Making it someone's job (literally) to push Albany toward streets that are safer and friendlier for all sorts of people

Madison Ave road diet at South Lake

Update: Kathy Sheehan tells Amanda Fries the city won't be adding the position, but will be assigning one of its current engineers to oversee complete streets and ADA compliance. [TU]
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Should the city of Albany have a staff member whose full-time job is to keep the city on track towards its goal of creating streets that are safer and friendly to pedestrians, cyclists, and people with disabilities?

A group called Capital Region Complete Streets is pushing for the city to create such a position -- a complete streets coordinator -- and it would like to see the job included in the budget the city's working to finalize. The group has posted a doc outlining its argument (also embedded below). A clip:

It is evident that the City of Albany is making some progress with ADA Compliance, Complete Streets, and combating climate change, but the progress is slow. A Complete Streets Coordinator will help move things forward more efficiently, leading to a more inclusive, safe, walkable, and inviting city. One indicator that this position would be useful is that the city has had a Bicycle Master Plan in place since 2009, nearly a decade, yet has not come close to establishing a connected bicycle network. In fact, since 2009, the city has only managed to construct 4 mostly unconnected bike lanes (Clinton Ave, Northern Blvd, Madison Ave and Ten Broeck) that amount to about 2.8 miles.
A leading 21st century city is a safe and inviting place to live and work. Walkable streets, and navigable bike and transit networks are hallmark quality-of-life essentials for today's families, students, businesses and innovators. A Complete Streets Coordinator will allow Albany to be more responsive to the needs of its residents, while increasing its competitiveness with surrounding communities.

The city already has an ordinance requiring it to work toward "complete" streets, and a few years ago it put together what's essentially a recipe book for laying out streets with pedestrians and bikes in mind.

draft bike transit intersection example

An example intersection from the city's complete streets manual that highlights bike and transit amenities. (The example doesn't reference a specific intersection.)

The report acknowledges that city staff are working toward to these goals -- the Madison Ave Road Diet is one example. But Capital Region Complete Streets argues the city can and should be moving faster, and having a single point person to coordinate among departments for this issue would make that happen.

Somewhat similarly, the city last year created a neighborhood stabilization coordinator position to address vacant buildings and related issues.

Capital Region Complete Streets says cities such as St. Louis (Missouri), Bloomington (Indiana), and Charlottesville (Virginia) have similar positions. It figures the position would cost Albany about $66,000 a year.

The Albany Common Council is nearing the end of its review of the Kathy Sheehan's proposed $177 million budget. There's a finance committee meeting this evening (November 8) at 5:30 pm to discuss the budget, and it's possible there could be some sort of recommendation about the complete streets coordinator position to go along with council's response. The meeting is open to the public and there's a public comment period.

The full Common Council is aiming to vote on the budget November 19.

The mayor's office has not yet responded with its position on the idea of a complete streets coordinator.

See also: The reporting by Amanda Fries about this topic a few weeks back. [TU]

Report

Capital Region Complete Streets Albany Complete Streets Coordinator Report by alloveralbany on Scribd

Comments

Our street has a pothole 5'x8' for over one year that pedesterians trip over, essential services in our neighborhood dwindled to nothing we can't even get faded lines repainted. Yet we have pie in the sky ideas like these? We are thinking of devesting in Albany. What will the Madison road diet look like when the city neglects to upkeep the corridor? Roundtable discussions about potholes instead of filling? Complete streets would bring more trees, signage, complex traffic lights, complex curbing, drainage, pavement, and crosswalks. Albany can't handle simple infrastructure upkeep today. I sometimes wonder if city hall really understands the problems?

Many complete streets projects have boosted the local economies by making an area more inviting to shoppers. They can also significantly improve safety. You could say the city can't afford to not do complete streets.

However, the city will have to be careful not to overdo it. Too many fancy projects could break the budget. A number of small projects in key areas may have a bigger impact than a few big ones. The budgets should be set by the expected increases in sales and property taxes.

They haven't convinced me that a new hire would be more cost effective than getting their existing staff trained in the topic.

While passionate about complete streets, as a tax payer, I think there are a ton of synergies that can be realized within city government, non-profits and residents to coordinate, manage and be the "watch dog" on ensuring Albany moves towards more complete street design.

Not to disparage the day to day responsibilities of the mayor, but she should have the time to carve out time for this, delegating down to the appropriate department heads to make sure the projects get down. As Zed F. indicated, I think training up the right folks and making this a priority is all that is needed, alongside passionate residents/non-profit groups providing input on what they would like to see.

I was just perusing the comments (oh god why) on the Table Hopping blog post regarding the closing of Mio Posto on Lark Street. Of course several people accused lack of parking for the reason (it wasn't) and some even mentioned crime and poor lighting. It's frustrating, as a center square resident, that so many people feel that way, and refuse to give some of these wonderful businesses their patronage because of this perception. Public transportation is better than ever, there IS parking (but people might have to walk a few blocks), yet this reputation persists. I wonder what could be done about a thing like that?

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