A number we’ve tossed around quite a bit recently, the fact that the city of South Bend’s fleet of vehicles uses a rail tanker of liquid fuels (diesel and unleaded) every eight days, has lead us to focus on our transportation initiatives this week. The SBMEO has always focused on finding fuel sources that are more environmentally appropriate, sources that are more secure, as well as sources that make the most economic sense. To this end, the SBMEO has been looking at shifting the fleet from our current oil based fuels to compressed natural gas. But the journey to a more globally conscious transportation system doesn’t stop there. We’d still be consuming a large quantity of fuel.
To confront the issue head-on, it’s necessary to take a broader look at all of the city’s integrated transportation systems (vehicles, infrastructure, other transportation options). One way to reduce the city’s liquid fuel consumption is to promote a more pedestrian friendly community design. Bike lanes that are more usable (See Vancouver’s separated bike lanes) and greenways that are more than just linear parks (See Chicago’s massive Lakefront Trail) are a starting point that makes South Bend more pedestrian friendly. Riverside Trail, South Bend’s most popular greenway, has planned expansions to Niles and beyond, but some focus needs to be placed on connecting that trail to adjacent neighborhoods and to the downtown. These connections make the trail more functional and gives users the option of using the trail for commuting rather than their vehicles. Reducing friction (like providing more connectivity), gives these greenways the opportunity to have a much higher usage then they do currently.
Another component to pedestrian friendly communities is using Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) as a model for design. TODs place focus on multi-modal connections and pedestrian safety by including space for separated bike lanes and bike share options, bus pull offs and shelters, as well as traffic calming methods like chicanes, bump-outs (which squeeze lane width down and provide more green space), and speed bumps/dips. Increased green space and reduced right-of-way frontage, bring pedestrians closer to businesses and increase access to nature. TODs require a paradigm shift, but they provide a much healthier microclimate for the communities they populate and have potential to increase overall economic appeal (improved aesthetics and one-to-one communications).
These options provide a snapshot of the SBMEO’s transportation initiatives, but represent the overall need for more focus due to increasing fuel costs. Without a doubt, these alternative methods will provide a lasting and positive impact on our city.