Archive | Transportation

The novelty of walking to school

Students walking to St. John's School in Marshfield, Wis. Courtesy USDOT

I walked to school every day of my life, from kindergarten through high school. It was only a quarter mile to my elementary school, and it was less than a mile to the high school. And every street had a sidewalk.

But that was 30 years ago. Now, such a simple part of life seems to be a thing of the past:

In 2009 only 13 percent of K-8th Grade students were reported as walking or biking to school. That’s a huge shift from 40 years earlier when that number was 48 percent. In 1969, 89 percent of kids who lived within a mile of school walked or rode their bikes; in 2009 that figure was down to 35 percent.

That’s from a story on the U.S. Department of Transportation blog, “Indiana Schools Take Strides Toward Safe Routes to School.” Although those statistics are bleak, the USDOT congratulated Indiana for doing a good job of meeting what the Federal Highway Administration calls the 5 E’s:

  1. Engineering – Creating roadway improvements near schools that reduce speeds and potential conflicts between motor vehicles and walking students and establishing safer crossings, walkways, and bikeways.
  2. Education – Teaching children important bicycling and walking safety skills and launching driver safety campaigns near schools.
  3. Enforcement – Partnering with local law enforcement to ensure traffic laws are obeyed in school zones and initiating community enforcement such as crossing guard programs.
  4. Encouragement – Using events and activities to promote walking and bicycling.
  5. Evaluation – Monitoring and documenting outcomes and trends to gauge success.

The first point, of course, mirrors the Complete Streets movement.

But despite the accolades, it’s doubtful an Indiana child walks or bikes to school, especially here in Fort Wayne, where the Walk Score is 39 out of a possible 100. A consistent policy of building simple physical features such as sidewalks and crossable streets would make getting around on foot a lot more feasible.

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Take a survey about taking the bus

From Betsy Kachmar of Citilink:

The City of Fort Wayne, Citilink, Countilink, and the Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council have partnered in the development of a Bus Fort Wayne Plan. The Bus Fort Wayne Plan is a 10-year plan that will lay the foundation for establishing public transit (Citilink and Countilink) as a preferred transportation choice. Bus Fort Wayne will be a part of the City’s Active Transportation Campaign to encourage people to walk, ride their bike and use public transit to get to desired destinations.

Currently, our public transportation system primarily serves those who are transit dependent because they cannot afford a car or cannot drive. The current state of our economy, rising gas prices and demographic trends lead us to believe that now is the time to attract and plan for an increase in public transit ridership by “choice riders” or those who make a conscious choice to use public transportation instead of their car. In order to obtain information on this emerging market, our team has developed a Choice Rider Survey to gain information on potential choice riders of public transit.

The survey is here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/choicerider.  The survey will close on June 15. The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

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Shoaff: When building roads, worry about the people who live there

Councilman John Shoaff identified what may be the central reason the city of Fort Wayne hits opposition when it proposes a street widening project.

Shoaff has been a strong opponent of the city’s plan to widen State Boulevard through the Brookview-Irvington Park neighborhood, from Clinton Street to Wells Street. And during Tuesday’s common council meeting, Shoaff related a conversation he had with a city landscape architect about the proposal to separate the railroad tracks from South Anthony Boulevard.

The current plans include what Shoaff called very wide lanes and sloping ground that takes up “an enormous amount of acreage.” The plans were made in a way that the viewer has no idea how the street relates to the rest of the neighborhood.

Shoaff asked why the plans took this form.

“We were trying to make it a nicer experience for the drivers,” the landscape architect said.

“The drivers are going to be through there in 60 seconds,” Shoaff responded. “The people you have to worry about are the people who live there.”

Exactly. As Shoaff said, traffic engineers are very competent in their line of work, but they are trained to work on behalf of the motorist, not on behalf of the neighborhood. Neighborhood concerns should be truly weighed when road work is planned in the city.

Shoaff’s discussion on this conversation begins at about the 46-minute mark of the video.

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Recommended reading on State Boulevard widening

I’m way late commenting on this story, since it ran in the April 1 Journal Gazette.

But “State of State Boulevard” by Stacey Stumpf is an excellent read on the city’s plan to widen and straighten State Boulevard west of Clinton Street.

It’s excellent because it clearly presents the city’s case for the construction and residents’ concerns over the destruction of a portion of the neighborhood.

But my sympathies are with Councilman John Shoaff, who has been very critical of the city’s plans. From the editorial:

“The major problem is the concept and the goal is wrong,” Shoaff said. “Coliseum Boulevard was created to be a major arterial. I-469 was created to be a major arterial, and that’s all good and appropriate. State Boulevard was not. All of this is just a very inappropriate intrusion into neighborhoods with an arterial expansion.”

My thoughts: Wouldn’t the widening of State Boulevard be less necessary if the city goes through with its plan of extending Spring Street past Wells Street to Clinton? More narrow streets is a much more friendly solution than a four- to five-lane highway through an existing neighborhood.

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The roads that hate pedestrians by design

More poor people are moving into the suburbs, which means more pedestrians in neighborhoods which were built with only cars in mind.

This report examines the many obstacles to making multi-lane roads safer for pedestrians.

What roads around Fort Wayne have similar problems?

Update: Here’s my 2008 post on a dangerous crossing on North Clinton Street in Fort Wayne.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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The highways of the future!

From YouTube:

An excerpt from the 1958 Disneyland TV Show episode entitled Magic Highway USA. In this last part of the show, an exploration into possible future Transportation technologies is made. It’s hard to believe how little we’ve accomplished on this front since 1958, and how limited the scope for imagining such future technologies has become. Witness an artifact from a time where the future was greeted with optimism. Note the striking animation style here, achieved with fairly limited animation and spectacular layouts.

As Tom Vanderbilt says:

A few parts Norman Bel Geddes, add a dash of atomic utopianism, a twist of Broadacre City, and follow with a Wall-E chaser.

atomiccity1

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What’s your verdict on Calhoun Street?

Calhoun Street demolitionCalhoun Street in downtown Fort Wayne from Washington Boulevard to Berry Street was demolished, and rebuilt, and is now a two-way street. What do you think?

Please leave specific comments, either criticisms or commendations, in the box below. If you’re a first-time commenter, your comment won’t appear until it’s approved.

Oh, and if you post a photo of the new Calhoun Street online, please post a link to that, too.

Photo © Scott Spaulding

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The expressway that never happened

The urban interstateBrian Stouder left an interesting comment on the previous post about my “Longing for a City” talk:

If I was going to ask a question – it would have been what you thought of the old Fort Wayne’s massive mistake of NOT adding an expressway along with the railway elevation project, back in the day. My dad (who grew up in Fort Wayne in the ’30’s and 40’s, and came of age in the ’50’s) always used to express mortification at our city’s decision to skip the expressway – and the reasons for that rejection.

Indeed, the News-Sentinel ran a very big and informative feature series on just that subject something like 10 or 15 years ago (written, in whole or in part, by Alan Derringer, as I recall) which confirmed all the things my dad always used to say.

If the expressway had existed, the bypasses wouldn’t have the glitter (and the concurrent development) that they attained, and the city would be all the more vibrant – in my opinion.

Which begs the question – why WOULD we really “miss” (at least the attitudes) of old Fort Wayne? They certainly had consequences.

The reasons for that rejection, if I remember correctly, was pure and simple racial prejudice, at least according to The News-Sentinel article referenced above.

Now, that’s a lousy reason, but I’m not sure an urban expressway — that would later have become Interstate 69 — is an 100 percent positive thing.

One obvious problem is the destruction of in-the-way neighborhoods and buildings, and considering we’re talking about the 1950s, who knows what treasures we would have lost.

But a second problem is the cleaving of the city in two along this manmade border. An interstate highway is a dead zone through a city with too-few connections, and those connections are stark bridges and dark underpasses.

But what do you think? Would the benefits of an urban expressway have outweighed the detriments?

– Photo courtesy the U.S. Department of Transportation

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