For my planning activism with the Greater Waterville Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, I have been looking into a lot of crash data, trying to learn about the nature of accidents in and around Waterville and how they could be mitigated.
I happened upon a story that I didn’t expect to find, but did. Waterville is looking into fixing a 5 way intersection at the corner of Western Ave., Lincoln Ave., and 1st Rangeway. The intersection can be a bit difficult to navigate, but in looking at the crash data for the Waterville area, it appears that the intersection is quite safe compared to other parts of town (Interstate Interchanges & Downtown).
While the perception is that the intersection is unsafe, what generally tends to happen is that people navigating that intersection approach it with some level of hesitation and a heightened awareness. Because everyone knows it is a “bad” intersection, it is made safe because people treat it as if it were a place to be respected. In the list of projects for the City of Waterville and Maine’s DOT is a redo of this “unsafe” intersection. While the improvements may in fact change the perception of the intersection as an “unsafe” place, the data suggests that this is a gross miss-allocation of resources.
Waterville has a downtown business environment that is fighting like hell to remain a viable center of business activity. People take economic risks here by opening up businesses, the downtown development group spends considerable energy building up the downtown, but what is clear to me is that the street network that supports downtown isn’t doing an adequate job.
By the numbers, a two block section of downtown has had 84 accidents in the last 8 years. Most of those are rear-end/sideswipes between people backing out of diagonal stall parking were rear-ended or parallel parkers were sideswiped. As a planner, I know the value of downtown on-street parking to downtown businesses. People need to get in, conduct a transaction, and leave. Eliminating on-street parking is a looser for these businesses and will make traffic even faster due to greater roadway widths. Stories here and here.
What is needed however is a traffic calmed environment that will be a more inviting place for patrons of downtown businesses, families spending a weekend strolling along the shop lined streets, and as a result will slow traffic down, leading to less crashes.
Ha, I used the word hip in a sentence. I am so not hip. Want to know where the those hip places are in Maine? Look no further than the 18-34 year old age group in my opinion. How do we find out where those places are for those not in the know? Simple, use a specialization ratio if you are geeky like me.
Attached is a simple map showing a simple ratio of where 18-34 year old people over-represent the population, as compared to other places in the region. Here we are looking Cumberland and York Counties. Unsurprisingly, Greater Portland and Brunswick are there, but Sanford, Kittery, and Biddeford? Hmmm.
The specialization ratio is pretty much a location quotient that economists use to determine if your area specializes in a particular industry or not. The basic equation looks like so:
Do this for every town in the entire area and you will know which places are more specialized for whatever it is you are measuring. Spreadsheets or a GIS are much easier than doing individual equations.
Data was sourced from the census.