Many times I am asked to point to an example of another city that has made the change from poor infrastructure relating to walking to a model city. This article below is from a 2010 discussion on San Antonio from Nashville's City Paper. What I think is important to note is that with strong leadership - a city can make big changes in a short amount of time. It takes the will of a leader - who will the leader in Nashville be?
Enter San Antonio. A Texas city that could serve as a template of sorts for Nashville.
Directly from the City Paper article:
Twenty years ago, a fair percentage of San Antonio’s urban streetscape network was like much of Nashville’s today: brutal.
Then John German got to work. As director of the San Antonio Public Works Department beginning in 1992, German was perhaps the key visionary behind what is now the city’s Street Maintenance Program. Since then, annual spending on paving, installing new curbs and sidewalks, signage improvements, and so forth, has increased from $1.2 million to upwards of $70 million.
The results are evident: Urban San Antonio’s street system is orderly and consistent. Almost every street up to eight miles from downtown San Antonio offers, at the least, a curb. Roadside ditches (seemingly acceptable to Nashville officials) are rare and seriously frowned upon. Sidewalks are everywhere. Pedestrians and bicyclists are respected. Other cities have taken note, and awards have been won.
“By demonstrating the value of good data collection and solving the worst problems first in a three- to five-year program, the city manager and city council began to appreciate the [program], and they began to allocate more and more money each year,” said German, who now works as a consultant. “It takes a lot of money, but it can done.”
The Metro Public Works Department is faced with a difficult challenge, as Davidson County streets, historically, were constructed with no cohesive plan.
Lose & Associate’s Everett said Nashville — of the 100 largest U.S. cities — ranks sixth in vehicle miles traveled per capita, according to Brookings Institute findings. “Meanwhile, our level of congestion has grown much faster than our level of population growth, according to the most recent annual urban mobility report by the Texas Transportation Institute,” Everett said.
Mark Macy, Metro Public Works’ veteran director of engineering, said a comparison with San Antonio — which may have developed
“in a much different economy than we have” — or any other city may not be useful. Macy has looked at public works departments in other cities but can never get an “apples to apples” comparison.
“I get oranges and cherries,” he said.
Metro Public Works is receptive to a more comprehensive approach to using, for example, white edge stripes and curbs instead
of natural ditches, Macy said.
“The challenge is for drainage to work correctly,” he said of curbs.
One option is the low-impact design approach, according to Harrison Marshall, a transportation planner with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and a former Nashville resident familiar with the city’s streets.
“[Such an] approach to runoff involves vertical curbs that have cuts or scuppers that allow stormwater to drain into ‘rain gardens’ or flattened swales,” Marshall said. He added that low-impact design streets are most common in the Pacific Northwest and Maryland, but the idea is spreading.
At minimum, every secondary and tertiary Nashville street could use white edge stripes, according to those interviewed for this article.
“Stripes help to define the roadway, which tends to slow [motorists],” said planning professional Phil Walker, president of Nashville-based The Walker Collaborative.
Bob Murphy, president of Brentwood-based RPM Transportation Consultants LLC, said the striping standards (two elements of which include 20-foot-plus wide streets and carrying 3,000 or more average daily traffic trips) are such that white edge striping could be justified on most of Nashville’s collector streets that lack form-defining curbs.
As Nashville moves into the new decade, both professionals and citizens will look to city officials to address the matter.
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