"Road diet" hasn't affected commute on major Des Moines artery

When the city of Des Moines put Ingersoll Avenue on a “road diet” last month, some locals warned the change would inconvenience drivers and hurt area businesses. I drive down Ingersoll several times a week and have noticed no change in the traffic flow. Now a new study shows commuters have hardly been affected:

In early May, Ingersoll was “re-striped” between Polk Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, decreasing the number of vehicle lanes from four to three. There is one lane in each direction, a center left-turn lane and bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.

In the worst case, travel times increased roughly 20 seconds for westbound motorists traveling between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and 42nd Street during the afternoon rush hour, said Gary Fox, the city’s traffic engineer. There were essentially no changes overall and slight improvements in midday vehicle travel times, he added. […]

The Ingersoll plan is part of a broader “complete streets” initiative that aims to make Des Moines streets more accessible to bicycles and pedestrians.

Giving people safe alternatives to driving is the main reason to adopt “complete streets” policies, but this re-striping also created about 50 additional on-street parking spaces, which helps Ingersoll business owners and their customers. Click here for more information on road diets and here to learn about complete streets. Like Des Moines, the small town of Cascade, Iowa City and the Johnson County Council of Governments have also adopted complete streets policies. Earlier this year, Dubuque received a federal grant to help residents of the historic Millwork District commute to work on foot, bike, or via public transit.

LATE UPDATE: On June 24 I had to drive west almost the whole length of Ingersoll just before 5 pm, which must be around the worst time for “rush hour” traffic. I didn’t notice any problems, and hardly saw any congestion except for the stretch between 24th and 31st streets. Even that wasn’t bad.

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Great things are happening in Dubuque

The Dubuque mayor and city council decided in 2006 to make the community “a Sustainable City.” Last week federal officials recognized the progress made toward that goal. From an Environmental Protection Agency press release on September 17:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and White House Director of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carrion kicked off their three-city Sustainable Communities Tour today. The officials, representing the administration’s DOT-HUD-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, announced proposals during stops in Chicago and Dubuque that will help communities to improve access to affordable housing, provide additional low-cost transportation options, and protect the local environment.

Also on September 17, the city of Dubuque and IBM

outlined their plans to partner in the development of new “smarter” technologies and implementation strategies to create an international model of sustainability for communities of 200,000 and under, where over 40 percent of the U.S. population resides. Dubuque, a city that is recognized as a national leader in sustainability with its forward-thinking public policy, together with IBM, will address the ever-increasing demands of cities to deliver vital services such as energy and water management, and transportation, all while reducing the community’s impact on the environment.

More details about the recent events, along with some background, are after the jump.

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Older Americans want alternatives to driving

A nationwide survey of Americans over age 50, commissioned by the AARP in July, found that

while many Americans ages 50+ are trying to move away from car transportation as a result of high gas prices, their attempt to go “green” is challenged by inadequate sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as insufficient public transportation options. […]

Almost one of every three people (29%) polled say they are now walking as a way to avoid high gas prices. But as those people set out to walk, almost 40% of the 50+ population say they do not have adequate sidewalks in their neighborhoods. Additionally, 44% say they do not have nearby public transportation that is accessible. Almost half (47%) of poll responders say they cannot cross the main roads safely – 4 in 10 pedestrian fatalities are over the age of 50.

The AARP is one of the organizations supporting “Complete Streets” legislation:

“Complete streets enable pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit riders to share the road safely with automobiles,” said Elinor Ginzler, AARP’s Senior Vice President for Livable Communities. “More cities and states are adopting policies requiring their transportation agencies to ensure that roads are routinely designed or redesigned for all modes of travel. And instituting these new standards makes it safer for residents of all ages,” she stated.

“Some cities like Sacramento, California and Kirkland, Washington are ahead of the curve,” said Ginzler. “They have extra-wide sidewalks, flowered medians and flashing lights embedded in crosswalks at busy intersections. Bike lanes and bus stops line even some of the town’s busiest streets. These amenities allow residents to be safer pedestrians and commuters and even help the flow of vehicle traffic.”

At the national level, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), led efforts in the U.S. Senate to develop safer, comprehensively designed streets. Harkin introduced the bipartisan Complete Streets Act of 2008 (S. 2686) this spring. Senate cosponsors include Senators Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Norm Coleman (R-MN). Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) took a significant step for safer streets in May by introducing the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2008 (H.R. 5951) in the U.S. House of Representatives. Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) cosponsors the bipartisan bill. The bills would ensure that roads built and improved with federal funds safely serve everyone using the roadway — including pedestrians, people on bicycles or those catching the bus, as well as those with disabilities. This is the first time that comprehensive complete streets bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.

Even if there were no economic or environmental reasons to try to reduce gasoline consumption, Iowa’s aging population will increasingly need alternatives to driving in order to get around cities and towns.

So far only Iowa City and Johnson County have taken significant steps toward providing “complete streets” in Iowa.

More information on gas prices and complete streets can be found in this pdf file.

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