Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What transportation people don't know

I had a fairly animated discussion with a transportation planner today which was a natural extension of the post from yesterday. In my passion about the streetcar topic, I could not help but again ask why the Automated Guideway Transit, (AGT) as they call it, was to be an above ground system and not at street level with the pedestrians. The answer I got was just as passionate, he likes the idea of separating the pedestrians from the vehicular traffic, to eliminate conflicts.

Now, what I can't understand is where this mentality meshes with the recent and currently underway planning efforts in the Downtown Master Plan (Draft), the Lexington Streetscape Master Plan, the Complete Streets efforts of the bicycle/pedestrian plan. Each of these plans or planning efforts have urged the enhancement and expansion of the street level pedestrian experience.

This planning fellow tells me that he "loves" the skywalk system here in Lexington, such that it is, and uses it often to get to a restaurant for lunch, especially in inclement weather. He says that he sees many others using it along with him. I did point out that he has to walk about two blocks just to access the skywalk system, climb stairs and meander another two blocks through office buildings and hallways, desend stairs and enter the dining facility. To get back just reverse the process. He readily admitted that the system was incomplete, apparently expecting additions to it in the future. Nothing has been added in the last 10-15 years and the current bridges are starting to deteriorate. It also seemed to amaze him that other cities had started to dismantle their skywalk systems.

He did try to explain this AGT system in further detail, that this was a "test"phase, if you will, and that later phases would extend for the rest of the people. Now, I pointed out yesterday that they are looking at likely 3 phases currently and they all involved university students/faculty from campus to campus or downtown to campus. How can one measure if it is a success if it does not include everyone?

I was astounded to learn that some of our local transportation personnel are unaware of happenings in cities of the region. Items like the streetcar initiative in Cincinnati, and the aforementioned skywalk removals.

I guess that these ideas go hand in hand with the general public, like the thought that any railroad is ripe to be either removed or commandeered for the purposes of the local government, i.e. the local good. Railroads in this country are already in place and the ones in this area are steadily working to improve service. And the industry, as a whole, is not asking for a Federal bailout.

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