March 5, 2012 in City

Transportation expert urges cities to think outside the car

Businesses should be encouraged to cater to nearby residents, author says
By The Spokesman-Review
 

An expert on transportation in the U.S. says communities can save money and create greater vitality by rethinking the way they use transportation dollars.

By emphasizing alternatives to the automobile, cities will become friendlier places with less congestion, author Jeffrey Tumlin said.

“How can we get the most value out of those (transportation) investments?” Tumlin asked in an interview last week.

“If we just try to eliminate congestion we fail.”

Consider a main arterial like Division Street, which doubles as a state highway north of Interstate 90.

If the only concern is moving vehicles, then other assets, such as businesses that are accessible by foot and bicycle, may be lost.

On Division and Hamilton streets, signs order pedestrians not to cross at certain intersections.

“Why is there not a broad conversation about pedestrians getting across the street?” Tumlin asked.

Zoning codes that require large parking lots ensure that retail developments will only attract customers who arrive by car, Tumlin said.

He recommends that cities reduce parking requirements and encourage businesses to cater to their surrounding residential areas.

Communities that invest in bike ways and good sidewalks also attract a creative class of professionals who bring additional vitality and economic growth to communities, he says.

Spokane and Spokane Valley are working on developing bicycle routes. In addition, Spokane has adopted a “complete streets” ordinance that requires sidewalks and bicycle facilities in new projects.

Tumlin – who wrote “Sustainable Transportation Planning: Tools for Creating Vibrant, Healthy and Resilient Communities,” published last month – said a healthy public transit system is also essential to keeping down road congestion.

Tumlin is a senior transportation planner for the consulting firm of Nelson Nygaard, based in San Francisco.

That company completed an extensive downtown transportation plan for Spokane several years ago.

The city is studying and implementing some of the recommendations, including creation of a more pedestrian-friendly environment on Division, Ruby and Browne streets from I-90 to Gonzaga University.

Study finds airports boost area growth

A new national study shows that U.S. airports have more than $1.2 trillion in annual economic impact and employ some 10.5 million workers.

The study of 490 commercial airports shows that those facilities have seen a 56 percent job growth from 2001 to 2010, when the latest study was completed.

That amounts to 8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, and the economic impact is expected to grow as more people take to the air over the next decade.

The study was conducted for the Airports Council International-North America.

Snyder joining state traffic safety panel

Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder has been named to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Snyder, a proponent of complete streets, will serve as the representative on the commission from the Association of Washington Cities.

He will be the only commissioner from Eastern Washington.

Federal order backs water trails system

The U.S. government last week announced a plan to create a National Water Trails System to encourage water recreation and community stewardship of waterways.

The secretary of the Interior Department signed an order establishing water trails as a class of national recreation trails under the National Trails System Act of 1968.

The order sets up a framework for water trail recognition, conservation, recreation and tourism, particularly in urban areas.

Public invited to name ferry boat

The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking public help in naming a new Keller ferry boat under construction at a shipyard near Longview, Wash.

Like other state ferry boats, the new Keller ferry will be given a name with significance to Native American heritage. WSDOT is working with the Colville Confederated Tribes on the name but is also asking the public for suggestions.

The $12 million ferry will replace the aging Martha S., which runs Lake Roosevelt on the Columbia River on state Highway 21 north of Wilbur.

To submit a suggestion, go to kellerferry.net.

Government Way sewer work begins

In Coeur d’Alene, work begins today on sewer installation on Government Way between Hanley and Dalton avenues and on adjacent segments of Hanley and Dalton.

The utility work through April is being done in advance of reconstruction of Government Way with five lanes of pavement, including a center turn lane, and sidewalks.

The street work should start May 1.

Traffic restrictions are expected during the sewer work.

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