Public Transportation Network

It just so happens the start of our snow this year coincided with my decision to run for city council. As I talked with friends and associates in Pullman – including those living in Ward 3 – the conversations inevitably turned one-sided and everyone took their opportunity to tell me what was wrong with the way the city took care of snow. I get it. I once lived in Syracuse, New York, where they get an average of 125 inches of snow a year, have hills, and take care of things way differently. But I just sat and listened to people treat me as their sounding board. I was OK with it.

There are thousands of people in our city with thousands of different towns in which they were raised or lived for a long time, and countless different ways of doing things.

When it comes to how we get around, folks are pretty passionate about things. For some, it’s all about the amount of traffic during “rush hour” (put in quotation marks because city-dwellers who come to Pullman laugh at what we consider rush hour). For others, it’s about walkability. For many, the ability to use a bicycle – especially from late spring to early fall – is important. A strong bus system is vital for some individuals.

I think all these things are important. That’s because they’re all part of a network.

A public transportation network is far greater than just public transportation, or Pullman Transit. A transportation network includes everything from the surfaces – roads, sidewalks, alleyways – to the type of vehicle we are in, such as car, bus, bicycle. It also includes storage of those vehicles on some type of surface… also known as parking! We must also consider pedestrian traffic, such as walking, jogging, rollerblading, etc. It also deals with connectivity and access. Are there multiple points of ingress and egress to public areas? Do collector arterials run where they support the next phase of growth? Or do they just dead end?

Right now, the popular term is “Complete Streets.” I feel there is a slight difference between that and this, but those differences are pretty nuanced and any argument about it may be splitting hairs.

One thing that made Ken Griffey, Jr. such a fantastic player when he was in his prime was that he was a good all-around player, not too slanted toward one facet of the game.

If any one of these items in a network is cut off, or is out of sync, the network is broken and we suffer in some form or fashion. That’s why snow stands out so much. It’s harder to drive in, and parking gets dramatically cut with all the snow berms. If we elect to not drive, but Pullman Transit doesn’t come past our home, then we have to walk. But what if sidewalks aren’t clear? One thing can affect another.

Here are a few other examples:

  • The garbage on College Hill is very noticeable. Those who deny this are turning a blind eye. Much of this is around Greek Row. Are the Greeks themselves to blame for littering? Absolutely. I’ve personally seen folks throw things on the ground. However, much of this is because of the wind carrying things down the road from overflowing dumpters? Why are they overflowing? Well, many of the dumpsters are in alleys. Pullman Disposal can’t get down the alleys with its big trucks if residents are parked in the alleys. And, in spite of signs that say No Parking, alleys are full of cars. Why is that? Because they have nowhere else to park! The one affects the other. Because it’s a network.
  • For a long time, Franklin Elementary School has not had a 20 mph school zone. Other schools in the city had this, including the high school, and, at their age, high-schoolers know how to stop-look-listen. But Franklin didn’t. And because Edge Knoll, Carolstar, Sunnymead, and Klemgard are all on a hill, the speed of cars becomes excessive (even beyond the 25 mph sometimes). That means pedestrians and the school crossing guards, many of whom are the children themselves are in danger. The one affects the other. Because it’s a network. [I’ll add that, right now, the city has plans to change this.]
  • There are some nice bicycle paths in town, but once they hit normal surface streets, the paths come to an end, and there are no bike lanes. Because of that, bicycling is a nice form of exercise, but not a good form of transportation. The one affects the other. Because it’s a network.

Now, I could certainly propose solutions to these right now, but that’s not my purpose here. My purpose is to point out the network and the cascading effect if one is out of sync.

So, whether it’s walkability, bikability, drivability, or something else, it’s something we have to understand in order to make wise decisions making forward. It isn’t just about avoiding unintended consequences. It’s about realizing best practices. That’s a tough thing to do, because it means examining our own previous and current beliefs. Such was the case with what I believed would be a way to eliminate congestion on Grand. It’s the same theory a lot of people have. Boy was I ever wrong, and there are case studies upon case studies proving it. Has to do with induced demand, but I won’t spill all the beans here.

Many cities are jumping on board with this idea on complete streets or the entire transportation network – and with great success. Smart Growth America ranks the top cities each in a variety of areas. For “Best Complete Streets” of 2015, Reading, Pennsylvania took top honors. This followed a mayor’s executive order to have complete streets. In West Hartford, Connecticut, it meant the City Council adopting a resolution for a complete streets policy. And, on the yearly list at No. 10, was Battle Ground, Washington, who enacted its own complete streets policy.

This is doable. We just have to see the big picture, and how things all interconnect (the network). And then we have to act upon the data and best practice.