Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vision Project Meetings In Full Swing

It's 'Visioning Day.' As I type, I am sitting in the first roundtable meeting of the day for the Transportation Vision Project. This one focuses on Real Estate/Construction/Development and there is a lot of good discussion from the folks attending. One gentleman right now is sharing his experiences from the time he spent living in Chicago and pretty much had to use public transit or you wasn't guaranteed to make it to his office each day. Another man who has spent time in D.C. pointed out how little 'downtown areas' popped up around each rail stop there, allowing people not to have to travel far to reach businesses and services.

There are two other roundtable meetings coming up today too; freight and bicycle/pedestrian issues.

Last night was the public workshop for the project. I want to thank everyone who came out for that. We had great attendance and representatives from all demographics. I was especially impressed with the older folks who attended. They were passionate about the topic and had tons of good input and suggestions based on their many years of experience here and in other cities. One gentleman said he's been here since the 1930s and he said our roads used to be better during the depression than they are now!



The other thing I was impressed with was how open everyone was to listening to other's opinions. Everyone didn't agree on every comment but they were polite in their rebuttals. For instance, there were a couple gentleman who suggested that the North Spokane Corridor isn't necessary and that it will cut neighborhoods in half much like I90 bisected the east central neigborhood in the 50s. There was an entire contingent of Hillyard residents there who disagreed though, saying they're going to use the freeway to make Hillyard into a showplace for the people who drive by, hopefully getting them to stop.



Speaking of Hillyard, those folks are hardcore! They have some big plans. One includes starting their own sustainable neighborhood using only solar power, innovative water and waste systems, and electric golf carts for transportation. And it's all going to happen in Hillyard! This idea facinates me so I plan to follow up with the folks involved in that and blog in more length on this later.



In the meantime, one of our transportation planners, Mallory, attended the meeting and kept track of some of the sayings used by attendees that she found interesting. Her favorite? 'Self-styled environmentalists jumping around on a pogo stick.'

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I applaud those who opposed the North Spokane Freeway. Hillyard would be better off spending a portion of the billions of dollars on making the neighborhood more livable rather than dramatically increasing noise and pollution.

What happens to Hillyard when the government runs out of money and the freeway goes unfinished for years or decades? Unfortunately, that is not out of the realm of possibility these days. All of those WSDOT purchased properties will continue to create urban decay and create problems for current business owners (as highlighted by a previous post on this blog).

Luckily for Hillyard, it doesnt have it as bad as East Central (north of the freeway). You can already see them now, prepare to look at those abandoned properties for a long time as we try to figure out how to get that $1 or 2 billion more to finish the project.

Hopefully enough people will continue to speak up during this visioning process to help SRTC realize that the vision of the 1950s is not/should not be the vision of today or that of 2050.

It is time to start developing a contingency plan for how we get out of this project before we waste too much more money on it.

Bob Dylan said it best!
"Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’"

SRTC Staff said...

Thanks for the comment Anonymous. And you're right- you got right to the heart of the matter by saying that the vison of the 1950s is not/should not be the vision of today or that of 2050. We (SRTC) aren't dictating what that vision is going to be though. We're asking the public what it should be. And so far a lot more people are FOR the NSC than AGAINST it. It may not turn out that way in the end, but that's what we're hearing so far. Maybe it's just the people who support the freeway that are attending meetings and providing input, but that's why we need to get as many people as possible engaged- so we can see the whole picture.

I'm loving the song lyrics. And they're remarkably accurate in this case.

Not said...

Of course the roads were better during the Great Depression - that's the last time many of them were paved!
- Ventura

JR Sloan said...

Mr. Anonymous, you'll find my name at the bottom of this comment.

I do support constructing the North Spokane Corridor, and the sooner, the better. There are a lot of reasons from Spokane's point of view that make it important.

For a first example, NSC will take a huge load of commercial traffic off the north-south arterials in nearly half the city. This will in turn take much of the nasty environmental stuff out of the neighborhoods where today it's created in wholesale quantities by stop-and-go traffic, and concentrate the lesser effluent along a more ventilated and quicker route.

A side benefit would allow all who routinely enter the City from the north to make it downtown or points east or west with much greater efficiency, much as I-90 does for east-west traffic. The same can be said for northbound traffic (as one who lives along one of these routes, I validate that this daily traffic is heavy as feeders concentrate on North Market, Crestline, Hamilton/Nevada, Highway 2 and North Division &Highway 395).

Anyone who travels regularly in North Spokane can easily contrast the traffic volume and congestion with that faced by residents of our south neighborhoods. The NSC in original concept--and still today--simply distributes a measure of the peace and tranquility other parts of the City enjoy, to the working and commercial neighborhoods of the North and Northeast.

So much for the nastiness and inconvenience arguments.

As a second example, NSC will make approaches from the north more commercially viable, meaning that firms in both the US and Canada would find shipping via this route through our Metro Area a more desirable route than the “I-5-&-over-the-passes” alternative. The boon that comes to Spokane by improving transit options is obvious in examples of wealthier cities all over the country, where the advantages of being a true crossroads, rather than a mere whistle-stop, emerge.

Rail routes have declined or disappeared along these northbound connections, and the systems developed in their stead are rubber-and-asphalt alternatives. Add to that the historic declines of the NE neighborhoods due to job losses in manufacturing capacity over the past 60 years or so, and needed correction seems obvious—at least to residents of the area.

Improving access by new and outside firms to Spokane Metro is an obvious step in revitalizing our local economies. It’s true that vacant NE Spokane manufacturing areas might logically be the main early beneficiaries, but the firms and jobs that freeway access brings will enrich the overall local economy, which has lagged other US cities’ growth in recent decades (according to the consultants’ brief at the recent SRTC meeting).

And that’s a thumbnail response to the “We don’t need it: economics” argument.

But what about remarks about Hillyard and the NE Communities [those from SRTC, “Anonymous” and—eventually-- others]?
Let’s take those in a second post, since the 4000-character limit will keep us from posting the whole thing.

J.R. Sloan, Lt Col USAF (Ret)
Manager, Greater Hillyard-Northeast Planning Alliance
Board, Greater Hillyard Business Assn
Member, Hillyard Neighborhood Council & Hillyard CD Steering Committee

JR Sloan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JR Sloan said...

Continuing comments from a previous post, JR Sloan responds to the comments identified,

SRTC: “For instance, there were a couple gentleman who suggested that the North Spokane Corridor isn't necessary and that it will cut neighborhoods in half much like I90 bisected the east central neigborhood in the 50s…”

Response: The Greater Hillyard Neighborhoods have been separated into two parts since the rail yards were built in the 1890s, continuing after after closure in the 1960s until now. The only street routes from residences Market/Haven Streets to East Side locations are at Francis Avenue (a deadly dangerous pedestrian route, at best) and the underpass at Wellesley Avenue, similarly dangerous for bikes or hikers. One result, verifiable using Google Earth, is pedestrian-created trespassways across railroad property between Eastside residences to the westside Marketplace. This chasm is contemporaneous with the I-90 split of East Central, but generates nowhere near the same comment. Why is that?

SRTC:”…There was an entire contingent of Hillyard residents there who disagreed though, saying they're going to use the freeway to make Hillyard into a showplace for the people who drive by, hopefully getting them to stop.”

Response: These Hillyardites represented the Greater Hillyard-Northeast Planning Alliance (GHNEPA), which unifies Bemiss-Hillyard-Whitman neighborhoods in the City-funded Neighborhood Planning effort. This month the coalition completes extensive research and planning efforts with Eastern Washington University assistance, and publishes their first documents. Separate sections in the GHNEPA Plan describe desired local-area community and economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and neighborhood reorganization for implementation of the plan. “Greater Hillyard’s” representatives at SRTC’s meeting support initiatives identified by stakeholders as vital to their communities’ future development and livelihoods.

SRTC: “…One includes starting their own sustainable neighborhood using only solar power, innovative water and waste systems, and electric golf carts for transportation. And it's all going to happen in Hillyard! This idea facinates me so I plan to follow up with the folks involved in that and blog in more length on this later…”

Response: The Solviva Community concept is has been in existence for decades, and a model demonstrating how low-impact living styles can be put to use in urban or other environments. In Spokane, this model could demonstrate new neighborhood organizations, new economic ideas, mixed-use and mixed-population communities, and minimized impact on the local infrastructure (water, sewer, waste, transport). It shouldn’t be unusual that ideas like these would find support in economically-disadvantaged areas like Greater Hillyard.

The “golf carts” and other transport concepts come from the GH-NEPA Community Plan, and involve half-a-dozen or more broad ideas for transportation improvements, from human- or electric-powered vehicles for people who can’t use bicycles, to redesigning internal streets and roadways to benefit of pedestrians and “other-than-automobile” vehicles, to appropriate uses of rail or trolley options. Apparent from consultant comments at the meeting, SRTC hasn’t considered any of these reasonable choices as options for the Spokane area.

One example vocally supported by elderly persons attending the SRTC meeting, is a cheap method for providing low-mobility people access to widely-separated lines of today’s bus system. These people now must use autos, because they cannot walk the distances to existing routes. Another was a plan for public-access from areas in the taxing district, but too far from lines SRTC can afford with its one-size-fits-all system.

J.R. Sloan

JR Sloan said...

Continuing comments from a previous post, JR Sloan responds to the comments identified,

Anonymous: What happens to Hillyard when the government runs out of money and the freeway goes unfinished for years or decades? Unfortunately, that is not out of the realm of possibility these days.

Response: The same thing that has happened for the past seven decades or so, during which little measurable change has improved the general transportation system in the North Spokane neighborhoods. Among the region’s heaviest-travelled commercial streets are North Market Street, North Division, Hamilton/Nevada and Country Homes-Maple/Ash (or the arterials that feed them). These existing stop-and-go streets plow through residential neighborhoods, and will continue to exacerbate ugly everyday congestion, economic blight and destructive health issues unless relief in the form of the NSC is completed.

No other alternative is proposed, nor is possible, given the current situation. Since 1960, Spokane’s Commercial Center (measured in absolute dollar terms) has shifted from Downtown to the Division Street Corridor, (from Northeast Boulevard to Wandermere, and beyond the “Y” to NorthPointe on Hwy 2). One of the areas of heaviest growth in Spokane County is north of Wandermere and Mead, toward Deer Park, in the Mead School District.

All those people in all those cars still have to get to work daily, go to their meetings regularly, and get downtown to do specialty shopping or see their government officials. We believe we should make it as efficient as possible.

Anonymous: All of those WSDOT purchased properties will continue to create urban decay and create problems for current business owners…You can already see them now, prepare to look at those abandoned properties for a long time as we try to figure out how to get that $1 or 2 billion more to finish the project.

Response: 60 years of urban decay and economic problems are issues the GHNEPA neighborhoods are working to relieve in their planning process. We see the completion of the NSC and its benefits as key to relieving economic stagnation in our area, and supplemental to the economy of the entire city.

So the solution is to stop what we’re trying to do and sit on the status quo? The neighborhoods in Northeast Spokane don’t think so, and we’re working with the City, WSDOT, and others to renew our community. We want to work with any others toward a better future, economically and environmentally, for all of Spokane. We have to work with the tools at hand, and we support the solutions—like the NSC—that will take us to that vision. Status Quo is unacceptable to the economic future—and the future lifestyle of Spokane’s majority.

J.R. Sloan, Lt Col USAF (Ret)
Manager, Greater Hillyard-Northeast Planning Alliance
Board, Greater Hillyard Business Assn

SRTC Staff said...

Well said Mr. Sloan. I'm glad to hear someone else chiming in on this issue.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry I was unable to attend the meeting but if anyone thinks we do not need the NS Corridor they are sadley mistaken. The NE corner of Spokane needs revitalization and you are not going to do this with people on bicycles and walking trails. We need the proper infrastructure so the commercial land we have can be used to its fullest extent. I believe the air pollution will decrease with the NSC. Right now we have approximately 16,000 trucks a day using Market street in a stop and go fashion that greatley increases the air pollution for the Bemiss and Hillyard neighborhoods and that is not counting the cars using Market. Cars and trucks passing through will be operating at a higher efficency rate and not on a stop and go high pollution mode. We have tried to keep the speed limit on Market at 20 MPH for pedestrian safety but that is a long battle that has not been won yet. The neighborhoods around Mapel/Ash, Division and Hamilton/Nevada will get a reprieve from the slow traffic and air pollution on their streets also. So please look at the big picture about the help needed in the NE area and help us out. If you have any comments you can contact me via email or phone.

Bob L
East Hillyard resident.
(509) 768-6048

About SRTC

SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

SRTC offers services including transportation monitoring, transportation modeling, census information analysis, travel demand forecasting, historical traffic count analysis, geographic information systems, and trip generation rates.