Imagine Tacoma: Tacoma Walkability (a contradiction in terms?)

One of the general policies of the City of Tacoma’s Comprehensive Plan and the Destination Downtown Zoning Code (c. 2000) is that “On-going programs and funding priorities should ensure that downtown streets and sidewalks are clean, safe, well lighted and attractive.” So walking around a bit of Downtown this past week with Dan Burden – one of the deans of urban design streetscapes – and after hearing his presentation on Monday evening, what was his general impression of Tacoma’s current walkability? Well the bones of the city are still here for a good pedestrian system BUT there is an awful lot of work to do.

And so Dan, what is the quickest first step in improving walkability given our existing conditions. “Paint” he said. It is cheap and it can be done quickly (say before Tall Ships, eh?).

What a concept to quickly improve the walkability of the entire City. Painted crosswalks, painted vehicle stop line, painted angled stalls for back-in parking. Why is it we can repaint the Daffodil Parade flowers on Pacific Avenue on a more regular basis than our crosswalks that are used by pedestrians every single day?

But Dan, what about the prevailing theory within Public Works Departments that painted crosswalks are actually more dangerous than unpainted ones (because of the fear that pedestrians will get a false sense of security in a well-defined crosswalk)? “Baloney” he said. That is a fear based on the inaccurate interpretation of a 7-year traffic study commissioned by the City of San Diego and not applicable to the type of streets we have in Downtown Tacoma. They need to move on and start designing good crosswalks.

So – Imagine Tacoma goes a wee bit pedestrian and looks at some improvements with ‘Paint on the Street.’ Why wait for expensive LID improvement when we can start painting our way to improved walkability immediately?

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Erik B.

Building something tall and big, the max allowed by zoning.  Might be a great place for some high density student housing so that students do not need to (nearly) all commute to the campus.

June 20, 2012 at 11:01 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Cecil B

Multilevel parking garage! Students are screaming for more parking, and with the new hotel going in at 21st and “c” street there will be even less parking available.

June 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Ha!  Love the contrast of comments #1 & 2.  Easier to live close as opposed to easier commuting.

I’d like to see <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> focus on what the adjacent private land won’t provide: an education leading to a four year degree.

Other owners can build parking & residences.  (Have you seen the empty stalls in nearby facilities? Why haven’t students filled Court 17?)  Let’s let <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> focus on what they do best, what they are commissioned to do: educate our citizens.

June 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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In line with the above comment, I’d love to see a school of engineering.  An environmental engineering, or civil engineering degree would go well with the city’s goal to develop a “Urban Clean Water Technology Innovation Partnership Zone.”  There is a real deficit of engineering schools in the Puget Sound region, which is surprising when you consider the massive presence of Boeing and international shipping around here.  If we want to attract high paying employers in technical fields, we need an educated workforce.  Liberal arts degrees do not attract the kind of employers that can provide a foundation for an economy.

June 20, 2012 at 8:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mofo from the Hood

I never thought that the old Tacoma Transit Company bus turnaround property would be demolished in my lifetime. This historically important property predates Pierce Transit by decades, and it is one quaint piece of roadway that should have been preserved in perpetuity. 

Must every street in post-1963 Tacoma be demolished, or narrowed, or cluttered with speed bumps, or intersection planters, or bike lanes, or government mandated trees, or blocked by convention centers, or converted to demolition derby routes lined with diagonally parked cars, or otherwise altered because of people with internet college degrees in grant writing?

June 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Cycle Nut

@#1 I would be pissed if education dollars are spent for housing. There are pleny of available lots downtown with in walking distance that any developer could develop for housing.

Plus it would force students to walk places that are off campus.

If there is a need for student housing then the State should provide developer tax breaks for near by projects through it’s capital and <span class=“caps”>CDBG</span> budget.

June 21, 2012 at 11:51 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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