Group wants downtown to put pedestrians first
July 29, 2013
Correction: Maurice White was incorrectly identified in the original version.
A Downtown 20/20 organization plan putting pedestrians front and center, autos back and fourth, made no bones about the group's priorities Monday.
The proposed plan says downtown design should be with transportation rank in the following order, top to bottom: pedestrians, public transit, bicycles and then automobiles.
"Prioritizing transportation with pedestrians first and automobiles last will make downtown Carson City a more attractive location for business and trade," according to one of the 26-page plan's objectives. The overall proposal is set for final approval by the private organization today and should go before the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 15.
The organization used work groups to craft the plan, with help from consultant Linda Ritter, to enhance parking, downtown events and marketing; beautify and revitalize street amenities and businesses; and cut four lanes of traffic to two on Carson Street. The plan keeps the pressure on for a significantly different downtown.
The city removed fencing along downtown sidewalks in late April at the urging of the group, which is now calling for additional changes.
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"That's what we're talking about," said Ritter. "It does make big change." For example, she said, if she wants to go through the city she uses Stewart Street.
Dana Lee Fruend, president of the organization made up of downtown businesses and like-minded residents, said the meeting to finalize the plan is today and the Board of Supervisors is expected to review it at the city governing board's mid-August meeting. She stressed the parking suggestions and touted the events orientation.
"We are united in this great cause for growth and positive actual change in our beautiful capital city," said the group's president as she transmitted to members and supporters copies of the plan.
"Putting people first is the first step in creating positive economic results," said the plan's paragraph on the transport design ranking system in the objectives cited under a goal called, "creating a vibrant and pedestrian-friendly downtown."
The first two objectives under that goal are educating the public on main street design and developing safety infrastructure for walkers crossing streets. The third objective's action items included a "road diet," reducing Carson to two lanes, widening sidewalks, adding bike lanes and bike racks, and including parking in front of businesses.
Not everyone saw the draft plan from the same perspective as did those who crafted it.
Maurice White, who has questioned whether narrowing Carson Street street to two lanes now would be proper, remains skeptical about it until there is a better way to get through the city. Washington is retired and attends most meetings of supervisors and citizens advisory committees.
"My whole stance on narrowing Carson Street surrounds the subject of a real alternative to Carson Street," he said. He said despite Stewart and Roop streets paralleling Carson, "you have to go through a choke point."
Regarding the transport priority rankings, he voiced disagreement: "I think they're wrong-headed in that regard."
Ronni Hannaman, Chamber of Commerce executive director, didn't address the two-lane controversy directly but offered another idea. She suggested closing Third Street and making it into "an active mini-pedestrian mall where there would be benches, trees" with existing restaurants having tables in that location.
"There could be strolling musicians to create synergy and excitement," she said. "The parking on that one-block street is minimal and there's a full-on parking lot right behind on Curry." She also urged attracting condominium developers to come downtown and said there isn't a good plan for retail in the area.