Friday, May 8, 2015

Tidying Up the Urbanist Loose Ends

There always seems to something further that can be written on past topics.  Today will be a day to add supplement details to past discussions on transit funding, Petaluma Urban Chat, City Repair, and curvy bike paths.

Petaluma Transit Advisory Committee: As previously described, the Petaluma Transit Advisory Committee, on which I serve, met yesterday to consider an agenda with items of broader scope than our usual agenda items.

After hearing from the Friends of SMART and the Greenbelt Alliance, the committee voted to ask the Petaluma City Council to consider devoting a portion of the funds from the upcoming Measure A, if it passes, to transit.  Except for the one committee member who missed the meeting, the vote was unanimous.

The suggested transit funding was ten percent of the increased sales tax proceeds, an amount that is roughly consistent with pledges previously made by the Sonoma County Supervisors and by the Cities of Santa Rosa and Sonoma.

The use to which Petaluma Transit would put the funds was left undecided, but several possibilities for enhanced service were noted.

The agenda also included an update from a SMART representative about the interfaces between Petaluma Transit and SMART, including bus stop location, train schedule, and development plans for the mixed-use complex planned for the parcel adjoining the station.  No resolutions were reached, but lines of communication were opened, which was appropriate with SMART’s beginning of fare service barely 18 months away.

Petaluma Urban Chat: A recent post on food truck parks elicited a number of interested responses, including from folks who are planning on putting their own trucks on the street and folks who have been considering developing food truck parks.  Accordingly, I’ve scheduled a food truck discussion for the upcoming Petaluma Urban Chat meeting, Tuesday, May 12, 5:30pm, at the Aqus Caf√© at 2nd and H Streets.

Admittedly, most of the folks who contacted me about the food truck post haven’t yet confirmed their attendance for the meeting, so we may mostly end up talking with each other, but there are worse things that talking urbanist philosophy over a cold beer.

Also, the meeting will be somewhat curtailed.  Aqus has scheduled a Sustainability Mixer for 6:30pm the same evening.  I’m planning on staying around for the mixer, although I’m often a bit cranky at sustainability meetings.  It bothers me that many of the sustainability causes championed at meetings like this tend to be dealing with the impacts of drivable sprawl and yet few folks, except for the Urban Chat attendees, talk about the alternative to drivable sprawl.  But I usually hide my crankiness well.

City Repair: Next, I recently wrote that the flurry of City Repair ideas from fall 2013 had mostly disappeared without a trace, the only possible exception being neighborhood libraries.

However, one of those lost projects has continued moving ahead quietly and with little notice.  In the next week, an on-line survey should be distributed to neighbors about the traffic on Fair Street in front of Petaluma High School.  The results may be used to formulate a City Repair intervention on the street, which is particularly wide and prone to car/pedestrian conflicts.

When available, I’ll provide a link to the survey.

Curves versus Gentle Bends: Last, I recently vented about curvy bicycle/pedestrian paths, arguing that tight curves impeded efficient travel for no valid reason.  A bicycling architect who I know well promptly responded that long straight stretches are boring for bicyclists.

Perhaps I could have been more precise in my description of the types of path to which I was taking offense, although I would have expected that my endorsement of “a gently bending street that provides constantly changing vistas to draw pedestrians onward” would have made it clear that I wasn’t arguing for long straight streets.

But just to make the point completely clear, I love long radius curves that provide a continuously changing backdrop for travel by foot or on bike.  Regent Street in London is my go-to example, but I’m unable to find a photo in my files.  Noble Street in the Uptown District of Dallas will serve instead.  I think Noble Street is how city streets should be designed and encourage urban designers to follow that approach where possible.

Conversely, I detest tight little curves that slow travel and serve no point except feeding the ego of the designer.  The new bike path at the Petaluma soccer fields on E. Washington Street is a fine example.

I hope this makes my thinking perfectly clear.

Even worse, the architect prefaced his comments with “Spoken like a true engineer.”  Nothing like relying on imprecise stereotypes to make a point.  Harrumph.

In my next post, I’ll begin my summary of the best moments from CNU 23, the recent annual meeting of the Congress from the New Urbanism.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

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