Grid Control, Vol. 24: Deliver me this.

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Courtesy of JP. Who’s up for delivery etiquette lessons?

Three downtown streets have been reverted to two-way traffic. Barring a few details, Spring, Pearl and Bank are finished. Market will be next, and then Elm.

All we know for sure is that the whole of the grid modernization project is to be completed by September 30, and until then, any conclusions offered by me or any other observer will be strictly provisional, subject to experience over a period of subsequent months, not hours (whether the viewpoint is ecstatic or embittered).

I’m bullish, though to put it simply, a counter-productive arrangement that took decades to institutionalize cannot be rebooted into sensibility overnight. Our current civic position is the end of the beginning, and we need to be looking ahead to the next steps — a few short-term tweaks, and a lot more long-haul thoughts and plans.

In the aftermath of two-way traffic reversion on Pearl and Bank, I’ve heard a few comments about the potential for downtown business deliveries to be disruptive.

Something like this: a truck pausing 25 minutes to unload during the morning on Bank or Pearl when traffic is at its very lightest somehow serves as sufficient panic-stricken reason to abandon the whole notion of 24-hours-per-day grid reform over an area far wider than two or three downtown blocks.

I’ve heard this fear/annoyance factor mentioned for years, and Jeff Speck covered it in a street study as yet unread by so many sidewalk superintendents.

Trucks sometimes load and unload on these streets—especially Pearl Street—and the removal of the second lane will make this act more difficult. Before a two-way conversion, the City must work with business owners to identify alternative loading zones within a reasonable distance, such as nearby alleys and parking lots. One hopes that merchants will be incited to support this effort by the data surrounding two-way conversion and retail success.

A similar challenge was faced by the City of Lowell, Massachusetts, population 108,000, when the two-way reversion of its downtown streets was proposed four years ago. At that time, it was said that the main retail corridor, Merrimack Street, could not accept eastbound traffic because its second westbound lane was needed for truck deliveries. Eventually, a servicing plan was completed, and just this past summer the full downtown two-way reversion took place—including Merrimack Street. Deliveries now occur in certain designated locations, and the entire transformation came off without a hitch.

The point should be obvious. Indubitably, downtown deliveries are something to be considered and addressed, but they’re hardly the sort of destructive phenomenon to justify (even more) apocalyptic arm-waving by the naysayers, primarily because whether the street runs one way or two, a truck parked in the middle of it is an obstacle.

If automobile drivers operate at safe speeds and pay attention, if truck drivers aren’t narcissists, and if suppliers work with businesses — if the obstacles are reduced and systematized as much as possible — then it stands to be a minor issue, at best.

Naturally, the devil’s in the “if,” so I looked around a bit and found this article detailing the downtown experience in Columbia Missouri — not pertaining to a post-reversion situation, as in New Albany, but the everyday problem of deliveries in an urban grid.

City advisory group wants traffic study related to delivery truck parking downtown, by Megan Favignano (Columbia Tribune)

… Earlier this year, the CID’s operations committee and board established a list of recommended or best practices for businesses receiving deliveries downtown.

Those included delivery companies, distributors and merchants complete loading and unloading as quickly as possible, avoiding large deliveries during peak times if possible, paying meters if parked in a meter spot while loading, staying at least 30 feet away from intersections to avoid blocking traffic and larger delivery trucks parking in the middle of the street down the center divider if unloading on Broadway.

The Downtown CID’s board created these guidelines and decided not to establish any policies or recommend the city create an ordinance related to delivery truck parking. Essing said the board felt a policy restricting delivery truck parking could harm businesses.

For instance, she said, if a policy only allowed deliveries during a certain time frame, that may not match up with the hours of operation of all downtown businesses. That means some businesses would need to pay employees to come in to receive shipments during a time the business is not normally open.

Farrar said placing restrictions on delivery truck drivers could have other negative effects on businesses downtown, including delayed delivery of products they need.

The downtown leadership council discussed how prohibiting deliveries during certain hours may affect the businesses downtown, including worsening traffic during a different time of day rather than solving the traffic congestion issue.

“I think everyone wishes there was an easy solution,” Essing said. “If you make one change you need to think about what else is that going to impact.”

Farrar said community awareness could help. She said the trucks have few places to park and citizens should expect occasional delays.

Two jaw-dropping concepts emerge from this article: there’s a Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) in Columbia, and a Downtown Leadership Council to tackle downtown issues.

Just imagine. I good place to start would be downtown merchants working together, not separately — but street direction isn’t a direct determinant of this relative failure, is it?

Previously:


Grid Control, Vol. 23: City’s fuddy-duddies losing their minds as the debut for a two-way Spring Street is pegged at August 29.


Grid Control, Vol. 22: City engineer Larry Summers answers our questions about intersection striping errors and the “No Trucks” sign removal.


Grid Control, Vol. 21: Murderous intersection at Spring & 10th to be repaved and restriped — and, the hocus-pocus with a disappearing “No Trucks” sign at Spring & Vincennes.


Grid Control, Vol. 20: As Team Gahan dawdles, another bicyclist is crushed into mincemeat at 10th & Spring’s dangerous dogleg.



Grid Control, Vol. 19: In a positive move, HWC begins righting the wrong cross hatching on Spring Street.

Grid Control, Vol. 18: Finally a few BoW street grid project answers, almost all of them citing “contractor error.”

Grid Control, Vol. 17: Judging by the misdirection of this “CROSS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP” sign, we now reside in the British Empire.

Grid Control, Vol. 16: What about HWC’s cross hatching correction? Will this be finished before or after Team Gahan declares victory?


Grid Control, Vol. 15: Dooring enhancement perfectly epitomizes Deaf Gahan’s “biking last” approach to grid modernization.

Grid Control, Vol. 14: Yes, you can still park on the south side of Spring Street during the stalled two-way grid project.

Grid Control, Vol. 13: “Dear Deaf Gahan and minions: FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, STOP TRYING TO BE COOL AND DESIGNER-ISH. YOU’RE NOT, AND IT’S EMBARRASSING ALL OF US.”



Grid Control, Vol. 12: Meet the artistic crosswalk design equivalent of dogs playing poker.

Grid Control, Vol. 11: HWC Engineering meets with St. Marks, city officials nowhere to be found.

Grid Control, Vol. 10: City officials predictably AWOL as HWC Engineering falls on its sword over striping errors.

Grid Control, Vol. 9: “This was supposed to be discussed with us,” but Dear Leader doesn’t ever discuss, does he?


Grid Control, Vol. 8: City Hall characteristically mum as HWC Engineering at least tries to answer the cross-hatching question.


Grid Control, Vol. 7: What will the Board of Works do to rectify HWC’s striping errors on the north side of Spring Street, apart from microwaving another round of sausage biscuits?


Grid Control, Vol. 6: Jeff Speck tweets about NA’s grid changes, and those missed bicycling opportunities.


Grid Control, Vol. 5: Egg on HWC Engineering’s well-compensated face as it botches Spring Street’s westbound bike buffer cross hatching.


Grid Control, Vol. 4: But this actually isn’t a bus lane, is it?


Grid Control, Vol. 3: TARC’s taking your curbside church parking, says City Hall.


Grid Control, Vol. 2: Southsiders get six more parking inches, but you gotta love those 10-foot traffic lanes on Spring.



Grid Control, Vol. 1: You people drive so freaking horribly that someone’s going to die at Spring and 10th.

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