Saturday, December 3, 2011

If We Just Had 100 More Parking Spaces...

While on a little brainstorming walkabout with some other folks today we stumbled upon a tree crew cutting down all the trees in the lowest parking lot behind the Capitol. According to some of the crewmen the state is planning to remove the traffic islands down there so they can squeeze 100 more parking spots into the space.

Here's the Google Map view. See those trees in the parking lots on the left side?
Aerial view from Google

The ones here in the Google Streetview?
Google Street View

They're all gone now:
No Trees 1

I'm sure the bushes aren't too far behind...
No Trees with Capitol Dome

The sidewalk is going away too:
No Trees on Sidewalk

Another stump:
No Trees with Capitol Dome 2

The view from atop the stairs on the west side. All of those traffic islands used to have some nice shade trees in them. No more:
No Trees with Smokestack

The really amazing part about the state's approach is that they seem to be completely ignoring ways that might simply lessen the supposed need for parking spaces. I can think of several changes that would make alternatives to driving more attractive to state workers, and when there are viable alternatives to driving, example after example worldwide shows that people will use them.

For instance, five different Central Arkansas Transit bus routes go by this stop on 7th Street between Marshall and Wolfe every day, two of them express routes. Yet look how desolate (not to mention super-hot in summertime) the walk would be down to the Capitol Mall:
7th Street Bus Stop

And here's the stop across the street for the return trip. Anyone getting off the bus here has to cross four lanes of fast-moving 7th Street car traffic with no crosswalk and then walk across a 2.5 acre sea of hot asphalt full of cars. The bus stop signs give no indication of what routes they serve much less any information about those routes' schedules, so anyone wishing to ride has to do a lot of pre-planning. (If you are interested, here's a link to the map, the #3 schedule, the #5, the #17, and the #25 and #26 express routes. The #1 and #8 lines stop on the north side of the Capitol complex on 3rd street. And finally, the #11 stops at the corner of Woodlane and 7th on the SE corner of the Capitol grounds.)
7th Street Bus Stop 2

So, eight bus routes make multiple stops on different sides of the Capitol grounds, yet there seems to have been no thought or effort put forth to make the experience more pleasant for transit riders on their walk between the stops and the buildings they work in. The State bends over backwards to devote more and more limited space to cars in reaction to a perceived parking problem, but what have they done to actually solve that problem? What have they done to make it easy and convenient for employees to ride the bus? What have they done to make biking to work safe and convenient? 100 people deciding to ride a bus to work is no different from carving out 100 new parking spaces, except 100 new transit riders would have allowed those trees to continue providing a little shade for the cars in the parking lot.

I bet some very small steps toward improving the connections to the bus stops would result in way more than 100 state employees choosing to ride transit to work. That seems like a smarter long-term solution than just slashing trees and paving everything in sight... and a much better use of my tax dollars.


  1. Nice blog Tim. Saw it referenced in the Arkansas Blog. I support your vision and will add this to one of the two blogs I follow.

    I had no idea the Capitol grounds were being raped of trees and pedestrian facilities like side walks. The lack of facilities for pedestrians is in keeping with the archaic mentality of the Arkansas department of cars and trucks.

    Signed, Ron Rizzardi

  2. Excellent Tim. This issue reminds me of a related concern I've had for years which is that the state puts far too much at risk with our current system which essentially puts planning and the preservation of the Capitol up for grabs every four years. We really need to place more value on some of the institutional knowledge that is there or else it gets thrown out the door every time a new Secretary of State takes office. What Arkansas needs is an office of Architect of the Capitol whose responsibility is the preservation and long term health of the Capitol and grounds. Rather than putting these things to the whim of irresponsible public officials, the office and it's staff need to be separated from the political process.

    Perhaps this would be a means to avoid misguided and shortsighted mistakes?

    Aaron Ruby, AIA, LEED AP

  3. Thanks Ron.
    Aaron- great idea! Do you know if other states do something similar?

  4. In Maryland there's a State House Trust that "supervises all improvements, alterations, additions, landscaping, and repairs" to the building and the surrounding area. The Trust is overseen by a board that includes elected officials, but the state has a professional staff that does long-term planning and maintains that important institutional knowledge.

  5. I want to move from arkansas to madison wisconsin. How much is a sfe amount of money to have saved? Not including moving cost. Enough to live on until we find jobs etc.. are jobs easy to find there?