Post hoc ergo propter hoc

24 03 2010

(with this, because of this) St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman: “Study is delay, and delay is death [for the project]. And for St. Paul, the Central Corridor is not an option, it’s crucial for the future of our city.”

As we are all aware, Mayor Leffingwell and Austin’s City Council reversed their stance on having an urban rail bond election in November, news that was received by Our Most Senior Fellow with much frustration. Because in his opinion they’ve had more than enough time to get their acts together, and this lack of political wherewithal is going to cost the City of Austin literally hundreds of millions of dollars (examples a, b, c + according to TTI, each person dissuaded from driving will save the region $812/year $3.25/day in overall congestion costs) when all is said and done – In five to ten years there’s a very good chance that we’re going to be experiencing SXS(o)W(hat) gridlock every day of the week!

But now he’s ready to temper his remarks by saying “Yes, there may be wisdom in waiting one year (and one year only) for the following reasons:”

• With the national political climate being what it is, a large percentage of the folks who turn out for an election this November may be people who are road warriors rather than rail advocates;
• CapMetro’s continual missteps suggest that the City might have to go to such an extreme as forming another managing entity (one Spillar suggestion: Lone Star Rail), which could not be done by this November;
•It is probably prudent to get the CapMetro system up and running, work out kinks, build some ridership (a: although without adjoining rail systems ridership will most definitely not be maximized) and rebuild some confidence in rail (b: although the aforementioned artifically low ridership numbers will give anti-rail zealots that much more ammunition against expansion).

And so, with that now said, it’s time to move on…As of today the Mayor is still anticipating floating a $100 million November transportation bond proposal to pay for road, trail and sidewalk improvements throughout the city which, according to Austin Business Journal, “appears extremely likely as more than half of city council members said they support a bond election that size…Project opportunities are boundless. Already, a list of $500 million worth of projects has been prioritized, and there are many more needed, Austin Public Works Director Howard Lazarus said.” To give just one example, “$824 million (!) worth of sidewalks need to be fixed or created.” Thus would not now be a good time to start leveraging this opportunity and make ourselves some truly Great Streets?

William H. Whyte: “The street is the river of life of the city, the place where we come together, the pathway to the center.”

Great Streets Design Guiding Principles

1) Manage Congestion: Congestion is a fact of life in successful urban places. By definition, a place that supports a great concentration of economic and social activities within a pedestrian-scaled environment is going to be congested.

2) Balanced/Active Streets: Downtown streets must balance the needs of pedestrians, bicycles, transit and the automobile in creating an attractive and viable urban core. Downtown streets are for people first, commercial second, parking third and through traffic fourth.

3) Streets as Places: The Great Streets Program envisions downtown as a vital focus of city life, and as a primary destination. Our downtown streets are our most important and pervasive public space and common ground.

4) Interactive Streets: Urban Streets are the stages on which the public life of the community is acted out.

5) Pride of Place: Visible, caring and upkeep are critical to the vitality of urban street life.

6) Public Art: Art in the public environment can help to establish a stronger sense of place and a continuity between the past, present and future.

…Coming soon from The Placemaking Institute: Geometric Congestion Solutions!

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