By Dom Nozzi
In the late 1990s, I was asked to prepare the long-range transportation plan (the “Transportation Mobility” Element of the Comprehensive Plan) for the City of Gainesville. The Gainesville City Commission, after an enormous number of public meetings, finally approved transportation plan that I poured my heart and soul into preparing over a three to four year period.
Recent drafts of my plan, I am flattered to report, had elicited high praise from the state planning office (DCA), the state environmental office (DEP), the state/local Sierra Club, and a number of locally informed and active citizens. At the same time, the plan was subjected to brutal, angry attacks from the usual suspects:
Local suburbanites infected with car-happy, city-destroying motorist values, homebuilders, and hysterical, misinformed NIMBYs. This latter group was the reason why the former city commission majority was so terrified that, in their darkest hour, they failed to approve the plan before the reactionary new commission arrived (this failure will stand as one of the biggest failures of the former commission).
As I fully expected (and as the new commissioners promised), the transportation plan was completely gutted and made meaningless without, apparently, a peep of protest.
Here is my report, as coroner, of the deceased:
1. The first policy regarding the conversion and transformation of University Avenue by way of “road diet” was made completely meaningless.
2. Likewise, the second policy regarding the conversion and transformation of Main Street by way of “road diet” was made completely meaningless.
3. A policy that would end the local use of “biased” transportation terminology (i.e., using the word “enhancement” to describe something that, because it only “improves” conditions for cars — while worsening conditions for other forms of travel — actually creates great harm) was gutted.
4. A policy that would prevent the City from installing extremely detrimental turn lanes in locations that would harm bicycle travel and pedestrians was removed.
5. A policy which would make bicycle and pedestrian links to adjacent properties a condition for development approval (in other words, you could build a Wal-Mart only if you created a sidewalk or path to an adjacent Sam’s Club) was gutted.
6. A policy calling for modest, human-scaled development dimensions such as small setbacks, small street widths, buildings with a front door that faces the street, use of alleys, and parking in rear, was gutted.
7. A policy calling for the use of “low-speed” street design was gutted.
8. A policy calling for severe restrictions on the use of turn lanes was gutted.
9. A policy calling for no net increase in on-campus (University of Florida) or city government parking was removed.
10. A policy calling for the conversion of minimum parking requirements into maximum requirements was gutted.
11. A policy calling for the adoption of a transportation demand management ordinance (in other words, a business would be required to use effective strategies to discourage single-occupant car use) was gutted.
12. A policy calling for a five percent reduction in single-occupant vehicle trips in Gville by 2010 was removed.
13. A policy stating that the City shall not use road widening as a way to reduce congestion was gutted (I guess that means that Gainesville believes that we CAN build it’s way out of congestion…).
14. A policy stating that the City shall accept some levels of congestion as a way to promote travel choices and compact development was gutted.
Few, if any, of the above disembowelments were requested by the city commission. Instead, before the meeting, they were volunteered by my terrified supervisors, who were hoping to pre-empt expected objections from the suburban motorists on the commission.
When I checked, it had no pulse, when I pronounced it dead.
I called on all those who have previously endorsed the plan to retract their endorsement publicly. I told friends and my supervisors that I was disowning the now toothless plan, and wished to not have my name associated with it.
May the transportation plan rest in peace. Gainesville had, with its eyes wide open, locked itself into a south Florida future.
My memoir can be purchased here:
The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
Or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Road to Ruin can be purchased here:
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