What is the Strategy for a Vibrant Downtown? Cars or People?

Posted on The Atlantic Cities – Place Matters is a February 12, 2012 article by Chris McCahill and Norman Garrick, Cars and Robust Cities Are Fundamentally Incompatible. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently published a paper that reveals the impacts of automobiles on historicially dense cities around the US by comparing automobile use to the number of residents and employees per square mile over time. The findings are not a surprise for observers of cities. Here is an excerpt from the article:

We found that cities with higher rates of driving have fewer people – a difference of more than 4,000 people per square mile for each 10 percent change in automobile use. As the Penn model suggests, this has to do with the amount of land used to move and store all those cars. As it turns out, the amount of land used for parking is a key indicator of how seriously automobile infrastructure has impacted an urban environment.

The study reveals how the strategy of cities that promote driving as a means to greater prosperity and mobility has failed. Cities that increase driving and increase available parking see people and jobs drop by an average 15% and family incomes decrease 20 to 30%.

Cities that are attracting people are actually reducing available parking. People are living closer to work and to the core downtowns where as many as 30% are walking or biking to their destinations. Here is another excerpt from the article that sums up our current condition:

Today, in many cities, roads and parking facilities continue to grow, as though the problem for the last 50 years has been that the growth was not enough. These cities might be able to guarantee a parking space in front of every destination that still remains (or they might not), but they are likely doing so at the expense of those things that cities really need – namely, people.

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What are the Motivations behind the NLCOG I-49 Connector?

In following up on behalf of the neighbohood group, LOOP-IT, I called the state FHWA to understand what should happen with the complaint filed by LOOP-IT members that were mistreated during the stage one public meetings held in December of 2012. After a phone conversation 1.28.13 with state FHWA representatives Robert Mahoney and Charles Harkless I followed up with the email below. I have not recieved a response and the question bolded in the email still deserves an answer. Who is behind promoting this destructive project after it was twice turned down by the community?

Bob & Charles,

Thank you for taking time today to provide information about the status of the complaint from 3 members of a newly formed Allendale Neighborhood Group in Shreveport, Loop It, LLC. As I mentioned during our conversation I am working for the Allendale residents on a probono basis as a planner advocate. I was asked to provide information to neighborhood residents when their engagement in the NLCOG process left them confused and hopeless.

During our conversation I mentioned a web site about US interstates http://www.interstate-guide.com/i-049.html. In the text concerning I-49 there are references to the loop, no inner city extension and renaming the current inner city. The following is the section text when I began collecting information for the neighborhood over a year ago:

“Louisiana: Interstate 49 North

Presently Interstate 49 terminates at Interstate 20 near downtown Shreveport. Interstate 49 will shift to Louisiana 3132/Inner Loop Expressway and the western portion of Interstate 220 upon completion of the Interstate 49 corridor between Shreveport and Arkansas. There will be no continuation of the in-city routing of Interstate 49 northward as the highway will bypass the city to the west. The existing segment of Interstate 49 between the symmetrical stack interchange at Louisiana 3132 to Interstate 20 will have to be renumbered. It is possible that this may become Interstate 149. Interstate 49 will depart Interstate 220 from a new interchange one mile to the west of the current U.S. 71/Louisiana 1 interchange (Exit 7).1”

The current language at that web site http://www.interstate-guide.com/i-049.html has been modified to reflect the current studies underway:

“Louisiana: Interstate 49 North

Presently Interstate 49 terminates at Interstate 20 near downtown Shreveport. Interstate 49 will shift to Louisiana 3132 (Inner Loop Expressway) and the western portion of Interstate 220 upon completion of the Interstate 49 corridor between Shreveport and Arkansas. It was originally thought that there will be no continuation of the in-city routing of Interstate 49 northward as the route will bypass the city to the west. However new efforts have emerged by the city of Shreveport and local officials to build the I-49 Inner City Connector. The Connector is approximately 3.6 miles in length, leading north from I-20 along Peter Harris Drive to Ford Street and then northwesterly along Twelve mile Bayou to I-220. A Feasibility Study and Environmental Inventory was completed in 2010 and currently an Environmental Impact Statement is being prepared.

Otherwise if I-49 shifts to the bypass, the existing segment of Interstate 49 between the symmetrical stack interchange at Louisiana 3132 to Interstate 20 will have to be renumbered. It is possible that this may become Interstate 149. Continuation of I-49 North from Interstate 220 will occur at a new interchange one mile to the west of the current U.S. 71/Louisiana 1 interchange (Exit 7).1”

I do not understand the motivations for the current initiative or if there is something more than a state legislator who promotes the connector requesting the study. I would appreciate any details of the history of how this very expensive proposal was revived. [emphasis added]

Thanks again for talking with me and listening to my advocacy for inner city transportation solutions that reduce vehicle miles traveled, reduce the unsustainable footprint of the city and promote more open conversations about smart transportation alternatives. I mentioned a web site where the progress of the Allendale residents and Loop It are posted along with stories of other communities and organizations and new policy proposals for transportation investing. I know you can Google “Loop It” as you stated but here is a link to the I-49 Connector posts

I appreciate your consideration of the position of the neighborhood residents and to helping us improve public process in Shreveport.

NLCOG attempts response to LOOP IT and Rep Burrell

A response to the LOOP-IT complaint filed to and against NLCOG was recieved by LOOP-IT on February 14, 2013. Also copied to LOOP-IT is a response to concerns expressed by the legislator promoter of the I-49 connector, Representative Roy Burrell, as he expresses his views that “the public process has been contaminated by special interest groups including…LOOP-IT, LLC.” So, do Roy’s concerns mean he believes that citizens, neighborhood residents threatened by his pet project, should not organize to speak out against injustices of political interests and attempts by our government at wasteful spending? Below is the inital complaint letter followed by the NLCOG response letters.

Two-Way Streets More Efficient in Getting to a Destination

The state Smart Transportaion Initiative (SSTI) posted a story by Chris Spahr, One-way or two-way streets more efficient? It depends on what you measure. Chris tells about the work of Vikash Gayah of Penn State that makes the case in a Transportation Research Board paper that the concept of “trip serving capacity” is a better metric of transportation netowrk efficiency than current transportation engineer measures of vehicle moving capacity, a measure of cars going fast to no particular destination. It is so time for a change in how transportaion planning is accomplished. The following is an excerpt from the story.

“The debate over one-way versus two-way streets has been ongoing for more than half a century in American cities. Counter to prevailing engineering wisdom, a new study finds two- way streets may be more efficient, if one is measuring getting people to their destinations.

Many cities have recognized that two-way streets provide substantial benefits to downtown neighborhoods for a variety of reasons:

  • Two-way streets are better for local businesses that depend heavily on their visibility to passersby.
  • Two-way streets have been found to be safer than one-way streets. One-way streets correlate with higher speeds and decreased levels of driver attention. Pedestrians prefer crossing two-way streets since drivers tend to travel more slowly on them, and vehicular conflicts are more predictable.
  • Two-way streets are much less confusing for downtown visitors than one-way streets.  Visitors driving in a two-way grid network can easily approach their destination from any direction.”