Planning in the News
Week of January 16 – 23, 2012
This past Saturday evening around 8:45 PM, one cyclist was killed and another injured presumably by a drunk driver on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge. Perkins is one of the few continuous roads connecting the center of the city to the southern part of the city.
Nathan Crowson, a 30-year-old worker at Mid-City Bikes and father of a 5-year-old daughter, commuted by bicycle for years before his death.
This tragic situation presents undeniable evidence of the unfortunate reality of our roads situation. Over the years, we have built our infrastructure to be so car-dependent that there is a legitimate risk of death for consumers who choose the economical and healthy option of bicycle commuting. This does not feel like a free market condition.
Cities that have sufficient networks of bike and pedestrian commuter paths that are separate and even protected from automobile traffic don't always begin that way. While Crowson may be considered an "early adopter" in the small but growing world of bicycle commuters in Baton Rouge, he still represents a force that should be allowed to thrive, not one that should be limited to recreational paths and neighborhood side streets. It takes time for markets to develop, and incidents like this slow the process even more, so that a possible future where pedestrians and cyclists can practically commute by their mode of choice is made less likely. In Baton Rouge, the choice to leave your car at home is now a matter of life and death.
Historically, our roads have been designed exclusively to support the automobile, eliminating our right to choose a healthier and more economical option for transportation. Meanwhile:
Baton Rouge is the worst city of its size in America for traffic congestion (The Texas Transportation Institute)
Louisiana is first in having the worst drivers (carinsurancecomparison.com)
Louisiana ranks 49th (second worst) for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities (Alliance for Biking and Walking)
Louisiana is the fifth most obese state (Trust for America's Health).
With the implementation of FUTUREBR, which recommends adopting complete streets policies that support roads designed for cars and
other modes of transportation, Baton Rouge has an opportunity to prevent these kind of misfortunes in the future. It will not solve the drinking and driving issue, nor will it change the fact that we take our lives into our own hands each time we get on the road in any vehicle, but it can make our streets safer and more functional.
Please note that by putting Crowson's death in the context of broader trends, we do not mean to trivialize or politicize this horrendous and tragic incident. Our prayers go out to the families and friends of Nathan Crowson and his friend Daniel Morris, the other cyclist who was hospitalized. We hope that rather than being intimidated, Baton Rouge and Louisiana citizens will see this tragedy as a call to action for better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. While we cannot speak for him, we suspect Crowson would prefer it that way. For those interested, please visit the website for Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets (BRASS) here
, inform yourself about the complete streets policy movement here
, and read about a proposed Baton Rouge to New Orleans levee bike path here
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to see how or become a member online at cpex.org/membership
You can also see the type of results we generate in this article
out of Jena, Louisiana, about the implementation successes they have had since undergoing a CPEX-facilitated planning process.
Louisiana coastal plan: 5 decades and $50 billion
The Town Talk
Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan is an update to a plan done five years ago that includes new data gathered by scientists and information on projects completed in the last five years. Garret Graves, the chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), said that while the new master plan may not make everyone happy, it is a plan that can protect the state from further ruin from storms, including a list of projects that will take 50 years and $50 billion to complete. The draft plan will be presented to affected communities for another round of input, including two meetings this week (see Dates
section for more information). After feedback is received, a final report will be presented to CPRA for approval before going to the Legislature for consideration in the session starting March 12. The plan states that the state and federal governments share the cost of the 145 projects along the coast that are designed to “provide some level of protection for every coastal community.” The draft plan calls for restoring wetlands, shorelines, headlands and barrier islands that once provided protection from storms but have since eroded. Although there are ongoing restoration projects working to restore the lost coastline, it’s not enough to eliminate the loss of land equivalent to a football field every 20 minutes. This is slightly better than land loss estimated at a football field every 16 minutes or less, that was occurring not long ago. Graves said, “Since the 1930s, we've lost 1,900 square miles of land. A US Geological Survey included maps showing that at the current rates of erosion and subsidence, much of coastal Louisiana could be open water by 2060. The draft plan allocates $10.7 billion of the potential $50 billion funding for projects to protect southwest Louisiana, including Calcasieu, Cameron and Acadia parishes. One of these projects is a controversial levee around Lake Charles, which some residents oppose. An additional $7.5 billion would be used for projects in the central region, Vermilion through St. Mary parishes. These include structures to protect Abbeville, Franklin and Morgan City. Another $8.9 billion would go to the Lafourche-Terrebonne region, for coastal restoration and levee projects. Projects from Terrebonne to central Plaquemines, including rerouting the Mississippi River, would require another $10.2 billion. The remaining $14.2 billion would be used in a large region ranging from the Lake Pontchartain area, down through Orleans and St. Bernard and taking in the remainder of Plaquemines.
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Louisiana's infrastructure is in trouble, engineering society says
(Photo by Michael DeMocker, The Times-Picayune)
There is no lack of consensus about the poor quality of Louisiana’s infrastructure. Recent articles from the Business Report, The Times-Picayune
, The Advocate
, and The Town Talk
uniformly acknowledge the need to improve the state’s infrastructure based on last week's release of a report from the Lousiana section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The executive director for the ASCE report, Kam Movassaghi, said the report card is based on the work of about 50 engineers and 18 months of work. The Town Talk
blog summarized the report’s message, “Roads are just one of nine areas that need strategic attention. Drinking water, wastewater, dams, levees — all infrastructure ultimately is about health, safety and quality of life. The ASCE report card tells us something important and it recommends something smart: Get to work, Louisiana.”
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Going Green: Ortego hopes ideas boost La.'s stock
(Photo from The Advertiser)
At 27 years old, Stephen Ortego is the youngest state representative in the Louisiana legislature. In addition to his role as state representative, Ortego has been an advocate for green building for some time, stemming from his background in Architecture. Now through his company Eco Lafayette, he is helping to design and build eco-friendly housing using redevelopment plans for once blighted areas. He is currently finishing a group of townhomes on land that was once, trashed, vacant lots surrounded by empty parking lots and metal buildings. Ortego said, “This is a very dense area. That's the idea, you can walk almost anywhere from here, to cafés, stores. We take areas like these and give them a new look and it encourages people and businesses around to reinvest in the area.”
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Building Transit Ridership Through R&D
(Image from The Atlantic)
Many public transits systems are designed with a “build it and they will come” mentality. However, potential riders can be intimidated by hard-to-read route information and the risk of not reaching their destination timely, or at all. The field of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) is providing a counterpoint to that argument by providing more and better data about what routes to provide and how to reliably get people to use them. TDM tries to close the gap between the convenience of using a car and the relative inconvenience of using public transit. Applying these principles in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington County, “has managed to take 40,000 car trips a day off of the county’s roads through its TDM programming (transit hand-holding, you could call it). That doesn’t mean that they’ve reduced car traffic by adding more bus routes or building out more bike share stations. They've eliminated these car trips with their existing infrastructure just by making it easier for people to use it.” The key to this outcome was the transparency of the public transit agencies that freely released their tracking data to the non-government software designers who applied their skills to the problem.
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Documenting the New Generation of Health Problems Caused by Sprawl
A new four-part series narrated and hosted by Dr. Richard Jackson explores the public health problems that are strongly linked to the poor development practice of suburban sprawl. The four programs are titled: “Retrofitting Suburbia,” which will address health problems including obesity and diabetes; “Rebuilding Places of the Heart,” on reviving our older downtowns; “Social Policy in Concrete,” addressing the particular risks faced by low-income communities; and “Searching for Shangri-La,” exploring whether there are "ideal" healthy communities. Dr. Jackson has also written a companion book, Designing Healthy Communities
. The series will air soon on public television.
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No Closure for Denver’s Beltway Loop
The New York Times
(Image from The New York Times)
The small community of Golden, CO, has beaten back the construction of a multi-lane beltway that would run in a loop around the Denver metro area. Opponents successfully blocked the beltway by claiming it would divide the community in two and spell “disaster” for Golden. The recession limited the amount of federal funds available for road construction, helping Golden win the battle. This article asks, “…should metro Denver and its drivers offer thanks, or curses? Is Golden a David with a sling, bringing down a giant, or a selfish obstructionist? Transportation and planning experts say there is probably no clear answer as to whether beltways have been good or bad.” In some cases, these large loops led to more urban sprawl; while in other situations, the beltway kept heavy traffic on the edges of communities, rather than through them.
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