Strong Towns member, Brian Ludicke, Planning Director for the city of Lancaster, CA, was recently interviewed by Streetsblog about his work making streets safer and one of his big inspirations: Strong Towns.
He explained how he first got connected with Strong Towns:
Several years back we had a person in the city who was working on his master’s degree. He asked if I had information on how much sprawl costs. Instinctively, we know that it’s more expensive to maintain sprawl. The city had tried several years earlier to come up with a way of clarifying this. In the attempt to help him on that, the search engine kicked up one of Chuck’s blogs. That led me to the site and I was absolutely enthralled.
Here was a guy who I felt I could relate to. I’ve only had that experience a couple times in my professional career. One was when I heard [Congress for New Urbanism founder] Andrés Duany talk back in 1991.
Reading Chuck’s stuff, I said, “this guy is talking about the very things we’re dealing with.” We’re talking about 2010-2011 here. The city had just gone through its downtown revitalization effort. We had done a lot of work trying to understand street design. We had just focused on what made a better environment.
What Chuck brought into the discussion was: What’s the real purpose of a street? If the purpose of a street is to be a platform for wealth, what you’re doing here is more than just making a nice place to be. What is the benefit of that to the surrounding property and to the city?
There are more now, but at that time, Chuck was one of the few people who said that there’s a very real municipal revenue issue here. You have a lot of municipalities that are going broke. They’re going broke because [of] the very things that you’ve intuitively understood, which is that this infrastructure is far too expensive to maintain for what you’re getting back for it.
Brian also spoke about some projects he has spearheaded recently to help make Lancaster a more walkable place:
A couple years back, the city did a right-sizing on Valley Central Way, a four-lane commercial street, about a mile west of here. It’s a short street, a half-mile long. We didn’t have a lot of people walking or biking on it, but it somehow managed to get 70 collisions on it in a three-year time frame. We basically used paint; we put in bike lanes, narrowed it from four lanes to two. Then we watched what happened.
We saw a 75 percent reduction in collisions, and about a five to eight mile per hour reduction in speed, and, interestingly, about a 10 to 15 percent increase in the amount of traffic, which makes the owner of the adjacent shopping center happy. [...]
In line with the Strong Towns philosophy, we’ve been doing things a little bit at a time to see what happens. Valley Central is a great example because it’s paint. If it turns out to not have any good results, it’s simple enough to turn it back over to what it was.
Lancaster Boulevard [through downtown Lancaster] is the gold standard. That’s a street right-sizing, but it’s a gold-plated right-sizing.
I think it’s appropriate for the core of the city. That street has achieved a lot of what we wanted. There used to be seven traffic signals on it — those are all gone. That was a major leap of faith, certainly for our city management side and our council.
Read the full article to learn more about Brian's efforts to make Lancaster safer and more liveable.
Thanks to Streetsblog and Brian Ludicke for the fantastic interview!
(All photos courtesy of Streetsblog)