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Yes for Ingersoll

In response to a recent Des Moines Register article and criticisms from local leaders during a city council special session on May 30th regarding the of lack of parking and additional costs for construction and maintenance on the Ingersoll corridor, we would like to issue the following statement of support to The Avenues for their hard work in creating Des Moines’ first street that gives people who walk and bike the safety and dignity they deserve.

Benefits

Safety and Accessibility

Des Moines is currently in the process of adopting a Vision Zero plan, following Federal “Safe System” approach principles, to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on its transportation network. Due to the vulnerability of people walking and biking, Vision Zero calls for planners to separate these users from motor vehicles in both space and time. The Ingersoll streetscape is the best example of a street in Des Moines that provides proper physical separation of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

Most of our streets in Des Moines have been planned and built almost exclusively for drivers. This severely impacts accessibility for those who do not or cannot drive a personal vehicle for physical or financial reasons. The Ingersoll streetscape helps shift this balance by providing more accessible bus stops, and safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists to move about our community.

Livability

The Ingersoll Streetscape not only provides better physical protection for cyclists and pedestrians, but the vibrant landscaping and young but growing tree canopy also makes it a more pleasant and enjoyable corridor to traverse.

This has been the intention of the design all along, to slow drivers down so they are not just speeding through the corridor, but rather using it to access businesses and homes. This is the reason Ingersoll is becoming a burgeoning dining and shopping destination, as it continues to become an increasingly wonderful place to spend time no matter your mode of transportation.



Sustainability

City leaders are also in the process of creating Adapt DSM, a plan to reduce the carbon footprint of the city in a warming world. A key part of this process must include plans to reduce total vehicle miles traveled and move away from the car-centric planning that forces everyone to own and use a personal vehicle. To achieve these goals, we must acknowledge the old way, prioritizing the convenience of drivers over the safety of all other road users, isn’t working, and must work to change the design of our network of roads.

By allowing individuals in our community to more conveniently and safely walk, bike, and use public transit, the Ingersoll streetscape is a step in the right direction for a more sustainable Des Moines.

Limitations

While the Ingersoll streetscape is a marked improvement from the road designs of the prior 75 years in Des Moines, it is not without its limitations, many due to the legacy infrastructure that it was constructed over.

Conflict Points

There remain far too many driveways and entrances that create conflict points where vehicles travel across the sidewalk and separated bike lane. We hope that as further redevelopment on Ingersoll continues, alternatives to these conflict points that move vehicle traffic onto side streets, alleys, and signalized intersections wherever possible can be implemented to make this corridor safer for all.

Visibility

There are also certain driveways and intersections where visibility for drivers entering onto Ingersoll can be limited, oftentimes by vehicles parked on the street. We would encourage further “daylighting” of these intersections where possible, by removing on-street parking where vehicles obstruct driver sightlines. This is especially relevant given the ever-increasing size of vehicles in America.

Safe Connections

Finally, while the Ingersoll corridor is a big improvement in safety and usability for vulnerable road users, it remains an island of refuge in an otherwise dangerous road network, and there are limited safe routes for people to travel to and from the corridor. This limits the number of people who can safely use non-driving modes of transportation. We encourage city leaders to push for better streets across all of our city so that all users may safely access more destinations.

Response to Criticisms

Lack of Parking

Drivers in the Des Moines metro have grown accustomed to being able to park close to their destinations, so it’s not surprising that some may complain when finding a parking space takes a little more time or is a little farther away than what they have experienced in the past.

In a greener, more sustainable and accessible world, drivers will not be able to park wherever they want, whenever they want, for free. We now know the financial, environmental and social damage this causes. New designs such as Ingersoll will require drivers to park farther away from their destination during peak times; however, often this extra distance is similar to what individuals using large parking lots at big box stores would need to traverse.

Furthermore, there remains a plethora of private parking on the corridor that is horribly underused. We applaud Councilmember Josh Mandelbaum in his suggestion that private lots be shared. We would suggest to these business owners and local leaders that they work to better utilize our existing infrastructure rather than building and expanding low productivity land use of surface parking that sits empty for most of the day or evening.

Costs

Yes, it is true that infrastructure that offers safety and dignity to all users and not just drivers will cost more to build and maintain, especially if it includes landscaping such as trees to provide shade for pedestrians. It’s also true that creating places that are safe and attractive encourages people to stay longer and spend more money at local businesses.

Yes, it is more expensive to manage snow removal when you can’t just plow it across the curb ramps, sidewalks, and bus stops, forcing those users to trudge over snow and ice. We must realize that this is not an increase in cost, but rather the elimination of a loophole that has allowed us to save money by ignoring the needs of vulnerable road users and their right to move around the community during all seasons.

This was our city’s first attempt at designing a street for all road users, and we know that we can and will improve upon future designs that will better balance some of these issues while maintaining protection and accessibility for all.




Damage

And finally, in response to criticisms of drivers causing damage to the curbs and streetscape, much of this is an anticipated outcome of providing protection because we would prefer that motorists hit curbs and planters rather than pedestrians and bikers. One of the Safe System principles is that Humans Make Mistakes, and when that happens infrastructure should be designed to protect vulnerable road users.

We would like to see more visual cues for drivers and hardened infrastructure on the corridor such as bollards and raised landscaping closer to the curbs to better protect both users and the infrastructure itself.




In Summary

We were disappointed by comments from local leaders about the Ingersoll streetscape. We cannot build a Des Moines that serves all its citizens in a sustainable and equitable way if we continue to prioritize the convenience of drivers in every decision. The Ingersoll streetscape represents our best effort yet to build this better Des Moines and we should be enacting more of these changes, not less.

We encourage our local leaders and citizens to access the educational resources listed below that can shed more light on these issues and how we can take a more inclusive and sustainable approach to planning and designing our communities.

The High Cost of Free Parking – Donald Shoup (2005)

Walkable City – Jeff Speck (2012)



Alec Davis

Chair

Momentum DSM

Momentum DSM is an all-volunteer run political advocacy organization that seeks to build a more sustainable, accessible, and livable Des Moines for everyone.


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