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Sunday, September 4, 2016

STUDY, STUDY, STUDY, STUDY, STUDY...but where is the ACTION, Nashville?????????

Nashville has historically had little regard for sidewalk design or its pedestrians.

I do have hope for Nashville that things are changing but, boy, it feels really slow.  We seems to be constantly 'studying' the issue of how to improve walkability but doing little to change.  As you can see, the sidewalk above literally has no place to go (so, neither does any walker).  The sidewalk below, very recently was put in but still has the age old issue of utilities infringing on the width.  

I was at a BPAC meeting not long ago where I was introducing the concept of  Walking Districts.  I was surprised by Freddie O'Connell who had strong words for this idea by saying that all roads should have was the city's responsibility to put in high quality infrastructure for pedestrians.  

Walking District Links:

After reading the article below in The Scene, I think I understand his concern a little more...

O'Connell: Here's Why Talking About Transit In Nashville Is Frustrating

Councilman laments both lack of progress and lack of publicity of successes in city's transit infrastructure
 SEP 1, 2016 1 PM
The first of several planned public forums on the future of transit in Nashville was held last night, following the release of the 25-year, $6 billion nMotion transit plan. During the forum, Metro Councilman Freddie O'Connell, who represents North Nashville and downtown, tweeted:

O'Connell: It’s 140 characters, it’s an immediate response to something that’s said at this transit forum where it’s like ‘hey, we’re going to be updating the downtown mobility plan.’ Guys, we just did the plan in 2014, that’s two years ago. Show me the benchmarks because I don’t believe that we’ve done even close to half of the projects in that plan. Had we done some of those projects, I think our mobility outlook would be a little bit better.
I absolutely support planning processes and I like them to be living processes. The problem is if we just keep saying, ‘well, we’re going to refresh, refresh, refresh’ and we never actually do anything while that living process is going on, it’s a great excuse to do nothing and I think that’s been the issue. 
I guess technically my term maybe just expired, but I had been on the mayor’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee since it got kicked off back in 2008. We commissioned this great connectivity study, it’s similar to the downtown multi-modal mobility study where it’s looking at these areas where if you had connections — transit, pedestrian, bike — you give people a lot more noticeable and viable options. Certainly you have to expose that you’ve done that, but I mean, back then I said why don’t we use a TIGER grant? If Public Works isn’t going to put this into a big package of stuff that they’re going to go out and specifically do with intent to solve these problems that we’ve identified as major bottlenecks to connections in parts of the city, then let’s go get some federal funding. Well we still, again, if we went back to that list of connectivity study stuff, we’ve done a few of them but we haven’t exhaustively done them and catalogued them.
Scene: Why do you think that is?
O'Connell: I think it’s because we have not had a lot of transparency to the way we do infrastructure planning. I remember just being struck years ago watching the contrast between — this is way before I was on council, I think I was maybe there for MTA and just kind of waiting in the queue and Water was ahead of us and Public Works was ahead of us — the completely disparate presentations, right? Scott Potter, who is in charge of a rate-payer funded part of the Metro apparatus who’s not really there to ask for a big chunk of money, still gives this extensive overview of the projects that are coming down the pike. You watch the Public Works presentation and you’re like, OK well what are you guys doing next, what sidewalks are going to be built next, which bike facilities are going to be built next, which roads are going to be improved next. Totally different world. I hope that’s something that we’ve got changing. We’ve got WalknBike happening right now, there’s probably more attention on that. The very first mayoral forum for the 2015 election was actually in late 2014 and it was about sidewalks. It was extremely well-attended and my hope is that some of that public pressure continues to put the spotlight on the need for infrastructure. 
Scene: So, I want to make sure I understand what you said before. The lack of transparency and the lack of maybe awareness that these are all the projects we want to do, you think that leads to a lack of urgency?
O'Connell: Absolutely. If we said, ‘all right not only has this study produced this recommended list of projects, but here is a public benchmarking thing and we said we’re going to attack this in a five-year plan, we would know if we succeeded or failed. I have no idea how we know that right now. Beside the fact that most of those plans aren’t these things that we just keep up in front of us as a city and say, hey this is great we should be doing this, we made progress — look we did this one, look we did this one.
Scene: Yeah, we don’t have one of those thermometer signs in the middle of downtown showing progress. What was your reaction to the big nMotion plan transit plan that just came out?
O'Connell: I look at it and I sympathize with the people who have already reviewed it and kind of said ‘yeah, we should have done some of these things 10 years ago.’ We heard a little bit of that last night in the transit forum, just basic services, nights and weekend stuff. We should’ve picked some of the low-hanging fruit over the last decade and we did pick some of it. Over the course of the Dean administration’s two terms we did set a new normal for operating funds for MTA and meanwhile we watched passenger trips outpace population growth. That’s a good thing. But we need to redefine normal and I think that’s what nMotion is going to do and we’re going to face challenges. It was very good to have a member of the Davidson County delegation as a part of the transit forum discussion because we’re going to really struggle if Nashville is standing alone trying to solve a problem that is fully a regional problem. 
So we’re all challenged. I’m challenged, I think the mayor’s office is going to be challenged and then beyond that the mayor’s caucus and what would amount to any of our regional, state delegation. I hope this is a case where we actually have the legislative group not standing in the way of public preference here. If we had the opportunity to go to referendum on this, which we have right now — by state authority, RTA can go raise revenue — if we do that and it fails, that’s one thing. If we’re not even allowed to do that, that’s a different kind of problem. 
I’m optimistic because so far the public conversation around nMotion has not been to attack it for any of the size and scope, it’s really been the frustration of realizing how far behind we are. That’s cause for optimism in the sense that hopefully some of the frustration provides some of the urgency. But I had my first constituent let me know he’s leaving the Gulch area because the downtown congestion has just completely paralyzed the process of mobility for him. That’s hard for me because I’m trying daily to look for solutions here but I need the people in charge of creating and maintaining our built environment to be working as hard as I am to try to find solutions. I worry that the pace of our growth has not yet led enough people to think ‘how can we do this’ instead of ‘why we can’t do this.’ That’s the big switch that needs to flip.



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