March 14-16: Main and King Street Transportation Charrette

Northampton’s Office of Planning and Development announces a Main and King Street Transportation Charrette. As you can see from the articles we include below the announcement, we’re concerned that increasing urban density beyond a certain point could result in unpleasant increases in total downtown Northampton traffic, even if vehicle miles per capita decrease somewhat. We have, of course, expressed other concerns about aggressive densification as well.

Kickoff with Boards: Monday March 14th 9:00 AM-11:00 AM, Senior Center Great Room

  • For boards and staff to provide background and perspective to the consultants:
    City Council, Planning Board, Transportation and Parking, Board of Public Works, Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee Police, DPW, Planning & Development, Economic & Community Development
  • The public is welcome to attend, but this is not a public participation session.
Public Goal Setting: Monday March 14th 7:00 PM-9:00 PM, Senior Center Great Room

  • For the public to participate in goal setting, identification of needs, sharing of vision
  • Please come and share your vision!!!
Schematic Plan Open Houses:
Tuesday March 15th 1:00 PM-4:00 PM: City Hall Hearing Room AND Tuesday March 15th 7:00 PM-9:00 PM: Senior Center Social Day Room

  • For the public and boards and staff
  • Come review draft plans and give your feedback.
Final Presentation: Wednesday March 16th 5:00 PM-7:00 PM: Senior Center Great Room

  • Come hear the consultant’s final report.
The Senior Center is located at 67 Conz Street and City Hall is located at 210 Main Street, Northampton.

The city has hired Nelson\Nygaard, a premier transportation planning firms, to engage the public, our community board members, and our departments on the future design of the Main and King Streets right-of-way. Nelson\Nygaard will provide us with an overall concept plan and recommendations. This approach was recommended by the City’s Transportation and Parking Commission and Mayor.

There are many efforts on specific portions of these corridors (New South/Main/West intersection, Damon/King/Bridge intersection, Summer/King/North intersection, Hatfield N. King Street intersection, and the King Street zoning).

In order to create the best design and save the taxpayers’ money, however, we need an overall vision for these areas. Every traffic project connects to every other traffic project, like a proverbial tube of toothpaste. We cannot think about projects in isolation.

All of funding for this effort is from a grant that the City received to encourage density at Village Hill (the former Northampton State Hospital). Urban density creates tax base, a sense of place, less traffic than any other development model, and helps us be more sustainable. The grant allows us to plan a transportation system that meets the transportation and parking needs that come with urban density and is ever more efficient, user-friendly, and sustainable.

See also:

Video and Slides: Proposed Improvements for the King/Summer/North Street Intersection (10/19/10)

Video: Engineers Abandon Full-Access Interchange Concepts for Exit 19; Residents Delighted (7/20/10)

Videos: King Street Zoning Workshop and Planning Board, December 2, 2010
Here are two short YouTube excerpts (Buffer Zones, Buffer Zones 2) from the December 2 King Street Zoning Workshop Subcommittee meeting, where the participants struggle to balance the car-oriented preferences of many developers with a desire to encourage pedestrian and bike traffic around King Street and its businesses.

Videos: King Street Zoning Workshop (11/15/10)

Planning Staff Comments on King Street Alternative Proposal (11/7/10)

King Street Zoning Revisions: Chamber Proposal vs. Alternative (11/5/10)

Video: Zoning Revisions Committee Meeting of 10/6/10; King Street Forum Comments; Planning Staff Offer Suggestions

Joel Russell Explains Resignation from Zoning Revisions Committee; Comments on King Street Rezoning (9/22/10)

Videos: Zoning for King Street, 9/29/10; Sussman, Horton, Budgar

Videos: Zoning for King Street, 9/21/10
The first hour is a presentation of proposed zoning changes (PDF, 2MB), including those suggested by the Chamber of Commerce (PDF, 1.3MB). The second hour is devoted to questions and comments from the public.

TED Video: Ellen Dunham-Jones on Retrofitting Suburbia (7/30/10)
As King Street goes under the microscope, architect Ellen Dunham-Jones talks in Atlanta about the successful reuse of empty buildings and parking lots, and enhancing the attractiveness of major thoroughfares.

Randal O’Toole: “The Folly of ‘Smart Growth'”  
Even with a five- or 10-percent reduction in per capita driving, the projected 80-percent increase in population density assures that Metro’s plan will greatly increase Portland-area congestion. Metro predicts that the amount of time Portland-area residents waste sitting in traffic will quintuple by 2020…

Randal O’Toole: “Debunking Portland: The City That Doesn’t Work” (PDF, Policy Analysis, 7/9/07)
When judged by the results rather than the intentions, the costs of Portland’s planning far outweigh the benefits. Planners made housing unaffordable to force more people to live in multifamily housing or in homes on tiny lots. They allowed congestion to increase to near-gridlock levels to force more people to ride the region’s expensive rail transit lines. They diverted billions of dollars of taxes from schools, fire, public health, and other essential services to subsidize the construction of transit and high-density housing projects.

Those high costs have not produced the utopia planners promised. Far from curbing sprawl, high housing prices led tens of thousands of families to move to Vancouver, Washington, and other cities outside the region’s authority. Far from reducing driving, rail transit has actually reduced the share of travel using transit from what it was in 1980. And developers have found that so-called transit-oriented developments only work when they include plenty of parking.

“Sprawl and Smart Growth” (PDF) by Jane S. Shaw
Senior Associate, Political Economy Research Center, Bozeman, MT
…One of the goals of the “smart growth” platform is to increase population density. The idea is that if people live close to one another and near shops and jobs they will do more walking and biking. In fact, however, the more people there are in an area, the greater the traffic congestion because most people continue to use their cars.

Randal O’Toole, head of the Thoreau Institute, points out that according to Census Bureau surveys, 90 percent of commuters typically drive to work. Only when d
ensities reach 5,000 per square mile (in cities such as Seattle, Chicago, and Boston) does the percentage of drivers start to go down from this high level…

Planetizen: “Trouble in Smart Growth’s Nirvana” (6/30/02)
The 2000 Census shows that, as expected, Portland became more dense. What was not expected was that all-suburban Phoenix would become more dense than Portland…

Despite the claims of the transit-media complex, Portland’s anti-highway policies are failing. The 2000 Census shows that transit’s work trip market share remains 20 percent below the 1980 Census rate, which preceded opening of the first light rail line. And, Portland’s highway congestion has become the worst of any metropolitan area of its size…

Densification is no more popular in Portland’s neighborhoods than it is in Berkeley, Boulder or Bozeman. As a result, a recent citizen’s initiative sought to limit Metro’s (the land use regulation agency) densification power…

Our Column in Today’s Gazette: The Hidden Risks of ‘Smart Growth’