Sunday, April 29, 2012

A History of Jaywalking

Great piece in The Atlantic Cities on the History of Jaywalking.  Check it out.  On a related note and as the recent piece in Slate points out, why to we refer to walkers as 'pedestrians' and not simply 'people'?  I'm taking it back.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On Crosswalks & North Little Rock

I've been reading a lot about walkability. Driving home from work in downtown Little Rock through the two distinctly different parts of Main Street North Little Rock.

Generally speaking, North Little Rock does a good job trying to promote walkability. The work with the Built Environment Committee, largely focusing on Levy is to be lauded. However, there’s work to be done. When you enter into our fair city from downtown Little Rock, you get the 14 year overnight success story that is Argenta. It looks great, despite numerous ‘holes in the teeth’.

But, there’s a distinct visual change when you cross the viaduct in Downtown North Little Rock. You go from Argenta to Holt/Mid City. I suspect everyone just thinks you’re in “North Little Rock” until you hit Park Hill which has a distinct visual change due to its historic replica light poles & medians. And while I could go on & on about the things we need to do to make Park Hill a truly walkable neighborhood (A Third Place, anybody?)

What caught my eye recently was the inhospitably of this part of town to pedestrians.

It was this stop that caught my attention on my drive home from work.

People were getting off the bus, likely coming home from work just like me. They quickly moved to crossing the street while I was waiting at the light, traveling home, north to Park Hill. If they wanted to cross the street (which they did) at the bus stop, at the four-way traffic light, there was no crosswalk! Now this wasn’t the biggest deal given that it was a bright, lovely day outside. But I’ve traveled this road home from an evening in Argenta or the downtown Little Rock. When the sun goes down & it’s black as pitch outside, absent the over-illumination of Argenta, people crossing the street, particularly when they’re dressed in dark clothing, can make for some dangerous situations. God forbid something were to happen to a pedestrian, all I could think is that we’d have another Raquel Nelson situation on our hands.

You can see that attention is paid to signage & florescent colors have been used for signs in recent years. That wasn’t always the case as the sign in the first photo shows.

Additionally, we miss an opportunity to enhance safety at nearby North Little Rock High School.

As you can see above, some of the crosswalk itself is faded & nonexistent. Compare that with crosswalks in Argenta.

While the paint has faded a bit, you can still tell that there’s a change in color & design for the downtown crosswalks. As a driver, you can feel the difference in the stamped concrete that at one point was painted maroon. And there’s the rumble strips for ADA compliance. Now, this was done with TEA-21 money something like 13-14 years ago and that money hasn’t been as available since.

But shouldn’t we invest to make the areas by our schools more walkable? Sure, there’s a crossing guard out nearly every morning, but let’s give him or her the additional tools they need before they jump out in front of a 2,000 lb. car armed with nothing but a sign.

There’s quite a bit of development in the Mid-City/Holt area, largely done by the Argenta CDC. The area is home to strong housing stock and when the economy finally, fully turns around, I suspect this area will see a serious revitalization. It’s very close to downtown Little Rock & Argenta, gas is rising and North Little Rock is hemmed in geographically. This is a good place to invest early. So we should help that by showing that pedestrians matter here. Let’s upgrade the safety of the area & put into place ‘best practice’ for crosswalks, as we have in the Argenta area. And let’s invest in walkability for all of our schools. If we commit to updating just the crosswalks by our schools in order to again make schools an integrated part of our communities, we’d be off to a nice start.

Traffic Explained in Less Than 4 Minutes

Thursday, April 12, 2012

UALR Shuttle Tracking

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock unveiled a two-route shuttle bus system earlier this year dubbed the Trojan Trolley. It's part of an effort to provide a meaningful choice besides driving on campus and in the surrounding area. The system gained a major upgrade this week with the addition of real-time GPS tracking. This link will take you to a page with a map showing the routes, the current location of the buses, and a table showing ETsA at the various stops, all updated every few seconds as you watch. I haven't confirmed on the ground yet, but it appears that they've also enabled text updates at the stops. This kind of system completely eliminates the classic bus riders' anxiety that comes from standing at a bus stop a little too long wondering if and when the next bus is going to arrive. This should greatly increase convenience and ultimately ridership.

High Tech!
Now, I wonder when the stewards of Central Arkansas Transit will find the funds to implement something similar for that much larger bus system. If they're able to make just a limited roll-out happen I'd suggest starting with the four lines that pass by UALR. Thanks to the Trojan Trolley tracking system there's already going to be a sizable population of people accustomed to using smart phones to access bus tracking data, and young folks in general have been willing to think outside the box and not feel confined to their cars.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Mayors' Broadway Bridge, Visualized

If any ol' picture is worth a thousand words, then there's no telling how much word-value the ones below carry. 

Looking south over Dickey Stephens
Go up the Arkansas River from its confluence with the mighty Mississippi. Look at the bridges as you pass under them. The Broadway Bridge is the only historic road bridge you'll see before you reach the similarly grand example in Ozark.* Broadway is one of the most iconic and elegant structures in central Arkansas with its cast concrete arches growing out of the North Little Rock side echoed by the newer steel arch over the shipping channel. It connects what many of us hope will some day soon be a walkable and livable downtown on the south bank to another downtown on the north that is already well on its way toward a brighter future. The current plan moving forward through the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department though calls for demolishing it and replacing it with a wider, faster span that will likely just lead to more traffic and congestion in both cities. 

As you may have heard already, Mayor Stodola of  LR and Mayor Hays of NLR recently pitched an alternative plan to AHTD. It involves building a new bridge to cross at Chester Street and then preserving and adaptively reusing the Broadway Bridge as an urban linear park. (a la the High Line). Makes sense to me. See some of the images from their presentation below and dream big...

* You won't see another  historic road bridge upstream from Ozark until you go past the end of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System at Muskogee, OK. Yes, the shipping channel does extend all the way to Tulsa, but it's in a tributary of the Arkansas above Muskogee.