Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Parking, planning and bypasses

Today's post is a grab bag of interesting items for your perusal.

1. Envisioning development, and making planning more accessible to citizens. The Town of Cary has created a Virtual Interactive Planner. Here's what Dan Matthys, communications and information planner with the town, had to say about why they did it:
Our development process is actually pretty complex, and it involves processes that have a lot of "it depends" and "maybes," and it wasn’t clear to our citizens when they had a chance to speak and when they didn’t have a chance, how long the process was or what the different steps are to that process. So the mayor asked us to develop something that would be more intuitive, and we decided we needed something fancier than some sort of PowerPoint decision-making tool.
Read more about it, on this planetizen.com story, "Making Planning More Accessible."
(Hat tip to Planetizen.com for that one.)

2. Parking space census. The City of San Francisco is probably the first in the country to have actually counted ALL its parking spaces. Here's a Streetsblog.org piece on the effort. The magic number, it appears, is 442,541 spaces, 280,000 of which are on-street spaces. Its part of a federally funded parking management experiment ("SF's parking experiment to test Shoup's traffic theories") in which the city will experiment with dynamic parking demand management, intended to tell people where the parking spaces are at any given moment so they don't circle and circle, searching. The experiment is funded with a $19.8 million federal congestion mitigation grant.
Parking is a conundrum for most cities. "How we love/hate our parking lots" was my recent op-ed on the topic.

3. USA Today tells us "More cities ban digital billboards." Among U.S. cities that have banned the billboards: Durham; Knoxville, Tenn.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Dallas and Fort Worth and Houston, all in Texas.

And Charlotte? It had the chance to ban them several years ago and after a lengthy stakeholder process (see my stakeholder thoughts "Pulling back the stakeholder curtain" here) opted to allow them.

4. The South Tryon Street road diet experiment has begun ("Another road diet, this one for South Tryon"). I know this because it is right in front of The Observer building, and because I have walked to work twice since blogging about it and I can verify that the bollards are up, AND that Hill Street between South Tryon and Church Street is now two-way.

5. Your highway dollars at work. Ground was broken today on the Sanford bypass. Here's a photo of pols with gold shovels. Sanford is a town of about 27,000 people. The fact that our tax dollars are building it a bypass should raise many, many questions in your mind. The Good Roads State has become the State of Pointless Bypasses.

My theory: No city gets more than one bypass. (Monroe, Shelby et al have failed to control their land use development and have both clogged their bypasses - both of them U.S. 74, as it happens - and in so doing managed to all but gut their downtowns. They aren't the only towns that have done this, they're just two I'm familiar with. And both want new, bypass-bypasses.)


Rodger said...

Mary, I agree with the bypass of the bypass issue. It is a waste. The big problem was the State's design of the roadway (in addition to the town's land use decisions). The state now does so much more with access management (not enough) than it did in those days. The problem for Charlotte residents and everyone else in the region who likes to travel to the beach is that the towns can mess up a "by-pass" which was intended to get through traffic around the town. Same thing happened on 74 going to the mountains.

I did a short paper on the Monroe by-pass in graduate school and just used the old directories you can find in the library. I simply counted the number of businesses in downtown Monroe 10 years, 5 years and the year before the construction of the by-pass and then counted the number of business that began showing up on the highway after the construction of the by-pass and comparing it to the number of businesses downtown. Guess what - businesses opened on the by-pass and closed downtown. There was a pretty direct and obvious correlation between the business growth on the by-pass and the business decline in downtown. In fact, you could even see many of the same business names so it was just the shifting of economic activity from one place to another.

Paul Black said...

Mary, I agree with the state picking some questionable projects, but this is one that makes sense. I live in Cary but work in Sanford regularly. US 421 is a cut off from the Triad to the port in Wilmington and diverts a lot of freight traffic from I-40 that would otherwise go through Raleigh. Currently that freight traffic is a problem in the downtown. This is also a fully access-controlled highway, so we won't need a "bypass of a a bypass" down the road. It's also less than a 20 minute drive from Cary/Apex and 30 minutes to downtown Raleigh on US 1...so it may be what Monroe was to Charlotte 20 years ago.