Here, we dig into a few details.
WRONG KIND OF SAFETY
In the Prop 1 sidewalk survey, people voted that “safety” was the most important factor for prioritizing projects. But the only type of safety considered for Prop 1 was the number of pedestrian accidents with automobiles (up to 4 points in their “priority matrix”). No attempt was made to determine whether a lack of sidewalk contributed to the accident, and in many cases, the pedestrian was on or near an existing sidewalk or crosswalk. But adding a sidewalk on the other side of the street won’t improve safety in those situations. And, sidewalks on arterials are probably more dangerous because the cars are going faster and the intersections are larger. This is another argument to not prioritize sidewalks on arterials.
When we think about sidewalk safety, we think about a lot of things. The lack of sidewalks is of them, but also a lot of existing sidewalks are hazardous or impassable for some due to cracks, heaves, narrow sections, utility poles, and other issues. In fact, the Sidewalk Advisory Committee spent several meetings talking about these issues, and even produced a video about access for residents with disabilities and safe pathways for kids. These priorities are NOT reflected at all in Prop 1. This is the main reason we chose to campaign against Prop 1. The City should take into account all sorts of safety, and fix and update what we have for maximum impact on safety where there is maximum pedestrian density. And again, new sidewalk construction costs at least 10 if not 100 times as much as sidewalk repair, so repair is far more cost effective for safety.
create a BETTER review process for a 20 YEAR PLAN
This Sidewalk Prioritization Plan, lifted out of the Transportation Master Plan, was presented to the Sidewalks Advisory Committee (SAC) by a few technical staff. Meetings were mostly taken up by staff presentations to citizens about how sidewalks are built and a presentation of four pre-determined funding options. SAC members raised many questions and had many suggestions, but the plan was not substantially changed as a result. With mixed opinions, the SAC reluctantly approved the plan at the last scheduled meeting. There was also a related public survey, but it was narrow in scope. For example, instead of asking the open question “what would you prioritize?”, it asked “which of these existing priorities do you think is more important?”
For infrastructure this expensive, and for a funding plan that lasts 20 years, the City should plan at higher level, including the Department of Planning and Development. They should decide where people can and will walk in 20 years, incorporating major planned changes like the Aurora Square and light rail stations. Then they should ask residents where they do and would walk, and where they think the biggest barriers to access and safety issues are located, using an open-ended survey and many local open houses. Then the City should use that data to create a list of priority pedestrian destinations and the routes to them, like a trail map for the City. And then it should list of the barriers along those routes to address the biggest problems first. This plan is truly data driven and achieves real, not arbitrary goals.
ANTICIPATE LOCAL redevelopment
Two projects in particular, in Ridgecrest and in North City, are located in areas that will likely or certainly get redeveloped within 20 years. The Ridgecrest project on 15th Ave NE abuts vacant state-owned land that might be surplused and redeveloped - see the 2017 Fircrest Master Plan (page 57 has the map including Area 2b and Area 3 “Future Uses”) or attend the meeting at the Fircrest Activities Building at 5.30 pm on October 30. There is only a couple of feet there for a sidewalk there anyway, and so will require tree and wall removal and grading on state property. The North City project is adjacent to the 185th Station Subarea Rezone and is lined with properties now zoned MUR-70, MUR-40, and MUR-35. And the north end of 5th gets moved eastward to make room for the light rail tracks, so it will certainly see changes within 20 years. Why add sidewalks now at both locations?
The City should freeze or minimize potential projects in areas with foreseeable change within 10 years due to rezones, change in land ownership, and the changing housing market. Sidewalks are too expensive to install just to be torn up again a few years later. And developers have to put in new sidewalk or pay a fee in lieu of sidewalk construction, so development means sidewalks are coming in those areas anyway. We should only fund projects that will endure for at least 20 years, with the exception of needed repairs to spots that are big hazards.
DON’t separate construction from fixing
The City made an early decision to separate funding of new construction from that of repair. This decision was for convenience regarding potential funding sources. Prop 1 would generate about $3,000,000 a year on average, mostly if not all dedicated to construction. Car tab fees raises about $800,000 a year for sidewalk repair.
The City should prioritize repairs of existing sidewalk and new sidewalks together. The only way to spend taxpayer money wisely is to weigh repair projects against construction projects. Also, it makes no sense to add sidewalk to existing routes that are already impassible to part of the population. Proposition 1 removes any opportunity to weigh these priorities for the next 20 years.