Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Norwalk Gondola

Gondolas aren't just for skiers anymore. Colombia (actually, South America--see Cap'n Transit's comment below), the nation of transportation innovators that brought us bus rapid transit, has also introduced the world to the urban gondola. It's getting a lot of attention recently from transit planners, thanks to an effort called The Gondola Project which has been highlighting its advantages:
  • It's cheap
  • It flies above traffic, buildings, hills and other obstacles
  • It eliminates wait time (there's always a gondola coming by)
So, as a thought experiment, this is my plan for the Norwalk Gondola.

View Norwalk Gondola in a larger map

It would soar over the Norwalk skyline (a surprisingly beautiful vista if you've ever looked out a top-floor window from Norwalk Hospital). It would thread together the train station, SoNo and the aquarium, the West Ave redevelopment area and the Wall St / Pulse Point area.

Stations are envisioned to have boardings on the second floor, with ground-level retail, allowing them to integrate into the urban environment.

Gondolas are said to cost $7-$8 million per mile, so this 1.5 mile line would cost about $10-$12 million...about as cheap as transport comes.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reconnect our city

For walking and cycling to take hold in Norwalk, first-and-foremost we need to make it possible.

Far more than drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are sensitive to how far they have to travel to get where they're going. This is why a connected street grid is critical. Without easy, direct connections, travel distances grow, train stations and bus lines are harder to reach and driving becomes the only option. In the most egregious example in Norwalk, a Winding Ln resident would have to walk a whopping 2 miles (40 minutes) to visit their next-door neighbor on Bow End Rd.

Recent research backs up the negative impact of these missing connections. Residents in neighborhoods with connected street grids drive 26% fewer miles, have lower body mass and endure less pollution.

Major gaps in Norwalk's street grid are visualized as red walls below.

View Missing connectivity in a larger map

Especially in post-war neighborhoods, Norwalkers endure serious connectivity challenges. One of the city's priorities as we look for ways to live healthier and mitigate congestion should be reconnecting the city.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jackie Lightfield is an important voice for livability. Keep her as Zoning chair.

In general, I'd like to keep Livable Norwalk from getting dragged into the acrimony of city politics. (Rule #1: everybody you disagree with is corrupt and controlled by outside interests!) That said, some issues are too important to livability to ignore.

For the past few years, Livable Norwalk member Jackie Lightfield has been chairing the Zoning Commission. During that time she's worked hard to promote walkable, positive development in Norwalk. She's ensured that new projects are fronted by top-quality sidewalks. She's pushed through a waiver of the fee-in-lieu-of-parking fees for SoNo, in recognition that strip mall-style off-street parking doesn't make sense for SoNo and businesses shouldn't be penalized for not building it. She's also been an advocate for public amenities in projects and public art and beautification efforts.

In short, she's been one of Norwalk's best assets...an advocate for a more walkable, bikeable, livable Norwalk ensuring this vision is incorporated into every new development.

Her position as chair of Zoning expires at the end of the month. The council should reappoint her. Let's keep Norwalk moving in the right direction.

Update: Jackie has a list of Common Council contact info on her blog. I encourage you to reach out to them and ask for their support.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Unofficial Norwalk bike map

I'm working on a thus-far unofficial bike map for Norwalk. The purpose is to create a map showing good and bad roads for cycling to help people plan their routes around town. Feedback would be much appreciated! I'm also unsure how to represent the route to Saugatuck through Norden Park, which is part corporate driveway, dirt for a short segment and may not be officially allowed as a through path. It's currently marked as an off-street path.

View Norwalk bike map in a larger map

Off-street path
Striped shoulder