Featured Post

Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Park Your Dog? Or Dog Your Park?

My passage to being an East Sider is complete. I'm in the back of the April edition of East Side Monthly, talking about frequent direct RIPTA routes, protected bike lanes, and parking reform, among other things (I can't link to the article, as it's not online yet, but you can get a copy of it--complete with scowling crossed-eyed photo of me in a parking garage*--at most places on the East Side--they're free!).

The street near Waterman Dog Park, as it should be.

The East Side Monthly has a good article here and there, but is also a huge unending receptacle of self-righteous East Side NIMBYism, particularly in the form of neighborhood letters to the editor. The most recent rant came from a neighbor who doesn't want a new proposed dog park (see meeting time below)

The letter starts off by complaining that the proposed dog park will cost too much. Then it goes into some very legitimate criticism of the location, saying that it will be difficult for people to access the park due to the conditions on Waterman and Angell Streets. Some hightlights:
To the south, Waterman Street is a veritable speedway as drivers jockey for position to enter the Henderson Bridge on-ramp, just past the proposed parking. Speeds of 35 mph, and higher, are not uncommon!
Okay, I'm with you so far. 
How will anyone cross from the proposed parking area. . .
What? Parking area?

Forgive me, but are we really going to provide designated off-street parking for a dog park? Is it extreme for me to suppose that a parking park (Ooh! Freudian slip!) for walking your dog would be a place for. . . walking?

The letter to the editor goes on:
. . . or worse, how will anyone exit their auto if they are foolish enough and try to park on Waterman. Add dogs on leashes and perhaps a child or two, well, hopefully EMTs will be standing at the ready for the inevitable catastrophe.
The letter-writer is right to be worried about Waterman Street, which is extremely dangerous for pedestrians or bicyclists, but the crux of this letter--which is that we should avoid building a park because of the problems with Waterman Street--takes the problem and turns it ass-backwards. We should hope that we can bring as many children, dogs, and adults to this area as possible, but we'll have to fix what's wrong with the street in order to do that. And all the parking in the world won't help that, no matter what side of the street it's on.

Waterman Street near the proposed park.

The biggest design features of this street that cause it to not function are that the lanes are double one-ways that are set extremely wide. I don't have the exact measurements here, but direct your attention to the width of the car in the travel lane, and see how much space it has on either side of it within the lane. That causes people to speed. Lane widths shouldn't be more than 10', but the baseline in Providence is at least 12', and it wouldn't shock me if these lanes were more like 14'. 

Dogs like streets that are friendly for pedestrians, like Thayer St.
during the snow storms, when it was temporarily car-free and
Waterman rarely needs two lanes for traffic--what traffic congestion exists is only at lights, not in-between--so the street should lose a lane for cars, push the parking in, and have protected bike lanes on the other side of the parked cars. This setup can actually reduce speeds--we should aim to get them at least below 20 mph--and under those conditions we can even set traffic lights to blinking red, which would do away with the congestion while also improving pedestrian conditions. It's extremely silly for Waterman or Angell to have two lanes here, because the streets come to a bottleneck at Brown University just a short distance away, and go back to just one (although, that one lane is also too wide).

One way I would suggest paying for the dog park would be metering parking along it. This depends on demand. Donald Shoup (video) says you should charge the lowest price the market will allow that still leaves one or two spaces open on every block. It's not clear to me that many people park in this part of Waterman to begin with, so in this case there may not be much demand, and the price might be rightly set at zero. But adding a dog park to the area, and hopefully other amenities over time, should change that picture. Charge a small fee for those who park, and help the neighborhood maintain an open green space--what could be better? The author of the letter supposes that parks are a liability, and certainly they are. But so too is street parking that is unoccupied. We paid $40 million to repave Providence's streets, and already many of them are in great need of touch-ups, but the people who park on a large part of our streets pay nothing for the valuable real estate. And we're going to add a surface lot on top of that?

We should build this dog park. But to make it successful, we need to make the streets on either side of it work. Rather than avoid a new pedestrian activity in order to avoid potential harm, let's tame Waterman and Angell Streets. Let's leave the surface lot out of the picture, and charge a small fee for people who park (if the market for parking allows). And then let's sit back and watch the neighborhood bloom.

You can support a dog park at the next public meeting: Thursday, April 9th, 7:00 PM at Rochambeau Library

*I'm not looking a gift-horse in the mouth. I take horrible photos, and it's not ESM's fault.

1 comment:

  1. Great writeup. I live a very short distance from the proposed park and am excited to gain additional foot traffic in this area while at the same time providing an incentive to reign in the ridiculous speeds that take place on this stretch of road. Meters provide a small pay-per-use fee to people from outside the neighborhood, support the ongoing maintenance and keep the park free for those who live and pay taxes nearby. Win-win.