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St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

August 18, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

Last month I wrote about a new book, an excellent design guide, see Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. I loved it so much I asked the publisher to send me the rest pf the hardcover guides: Transit Street, Urban Bikeway, and Global Street. All information in the printed guide books is available for free online.

There are some here trying to get the City of St. Louis to become a member city of the National Association of Transportation Officials (NATCO). Who you ask?

NACTO’s mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life.

We do this by:

  • Communicating a bold vision for 21st century urban mobility and building strong leadership capacity among city transportation officials.
  • Empowering a coalition of cities to lead the way on transportation policy at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Raising the state of the practice for street design that prioritizes people walking, biking, and taking transit.

Here’s their intro video:

Since St. Louis, and the region by extension, does the opposite of what NACTO recommends, we could benefit greatly if the city joined — and followed their lead. But I doubt the traffic engineers in the Streets Dept and the like-minded engineers at the Board of Public Service are willing to change the way things have always been done.

Peer cities like Indianapolis, Memphis, and Nashville are affiliate members. Click image for their member cities page

Again, see various departments fighting NACTO’s recommendations. In the coming months I plan posts showing the NACTO way vs the St. Louis way.

— Steve Patterson

 

16th & Market Curb Ramp Slightly Less Shoddy Than It Was

July 31, 2017 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on 16th & Market Curb Ramp Slightly Less Shoddy Than It Was

Over a year ago I posted about one of the many poorly design/constructed curb ramps in this city, see Shoddy Curb Ramp/Crosswalk At 16th Street & Market St  from May 2016. Here are a couple of images from that post:

May 2016: The pained crosswalk was to left of the line, but most pf the ramp was to the right. Plus, the ramp violated the “no lips” rule. One corner of the tactile surface hangs over the curb!
May 2016; Looking West across 16th St at Market, note the location of the crosswalk relative to the detectable warning mat.

At some point in the last year I was told the city will be correcting this ramp. I’ve been through this intersection a lot over the last few months and hadn’t noticed a change — until the other day. While I was glad to see the city hadn’t forgotten about it, I was disappointed by what was done.

The old ramp was torn out and a new one poured. New asphalt fills in the gap that was removed to form the new ramp.
Another view. Like most ramps, this one is still too high so the asphalt helps make up for the error. Not ADA-compliant.
Looking West. Hopefully the crosswalk will be changed at some point, but the ramp still directs you into the intersection.

So the city has gone from an “F” to a “C-“. How much did this cost? What does it take for the city to do A or B work?

I know, I should just accept this city doesn’t care about pedestrian like it does motorists, crappy pedestrian infrastructure has been the norm for too long.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials

July 28, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Reading Comments Off on Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials

Though I receive a lot of new books, it’s rare to see a technical best practices manual — plus hardcover with tons of full-color photos and illustrations. But last month I received just such a book.

Though not a compelling novel for the nightstand, Urban Street Stormwater Guide is very intriguing nonetheless. It’s from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and published by Island Press.

Overview

The Urban Street Stormwater Guide illustrates a vision of how cities can utilize one of their best assets—streets—to address resiliency and climate change while creating public spaces that are truly public, and nurturing streets that deliver social and economic value while protecting resources and reconnecting natural ecological processes.

About The Guide

The Urban Street Stormwater Guide is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between city transportation, public works, and water departments to advance the discussion about how to design and construct sustainable streets. The Urban Street Stormwater Guide provides cities with national best practices for sustainable stormwater management in the public right-of-way, including core principles about the purpose of streets, strategies for building inter-departmental partnerships around sustainable infrastructure, technical design details for siting and building bioretention facilities, and a visual language for communicating the benefits of such projects. The guide sheds light on effective policy and programmatic approaches to starting and scaling up green infrastructure, provides insight on innovative street design strategies, and proposes a framework for measuring performance of streets comprehensively. (NACTO)

Even though it’s interesting, I don’t think many of you are ready to pay $44,99 for either the hardcover or electronic version. Good news — you don’t have to! The entire guide is online for free. Yes, free. This means everyone who’s interested can learn about best practices for managing stormwater on urban streets, I suggest emailing links of sections you think we need do consider to elected officials.

The following image is the main sections of the book & website:

Click image to view the guide online.

They are:

  1. Streets are Ecosystems
  2. Planning for Stormwater
  3. Stormwater Streets
  4. Stormwater Elements
  5. Partnerships & Performance

Each has many subsections. Everything is very technical, but presented in a way those of us who don’t deal with this on a daily basis can still find accessible and understandable.  I like how many hypothetical & real case study examples are used throughout.

Other guides from NACTO are:

Not surprising, St. Louis and the many municipalities in our region are not member cities of  the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Opinion: Razing Vacant Buildings A Short-Term Strategy With Negative Long-Term Consequences

July 26, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Razing Vacant Buildings A Short-Term Strategy With Negative Long-Term Consequences

Razing buildings might seem like the answer, but the unintended consequences shouldn’t be overlooked.Sure, no vacant building but then you’ve got a vacant lot unlikely to be developed. Dumping, high weeds, etc are all nuisances that can happen at vacant lots. While rehabbing an old building is more expensice than building new, it’s also more likely than new infill construction — especially in marginal (low demand) neighborhoods.

Obviously St. Louis doesn’t have the population it had in 1950 — but that was a time of severe overcrowding. The number of housing units didn’t meet the need. As, mostly Northside, neighborhoods continue to empty out it becomes harder and harder to support these areas. What does that mean? Sparsely populated areas with few remaining structures should likely be cut off so limited resources can be focused on more populated areas. However, doing so will have a huge impact on low-income/minority neighborhoods.

This was part of the 1970s Team Four plan, still widely criticized today. From 2014:

Some corners of St. Louis still have hard feelings over the so-called “Team Four” plan of the early 1970s, which studied that approach. And a similar effort to “right-size” Detroit was scuttled a few years ago amid sharp resident opposition. (Post-Dispatch)

You can’t tear down buildings indiscriminately all over the city and not expect consequences.

When I travel throughout neighborhoods I think about many buildings that people, including the Alderman, wanted razed. Many of these are now rehabbed and occupied. Holding onto these structures until a plan could be put together helps bring a positive vibe to struggling neighborhoods.

This building on the NE corner of MLK & Marcus once had a huge hold in the West facade, but it was saved.
This long-vacant building was rehabbed as part of the same project.
Buildings on 14th Street crumbled fore decades but most survived to be rehabbed, Spring 1991

As mentioned above, people were upset about “right-sizing” Detroit. also known as urban triage. From 2009, early on in the effort:

Today, though, more and more people in leadership positions, including Mayor Dave Bing, are starting to acknowledge the need to stop fantasizing about growth and plan for more shrinkage. Growth is as American an ideal as the capitalistic enterprises that fuel it. So by itself, this admission is a step forward.

It’s way overdue. Detroit has been shrinking for 50 years. The city has lost more than half of the 2 million people it had in the early 1950s, but it remains 138 square miles. Experts estimate that about 40 square miles are empty, and Bing has said that only about half the city’s land is being used productively.

The next steps are complicated and largely uncharted. Moving residents into more densely populated districts has legal and moral implications; it must be done with care and the input of those who would be moved. And what do you do with the empty space? The city is already dotted with big vegetable gardens, and one entrepreneur has proposed starting a large commercial farm. Some people advocate bike paths, greenways, and other recreation areas. Surrounded by fresh water, and buffeted by nature reasserting itself on land where factories used to be, Detroit could someday be the greenest, most livable urban area in the country. A city can dream, can’t it? (Newsweek)

You can’t want vacant buildings razed and not expect the least populated areas to be written off. Don’t want to be written off? Stabilize vacant buildings and work to get them rehabbed.

Just over half of those who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll also don’t think razing buildings will help.

Q: Agree or disagree: Tearing down vacant buildings more quickly will help St Louis.

  • Strongly agree 8 [18.18%]
  • Agree 3 [6.82%]
  • Somewhat agree 5 [11.36%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 4 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [6.82%]
  • Disagree 7 [15.91%]
  • Strongly disagree 13 [29.55%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.27%]

Obviously, there isn’t consensus on this issue.

We need to have a serious community discussion about the future of this city. What’s our plan — controlled shrinkage or aggressive infill? Probably both is the best way to proceed. This reminds me about an old planning joke about a city tearing down enough downtown buildings for parking, only then realizing there wasn’t enough downtown left to attract anyone.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Pine @ Tucker Treated Different Than Locust @ Tucker

July 24, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Pine @ Tucker Treated Different Than Locust @ Tucker

In April I wrote how some drivers get confused on one-way Locust approaching Tucker — some turn left from either lane because it’s not properly marked. Two blocks directly South, on Tine St, is the identical situation but properly marked.  Pine is also a 2-lane street one-way Westbound.  But the city treats Locust very different than it does Locust.

Locust has no pavement markings or signs to indicate where drivers should be.

Locust approaching Tucker, from April post

Pine, however, has both pavement markings and at least one sign.

Pine looking West toward Tucker. Pavement markings and sign indicate the left lane must turn left at Tucker.

Maybe AT&T got the city to make this intersection less confusing? Two blocks away is the same type of intersection treated very differently — untreated. I favor having traffic that wants to continue Westbound being in the right lane. with the left lane for left-turn only traffic. When I drive Westbound on Locust I stay in the right lane to cross Tucker, allowing me to get through the intersection and not be caught behind cars waiting on pedestrians to cross Tucker.

Locust should be treated just like Pine.

— Steve Patterson

 

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