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Monday
Feb112013

Kansas City, Take 2

I had big plans for a larger piece today, not about my trip to Kansas City for the New Partners for Smart Growth conference but something completely different. Unfortunately, things are working against me.

On a last minute deal, I was asked to fly to DC for a series of top secret meetings (hopefully will be able to report on that sometime in the near future). That meant I would get home from NPSG on Saturday evening and depart again for DC on Sunday afternoon. I had a thee hour layover in MSP and was planning to  put something together then.

Oh no, not so lucky. My family and I got out of church Sunday morning and found ourselves in a blizzard. After spending a couple of days snickering at the lightweights in the Northeast and their snow issues, all of a sudden things here in the land of snow were getting serious. I went out to blow the snow out of the driveway at 1:30 in anticipation of leaving the house at 2:30 for my 3:40 flight out of Brainerd International. When I came back in I had received a call from Delta. Flight canceled and I'm rebooked for Monday AM.

The problem is that Monday AM would get me to DC two hours too late for my top secret meetings, events that could not possibly be rescheduled. So I did the prudent thing. Leaving my snow-busting Honda Element behind for my wife and children, I headed out to MSP in the little Honda Civic.

I cleared the driveway just fine thanks to my earlier work, but got stuck numerous times on the series of STROADS that I take out to the highway. I'm an expert Minnesotan and so I can handle all of this, but it takes time. After an hour I had traveled a distance that would normally take about ten minutes, but I had made it to the highway, which had been plowed at some point and was passable.

Three and a half hours later, I made it to MSP (usually a two hour trip). The snow lessened as I went south and, thanks to weather updates from my Twin Cities posse of Jim and Faith Kumon, I felt confident I could make my flight. Little did I know the flight to DCA would be delayed once. Twice. Three times. 

After numerous false starts and announcements, we finally boarded and it seemed like all was a go. Not so fast. It was an hour and twenty minutes from the time I boarded until we could get clearance, get de-icing done and take off. For some reason the flight attendant would not let me use my PC that entire time (she demanded I shut it off), so I just sat here watching the clock tick away. I'm airborne now but (sadly) need some rest. 

So, nothing more than a couple of shout outs for today with the promise to catch up with you later in the week. First shout out is to my good friend and presentation partner, Joe Minicozzi, who took the picture below just before we participated in the opening plenary on Saturday morning. It was a large crowd and they seemed to get into the conversation, which was cool. Joe and I each only got about ten minutes to present so I only got to share a brief overview, but the Q&A proved interesting. No KC people angry with me, which was good. I spent about 45 minutes talking to people afterwards, as did Joe, so we clearly reached some people. Thank you to the NPSG organizers for the invitation.

My favorite part of the entire event though was getting a chance to meet and hang out with some of my favorite bloggers. I'm partcularly fond of Randy Simes (Twitter), who is part of the UrbanCincy blog and podcast. He's just a really cool dude who I think I could chat with all day. Plus he's single, ladies, and I've heard he's worth millions. (Okay, he is single but I made up the part about the millions -- could be, but I don't know -- still he's real intelligent and a nice guy.) Here's Randy (far left) and I with NextSTL blogger Alex Ihnen (Twitter). I've enjoyed Alex's writing over the years and highly recommend his site as well.

Finally, a trip to Kansas City would not be complete without a comment on the "horrendous" level of traffic downtown. Before I even arrived I was getting photos texted to my phone of Joe Minicozzi laying down in the middle of empty streets. My Facebook friends were wishing me luck getting there as I was arrived just prior to "rush hour" on Friday ("rush hour" being a very relative term). Then there was this photo posted by Gary Toth of PPS.

Here was Gary's comment:

One of downtown Kansas City's many "traffic sewers". The city's traffic engineers have succeeded in eliminating congestion by turning everything into a 1 way street and widening lanes, that downtown is so dominated by roads that no 1 wants to go there anymore. From 9am to 4 p.m. you can play soccer on the downtown streets.

When I got to my hotel is was a little after 4:00 PM on Friday afternoon. I grabbed my video camera and headed out to the streets to document the terrible level of rush hour traffic I was told I missed the last time I was in town. After all, back then I was just an "out of town conventioner" who "just doesn't get it" and is promoting a "superlative-laced nothing vision" called Strong Towns. I probably would not have bothered except for the fact that those comments were not made by bitter critics of urban planning but from people who are ostensibly advocates for downtown. 

So it may be gratuitous, but I have something like 20 minutes of empty rush hours streets and accompanying commentary I will be preparing and sharing here soon. For those in KC still in the dark about how ridiculous their downtown approach to auto transportation is, hopefully this will open some eyes. If not, I shake the dust off my feet and move to the next town. There's so much to do that I can't waste time convincing people who should know better to see the obvious.

Looks like I'll be getting into DC around 0 Dark 30 which, by the way, we used to say as Oh Dark Thirty, not Zero Dark Thirty, when I was in the Army. Maybe that has changed or maybe real troops (I was a truck driver in the National Guard -- technically a real troop but nothing like a Seal or Green Beret) just say it that way. Someone fill me in.

Take care, everyone. I'll try and get caught up on Tuesday or, at the latest, Wednesday. In the meantime, the Network site has a lot of great discussion going on. I recommend heading over there to share your thoughts and learn from some really brilliant people that are working to make theirs a strong town.

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Reader Comments (2)

I watched the video, and you're right, there's no traffic. Very interesting, very strange place. Also curious why the clock on the building around the 3 minute point of the video reads 3:43, not 4:30 or later.

February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterUrsula Andress

I witnessed the same thing in St Louis. It was around lunch time on a weekday - back home the streets would be bustling with people - shoppers, business people, students crowding the cafes, restaurants, and food courts. But in St Louis, I spent an hour walking around during lunch time, and there wasn't a car in sight and I only saw a handful of pedestrians.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Price
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