I never read Garys op-ed, but Erics response makes great reading. It eschews the accusatory, selfish language often found in driver vs cyclist exchanges, and focuses on the positive aspects of cycling in a community, much of which you’d never know unless you had cycled. Among other things, Eric says:
Whether it’s riding bikes downtown for happy hour, to the grocery store or to go on a hike, putting people close to the places and services they need makes biking a great choice.
Biking, by implication for most people has distance limitations, earlier in his response, Eric says when discussing the surge in biking fatalities:
The safety of people on bikes is the highest priority. Given the steady rise of death and serious injury across the country to people biking and walking, Boulder and most American communities are not doing enough to make people safe. Increases in vehicle size, distracted driving and the number of miles driven all contribute to a dangerous environment for anyone not in a car.
This is why I argue my home town, Louisville CO should focus more on non-car residents, than catering increasingly to the demands of drivers for more roads, more quick right-on-red lanes, and parking garages.
Cyclists, pedestrians, and people on personal electric vehicles including ebikes and scooters having visited one location in the neighborhood, are not simply going to leave and travel 10-miles to the next. They’ll stay local. They generate more income for a town. Eric makes the point when he says:
Lastly, people and community are the bond that makes bicycle-friendly cities amazing. Not a week goes by when I don’t see several of my friends around Boulder while on bike. Whether stopping to chat or riding together to our destinations, community is what makes biking so great. That many of my friends live a short distance away by bike is such a pleasure.
If only car and truck drivers would see cyclists, and personal electric vehicles, and even public transport in a positive light, and treat the users with respect and make their safety priority #1 – then more people would adopt this for transport leaving fewer cars on the road and more parking spaces available.
I wrote an in Op-Ed in the Colorado Hometown weekly back in December 2018. On August 21st, CHW printed a follow-up. The website for the Hometown Weekly seems to have stopped updating back in April, so I’ve reproduced it here.
It is, I think, very germain to the November Louisville CO election. There are 3x councillors and a new mayor up for election. I attended the City consultation on the Transportation Master Plan, and there are little to no improvements under discussion for Main St.
Louisville can change and still be historic
If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same, except they won’t.
Back in January this year, the Louisville City Council got the feedback it asked for from the Louisville Revitalization Commission (LRC) on a design and cost for a multi-story parking garage in the heart of downtown. Citizens showed up ‘en masse’ and rejected the concept. The city council agreed not to proceed, everyone was relieved.
Except that’s not what the council actually did. The city council agreed that “this council” would direct staff not to spend any more time working on a parking garage at “that site”, the site being the surface parking lot next to Sweet Cow.
Since then the LRC has had a number of resignations; in November the city will elect a new mayor and two new Councillors. So “this council” will no longer exist, and LRC with a host of new members will be pushing to deliver economic sustainability for downtown Louisville.
Add into the mix that the former ConocoPhillips’ (StorageTec) Campus is finally getting developed over 12-years and based on Daily Camera reporting will create “a new, mixed-use neighborhood featuring a 500,000-square-foot campus designed for a corporate headquarters — which reportedly already has an interested tenant — as well as a 1,500-unit senior living facility, and more than 3.4 million square feet designated for office, retail and hotel space.” and in the words of the developer “connect seamlessly with Historic Downtown Louisville”.
If nothing changes, the parking garage will be back somewhere, sometime soon. There is another way.
Louisville downtown/old town is a small compact area. It is served by much of the town from within 2-miles. The ConocoPhillips campus is less than 3-miles away. The challenge for Louisville is how to continue to enhance downtown while avoiding an $11+ million parking garage and strangling downtown with cars. If the garage was used to its full capacity, that would be hundreds of additional cars per day in downtown at least. Before we go any further, I’m not anti-car, we own two, neither of them is electric or hybrid. I’m pro people, pro a compact, safe, walk-able downtown. We often ride bikes and occasionally walk to downtown from a mile or so away.
We can make that the default for the majority of residents, leaving the parking spaces to those who have no choice. We do though need to go further. The core of downtown doesn’t need to be pedestrianized, but pedestrians do need to be prioritized. If I’m at Sweet Cow, and want to get to the History museum, I shouldn’t need to even think about driving. Once I get back in my car, I’m not limited to going somewhere else locally, I can go to Boulder, Broomfield, Westminster, even Denver. Continually enabling cars doesn’t provide economic viability, it provides traffic and congestion.
I should be able to cross diagonally at intersections, I should be able to cross mid-block, I shouldn’t have to fear cars won’t see me. Instead of shoehorning bike racks in on valuable sidewalk space, we should be dedicating a parking space on every block for bike and micro-mobility parking. We shouldn’t wait for electric scooters, bikes and whatever else to get mysteriously dumped in downtown Louisville and become a problem. We should be embracing and designing for it now as a solution.
Vehicles coming to downtown should be exactly that, coming to downtown. Not driving through it. The Louisville History Museum in their Summer 2019 newsletter revealed that “nearly 10,000 vehicles pass through the Pine and Main intersection each day”. If those vehicles were coming to downtown we’d already have an economically viable downtown. The majority are not. Stand on the corner by Moxie Bread Co in the evening, or on an art walk or street faire night, and try to get to Huckleberry Restaurant and Bakery. You shouldn’t have to wait for traffic to stop twice, to stair with trepidation into the windshield of cars wondering if the drivers see you. Vehicle speeds in the downtown core should be restricted to 10MPH and enforced. People coming to downtown won’t mind the 10MPH speed limit, after all they are less than 1/2 a mile from their destination.
On August 22, the City starts rolling out it’s Transportation Master Plan or TMP. The TMP will be used to prioritize investment over maybe the next 5-10 years. We should ensure that the investment goes into connecting people, not cars, to downtown. Everyone who lives within a 1.5-2-mile radius should know it’s quicker, easier and safer to get downtown without a car than it is with.
Louisville, it doesn’t have to stay the same to stay historic.
This Forbes article came up again recently. My hometown, Louisville CO, is still struggling with how to incentivise redevelopment downtown, following the “collapse” of their parking garage initiative run for the city by the Louisville Revitalization Commission (LRC).
I even applied for a vacant seat on the LRC, which I didn’t get. Better that than being one of those people who just complain at every opportunity.
I’ve encouraged the Mayor and Councillors to do more to make it easy for people that could get downtown without using private cars, to do so. Disappointingly, nothing has happened in the 3-years I’ve been here. The trail connection underpass long promised for 2018, which doesn’t really help get people downtown, has even been delayed. It’s even allegedly in the mix for the cities new Transportation Master Plan prioritization. Which assumes it might not get priority?
Car drivers often operate under a car “driven” mindset/false dichotomy that they can drive somewhere else for “free”
Car drivers often operate under a car “driven” mindset/false dichotomy that they can drive somewhere else for “free” to get a cheaper deal, a different meal, a better choice etc. When the opposite is true, not only are they using their car, fuel, wear and tear, but they are also doing the same to the roads. Ten of thousands of journeys quickly add up.
Cyclists & pedestrians don’t have the same mindset. Even with good, frequent, easily accessible transport options, they are much less likely to think, “oh, I’ll pop to xyz to see what they have.”. I should be obvious that non-car drivers value their time more, and instead of spending it travelling to the mall, to the next city over, they take advantage of what’s close by.
There is though a symbiotic relationship between how people travel, and the what is there when they arrive. This is why a city believes they have to provide parking, otherwise people won’t arrive by car. In a small city like Louisville, with close-in neighborhoods that’s not the way it has to be.
Just because people don’t drive a car, doesn’t mean the place they are travelling to can be a take-it-or-leave-it, subpar destination. Start by prioritizing non-car travel. Make it easy, convenient, and safe to get to by foot, by bike, e-bike and yes. scooters, and then re-develop the properties to provide a first class destination.
That makes a ton more sense than building an expensive parking garage, that causes years of disruption during construction and then incentivise developers to re-develop. The more people you can get out of cars now, the less space for them you will need in the future and the less people will demand it.
This is one of the best blogs of many on the Strong Towns blog. American suburbia is only viable with heavy government subsidy and planning — It would be unaffordable otherwise.
As we see the Growth Ponzi Scheme unwinding and the first decades of what journalist Alan Ehrenhalt has called The Great Inversion, Americans are experiencing a return to normal living conditions. In many ways, it’s a traumatic transition; who-moved-my-cheese on a continental economic scale.
If you had 100 destinations you’d have removed some of the major bottlenecks, but we don’t. We have the Central Business District. It’s a major constraint and getting people in cars in and out of it no matter how automated the cars are will have the same fundamental problems and constraints. Anyone who says otherwise really doesn’t understand the problem.
There has been a lot written recently about (semi) Autonomous Vehicles (SAVs) aka Self driving cars. Especially yesterday following the Tesla announcement, see also this NPR report.
Self driving cars have long been held out as a solution. They arrive when you need them, they take you to your destination at regulated speeds, they can adjust to traffic congestion, and collisions, road work etc. Once you’ve arrived, they disappear not requiring a parking space either in a building, or on the street. Nirvana.
Proposing self driving cars as a solution to traffic congestion, where the congestion is caused by constraints is simply a nonsense. They are a first world solution, to a first world problem. “Why can’t I text/read/sleep while I’m stuck in traffic?”
There has long been discussion among the urban transportation advocates, while they promise to reduce accidents and better manage traffic density and improve capacity through stable and reduced “headway” (the distance between cars). Anyone who proposes they can solve traffic congestion without understanding the constraints and capacity issues, just doesn’t understand the challenge. This Forbes article screams “Self-Driving Cars Would Slash Traffic, End Street Parking” yet aside from the obvious nod to headway and predictability doesn’t address the problem. This Qoura discussion covers many of the points
Here is a response I wrote yesterday on the issue to the #ATXRail mailing list. It refers to an earlier post that discussed in some technical detail the problems of scheduling and capacity.
Again, I find myself being the naysayer, Roger Cauvin made some extremely salient and possibly too technical points about any transit system design, but especially as it relates to individual transit options such as autonomous cars. The problem that most simply don’t understand is the scheduling and availability of these cars at scale.
First, whats scale? How many would be needed to make a real difference? Scale certainly isn’t a hundred, it’s not a thousand, it’s probably 10,000 maybe more. Second, lets assume these are free movement vehicles, they don’t run on track or are constrained by guide rails. Third, lets assume that they are capable of transporting 2-3 max. but the assumed capacity is one passenger. Fourth, lets also assume these are not individually owned vehicles, or at least if they are, they are available ala Uber/Lyft for other people to book. Fifth, lets assume they are electric and capable of driving themselves to charging stations where they either connect or are connected to a recharge point.
Now we have the basics of your capacity based system and you can start working on its constraints. What you don’t have is any real clue about the usage patterns, how they’ll be used, who by, for what, at what time and so on. Until you can produce even a first pass for this you cannot make any assumption that autonomous vehicles can solve anything except perhaps more consistent traffic flow, and improved emissions. Anyone who claims autonomous cars can solve anything without this data is simply blowing smoke and must be pushed back on.
They are great for private vehicle journeys. I have a Mercedes that will already follow a GPS journey, has variable cruise control that will slow down and speed up the car based on the MAX speed of the vehicle a set distance in front and will bring the car to a stop based on either breaking vehicles or an obstruction in front; it pretty much does everything except steer, but it vibrates the steering column to let you know when to turn and when you’ve are moving out of a lane etc. This type of vehicle which we’ll see for all new vehicles in the next 5-7 years, if not before, will much better regulate driving.
They’ll minimize the concertina effect of drivers speeding up, jumping lanes and breaking too hard which will make congested roads flow much more smoothly. In practice they can also stop people jumping traffic lights, travelling faster than the legal speed limit and other traffic law infringements.
This begs question will drivers allow this to happen, and can insurance companies be convinced to drive the adoption of it?
So assuming all that gets done, autonomous vehicles will become totally acceptable and usable. And then we’ll have the scheduling issues that Roger alluded to. They are real.
Having self driving parks valet park themselves is cool, the question is where? At scale, say 5,000, you need at least say 2,000 spaces, and over night, probably 4,000. Lets those spaces also need to be charging points. Someone has to invest in building and powering those points. The “free” market will(really?). Then all you have to go is schedule cars between where they are, the users, the users destinations, and the parking spaces. When the primary destination is still downtown Austin, you have some massive constraints, not magical relief.
Although I don’t work in that area now, I work on computer systems scheduling for 15-years, specializing on at-scale systems. These were airline, banking and transaction systems. That had very similar constraints in so much as they all used run one one or two mainframe systems. I was the lead architect for a system we spent more than 2-years modelling an internet banking system that eventually successfully supported 900,000 concurrent users on two servers. I helped fixed the design and scheduling for a single system that supported 23,000 concurrent users, a record at the time. Before you all say but yeah cloud computing has changed all that, it really hasn’t.
The design and use pattern considerations Roger discussed are key. If you had 100 destinations you’d have removed some of the major bottlenecks, but we don’t. We have the Central Business District. It’s a major constraint and getting people in cars in and out of it no matter how automated the cars are will have the same fundamental problems and constraints. Anyone who says otherwise really doesn’t understand the problem.
It’s true, as automated cars become standard features of our cities, it will be easier and easier to write the scheduling rules to make them work within the unique constraints each city has. Austin will have more than many cities constraints because of the sprawl, because of the access road problems, and especially if we have not viable alternatives.
On the “self driving” Mercedes observation, I had never thought of trying this.
One of the problems we have, that comes from growth is so many places are having infrastructure work. Google are all over south Austin laying underground conduit for fiber optic cables, mostly though they are not the problem, apart from a half day here or there where the close off a lane.
The RapidBus dedicated lanes have caused some problems downtown, but slowly people have got used to not using the bus lanes, although you still see the occasional complete screw-up with cars stuck in the bus lane, usually turning into the lane too quickly to make a left or right turn, and then along comes the bus.
However, at least as noted before, what we have downtown is a really poor planning and implementation of the infrastructure work. As I said in this post back in January, This is another example of small city planning, big city desires. Lavaca St a core south/north route has now been effectively reduced to one lane for the most part of 18-months.
Google maps unfortunately has some gaps, but streetview shows last year, with a picture from this morning. I wrote to city planning today, but I’m guessing there will be some plausible reason.
The city needs to take control, there needs to be better coordination, less adhoc, private work, traffic lane planning and so on. I’d even have the city coordinate through the special events office to make sure that even temporary closure of roads to move cranes, scaffolding and other large construction materials in and out are coordinated. Finally, I’d implement a series of fines for companies that over run on repairs, irrespective of whom they are working for, or what the reason was.
Congestion has a very real financial impact, if Austin really wants to be a big city, it has to start acting like one.
April 2013 Before the chaos
April 2014 The bus lane goes in the roadworks start
Feb. 2014 Roadworks seriously overrunning
June 2014 – Clear for the summer when no one is around
There is a better choice and it’s worth the wait, Austin’s strongest and densest corridor: Guadalupe-North Lamar.. Communities want light rail on that route and have written it into the neighborhood plans. The FTA has said it would consider funding a MetroRapid bus-to-light rail conversion in that corridor.
From where I see it, this was never about rail, it was always about developing an under-developed corridor of central Austin. A previously undesirable corridor because of it’s proximity to I35 and the noise and congestion associate, along with specific properties, which, without rail wouldn’t be nearly as viable or valuable.
One reason I have not posted to my blog recently is the fact I’ve been spending my time lobbying, writing an posting on why this is the wrong solution. Since my last blog a lot of additional material and discussion has happened. Also, long overdue I’ve joined AURA, a number of their members have produced some great information. I was also impressed with Roger Cauvins’ calm, logical argument at the recent KUT Views and Brews. You can hear the whole Views and Brews here.
From where I sit, this was never about rail, it was always about developing an under-developed corridor of central Austin. A previously undesirable corridor because of it’s proximity to I35 and the noise and associated congestion, along with specific properties, which, without rail wouldn’t be nearly as viable or valuable.
An AURA blog post nails where the funding for much of the pro prop-1 support is coming from, and by doing so also confirms what I thought, and had previously heard about the route for the rail in Prop-1.
It’s also well worth listening or watching the following City of Austin Central Corridor Advisory Group. For those that are short of time, use the menu to skip to the citizens communication section and listen to the first speaker, Mike Dahmus. Having been surprised by the direction and format of the meeting, that basically rubber stamped the route, Mike discussed what was wrong with the selection and the proposal. If you can, continue to listen through the Mueller developers, to Linden Henry and David Dobbs, possibly the two qualified people in Austin on transport.
If you can’t be bothered to listen, Mike has written this elsewhere on the Prop-1 rail proposal.
Project Connect has ignored public input in favor of misrepresentation and obfuscation to justify the predetermined route preference of UT and speculative development interests. Please don’t fall for the premise that this somehow represents good transit planning; so far, most knowledgeable Austin transit activists oppose the plan, and every national transit advocate/expert who has spoken up about it has been amazed at how badly the process was run and how stupid the recommended plan is.
Prop-1 route was decided and heavily influenced by developers, and then a justification sought. It’s easy to see that those in the urban sprawl areas, will vote against this because they’d never use it, and will add circa $300 per year to their property taxes yet many of them commute into the central business district.Meanwhile, those, especially long term residents in the central districts, Zilker, Bouldin, Travis Heights etc. who have seen huge property tax increases as the property value increased, face another $400 per year for a system they can’t use and for which for the most part won’t help with traffic congestion.
It’s worth remembering that unless you die, or move out, an improved property value is worth zero, nothing, nada. However, the tax burden is real. The elderly, retired and those barely surviving now due to increased costs, will now be further penalized by the increased taxes which are proportionately much higher, due to their higher per sq foot property value, which will ultimately force more people to sell their properties and move out, further gentrifying those neighborhoods.
It’s been an interesting month. I live in Austin Texas, boom town USA. Everything is happening in construction, although nothing much in transport. In many ways Austin reminds me of rapidly developing cities in China, India and other developing countries. I’ve travelled some inside Texas, but most on I10 and out East. I’ve tended to dismiss what I’ve seen in small towns, mostly because I figured they were unrepresentative.
Earlier this month I did my first real US roadtrip. I had my Mum with me for a month and figured a week or so out of the heat of Texas would be a good thing. We covered 2,500 miles, most up from North West Texas, also New Mexico, and Colorado. On the way back we went via Taos, Santa Fe, and Roswell and then back through West Texas.
There they were small town after small town, decaying. Every now and again you’d drive through a bigger town that wasn’t as bad, but overall massive decay, mostly in the commercial space. Companies had given up, gone bust, or got run out of town by a Walmart 30-50 miles away. Even in the bigger ones, there was really no choice, there were Dollar Stores, Pizza Hut, McDonalds or Burger King, Sonic or Dairy Queen, and gas stations. Really not much else, except maybe a Mexican food stop.
It was only just before sunset on the drive back through West Texas, with my Mum asleep in the backseat, I worked out that my camera and telephoto lens rested perfectly between the steering wheel and the dashboard and I started taking pictures. These are totally representative with what I’ve seen all over Texas. Just like the small towns out near Crockett and Lufkin in East Texas; pretty similar to anything over near Midland; outside El Paso; down south towards Galveston. Decaying Texas.
What there were plenty of, in the miles and miles of flat straight roads, were oil derricks, and tankers, hundreds upon hundreds of them. It’s not clear to me what Governor Perry means when he talks about the Texas Miracle, but these small towns, and to some degree, smaller cities have more in common with the towns and cities in China and India, slowly being deserted, run down in the rush to the big cities.
Interestingly, while writing and previewing this entry on wordpress, it suggested the mybigfatwesttexastrip, which ends with the following
The pictures above tell the story of a dying West Texas town and the changing landscape of population movement away from the agrarian society to the city.