Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stardards and Livable Communities

Brickell Avenue is home to the largest concent...Image via Wikipedia
In my last posting I referred to this article:

Confessions of a recovering engineer

One of the things you get out of the article is the problem with standards. Now standards are needed but there is many times that so called standards get in the way of providing livable, pedestrian and bicycle friendly communities.

A example of an organization sticking to its 'standards' and not paying attention to the big picture is down in Miami with FloridaDot and Brickell Avenue.

FDOT Continues to Play Pedestrian Russian Roulette on Brickell Avenue

Pedestrian Hit Near Brickell Avenue, Mayor Regalado and Commisioner Gimenez Support Ped-Friendly Streets; FDOT Still Says No

Brickell in the area in question is home to several high rises both office and residential but FDOT standards dictate that the street is designed to speed cars through the area thus putting pedestrians in danger by high speed automobiles in the area. A bus stop with a shelter has been taken out by speeding drivers on more than one occasion.

Brickell Avenue Bus Stop Gets Taken Out Again

It was pointed out a couple of times while I a was at Railvolution that the "black book" for traffic engineers goes against making streets more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

We saw one example of that in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro. The Transit Oriented Development of Orenco is bisected by Cornell Road. While the road is essential at the present time to make the retail component of the complex successful, there was much controversy surrounding the road.

The traffic engineers wanted to make the road three lanes which of course equates to a very pedestrian hostile environment. After all, there is a direct correlation to the number lanes and the speeds along that stretch of road. After going back and forth the traffic engineers finally accepted two lanes in each direction with a center turn lane.

However, the speed limit is still 35mph (which few drivers observe), making it hostile for residents to get from the apartment, condo and MAX station across Cornell to the main retail component of the complex. In fact Cornell has become a barrier just like a freeway between to the two sides of the development.

The standards of traffic engineers are not the only ones that become a barrier to more effective transit development. While not written in law, the 'standards' fire departments become a hindrance to effective livable communities. There standards say that they should be able to turn around one of their fire trucks in the street.

At one time most fired departments had a variety of vehicles but due to escalating cost and limited tax income, fire departments have the most part standardized on one size of fire truck (although fire departments often times still have some specialized equipment). Standardization has lead to the standard truck being the largest size necessary so they have a large turn radius. This results in fire departments fighting more pedestrian friendly streets in order to have plenty of room to turn their large fire trucks.

There are more examples such as school districts and other government agencies that have policies that keep us from building more livable cities. We need to start changing these standards if we are going to have a chance at more livable communities.

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