Mainely Planning

Why plan for an uncertain future? Our world is changing in ways that we can hardly comprehend. The planning we have been engaged in over the last 100 years, is geared to a world with abundant energy, a stable climate, and a dwindling natural resource endowment that is reliant on cheap energy for extraction. That world is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Oil price spikes due to supply/demand and geopolitical concerns, water shortages (Google Lake Mead, Central Valley, CA or the Ogallala Aquifer for details), and soil depletion are just a few of the problems we face. As we move forward, the notion that we can continue with business as usual (BAU) is not going to sustain us.

Thinking creatively and making difficult decisions will test our abilities, push our cultural boundaries and hopefully shape a world where these uncomfortable realities can be dealt with in an equitable and meaningful manner. I write about things I see, think, and work on as I transition from being a planning student into the world of planning. I am neither a technological optimist, thinking we can invent our way out of all our problems, nor a doomer, believing in returning to a world much like pre-industrial times. I believe that our creativity combined with the lessons from the past will be instrumental tools for laying the foundation for the path forward. Some of my ideas may seem radical, others are just based on common sense and keen observations.


Links of Note


Mainely Rural
The Old Pine Tree
Strong Towns
Project For Public Spaces
Streets Blog
Cap'n Transit Rides Again
Human Transit
Pedestrian Observations
Urbanophile
The Broken Sidewalk
Maine Architecture
The Vigorous North
Depot Redux
Reason and Rail
Car Free Maine
Walk Around Portland




Transportation for America State Fact Sheets


A Reason to Plan



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Posts tagged "Sidewalks"

Misplaced investments abound anywhere you look. Investments whether public or private need to have a purpose and provide some sort of return. The place that I talking about today is in Portland, ME and is located just 1/2 a block north of the Amtrak/Concord Coach Station. The sidewalk is a private investment that facilitates travel between the parking lot of the Clarion Hotel and the hotel itself. Below is a handy Google Map of the site.


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What we see is a sidewalk that runs horizontally through the parking lot and abruptly stops nearly 5-6 feet from the public sidewalk leading to the train/bus station. Here are a photo looking out from the private sidewalk to the public sidewalk.

Notice that the fence isn’t there for security, but it does block passage through the majority of the parking area to the train station. I wonder if they thought a partial fence would be enough to keep hoodlums and vandals at bay, believing them to only put forth the effort if the fence prevented them from accessing 1/2 the parking area?

I am not sure why I am writing about this. People could in fact just walk around and through the roadway and enter the lot the way cars do. They could trample through the bushes or the hotel could have saved a couple hundred bucks in fence and spent it on completing the sidewalk. Now they have a fence that really doesn’t do anything, and an incomplete sidewalk that doesn’t facilitate travel to the train and bus station from their establishment.

I am not even sure I would have picked this up as a planner reviewing the site plan. It just seems that creating connections in logical places only improves a transportation system.

* It is noted that the private hotel owned sidewalk was built before the public sidewalk, which is the “only” way to get to the train station if one is on foot, unless you trespass on private property or walk in the roadway. Regardless, the investment should have been made by the city to link the two amenities up. The cost would have been negligible considering the entire cost of the project and reflects a serious lack of concern for how functional networks operate. It could be argued that the hotel wouldn’t want the sidewalk to be linked, which may be the case and that is their prerogative, but if an effort wasn’t made……

How do you encourage people to walk more? Someone in Waterville proposed a project where we create walking routes around town that head out from the library. I have been helping out with some mapping on the project and hope to include some of the work in another project of mine. The map below is an example map that families can check out at the library, pick a route and go for a walk.

Personally, I walk a lot. Partly because I have a dog, and partly because I like taking my time getting places and don’t mind a stroll for real life activities. I am probably in the minority here and don’t value my time the same way as others do, counting my walks as time well spent. I also enjoy being able to experience life at a human scale. I wrote a bit about a great post I read that talks about cycling and its importance in seeing the community as it is, and not at 50mph. You really get to know a place well when you walk or cycle through it.

I just wonder what it would take to get people to exchange one trip a week in a car for one on foot or bike? Will high gas prices do it? Diabetes? I don’t know. For now I am going to work with people on projects that encourage walking as a form of recreation and transportation. I want to mimic the efforts made in Raleigh, NC at constructing signs indicating distances to destinations. Those signs were removed by the city. Protest ensued and the signs were put back up. Change takes time and maybe a bit of encouragement.

Coming to a library near you Watervillians. Get out and take a walk. Combine it with a trip!