Follow by Email

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This Is A Must See!


When you choose to focus on the Nashville's infrastructure for anything but car drivers you start to notice A LOT of things that are kind of behind the times.  It can be maddening to say the least.  

These guys did an excellent (and funny) job of reviewing bike issues - I'd love to do something similar for sidewalks.

If you have expertise in this area - please let me know.  I could use a hand!



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Walking Districts in Nashville?

The emphasis of Shade Parade Nashville is to create high quality walkability for Nashville.   Currently, I am working on a few major projects:  
  • Sidewalk Project #1 - Bowling Av
  • Change the In-Lieu fee system so that develops who create density are required to put in their piece of the sidewalk network
  • Create the first Walking District in Nashville


I have been playing with the idea of Walking Districts in Nashville for some time.   But, I need help with this.  I need your feedback.  I also need to get a group together who can help me solidify this idea and advocate for it.  

***

Sidewalks are a long term goal.  They take diligent persistence to obtain currently.  This could change on a dime if the new mayor and council decide to properly fund The Davidson County Strategic Sidewalk Plan.  But, in the interim, I suggest we make design changes to select neighborhood roads that would make it clear that pedestrians have the right of way.

Akin to the 'bikelanes' in Nashville that entail a road decal and signage, this idea would add a speed reduction to 20 or 25mph and further signage that would alert drivers that they are entering a Walking District.



On my list is also a higher penalty for speeding in these areas (with adequate patrolling) and the addition of Walking Districts to the scoring of The Sidewalk Priority Index which Public Works uses to determine who gets sidewalk and when.

Many neighborhoods in Nashville are purely residential.  People live there.  There are no businesses.  These streets, could be reclaimed as places for children to play and neighbors to meet.  These could, no longer, be places for people to cut-through quickly on their way from point A to B.  



If this strikes you and you have comments - please let me know.  Thank you!




Saturday, April 25, 2015

Announcing a New Treat for Pedestrians in Nashville!




A walkable neighborhood park is a rare gem in Nashville.  Elmington Park, at the corner of West End and Bowling, is one of two local parks in my neighborhood.  It is close, distance-wise, but unfortunately has a very significant barrier to walking:  Bowling Av.  Bowling is a high speed connector street - a cut-through.  Very useful to drivers but a real danger for the walker.  If Bowling Av had a complete sidewalk my family could walk safely, quickly, and in comfort.  Access to this park is one reason Trish Mixon and I have been fighting so hard to finish the sidewalk network on Bowling (see Sidewalk Project #1:  http://shadeparadenashville.blogspot.com/2015/03/sidewalk-project-1-bowling-av.html).  

One of my goals of this writing project, Shade Parade Nashville, is to elevate pedestrianism and build in rewards for walking.  This Little Library below is a perfect compliment and I am happy to announce it here.  It is accessible only to pedestrians, sits at the entrance to Elmington Playground, and allows for serendipitous learning about new things.


Calling all your books and small toys/trinkets that you would like to share!  This is the perfect opportunity to turn your spring cleaning into sharing for the betterment of this neighborhood!
Please place items inside the Little Library at Elmington Park, come by periodically to see what's new, take whatever interests you…

  






Thank you to Little Libraries and Turnip Green for donating this place to exchange free books and little toys.  It was created during Pedestrian Paradise held in the fall of 2014.  

Thank you to Proctor Marble and Granite for installing it.





Friday, April 24, 2015

Favorite Walks

This is something we, right now, can only hope for in Nashville.  The New York Times Magazine has a piece called Walking New York where people submit descriptions of their FAVORITE WALKS.   At this particular time in Nashville (spring 2015) can you honestly say that your city could create a collection of stories focused solely on our personal favorite walk around town?   This is the stuff of dreams… 


What can I say:  Nashville needs to build walking infrastructure.   Waiting longer isn't going to help us.   We need better sidewalks & many more of them right now.   Indeed, you have the right to walk safely to any destination.  Everyone is born a pedestrian.  We need sidewalks that make sense:  that are free of obstacles and link together in logical and safe ways.  We need this infrastructure so we can all get out safely and comfortably on foot for exercise, to accomplish our daily tasks and for the pure enjoyment of it as these stories in the NY Times declare.  

These stories of favorite walks clearly speak to these same desires & I strongly encourage you to advocate for improved walkability here in Nashville.





Click on the link to see the amazing images.  They are inspiring.



Walking New York

Sonny Rollins’s favorite corner of the Williamsburg Bridge. The best can-collecting route in Bushwick. Scroll down for New Yorkers’ most memorable walks in the city, and contribute your own.

Link:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/04/22/magazine/new-york-city-walks.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0









Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is it That You Want, Nashville?


Every city has a wish list of wants/needs.  Different people will identify different needs and place theses wants/needs at varying levels of importance.  I understand this.  Sidewalks just happens to be my highest wish.  

When I started this project I couldn't find anyone strongly advocating for the walkers of Nashville.  There were bike folks which I appreciated but no one was clearly speaking for pedestrians.  My goal was to start a conversation about walking in Nashville and I feel pretty good about the work I have accomplished.  

Certainly, as expected, not everyone agrees with my stance.  I have a neighbor who feels that there is no point to talking about sidewalks as there will never be a changing of minds.  She also very much dislikes my sandwich board below.  Two nights ago, when I was out walking with my Nashville Needs Sidewalks race bib attached to my backpack, I ran into a couple (also walking) who said Nashville doesn't need sidewalks - we need to fill our potholes.  This kind of feedback makes me quite pleased as I am getting people to think about walking, sidewalk infrastructure, and the direction they want the city of Nashville to go in.  

In a city, where funding is finite, if you have something you want - such as sidewalks - you better speak up.  As they say, 'The squeaky wheel gets the oil'.  

I personally think that having the best walkability Nashville can create has so many benefits that it is at the top of my list.  It certainly trumps potholes to me.  







What is it that YOU want, Nashville?

It is very easy to take 2 minutes and email the mayor and your councilperson.  I am asking you to request funding to build new sidewalks according to The Davidson County Strategic Sidewalk Plan which was created in 2003, updated in 2008 and never funded.  










Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Alex: Nashville Needs Sidewalks


Alex told me he liked my sign and that it was true:  Nashville does need sidewalks.  So, I gave him my sign.  He said he was a big walker but it thought Nashville was 'ridiculous' and 'dangerous'.  'One false step and you were in the road'.





This is my new tactic.  If you say you like my sign that I wear on my backpack -I'll give it to you and then ask you for a picture (and hopefully your story). 

***

Help us spot Nashville Needs Sidewalks signs around town.  

We also deliver these race bibs/signs.  Contact us at thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com.

***

NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS. 

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.


If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com






Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You May Have Noticed…

More Nashville Needs Sidewalk spotting!






You may have noticed:  compared to our sister cities of comparable size and population, Nashville is woefully lacking in sidewalks.  Therefore, it is time to ask our elected officials to fund the Sidewalk Plan!  We have talked about it long enough - now, we need to get building.  

You can easily write to the mayor and your councilperson and ask that they stop talking about sidewalks and instead put the funding in place so that we can not only walk 100 miles but do so safely and comfortably!





Minneapolis, by comparison, has a population of 400K but has sidewalks essentially all roads on both sides.  Nashville, with a population of >600K has less than 1/4 mile of sidewalk per mile of road and only on one side of the road!  This does not make a healthy usable sidewalk network.


NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS. 

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.

If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com


We also have Nashville Needs Sidewalk Bibs



Links:



Saturday, April 18, 2015

I-440 Greenway - This Would be A Dream Come True for West Nashville!



I live in a dead-zone for walkability.  Mind you, I can walk in a perfect loop on quiet tree-lined side streets & I often see a number of my neighbors by doing so.  My neighborhood is actually park-like with the number of walks and its beauty.  It's the walking to a destination that I cannot do as I am hemmed in on all sides by major roads without a lick of sidewalk structure.  I cannot walk with purpose to any business, library, event, park, public transportation, school, etc.  I could go on and on…

I think a lot of West Nashvillians live with the same limitations.

That could change and change quickly if the I-440 Greenway is created soon. 







NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS (and Green Ways!). 

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.

If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com






Thursday, April 16, 2015

Impersonal Behavior When Driving - is it ok to treat pedestrians as you would another car?




My nephew recently told me the story of truck driver friend he knows who had a light-bulb moment of understanding while being in Chicago recently.  Until this moment, he took the road, in his 4000 lbs vehicle, with a stance of dominance.  Pedestrians beware!  He had the right-of-way.  



In the Windy City, at stops, he repeatedly had pedestrians give him a sharp thump on his hood as they passed in front of his car.  Why?  Later he realized he had entered their space - he was in the crosswalk & they had the right-of-way.  In all honesty, he reported to my nephew, he did not know that he was supposed to yield to them!

Pedestrians of Nashville, carefully of course, take back the road.  You have the right to walk and you have the right-of-way!  It is the law and it is a driver's job to yield to you.  If a critical mass of walkers are out there on foot we can make a change in our change in our culture for the better!    




The Driver's Paradigm

No doubt you have noticed that drivers act in ways they never would in person.  Would you cut in line at the grocery?  No, but you might certainly hold off on getting in the merge lane on the expressway if it is backed up only to dart in later.

It seems, when one gets in their car (a personal bubble if you will) that there is a great movement towards impersonalization. People will behave in ways there never would if they had to be face-to-face with the other person in the next car.

This behavior becomes a great concern when you have a population who is particularly vulnerable:  those on foot and those on bicycles. 


For a time, I have wanted to pursue a public awareness campaign that clearly puts the pedestrians of Nashville 1st and teaches drivers that they need to 1) see pedestrians and slow in response and 2) that pedestrians do have the right-of-way are drivers need to yield to them (it is, in fact, not the other way around --- drivers should NOT speed up to try to avoid walkers!)

Driving seems to bring out the worst in people - a fact many of us know well.  Another argument for making Nashville more walkable is that the behavior drawn out of us while driving is not the face our city wants to show to our many visitors.  




I came across this wholly unattractive list of emotions and behaviors that driving supports - I encourage you to read it and consider your own experience of driving.




Basic Principles of Driving Psychology


The primary affective driving norms are: 


---valuing territoriality, dominance, and competition as a desirable driving style
---condoning intolerance of diversity (in needs and competencies of other drivers)
---supporting retribution ethics (or vigilante motives with desire to punish or amend)
---social acceptance of impulsivity and risk taking in driving
condoning aggressiveness, disrespect, and the expression of hostility 


These affective norms are negative and anti-social. Socio-cultural methods must be used to reduce the attractiveness of these aggressive norms and to increase the attractiveness of positive and cooperative driver roles.

The primary cognitive driving norms are: 


---inaccurate risk assessment
---biased and self-serving explanations of driving incidents
---lack of emotional intelligence as a driver
---low or underdeveloped level of moral involvement (dissociation and egotism) 


These cognitive norms are inaccurate and inadequate. Self-training and self-improvement techniques must be taught so that drivers can better manage risk and regulate their own emotional behavior.




The primary sensorimotor driving norms are: 


---automatized habits (un-self-conscious or unaware of one’s style and risk)
---errors of perception (e.g., distance, speed, initiating wrong action)
---lapses (in one’s attention or performance due to fatigue, sleepiness, drugs, boredom, inadequate training or preparation) 



These sensorimotor norms are inadequate and immature. Lifelong driver self-improvement exercises are necessary to reach more competent habits of driving.







Links:

http://www.drdriving.org/articles/driving_psy.htm#basic





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nashville Does Need Sidewalks


Nashville does need sidewalks.

If you think so, too, please figure a way to attach a race bib to yourself and wear around town.   A Nashville Needs Sidewalks bib can be worn under the bib you'll wear at your next 5k, attached to your stroller,  put in your car window, on an office door or be creative … It is time to get the word out in a big way so that our candidates will know that sidewalk creation is a significant priority.  

Email:  thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com and we will get it to you.  $5 donation.  

Fundraising for:  Sidewalk Project #1 - Bowling Av.  




Help up spot Nashville Needs Sidewalks bibs around town by sending us photos you capture.


Monday, April 13, 2015

No Idling…

Less driving equals cleaner air.  Walk Score recently rated Nashville as a 26.5.  For comparison, NYC is 88.  The average city reviewed was a 47.  Importantly, we had no metric for public transportation.  Nashville, we have a lot of work to do!

At that this time, most neighborhoods in Nashville are car dependent.  It is neither safe nor convenient to walk.  

Recently, in the NY Times, it was reported that  'For the first time, researchers have shown that reducing air pollution leads to improved respiratory function in children ages 11 to 15, a critical period of lung development'.  This age represents the final termination of lung growth.   

The importance of this statement lies in the age.  Prior, we had know that smaller children's aiways were affected by air pollution but it wasn't clear what was happening with older lungs finishing their growth.  



'Environmentalists have maintained that federal emission standards are not stringent enough to safeguard health, while some conservatives criticize the regulations as overly restrictive and expensive. The new study, conducted in Southern California and published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, provides evidence that better air quality, a result of stricter regulation, improved health among children, experts said.

Morton Lippmann, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University School of Medicine, said the research would be influential and predicted that within the next few years, when federal emission standards are due for review, “this kind of information will play a major role.”

“It provides confirmation that the work we’ve done to improve air pollution has made a difference in kids’ health,” said Dr. Joel Kaufman, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Washington, who was not involved in the research. “There are more kids comfortable running around.”'

Air pollution is not healthy.  Please consider walking to your destination if possible.  If not, I want to take one moment to remind you to turn off your vehicle.  Don't idle.  



Walking is a wonderful alternative if it can be done safely and in comfort.   



NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS. 

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.

If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com

We also have Nashville Needs Sidewalk Bibs


Links: http://www.momscleanairforce.org/mama-summit/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/childrens-lung-health-improves-as-air-pollution-is-reduced-study-says/?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=4

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mayoral & Council Candidates: Please Advocate for Consistency When It Comes to Nashville's Pedestrian Infrastructure

Green Hills is an example of a neighborhood that doesn't see the forest for the trees.  It is like a fiefdom where each individual business has its own parking lot and its own tiny patch of neglected sidewalk.  It lacks big picture design and its sidewalk network reflects it.  As anyone who has attempted walking it, as you bump along the too-numerous-to count curb cuts and broken patches, you can clearly see that there is nothing to see.   This is not a pedestrian paradise. 



When we hosted the Mayoral Candidate Coffee on Walkability one thing stood out to me as possibly an error in thought. The quote was:  we need to take each sidewalk project individually.  Meaning, Nashville could continue to perpetuate a crazy quilt pattern for its sidewalk network rather than a cohesive look and feel.  



 I would argue that we need cohesiveness.  The plan should be set with only minor adjustments made on a case-by-case need.  We need to start with the big roads.  Walkers need to put on their shoes, head out for their errands, knowing what to expect.  Out-of-towners need to have a visual brand, if you will, when they think about Nashville.  Part of that brand could be our knock-out sidewalks.  These sidewalks could be omnipresent and uniform with the perfect green buffer and trees providing shade coverage.  This, my friends, would be ideal.

Nicely, we have a plan already!  We just aren't doing it.  The Strategic Sidewalk Plan for Sidewalks & Bikeways was originally created in 2003 and then updated in 2008.  This plan clearly describes our planned sidewalk infrastructure to have a substantial green buffer on all new sidewalks.  Additionally, adequate sidewalk widths are described for each type of traffic pattern to accommodate ADA needs and pedestrian flow.  



Green Hills a very solid example of a sidewalk grid that doesn't work well.  Each component of the sidewalk grid is beholden to the individual business and does not then communicate well with the whole.  There is no overall 'brand' here.  And, it shows.  The sidewalks are dead sidewalks.  You rarely see a walker here even though it is actually faster to walk here than drive (I challenge you to try this as the distance in GH is very small).  In talking with friends, many say they avoid Green Hills like the plague.  The traffic is not worth it.  These businesses are also missing out on the random stop-ins that occur when you are, for example, walking home and decide to take a different route.  Many shops in Green Hills are exactly this kind of store - stores where impulse buys could make a big difference.  The barriers to customers popping in are much lower when you just have to move your feet rather than drive, park, get out of car, etc.  





NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS.

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.

If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com

We also have Nashville Needs Sidewalk Bibs - let people know this is important to you!








Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Each Person in Nashville Drives About 36 Miles A Day!






A logical response to a sign like this is:  Why do Nashvillians drive so much?  One explanation could be our lack of walking infrastructure.  Compared to sister cities, we are woefully behind.  When a walker sets out on foot but encounters numerous obstacles and inconsistencies the results are a hesitancy to try it again.  Frankly, it is just easier to drive.  See http://shadeparadenashville.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-comparison-of-nashvilles-sidewalk.html  

Another reason might be a perception of safety issues.  Walking on a sidewalk that is directly next to a road with no green buffer or shade trees is not comfortable.  If a child tumbles, the only place to go is in the road.  If a car looses control, they could land up on the sidewalk.  Psychologically, it will stop you in your tracks.  These 'dead sidewalks' exist for a reason. 


Worse yet, are the streets with literally no safe place to walk.  Unfortunately, you can be walking along and encounter an abrupt ending of a sidewalk with no warning at all leaving you to walk directly next to cars.  Not safe - I don't think anyone one would let a child walk here.



In fact, Nashville is currently ranked the 15th most dangerous city for pedestrians based on deaths occurring on foot.  See http://shadeparadenashville.blogspot.com/2014_05_01_archive.html



Importantly, Nashville could change!  With leadership that advocates for our pedestrians, we could have a consistent and well designed sidewalk network that is beautiful, heavily used and safe.  




NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS. 

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.

The plan to open a dialog about these issues and to urge our elected officials to be pedestrian advocates.

If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com


We also have Nashville Needs Sidewalk Bibs







Monday, April 6, 2015

Thank You To Mayor Karl Dean For Meeting About Sidewalks in Nashville Today


Want to thank mayor Karl Dean for meeting with us today about Sidewalk Project #1 - Bowling Av.  Wanted to also thank Councilman Sean McGuire for arranging the meeting and Marc Macy of Public Works for fielding so many questions (both during and after the meeting).  


As many of you know, last year we took up the cause of completing the sidewalk network on the fast cut-through street of Bowling Av.  First, we sent a letter to every land owner on Bowling.  Responses were very supportive.  Following the letters, was a poll of the neighborhood.  140 responders with 92% showing support.  Then, we held a public meeting about this pilot project at West End Middle School.  We had numerous guest speakers and over 70 citizens join in the conversation.   

Since that time, we have had Public Works rework our Sidewalk Priority Index score and have continued to work hard to gain support for this project.  Since it equates to a pilot project for us, the plan is to replicate its success on other streets where citizens express need.     

Bowling Av is in critical need for a few reasons.  First, there is West End Middle School.  On the side of the street with the school, there is no sidewalk making walking safely to school not an option.  Second, Bowling is partially sidewalked.  Completing the project would finish the job.  Critically, the portion that is not sidewalked sits squarely in a dead zone for pedestrians.   There is no adequate walking infrastructure from Woodmont to Brighton and yet there are many walkers the fairly quiet tree-lined side streets.  On the highly residential end of Bowling, everyone just avoids this connector street.  Walkers that could run errands of foot don't because it does not feel safe. 

Bowling is a connector.  Even though many live within walking distance to Green Hills, Hillsboro Village, Elmington Park, McCabe Greenway, Sylvan Park plus numerous churches and synagogues the discomfort in having to travel on Bowling makes most get in their cars instead.   The speed limit is 35mph on Bowling but the average driver likely goes quite a bit faster making it a perceived danger for a walker.   Lastly, Public Works has assured us that there are no right-of-way issues on the remainder that needs to be sidewalked.   In other words, this project is doable with the right support.  

We talked for 45 minutes and made our case.  The discussion seemed well rounded and mayor Dean expressed his understanding.   

I have had many emails asking how to get a sidewalk project completed.  Hopefully, I will have more information soon.






***

NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS. 

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.


If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Is Nashville Setting Itself Up For Failure?



Is Nashville Setting Itself Up For Failure?


Articles, like the one below, read like a flashing warning sign for Nashville.  I am still amazed at our growth - so rapid & so wonderful! - but, we are not putting in the pedestrian infrastructure to accomadate it.  And, it isn't going to be easy to retrofit it in the future.  

My worry is that we are going to be collectively very sorry indeed when we have to live in the increased density with the single option of getting from point A to B soley in a car.  

The article below has been wholey copied and pasted here but I believe Shade Parade Nashville readers will find it of interest.   I encourage you to read it very closely and think critically about it.  

In regards to alternative modes of transportation such as light rail, the most clear cut quote is:  “I truly believe any community that doesn’t have these things will fail,” he said.

Millennials are the gold standard of demographics today,” said Tom Clark, chief executive of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “You chase them, and you entice them. They’re the most highly educated demographic the United States has ever had. . . . If you can get millennials to come to you, your long-term economic survivability is extraordinary.”


***

NASHVILLE NEEDS SIDEWALKS 
(& a light rail, too???) 

Nashville needs well designed, high quality, and uniform sidewalks with adequate green buffers to provide shade.

That is the goal of Shade Parade Nashville & The Sidewalk Foundation.


If you or someone you know would like to put in a regulation sidewalk in front of your home or development OR would like to make a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation contact thesidewalkfoundation@gmail.com

Consider making a google alert for Shade Parade Nashville to follow new blog posts or follow on this website.



We also have Nashville Needs Sidewalk Bibs for sale
You can help raise awareness just by attaching one of these to your stroller, your backpack, or where ever you see fit.


For ease of reading:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/yearning-for-car-averse-millennials-suburbs-turn-to-transit/2015/03/29/cb916cd8-d259-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html?hpid=z5






Suburbs such as Montgomery County rethink transit to court millennials

 March 29   
After moving to Washington from Akron, Ohio, six years ago, Katie Reed and her husband, Brian, happily ditched their two cars to live in Chinatown, where they enjoy walking to restaurants and shops.
So when she searched for a new job two years ago, Katie Reed, 32, considered it “critical” to find one on a Metro line. She also wanted to walk to lunch and after-work errands.
She landed at Choice Hotels International, which had just moved its headquarters to Rockville Town Square from Silver Spring. Its old offices, just outside the Capital Beltway, were reachable only by car and bus and had one restaurant within walking distance. The new digs are across the street from the Rockville Metro station. A gym, a CVS pharmacy and loads of restaurants are steps away.
“We didn’t have to change our lifestyle,” said Reed, a headquarters liaison to the hotel chain’s franchisees. “We didn’t have the burden of having to get a car.”
Transit-centric millennials like Reed, who were born between 1980 and the early 2000s, are causing angst in traditionally car-dominant suburbs such as Montgomery County. Suburbs nationwide have long lured companies — and the high-skilled workers they seek to attract — with good schools, relatively low crime and spacious corporate campuses surrounded by vast parking lots near major highways.
A realization is growing among those communities’ business and civic leaders that the traditional suburban brand needs an overhaul.
Concerns about Montgomery’s appeal to millennials gained new urgency last month, when Marriott International chief executive Arne M. Sorenson revealed that the hotel giant plans to leave its Bethesda office park when its lease expires in 2022. One of the company’s goals, Sorenson said, is to accommodate younger workers who want to be closer to Metro.
Marriott’s announcement is the latest sign that mass transit, once viewed as a prescription for traffic congestion, is now considered a must-have economic development tool to attract millennials — the country’s largest living generation — along with their employers, and the taxes that both contribute to local governments. Adding to the demand is the country’s second-largest demographic group: empty-nest baby boomers seeking to downsize in the suburbs and drive less as they grow older.
Stephen P. Joyce, Choice Hotels’ chief executive, said he noticed, starting about five years ago, that many of the young workers the company was eyeing for its growing number of tech jobs wanted to live in the District and downtown Bethesda.
“If you’re a suburban employer and you want to be relevant to people who want to live in urban locations, you’ve got to think mass transit,” Joyce said. “I can’t compete unless they can get to us without driving.”
The growing millennial and boomer preference for working and living in more walkable, urban settings is also transforming the traditional suburban office park. Some office-park owners are planning townhouses, restaurants, shops, walking paths and bike lanes to create a town-center feel, even as these spots remain isolated from major transit stations. In places that are years away from new light-rail or rapid bus lines — if they ever get them — upgrades in traditional bus and shuttle service will be necessary to meet changing lifestyles, business leaders say.
“This generation wants more things at their fingertips, rather than having to jump in a car to get to the mall or go eat,” said Henry Bernstein, a longtime Montgomery economic development official and now a senior vice president for Scheer Partners, a Rockville-based commercial real estate firm.
“I truly believe any community that doesn’t have these things will fail,” he said.
In Northern Virginia, government officials and the private sector hopeMetro’s new Silver Line extensionwill remake driving-oriented Tysons Corner into a vibrant urban hub.
Even Denver and Phoenix, which traditionally have generated far more suburban sprawl than urban density, are investing in new rail lines to lure big business. Illinois-based State Farm Insurance recently chose Atlanta, Dallas and Tempe, Ariz., as locations for new regional offices because, company officials said, their “transit-oriented” development can retain top talent.
“Millennials are the gold standard of demographics today,” said Tom Clark, chief executive of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “You chase them, and you entice them. They’re the most highly educated demographic the United States has ever had. . . . If you can get millennials to come to you, your long-term economic survivability is extraordinary.”
In North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, now reachable only by car and regional bus, a planned light-rail line would connect the 7,000-acre campus and the 50,000 people who work there with Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
The park’s managers also are preparing to build a hotel, restaurants and homes amid the vast acreage of office buildings. The park, half the size of Manhattan, doesn’t even have a coffee shop. Companies want more.
“They know that when they try to recruit talent, they’ll find people saying, ‘Really? I have to eat in the corporate cafeteria of my mom’s and dad’s office park or get in my car?” said Bob Geolas, president of the Research Triangle Foundation.
Montgomery officials are teaming with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to try to persuade Marriott to stay, citing what they say is plenty of room around Metro’s Red Line stations in the county.
County officials also are pushing for a 16-mile light-rail Purple Line to connect more affordable suburban neighborhoods with Metro stations and job centers such as downtown Bethesda, downtown Silver Spring and the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. (It doesn’t help firms to pay top dollar for offices atop a station, planners say, if their employees can’t conveniently reach Metro from home.)
After more than a decade of planning and debate, however, a Purple Line’s future remains uncertain as Hogan’s administration analyzes whether the state can afford to build a cheaper version of the $2.4 billion proposal.
Montgomery officials are also planning two Bus Rapid Transit systems: aCorridor Cities Transitway along the Interstate 270 bio-tech corridor and a countywide network of bus lanes. However, neither proposal has a construction schedule or financing plan.
Meanwhile, Montgomery has changed much of its zoning to allow office parks to add homes, shops and restaurants. Across the street from Marriott headquarters in Rock Spring Park, a sign advertises future townhomes, priced from $700,000 and up.
“It doesn’t require a Harvard urban planning degree,” said Steve Silverman, the county’s former economic development director. “These are not radical concepts, but what they require is some sense of urgency. We don’t have enough of a sense of urgency.”
Montgomery officials say they are well aware the county has more gray hair than other parts of the Washington region. Just over 13 percent of Montgomery’s population is 65 and older, compared with 11.3 percent in the District and 11 percent in Fairfax County, according to 2013 census figures.
At the same time, about 19 percent of Montgomery’s population was 20 to 34, compared with 34 percent of residents in Arlington County, 31.6 percent in the District and 20 percent in Fairfax.
To be sure, new transit systems are expensive to build and operate. And Metro, with its funding and safety issues, is a vivid example of what can go wrong.
New transit systems are also unpopular with some suburbanites who say they sought quiet neighborhoods with bigger houses and yards, not homes next to high-rises with trains and buses running past at all hours.
Moreover, there are plenty of companies, particularly those that require laboratories and other large facilities, that will continue to need less expensive space, even if it means being farther from transit. And plenty of workers, including millennials, still find driving to be the fastest, most reliable commute.
Matt Bell, chief operating officer of MedImmune, the biologics research arm of biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, said younger workers at MedImmune’s 51-acre campus off I-270 in Gaithersburg don’t ask to be nearer to Metro, which is six miles away. Most employees “by far” drive to work, he said, while a “small percentage” take Metro, ride bikes or walk from the nearby Kentlands community. But employees of all ages want convenient options, he said. Six months ago, at their request, the company increased its shuttle van service to the Shady Grove Metro station.
Transportation researchers and planning experts say one big question remains: how much millennials, the oldest of whom are now reaching their mid-30s, will continue to shun cars as more begin to have children and, in turn, enter what traditionally are the highest-mileage years of people’s lives.
Researchers say they’re intrigued that millennials’ aversion to driving and owning a car has endured even since the recession ended. Moreover, studies show that Americans of all ages are driving less, with per capita annual mileage continuing to drop since 2006.
All that, and other data, experts say, point to a broad cultural shift in how and where many generations want to live, work and get around.
“It’s not just the recession, and it’s not just millennials,” said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s metropolitan policy program. “The change is so dramatic, it can’t be the result of one thing. There are definitely structural changes happening.”





LINK:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/yearning-for-car-averse-millennials-suburbs-turn-to-transit/2015/03/29/cb916cd8-d259-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html?hpid=z5