Mobilty plan passes, commission aims to keep parking on Broad
The Greater Hilltop Area Commission has approved the Hilltop Community Mobility Plan, though they are taking steps to keep the recommendations provided for West Broad Street from coming to fruition.
Columbus hired Tran Systems to create the mobility plan, a project that kicked off in October 2008. Since that time, they have held several public meetings and conducted several public surveys and community walk audits.
According to Joshua Sikich of Trans Systems, over 900 people living and/or working on the Hilltop provided input.
“An overwhelming majority of people said they wanted bike paths. They want all users to be accommodated on the roadways,” said Sikich.
However, to put bike paths on both sides of West Broad Street, the Hilltop’s main thoroughfare, parking would have to be reduced to only one side of the street.
The plan to implement this change was first presented to the commission at their Nov. 10 meeting, but was met with much contention from commissioners.
“No one is opposed to biking. We welcome the innovation,” said Commissioner Nancy Rhynard. “But each lost parking place has an economic value.”
Trans Systems provided the commission with a map outlining several off street paring areas as parking alternatives to Broad Street, but according to commissioners, those lots are all privately owned.
“None of the business owners I’ve spoken with are willing to share, for liability issues,” said Rhynard.
Sikich offered that with the passing of their recommendations, Trans Systems would be available to help the city find other parking solutions in the area.
Sikich gave commissioners additional time to go over the recommendations, but warned that he would need a decision by the December meeting.
According to Sikich, the Ohio Department of Transportation is planning to resurface West Broad Street from Hague to Central in 2010. This gives Columbus an opportunity to implement a new plan for the roadway next year, instead of many years down the road, as often happens with these plans.
This would also mean that the project would be 80 percent funded by federal funds, a big savings for the city.
“This is a huge bonus for the Hilltop to be able to do this next year,” said Sikich.
Terry Stewart of the Columbus Department of Public Service, added that while the opportunity to implement changes so soon are a bonus, they also reduce time to debate.
“If no decision is made tonight, West Broad will be restriped as it is,” said Stewart.
Sikich added that without the commission’s support for their recommendations, they would not offer additional help in finding a parking solution for the area.
“It really seems like we’re getting an ultimatum here,” said commissioner Bob Spears, Jr. “If you don’t support this, you get nothing. If you support it, we’ll help you. The people deserve a better answer than that.”
Sikich explained that bike paths have been proven to have a positive impact on neighborhoods, bringing people out on to the street to boost businesses and raise home values.
“(No) parking is detrimental to businesses. You have to find a way to combine the two,” said Rhynard.
The steering committee for the plan, a group appointed by the commission, approved the plan by a majority vote.
“It is unfortunate that we were informed that all of the business owners and residents had been informed, when they were not,” said Druelton Bagley, a commissioner who also served on the steering committee.
Bagley supported the plan as a member of the steering committee, but disapproved at the commission meeting.
“I don’t see many bicyclists on that road now. I can’t justify putting the current retailers out of business. If there is fear now (to be in the area) the environmental factors would not be changed,” said Bagley.
“I can’t ignore the impact of what I think could happen. I’m not opposed to the plan or the effort, but I want to make sure that we take care of the people that are there,” said Dave Horn, vice chair of the commission.
Horn explained that he doesn’t believe people will be willing to walk down the street for parking.
“When you go to the average Walmart, how many hundreds of feet away are you parking?” Sikich countered.
Judy Andrews, president of the Hilltop Business Association spoke for the organization. “Because we are representing the businesses, we don’t support any of the plans except what’s existing.”
Several bicycle enthusiasts from across the city also attended the meeting, many stating that bike paths would encourage them to frequent businesses in the Hilltop.
“I only go to places I can get to on my bike,” one said.
Several other residents stated that they would not visit businesses or attend churches with no parking, due to physical restrictions or for safety issues.
Marian Lupo, a Hilltop resident and member of the steering committee, was surprised that the plan was meeting such opposition.
“I’m embarrassed for the Hilltop. We have an opportunity to do something great. For us to act like we are a vibrant, prosperous neighborhood is humiliating to me.”
After much debate, the commission passed the Hilltop Community Mobility Plan as a whole, but ordered the options offered for West Broad Street in their order of preference, with the majority favoring parking on both sides rather than bike lanes.
The plan as whole
The Hilltop Community Mobility Plan consisted of recommendations for many areas other than West Broad Street, although none of the other areas met with resistance from residents or commission members.
Some of the highlights of the plan include renovation of parking and sidewalks on Hague Avenue, the installation of a multi-purpose pathway on Valleyview Drive, a future bike path on Sullivant Avenue and the installation of sidewalks on Wilson Road, Mound Street and Georgesville Road.
The plan will now go to the Columbus Transportation and Pedestrian Commission, who is expected to make a recommendation to the city by January.