Home > Complete Streets, Crank, dangerous by design, Design the Details, Editorial > Division St. observations: start with low hanging fruit

Division St. observations: start with low hanging fruit

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The Record Eagle headline: “Solutions for Division St. sought : Mayor wants city, state to get serious about the road” (RE) is welcome attention to a lagging issue, but offers nothing new in the City’s approach to the problem. It is a new round of resolutions to “find a solution” to an under-performing corridor of repletion that by its very design is dangerous, uninviting, inefficient…what some may call repulsive. Uncomfortable for the community is the fact that this street is part of several valuable neighborhoods.

We’ve seen these liminal moments come and go in the saga of Division St. and despite copious amounts of collaborative input and work done in the past 2-years, we still have City Commissioners who think that a pledge to find a solution is a first step. The community has already taken 10,000 steps, like the Division St. recommendations. What we lack is the clarity of whether or not we have been on path forward or simply on a treadmill with, thankfully, a broken odometer.

A 2011 Improvement

Act on the low hanging fruit

We continue to hold out hope for a solution without making improvements that are right in front of us, already on the table, and simply waiting to be implemented. The City can begin today to make plans to improve this corridor and do so with streetscaping proven to alter how we interact here. Street trees, inviting sidewalks on both sides of the street, pedestrian scale lighting, and general landscaping can have an impact that doesn’t break the bank. Some improvements happened this past summer, like the installation of countdown pedestrian lights. Go team!

We need small investments like these that improve the quality of the space, not aim to solve traffic. If we make people the priority, traffic improvements will follow. Further down the road street, bigger investing in public spaces that increase human focused activity along the corridor are needed. One reason why the City’s parks and recreation commission favored the old Veteran’s Park for the dog park was the impact it will have in improving the context of the corridor. A small step with some barking that will slightly slow us down when we drive-by.

Low hanging fruit

Looking south from Veteran’s Park, there are improvements on both sides of the street that can happen. On the eastside, from Bay St. to Randolph, a sidewalk and landscaping is dearly needed. South of Immaculate Conception, a bridge over Kids Creek is hardly noticeable–it could be a point of interest. Further down, past 8th St., there is adjacent parkland that is maintained but barely used. Let’s develop a plan that will create activity in this space, including full commitment by the City to help with the Buffalo Ridge trail near the 14th and Division Streets’ intersection.

As we approach the City limit, let’s seriously begin thinking about changing the entrance to the City with points of interest along the side and ultimately seriously considering a modern roundabout to replace the signalized intersection that has outgrown its use. The latter, obviously involves MDOT and will take real investment in energy, political-will, and investment money. Still, those challenges don’t make it impossible.

In 2010, MyWHaT conducted a walking observational tour of Division St. attended by a diverse set of eyes, including MDOT’s regional director, the majority of the observations remain in the same condition: Observational walk of Division St._

Let’s make it happen. I’m in full support of action that moves it forward. Tally ho!

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  1. February 21, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I agree with you Gary, there are many small things that can be done to improve the corridor, most of them low cost. I want to see roundabouts, but we can take steps now.

    I made a map of simple solutions for safe pedestrian crossings as part of the traverse corridor study – a very cool tool by the way. Mine is posted here http://www.planningmapper.com/main-mapwindow.asp?MapID=332.

  2. Raymond Minervini
    February 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Next City Resolution: Pledge to Implement the 2011 Division St. Recommendations, starting with low-hanging fruit.

  3. Marya
    February 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks, Gary, for once again telling it like it is, and in particular, for holding the standard high. Let everyone know this is not a cosmetic issue.
    This is a safety issue (how many more deaths of pedestrians trying to cross Division will it take?)

    This is an economic issue (how can we best utilize the Commons?)
    This is a civil rights issue. (People in wheelchairs and others with disabilities need to be able to cross Division, as do children and the elderly.)

  4. February 21, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    I love this piece and everything you suggest in it, up until the appearance of the word “roundabout,” at which point I had to choke. And it wasn’t even the main (or secondary or tertiary) point of the piece, but I’m compelled to make an observation. The traffic engineers that have so many of the locals sold on the notion of roundabouts are selling snake oil and it really needs to stop. Please! I say this as someone who has designed and drafted roundabouts, traffic circles and traffic “lozenges” – a few slated to be constructed in the next few years – in our Nation’s Capitol, Land of the Lovely Traffic Circle, among other places.

    Roundabouts and traffic circles and their functionality and suitabilities are continually being conflated in the discourse about future plans for TC. Roundabouts work well in the countryside and atop expressway off-ramps, where traffic volumes are low and pedestrians nonexistent. Traffic circles work well – when necessary for resolving the geometry of an intersection of MORE than 2 streets – where there are high volumes of traffic and large amounts of land to achieve the substantial diameter. They also come with stop lights. The proportions and promises I have seen in the recent designs proposing “roundabouts” along Division and elsewhere are misleading at best.

    I could pen a longer diatribe with more details and anecdotes, but I will leave it for now with this observation: flowing traffic and pedestrian safety ARE mutually exclusive. Division can either function as a highway or as an avenue, and a traffic engineer will give you highways 99 times out of 100.

  5. T. Werner
    February 22, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I second Raymond’s motion.

  6. February 22, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Update: On this matter, the City Commission meeting wasn’t anything inspiring. They passed the resolution 6-0 with little discussion. Commissioner Gillman made it very clear he was only voting for the resolution because it was, in short, meaningless.

    The Mayor was very intentional to limit expectations while showing, to a limited degree, that he understands that this isn’t simply a traffic issue. There was public comment referring to the short-term, easy to do projects in a few public comments, but no embracing of those recommendations by the City Commissioners or staff.

    Onward.

    As the City moves forward, it is going to take energy by the interested parties to be involved. If you want to contribute, I suggest you contact the planning department and city manager in the near future.

    Thank you for the comments here. They are appreciated and add to the discussion.

    If you watched the commission meeting, what did you take away? If you’re a commissioner, I encourage you to also join the discussion.

  7. February 23, 2012 at 7:27 am

    For further information about modern roundabouts, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center explains how when designed well they improve conditions for people on foot or bicycle. The PBIC also has an upcoming webinar on the subject on March 7th. Here is also our roundabout resource page.

    My position remains that well-designed modern roundabouts are a proven tool to consider, even it they aren’t always the appropriate choice. However, the potential to slow traffic, reduce conflict points, and remove dangerous left turns from our busiest intersections is too critical not to consider them and to perhaps even consider them over signalized intersections, as the NY-DOT has recommended. The literature overwhelmingly supports the positive results.

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