sources and credits as above in the figure.
   A bit of good news out of the City Different yesterday. The city Planning Commission approved plans for a rental complex near the Railyard for folks who don't own cars, i.e., the plans don't include parking. The advantages to this sort of infill planning are many.  We can get more property tax dollars per developed acre. We get more people into less space since we aren't building out and housing more cars and garages. We cut down on the need for crosstown car traffic and therefore we don't need more vehicle lanes. (Of course, this presumes stores will locate where the people are rather than building malls at the outskirts of town--separate planning issue.) We grow more efficient, transportation-wise, by building more housing that allows people to take short walkable and bikeable trips for their needs rather than long ones. Strong Town's Chuck Marohn would be proud. I suppose Uber, Lyft, the e-bike companies, et al are happy too.

Having coffee supplies at an easy biking distance 
is important. And fun. (and yes, this is a free and 
unsolicited plug for Iconik.)
Contrast that with the recent discussion to turn Richards Ave into a continuous arterial in order to service the outlying development to the south and southwest. That idea, i.e., to hook up the two ends of Richards, would turn a quiet set of neighborhoods into ones buzzing with car traffic, even if traffic is calmed via engineered slowing of the de facto speed limit.

"...expansion on the suburban fringe, is fiscally ruinous for our communities, largely because of the colossal mismatch between the new public infrastructure those homes on the suburban will need and the tax actually generated by new suburban construction..."--Daniel Herriges, in Strong Towns

There are a lot of problems with sprawling outward. It gets you less taxpayers per acre for  those utilities (roads, water, sewerage, electric and gas, etc) that someone has to maintain once the infrastructure gets old and the developer has left with cash in his pocket. It requires auto transportation for those long distance trips (see Albuquerque) and therefore more roads and parking. With less active transportation, you don't get the health benefits of biking or strolling to the coffee roaster's place. (With a compact city, we have quite a few of those coffee shops in the City Different including Betterday right here in Casa Solana.) And of course with more transportation requiring car travel, you get more CO2 emissions contributing to the dynamics of climate change. Surface transportation is already a major pipeline getting sequestered carbon deposits into the biosphere.

Seems the city might get this one right. I'd like to see the Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee endorse this project.  I'm sure there will be the usual hue and cry of others claiming tenants will be finding places to dump cars in other people's neighborhoods. But given the distances involved between the Pen/Cordova location and everywhere else, I don't know if that will happen. Of course, someone could always buy some land and rent it out as car storage. That's a good thing. Rather than zoning parking minimums into the development code and forcing developers to waste space on car storage, let folks pay for it the old fashioned way: supply and demand. Maybe capitalism works.

Finally, if there is a worry, it is that since the Pen/Cordova site is hemmed in by Cerrillos Road and St. Francis Drive, getting from these apartments to the city center, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Just About Anywhere Else, etc. will be impeded by the lack of bicycle and pedestrian friendly connectivity. The Rail Trail will be a boon, but it is only one resource.  Fortunately, Cordova is manageable and with some improvements to encourage cycling across St. Francis, this could be a winner. Bottom line? A bicycle friendly city has to stop building stroads (to be fair, Santa Fe's stroads are provided courtesy of the New Mexico Dept. of Transportation) and recognize that when you build stroads like St. Michaels, Cerrillos, and St. Francis, you are working at cross purposes to a bicycle/pedestrian friendly community. My suggestion is that any time a state highway passes through a city, design authority should pass to the city.

Stay tuned.

Have the Drivers won?

Cartoon courtesy of 
Patrick O'Grady/
 I read Robert Mang's My View and had to keep my temper in check. If I gave up road riding every time some knucklehead endangered me, either deliberately or negligently, I would have bought a wind trainer in 1979. That was the year I started bicycle commuting and also the year a negligent driver tossed me over the hood of his VW, resulting in months of recovery from a traumatic brain injury and the end of my hopes for a thermodynamics-based Ph.D.

But drivers have not won and in fact, the Bicyclists Can Use Full Lane signage drive shows that if anything, the tide is turning against auto-centrism. It's not time to give up.

There will always be buttheads, whether armed with a Ford or a Fabrique Nationale. Its up to society to push back against misuse, whether we use a carrot or a stick. Keep riding, Mr. Mang. I'll be out there with you.

Related Reading: Charles Marohn, PE, "Why Do People Keep Being Killed On This Road"

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