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One Rouge Community Check -In - Week 139




Join us at 8:30 am for Week #139 via Zoom. Transportation is more than about getting from here to there. Walkable cities not only increase access to services and employment, but has been linked with better health outcomes. In fact, reports have shown that walkability is not only better for the individual, but the community and environment as well. The most important thing is that people seem to want them! Alas, the US doesn’t’ have nearly as many as we can find abroad. The reason appears to lie in city planning that is car centric. However, all that can be changed and that possibility of change seems to be a motivation behind the complete streets movement. But if we make neighborhoods walkable, do we encourage gentrification? Can public and pedestrian transportation only be improved if the neighborhood is built from scratch? Are modes of transportation that are not cars necessarily sacrificed in order to accommodate cars and faster travel times from point to point? Do highways even accomplish that goal? Well, that is exactly the conversation we intend to have on Friday with our featured speakers: Rebecca de Jesús Crespo - LSU professor specializing in environmental conservation, sustainable development, ecosystem services and public health Thomas Douthat - LSU professor specializing in land use, policy and law in the process of regional development, as well as the role of social networks April Renard - owner and engineer with Grey Engineering.

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!

Quick Links: Notes, Zoom Chat, Community Announcements

 

Notes

Wilson Foundation has been really on a learning journey with you all and with the community to figure out the best place to implement this purpose-built community model that we've been studying and learning about. We have a place-based focus in North Baton Rouge and really trying to identify the neighborhood or set of neighborhoods where not only could we work collaboratively with the community, with the residents, but we can see, the most success with the components of this model. And after many months of research and work and community conversations, we have selected those neighborhoods. It's a three square mile radius from North Foster to the edge of the Northdale neighborhood, which is really the sort of Kansas City railway that's there all the way up to Choctaw for the northern boundary and North Street as a southern boundary. Many of the neighborhoods surround Capital High, but they all have unique identities, histories, cultures, Fairfield, Eden Park, Easy Town, Greenville Extension. Really excited to move forward in this work. We've also announced our focus areas as well as our first sort of related funding opportunity, our empower opportunity focused on housing, education community wellness and economic vitality. More information will be forthcoming and I will make sure to drop the link to the funding opportunity in the chat.


I'll just share some things that I shared with our community stakeholders yesterday. This is not built to replace anything that's happening in North Baton Rouge currently, or in those neighborhoods. It's to amplify it. This is with work, not to or for work. We are not doing anything, to or for the community, we're doing things with those neighborhoods and the people who live there. And lastly, it is not a zero sum game. And just because we are focusing resources in a specific place does not mean that there's gonna be a deficit any, anywhere else. And what I believe is that if we do this work well together that there will be a net benefit to our entire community. And those are, I think, three takeaways from this work. And we welcome your engagement in it. We're excited. There's gonna be a a lot of different ways in which you can play a role in this endeavor.


Hi everybody. My name is Thomas Douthat. I'm assistant professor of Environmental Sciences in the College of the Coast Environment Department of Environmental Sciences at LSU. My first sort of career iteration was in law. I did then did my PhD in city and regional planning with a focus on issues that require regional collaboration. So I study regional environmental problems such as those associated with transportation watershed management, storm water issues And other land use considerations. Here at LSU and I teach courses on environmental law and policy. I'm also, although not technically representing nothing I say represents Bike Baton Rouge or LSU I'm also on the board of Bike Baton Rouge.


I am also assistant professor in environmental sciences, and I am an ecologist by training. And I've become more and more interested in urban planning issues as I've been involved in studying the ecology of urban spaces and how Nature Health is often intertwined with human health in many ways. And so this course of my research is taking a more socio ecological systems framework. And I will be happy to share with you a project that we'll we're working on. A few of us in this call are involved in this project. And I could give you a summary of what we're doing and how it relates to today's topic. The expert in transportation in our group is actually Dr. Douthat.


And the other the real expert in transportation is April Rendard on the call here. ,


Tom, you wanna start talking about your points, or you want me to give the summary of our project and then you go ahead.


I will give you a quick career path for me to share my background and I'm not sure if I would agree with Thomas that I'm an expert, but I do have quite a bit experience specifically in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana areas. So I started out at a consulting firm. I'm a traffic engineer by trade professional civil engineer. I've been focusing on transportation my entire career. Started out at a consulting firm really got frustrated by process and policy that's set by governmental agencies. So I actually switched paths and I started working for the state. Worked for the state for about 11 years, really working inside to change some of the policies focused on safety complete streets. And as my career path kind of evolved, I got somewhat jaded. There's only so much you can do and it's like changing the direction of a Titanic with a tongue depressor. It's just really difficult unless get leadership by buy in and I think they have great leadership. I'm not gonna deny that at all. But it just takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of effort, a lot of energy. And after you do something for so long and you get very little progress, it seems like you wanna give up. But I'm so excited that there are other advocates out there that care about, transportation, but what I wanted to share a little bit about is safety and why Baton Rouge is named one of the worst deadliest cities in the country for pedestrians. We have to do better. I don't know how long we've been studying Florida Boulevard, but one of my old bosses from the state actually was a traffic engineer and he was killed trying to cross Florida Boulevard. How ironic. So it really sad story, but how many people have to die, on Florida Boulevard for us to do something? And I know it's in the works and it's being studied, it's being designed and all this stuff. So it's it's just a one of those things that you get jaded by the process. Things take a long time. . So I jumped ship actually after working on the bike ped master plan as a project manager with Reid Richard at BREC. I left to follow Move BR when the half cent sales tax passed. So I worked on Move BR for about a year. I helped develop design guidelines and a lot of concept plans. And once the program was really set up, I jumped ship to work for a smaller company to learn more about business development. And then this last year, February of 2022, I started my own firm. I'm out there doing what I love and I feel like I can focus on the work that I care about and join these kinds of groups. So thank you so much for having me.


I feel like I wanna just say something and throw it in the middle and then watch everybody talk about it, but we'll go a little bit more should I say intentional. Everybody is working on some sort of movement. So whether it is or has been. So whether it's been social and economic systems and sustainability that allows traffic and movement and, egress from one place to the other, or it's something like Complete Streets, safety for pedestrians, I would like to know is from your perspective, whether it be on behalf of Bike BR or LSU or individually, how is it that our current system is working, and what can we do to improve it?


The transportation system is a big, wide field and there's so many things to talk about, but maybe I'll try to mention right at the beginning of how I started to talk to Samantha about this. After going on her Monday night rides, it's that within Move BR, and if I posted these in the slides that I posted if people go to slide 27 an initial part of Move BR was, the purpose of it was to do corridor enhancements, but also to implement transportation improvements in the context of East Baton Rouge Parish, which has a Complete Streets policy. And a lot of the initial cross sections were very positive. And the one that I'm most concerned about right now is North Boulevard, which is slide 27 in those PDFs I sent out. And it would've involved a road diet somewhat similar to Government Street with bike facilities, pedestrian facilities. And that's an important corridor because it connects the community college, the downtown to the existing network in our Greenway. It's an area where a lot of people are walking and biking dependent. And it's an area where there are oftentimes excessive speeds on those roads because there's not a lot of traffic flow and it's a four lane road. And that kind of got scrapped for business as usual in terms of our planning. And I think it's just indicative of some of the challenges we have with transportation engineering and traffic engineering and implementing Complete Streets in Baton Rouge because the design guidelines and traffic manuals that the city uses, while it has the option to use other ones prioritize the throughput of car and the level of service over all other equities or interests we might have in the transportation system. And I don't think I'm exaggerating that.


So the level of service, it's actually built into our federal level policy. If we focus on delay, and the way that federal funding is calculated has a lot to do with traffic volumes. And I know a lot of that is changing. It does take a long time for that stuff to change, but it all trickles down to the state level and then, the local level, although Move BR is strictly local funding. So Move BR can do different if they so desire, but I'm not sure that the right political pressure is being put on them to do that.


As a practical issue, how do we educate pedestrians and cyclists about the rules of the road in Baton Rouge? Yeah. And this is specifically pedestrians walking on the wrong side of the road.


Baton Rouge is the 11th most deadly MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Aera) for pedestrians and cyclists in the entire country. So it's way up at the top. The way federal transportation funding comes into cities, comes into these aggregations of counties that are organized under a metropolitan planning organization, which in this case is Capital Regional Planning Organization, and they allocate federal many of the urban programs go through that. That's comparing us against all other metros in the country. And the burden of that falls disproportionately on lower income and communities of color in Baton Rouge, especially African American communities and sometimes Hispanic communities as the same ones that are transit dependent. And there's a question of how we can educate people to better use the streets. And I would turn that question around and argue that Smart Growth America puts out a report every year that compiles all these statistics called Dangerous by Design. And there's not a way to operate safely as a cyclist and a pedestrian. Clearly following the rules, looking both ways in an area of high urban traffic speeds, we heard about a transportation engineer being killed on Florida Boulevard. Recently, two pedestrians who were following the rules were killed on Florida Boulevard. Students are killed regularly near LSU. It's because the roads are designed in such a way that they mix high speed urban traffic with people who walk and bike, and there's really no way to get around that safely unless we change our design standards and the way that we think about our public right of way.


The chances of surviving if you're struck by a vehicle at different speeds; at 23 miles an hour, you have a 90% chance of surviving, but you bump that up to 42 and your chances go down by half. And if you're struck at 58 miles an hour, it's almost asurity that you will die. It's 90% risk of death. So when we mix modes, we have to reduce speeds, and that's not what we're doing very effectively in the Baton Rouge area.


Is that the answer to the question of why Florida Boulevard is so deadly?


I'd say that's one part of it. There's a lot of other factors that go into that. We don't have proper facilities, we don't have dedicated space. And by not having proper facilities, we don't encourage safe walking behavior. We don't encourage safe biking behavior. People walk wherever they want because shortest path, people wanna get where they're going as quickly as possible. But if you have dedicated facilities for them and you use landscaping to encourage them to use the facilities, a good design like Thomas was talking about, dangerous by design, we gotta design better.


What does that mean for existing neighborhoods ? So we heard that the neighborhoods that are filled with Black and brown folks or and or poor people are generally at risk. But does this mean that they've got to be gentrified and we've gotta start over in order to have a development or a plan that actually works really well?


Can it be retrofit? Is it a net usage?


I think you can absolutely retrofit. There's a lot of low-cost things you can do with proper striping and moving some curbs. Retrofitting catch basins to do curb extensions. It's not rocket science and there's plenty of examples across the country and other countries that we can pull from. But we have to get the transportation industry, the traffic engineers, the designers; we have to get them those best practices. We have to educate them.


I think the implication is that we need to prioritize transportation improvements focused on genuine safety approaches in areas that have lower income people or people that are higher at risk. Because the roads are gonna be dangerous for everybody until all the roads, until we change our paradigm. And but we can make investments in safety in the places where the people are most at risk. But the manuals make it very difficult, the ones that we use because they, for example, discourage crossings on arterials. They put big barriers to having to do traffic studies to make minor safety improvements that oftentimes make them infeasible. And maybe April can speak a little bit more to that.


Yeah, Florida boulevard's a state highway. They have crosswalk policies. They call them warrants. Basically, you have to have sidewalks on both sides connecting to the crosswalk, and you have to have a certain number of pedestrians depending on speed and volume of that road. So it's a chicken or the egg. If it doesn't feel safe, people aren't going to cross, so you're not gonna get the warrant met. I think one of the things that we need to develop, and Thomas and I have talked about it, is a latent demand based on if we were to provide a crosswalk, how many people would cross there and using land use as a surrogate, using these other elements that we have data on. We've got great data in Baton Rouge Open Data Portal is fantastic. They've got Future BR. We've got plans. We've got Bike Pedestrian Master Plan. We've got all kinds of stuff out there. But until, those that are in charge of these projects are forced to consider all of these things I don't know how it's ever gonna change.


We don't have the decision making mechanisms to implement the Bike Ped Master man on the streets, so it's just gonna be a document until it's meaningfully adopted by the Department of Transportation and drainage in the city as a priority. And there might have to be some changes in their design manuals also, which is maybe a big ask, but on my slide 29 I mentioned the changes that were made in New Orleans. They passed an ordinance to explicitly direct their traffic engineers and their transportation engineers to amend their guidelines and their design manuals for their service streets to promote contact sensitive decision making. And it allowed and specified using another sorts, which is great, and maybe Rachel can talk a little about the National Association of Transportation of City Transportation Officials manuals which are great starting places and Baton Rouge could incorporate into their decision making, but so far has chosen not to.


NATO is those green books and they're more urbanized in, in their focus where it's ASSTO, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, they developed what they call the Green Book back in the fifties. ASSTO was created in the fifties. What happened in the fifties? The interstate system. The invention of a suburb. So all these design standards that we're still using today were created back when we were designing interstates.


So the Capital Parks Museum had the interstate 10 exhibit, which was great. And this is exactly the design manual that was built out of that thinking.


And we still use it, and it still dictates all of our design standards. And ASSTO is coming along. I think in this next edition, they've recognized seven different context areas and the one being mostly urbanized like downtown New Orleans, where on the other side of the scale is very rural, say Crowley Louisiana or something like that. So they're recognizing it. Again, it's changing. It just takes a long time. And then for the culture, that's the harder part. You can change policies and you can write ordinances and you can enact whatever, but it's the culture that's behind all of that. That is the hard part to change.


I'm gonna jump in and mention something because it gets into the type of things that I've been thinking about when you talk about the suburbanization and when you're asking how do we fix the streets that we have, there are a lot of streets within our urban areas that are at the human scale that are much easier to maximize their use if they were if there were commerce and jobs and houses near those streets. And so that's where our project. In the chat, where I'm showing most of the development is being directed to right now and where we have a lot of vacancy in the area. And so if you see that picture that I showed from East Baton Rouge, the areas that are yellow are vacant properties, whereas the areas that are highlighted in red are areas that are planned urban developments way out in the rural areas that are wetlands. And that basically is facilitated by the development of an expansion of existing road systems that are dangerous and that are high speed. And so I guess our project is trying to see how and why is it that we keep under using our existing infrastructure that could be more easily retrofitted into blockable and bikeable streets. And then we're maximizing the use of open space and wetlands that in order for you to get there, you need to develop high speed roads. And so I think that there's also a question of how are we using our urban spaces to begin with. And, whether we can have safe streets or not also depends on whether we have an urban space use enough effectively.


To talk to people about, which is called induced demand. One of the ramifications of traffic and transportation engineering focusing so myopically on throughput and mobility, getting you a long distance quickly, is that the response to things has been bigger roads and the consequence of having lots of big roads in everybody driving everywhere is traffic. And it's our justification primarily for Move Baton Rouge for expanding the interstate. But that way of thinking overlooks basic economics, which is that to some extent the mode that we choose. To go somewhere is a function of convenience. The route that we take is a function of convenience, and when there's more traffic, eventually people will reroute. They won't take that route. And when there's less traffic and people can go faster. If it's connecting destinations, more people will use it until you reestablish a traffic equilibrium. And so what the concept of induced demand tells us is that where we expand our roadway capacity to fight traffic not too far along in the future afterwards, traffic demand will grow again, and we'll have the same levels of congestion. We can't build ourself out of traffic. It has to be a much more nuanced approach. Induced demand also has implications for biking and walking. If there are no facilities. If there are no locations. If it is not safe. If they're not crossings, we will not induce people to bike or walk, which is part of the reason why it's so rare. In Baton Rouge, an induced demand has a third component, which is the land use transportation mix, which is what Dr. Jesus was mentioning. As we expand Nicholson, as we expand Burbank, as we expand our roads out into other areas of the parish, that's where the growth will go. That's where the traffic will go. And if we expand them in areas that are hazard prone, we will have building in areas that are hazard prone, and as a function of that, most of the new growth in Baton Rouge over the last 30 or 40 years has been in flood-prone areas where we've built big arterial highways out to them. We grew into the 2016 flood.


There was a question about political pressure. What can we do maybe? Okay, so one of the things that I would love to work on, and I can help pro bono or whatever, is a tactical urbanism guide. I don't know if any of you heard about this, but I saw the term gorilla tactics in there. It's actually pretty similar. It's where a community basically takes into their own hands striping projects. And so they'll go in and they'll stripe out artistic crosswalks or they could strip out a bike lane. I could see this really working well in Baton Rouge, but I could also see it really upsetting a lot of people as well. So it's one of those things that I feel like maybe we could have a guide that would go over the limits. You don't wanna just do anything and everything, but start with something more on a local street. Maybe not a state highway certainly not an interstate or anything like that, but start with a local street. Do a community engagement project. Sounds like you've got a neighborhood identified already that you'll be targeting resources and work with the city parish to develop almost like a permit process. Maybe there's a one sheet application or something like that they could use to approve, just so that way you're covering yourselves. I wouldn't want to just go rogue, even though that'd be fun, too. . .


So there are a couple of questions that are really about why have things not moved forward, and that ties into something April said early on about political pressure and trying to understand what sort of political pressure is necessary. And if we have documents that exist, but that are simply the paper that they're written on, what are the next steps from a land use perspective, from a sustainable perspective that we can actually move these ideas forward?


I don't have an easy answer for that. I sometimes I wonder who's in charge and specifically with Move BR. I was baffled sometimes where decisions were gone back and forth and I couldn't quite tell you who, made the call, but ultimately it's the city parish. It's their funding. They have to sign every set of plans that crosses their desk. They have to prove it. It goes through their system. So if Mayor Broom really truly supports Complete Streets, she needs to make sure that those that are working on Move BR do what they say they're going to do. And I don't know if that's something that y'all can provide, maybe political pressure somehow as a nonprofit or I'm not a, not an expert in that area.


I can follow up just very quickly in fill in the gap. I'm a part of Bike Baton Rouge and I've worked for LSU so I'm not involved in political pressure per se. I think my role is more education. But what I will say is that it shouldn't surprise us that we're not getting good Complete Streets outcomes because we have a very discretionary complete Streets policy. It hasn't been codified into an ordinance in the way that New Orleans has, where there's a specific city ordinance directing their transportation traffic engineers to do that. So there's a policy, but then there's lots of other rules. And so if you have other rules that are actually binding, which are your design manuals then those are gonna take precedent. And in any public decision making regarding public right of way, there's going to be different interests and different perspectives. Although I live near it and I think it's been a pretty big success taking government to three lanes, I know there are people that still complain about that, but I would offer to those on the call, the number of new businesses in those areas and it'd be nice to have something like that also on North Boulevard and in other parts of the city. I know Plank Road, when they were making the changes, faced barriers in terms of the traffic volume, which limited what they could do in terms of safety improvements in crossings. And then I guess the other problem is this, the city can work on its own surface streets, it Move Baton Rouge would apply to the street set of the cities would apply to with DOTD. It's always gonna be a question of negotiation with the district transportation engineer and other officials at LADOTD. And unless we have a clear vision for what we want, it's going to be a more ASSTO approach. And really, LADOTD is set up to move you from one place to another. From Baton Rouge to Pointe Coupe, not to manage urban service streets in complex context where what happens in the quality of those streets, the quality of that built environment really matters.


I wanted to add regarding the policies of facilitating things like redevelopment in government. It's often affected by existing regulations in terms of how do you transform places that are classified as brown fields or used buildings that have no clear errors or where they don't have property claims or the clearing of those abandoned properties is one of the biggest barriers that we're facing for being able to use more effectively the downtown areas that do have smaller streets. And also parking requirements for those new businesses is also a piece of regulation that affects that goal.


The next question really was about something that I also saw in the chat, which was we built our way into the 2016 floods. There were also questions about you, as we build roads that go through wetlands, what is this doing to our environment? How are we making things worse? Can any of the speakers talk about or expand upon what we mean by, or what you meant by we built our way into the 2016 floods?


I'm not sure who said that, but I think what they're alluding to is all the impervious surfaces and the more concrete, the more asphalt you have out there, you have more stormwater runoff. And also that stormwater runoff pulls the hydrocarbons from the surface, and then they go directly into our ecosystem, back to the drainage structure that go into our bayou. We could do more with green infrastructure strategies. They have biofiltration beds. Instead of doing subsurface drainage directly connected to the storm water runoff, you can introduce landscaping that filters the hydrocarbon carbons off before it goes into the system. So there's ways we can mitigate it, but I don't know if that person wants to expand on that, but I definitely can see where that's coming from. And our roads almost sometimes act as levees. If you've noticed, sometimes the road is higher than the buildings around them. And if we don't provide enough capacity for water to flow in these giant culverts sometimes. And sometimes there's bridges that go over Bayou. It's not gonna move the water can only go. So far, yeah. So yeah, that's very powerful point


In our local stormwater design is important, especially for water quality. But what specifically I was referring to, and I think Dr. De Jesus can expand on that is a study by Dr. Clint Clint Wilson of the River Center. And they tried to run simulations on that flood using the 1935 land cover. And the current land cover and the flooding extend area was virtually the same. What changed is that we've built many large roads that facilitated the subdivision and suburbanization of low land areas in our parish. So our transportation decisions led us to these dangerous areas and didn't discourage development in those, but facilitated them and made it impossible. It made them too delicious not to develop if there's lots of unoccupied roadway. What our zoning code mandates effectively are suburban single family houses in most places. What's economically feasible and easy to build are cul-de-sac subdivisions off of those arterials and they take up a lot of land. A lot of places in Baton Rouge are flood prone and we ran out of places in southern parts of Baton Rouge that didn't have, that were flood and we just, it was just too, it just made too much sense to develop those in the short term and it exposed us to that flooding.


because Tom said, once you build a road and you are basically able to acquire those pieces of land that are flood prone and that are much cheaper because of that and they're just more economically feasible to develop and you can make as many parking lots as you can cuz you have all the space in the world and you can make really beautiful houses for lower costs. And it's very tempting to do and people just go ahead and do that. And it's interesting because the 2016 floods would've occurred in those locations no matter what. But we have other types of flooding, the nuisance and flooding that occurs frequently in that my car has been flooded, my house has been flooded in smaller flood events. And all of that can be helped in many ways by preserving some of these wetlands. And we always think about, okay let's dig the channel so that we can have more capacity, or let's make the gray infrastructure more effective to mobilize that water out of our homes. And we even think about retrofitting abandoned places into green spaces, but we don't talk enough about the fact that we have all this wetland infrastructure protecting our city, and we're not protecting it. We're allowing it to be developed. And that is only gonna cause flooding to be worse, especially in parishes that are downstream of us, like Livingston and Ascension, which are already suburbanized. And so the more we ignore that and say that's just private property. We cannot prevent development of it. We're basically just giving up the natural assets. We're like the sportsman paradise, the crawfish, all those things we consider a part of our culture as well. They depend on healthy wetlands, too. It's not just about protecting us from flooding.


And it's not just the free market because the way that we make transportation investments and the way that we allow people to build subdivisions and then give the roads to the city as perpetual liability is a implicit subsidy of those development practices. So we're subsidizing that, we're giving economic signal that's what we want, whereas the areas of the city that are the have the greatest potential to have walking, biking, the pedestrian infrastructure, the older areas of the city, north of the Baton Rouge fault, north Baton Rouge, mid city. All of these places, which are not flood prone for the most part, but that's a big generalization. Those places already have an urban footprint on them, and our land development code makes it much harder to redevelop. We have zoning that makes it difficult to put missing middle housing in places. We have a process that makes that difficult and developing places that will very hardly ever be walkable, likable, or accessible by transit.


If there are any questions that y'all have, please just raise your virtual hand and let me know that you wanna know something and we will definitely get those questions answered before the end of the hour.


I wanna chime in on one comment that was made about North Boulevard, because I know that was a project that Thomas talked about. It looks like somebody asked about similarly reducing the lanes like Government Street, but the city said no, you need four because they expect that in 20 years. Do the three lanes stripe out a bike lane, and then in 20 years you can retrip it four lanes. But there's no reason why you can't stripe it for today, but plan for the future if that's the case. And maybe that future traffic congestion never does exist and so you get to keep your bike lanes. So that's an interesting response from the city parish I would've challenged it.


But I think that goes back to the denial of induced demand and the denial of more nuanced demand management strategies. Part of the way that we can have a vibrant, economically successful core of our city is by managing our parking and our transportation intelligently in such a way that we can get more people downtown, more people to mid-city, where maybe some mix of them of the future growth will be walking and biking and not entirely taking single occupancy vehicle trips. And also the land use mix is crucial for transit. So CATS for ridership and transit has to do with the density, the design, the urban environment around it. And if there's not a comfortable urban environment for people to walk through to get to transit, they won't take it. And if it doesn't come frequently enough, and if the routes aren't straight and convenient enough, they won't take it. And so some of these approaches that might say, okay, three lanes on North Boulevard, maybe that's even a problem for transit. I would argue that we need to focus on land use in getting our land use policies right in Baton Rouge if we want to have a successful CATS in the long term. And there's some articles about that focus on accessibility.


So there's one other thing I wanted to mention and it's separate from a lot of the things we talked about, but it's all very connected. And one of the things that I'm sure y'all heard of the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Complete Street Citizens Advisory Committee, I think they were charged with developing performance measures. And performance measures are so important. And although they can be tedious, if you don't measure what you care about, then you never know. You don't know if you're making progress or you're not being able to, you can't hold those that are making the changes accountable. So beyond measuring level of service, like Thomas mentioned earlier, we need to be measuring mitigation for storm water impervious surface area. That could be one of the factors we could measure. Mode shift, we can measure impacts to human health, air quality. So it needs to be beyond, the standard. How many cars? How many pedestrians? How many bikes? We have to measure the things that transportation investments impact, which are humans in the environment and our economy and all these other things. So it'd be a challenging lift, but it's something that I think we have to do to be able to tell the story that we need to tell.


Please consider this an open invitation to all of our speakers to join our transportation mobility coalitions. We will be having meetings coming up in the short term and ultimately really trying to address those things that mean the most to those of us who are in East Baton Rouge Parish. And not just about getting from one place to the next, but getting there with dignity in a way that that. Not only provides the transportation, but also provides a way for all of us, including those who don't have cars. For those of us who rely upon public transportation, odd hours, day or night. As well as those of us who maybe don't have bikes or don't have the capacity to ride one. Casey, before we shift to community announcements and thank yous, is there anything that you wanted to say to wrap up


I'm the planning Director of planning and program development. I'm also the civil rights officer. I'm also the disadvantaged business liaison for the transit agency. We have a lot of things happening. Of course, April knows us. We're more than happy to talk to people. We have been out of a lot of conversations. So we are playing catch up with everything so we can finish a comprehensive operational analysis. We are in the process of restructuring routes. We have bus rapid transit. Unfortunately like everything else, it does come down to money. No matter what people want to hear, our believe it, it comes down to money. We only get formula funds based on ridership. If we can increase our ridership, then we can get more formula funds. We are going after competitive brands. We are going to be areas of persistent poverty if I can sort out my procurement stuff. North Baton Rouge and Gardere we have a route restoration grant. We're working on Florida Boulevard to see what kind of service is going to be on Florida. It is not assumed bus rapid transit. I have to see the data. Everything we do is data driven on industry standards. So we have a lot come talk to us. We wanna be part of the conversations too, so it's easy to find me.


And I wanted to shout out a post Cheri did this morning on the Baker via project which seems really interesting in an area that's probably doesn't have transit supportive density, but they're using other means. So I wanted to give you guys a shout out for that.


Thank you. In fact, we were told by via our contractor that our ridership demand is on par with Jersey City, New Jersey. Fuck, this is wonderful. And the citizens of Baker paid in to CATS for 10 years. So we're thrilled with this and we're keeping the service.


Yes. Hi y'all. I have been fast and furious in the chat, channeling my inner Manny Patole out there. But this is definitely an area of interest for me, not only because of my love of bikes, but also my love of environmentalism, but also my living in Downtown East and being very mindful of North Boulevard and this entire area. And I just wanna share a couple things about that North Boulevard meeting. In addition to what I said in the chat. The meeting was basically the public meeting that was to show the plans for the project. And this is a Move BR initiative. And there was only one meeting that was planned for this project. So the one chance people had to weigh in on the project, and it was in the a hallway at BRCC.. There was no speaker, no presenters . And you went around the room and talked to people. There was one poor woman, bless her heart, who everyone kept saying was the person to talk to. And her inner emoji was the shrug emoji, like basically she really knows that this is not the ideal plan. She knows this is not what should be done, but she has zero control over it. And was basically just every question was answered with, I know, but this is what we were told to do. When I say it was very disheartening, the only changes that you're seeing for through that program, there are two, two changes.


One, it's just to make the streets ADA compliant, which is great. I love that.


And but for anybody who wants to see how their approach to ADA compliance has been, come walk down Park Boulevard, they only did the corners, but not the mid-block.


There's that. And they are adding back in the ability to cross over the railroad tracks. For those of you who don't know, when they added the North Boulevard Bridge, they removed the ability for anyone to drive or bike or anything over the railroad track. So they're adding that back in now, so you will actually be able to ride over. And that is because they do not want anyone to ride over the bridge. Now, if you've ever gone over the North Boulevard Bridge, you've probably seen someone on a bike or on foot going over that bridge. And that is because for a lot of people, not only is that a transportation portal, but for a lot of people that is a training bridge. For example, we just had the Louisiana Marathon. There's a big billboard at the end of the bridge. It says, congratulations runner, you can do this. And that's because the every foot race goes over that bridge. So runners are now using that bridge to train on, and you will see all the time people running over that bridge. Varsity Sports does run days over that bridge. You've got a lot of pedestrians on that bridge. They are going to continue using that bridge, and especially because we've incentivized them to, it's part of their challenge, it's part of their life goal. Now what happens is you're putting a bunch of people on foot and a bunch of pedestrians on a very unsafe bridge, and the solution they say is we just don't want people to use the bridge. Too bad, tough. It's gonna keep happening. So be proactive and come up with a solution. And none of that is addressed in the plan at all. Zero.


And I, yeah, I bet April can also speak Samantha to the copious amount of right away that there is on that bridge.


There's so much, there's so much. And then at the end of the bridge the insult injury, part of the whole design is that at the end of the bridge, you get pushed into traffic. So there is that little space. It's a very small strip that you can go on, but when you get to the base of the bridge, you get pushed into traffic. But also there's a lot of slick paint or whatever that is that they use. So if you're on a bike and you're breaking, going down a hill and it's wet and you hit that patch of paint down, you fall into traffic. It's a really easy place for accidents to happen. It's the worst design I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of really bad ones, but to me, that one and it ends so that there can be a grass median. So it's it really makes no sense. Anyway that's my blip about that. I could certainly talk forever and would love for you all to come join me on Monday nights for the Downtown East Social Ride and I can show you some of these things firsthand,


All right. We've got a question in the chat that's asking about the proposed closures in order to widen I 10, what does this mean for surface streets? More specifically how will the surface streets be impacted? Will it be more cars, will it be more buses? What does this mean for surface streets? As we close the I 10 in order to widen,


Yeah traffic, traffic, it's path of least resistance. People find alternative ways to get where they're going. So yeah, there probably will be increased surface street traffic. But with congestion, you do have slower speeds, so there's always a silver lining somewhere. It's gonna be temporary. I think it's just one of those things we've gotta go with it. And I know there's a lot of improvements with bike accommodations with the trails underneath the I 10 that they're proposing. So I think it's just one of those things. Progress, it's painful through the process, but in the end I think it's gonna be better. So we just gotta be patient.


I think 86% of the trips on the bridge are local. They're not people crossing the country. So there is that component that's going to be rerouted. But I guess I'd go back to that concept of induced demand. If you build more roadway capacity, you're gonna get more traffic and more cars. And if you reduce it, people are going to make different decisions. So there should be some, especially at the beginning, impacts, but I think it's gonna be a lot less catastrophic then people are expecting just because of that concept of induced demand. As April was saying, that path of least resistance people will make different transportation decisions. None of that's just saying that widening I 10 is a good idea, but that's a conversation for another day.


So sticking with that just has, do y'all know whether there's been any resurfacing or any planning, any sort of preparation that's gone into those surface streets that will be relied upon?


I would imagine with this type of project, they've done a transportation management plan looking at where all of these cars will be rerouted to, they'll probably have detours signed for people, too. So I'm almost positive the state wouldn't consider all of that. And Federal Highway administration, the division offices all over that kind of stuff, too. So with this being such a large project, there's probably a plan. I don't think it's public, but there might be a way you could get a copy of it. But they'll do public outreach before construction begins as well.


They usually do, yeah. And, that could be some of their rationale with North Boulevard, but I don't think it's convincing argument, especially if we go North Boulevard today it's often entirely empty. But if you read the environmental impact statement for for some of those projects they forecast, that'll create more traffic on I 10 after it's built. So expanding the interstate and induce demand is gonna mean that we're gonna have to expand I-110 also eventually. So that's what the endless loop of denying basic economics and transportation investments gets you.


Yeah, I wanted though to go back to two items that I had lifted up in the chat. As somebody who not only knows how deadly Florida Boulevard is, I actually was hit by a car on Florida Boulevard just trying to cross the street, so one of the things I'm always concerned about is that when we talk about the nine drivers of poverty, but we are not doing the extra work to truly engage to people who are often most impacted. And one of the concerns I always have, especially in these kinds of conversations, because they can get very techy and they can get very cerebral is that oftentimes we don't use all the tools in the toolbox. And what I mean by that is the parish actually has its own channel. We have channels, we have Zoom. We have Facebook. We have all these hundreds of places where people can still meet and be interactive. And yet I keep finding over and over again people fall back to what is their comfort zone. And I don't just mean their comfort zone in terms of how they like to meet, I mean their comfort zone of who they want in the room. And so the meeting is either at two o'clock in the afternoon where, working people may not be able to be there or it isn't recorded and then shown 500 times and then made meetings in every library in every school. And having somebody who I like to call the community whisper, which is a person who can say, I know y'all don't understand what they talking about, but this is what they just said. And so I wanted to lift that up cuz that's a big concern to me. The other concern I put into the the chat was the fact that we have conversations and we call them public safety. But we're not having these conversations about public safety. And to me this is critical because I can start on Florida Boulevard and just walk you through all the ways that street becomes unsafe. Not just to pedestrians and not just to bike riders, but to business folk because of things like lighting and lack of sidewalks and what kind of zoning Mitch Mashes are put there. And I did just wanna put that out there that this is such a powerful conversation, but I always find that at some point it becomes very uncomfortable for people to talk about all the stuff we need to fix. And my point is, if I have cancer, I want to the doctor to be. I want the doctor to tell me what I want to hear. I want the doctor to tell me what needs to happen so that we can fix it. And so I just want to go away saying I'm super excited about this. It's been the most educational week in a while,


All right, we've got one last question in the chat. From a food person would love to know how we help push for change. My bikes have been collecting dust since moving back from Denver. With that I will ask our speakers first gonna start with a thank you for being here, but if you would give us some last words, maybe some direction on how it is that we might push for change, what sorts of things that you see that can be done maybe quickly and easily?


I'd say my two recommendations would be consider pushing for a local policy to focus on more meaningful public engagement at these meetings. Like the alternative methods that Reverend was talking about zoom, Facebook, whatever live, there's alternative ways for people that can't get to a meeting, so we've gotta be able to accommodate that. And the other thing I would say is look at tactical urbanism. See if that might be something that One Rouge would like to tackle. And if that's something that you wanted to follow up on, I'd be happy to be engaged in that conversation.


I have learned a lot from hearing you guys talk about transportation, and I hope that we as researchers and scientists, we wanna learn how to communicate what we do better to the people that will actually use it. So I think also engaging us in this way is really helpful for us to learn how to communicate with the general public and make meaningful contributions that are actually useful for enacting change. And to understand what the policies are, we can try to change them. It's not like it's not written in stone and if we know what the problems with them are I'm excited to help make a case for making things better moving forward for us. I'm happy to help in any way I can and to learn from you guys to be a better contributor.


I would say that, you guys on the call are the change makers, and if you are interested in these perspectives maybe we can help you. I know how to make slides and ramble on. But I'm not a community leader. We're researchers. In terms of the one concrete thing that I think has to happen in the long term is revisiting our land development code and revisiting our transportation code within the Baton Rouge ordinances to change the Complete Streets directive to something that looks more like the New Orleans language versus the kind of vision that we've adopted right now, which doesn't have any binding effect.

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