Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Pullman recognized as pedestrian-oriented city"

Daily News editor Doug Bauer wrote in a recent editorial that "'Smart' growth isn't as big a buzzword in Pullman as it is on the other side of the border..."

For that matter, we didn't waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a "New Cities" project that produced absolutely nothing.

You see, we don't need fancy buzzwords or overpriced consultants to be a "pedestrian-friendly" city. History took care of that for us already.

The town's main employer, Washington State University is located roughly in the center of town. Parking, like at any major university, is scarce and expensive. Therefore, many university employees and students walk from nearby College Hill.

Pullman is also landlocked in a sea of wheatfields. Decades of stringent agricultural land-use regulations have prevented the town from growing very far outside its borders, making it very compact (and housing very expensive.) If you have ever seen Pullman from the air, you know what I mean. Virtually any point is within easy walking/biking distance of another. Even the so-called sprawl-creating Wal-Mart will be in close proximity to housing developments on Sunnyside and Pioneer Hills.

"Urban sprawl in Pullman" is a non-sequitur.

From last Saturday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Paul Funston is one of thousands of Pullman residents who walk to work each day.

"I find it more economical to walk than drive," he said. "It's also an enjoyable time to unwind."

Pullman recently was recognized as one of the top pedestrian-oriented communities in the country by streetsblog.org. The city was ranked No. 10 nationwide among "walk to work" communities containing more than 20,000 and less than 250,000 residents.

Of the approximately 25,000 people who live in Pullman, more than 5,000 walk to their destinations each day.

"The city has developed decent, safe walking paths for people," Funston said.

Planning Director Pete Dickinson credits the acknowledgment to the city's location.

"The fact that we're in a relatively isolated location with students, staff and faculty means that pretty much everyone lives in the community of Pullman," he said.

"We try to provide for a sizeable population to have the ability to walk to work."

The streetsblog Web site is sponsored by the Open Planning Project of New York. The streetsblog obtained its information from the "Bike at Work" database, which used U.S. Census figures to show how many people walk to their jobs in cities across the country.

The top three cities in Pullman's classification bracket were Ithaca, N.Y., Athens, Ohio, and State College, Penn., each of which have more than 40 percent of their residents walking to work.

All of the cities identified in the 20,000-to-250,000 list contain major institutions of higher learning or military installations, which raises the amount of pedestrian traffic.

According to the streetsblog report, it "would seem there are two major factors that influence the walkability of a city or town: institutional presence and pre-auto urban design. The key to both appears to be co-location of housing with the various destinations that people need and desire."

Dickinson said it's an honor for Pullman to be included in the list.

"It's a nice distinction and it shows that we're a pedestrian-oriented city," Dickinson said. "We'd like to maintain that distinction."


Bruce Heimbigner said...

“The city was ranked No. 10 nationwide among "walk to work" communities…”
Wow I’ll say that backward WOW. For 20 years I’ve either walked or biked to work nearly every day in Pullman. If the quote is accurate then we are a pitiful nation.

There may be 5,000 people walking to their destinations but not employees. No way do 5,000 people walk to work each day- that must be close to ½ of all workers who live in Pullman! Maybe in a year 5,000 people will walk to work at least one day. Maybe they mean they walk from their car or the bus stop to the office but certainly not from their home to their office. There are a tiny number of employees who walk - most of the walkers are students. I know of only 2 other employees who walk or bike to work a majority of days. Lately the most walking I see of some people is from their car to one of the new ‘fitness centers’.

The number of students who walk is dismal and embarrassing compared to 30 years ago - before the bus system. The sidewalks were full of students (and as I recall faculty and staff) walking to campus. IN FACT the president of the university routinely walked in town and to campus. I’ve never seen any of the last few university presidents outdoors let alone walking for transportation.

Further, Pullman is rather dangerous for walkers/bikers (since there are so few). I’ve been rear-ended twice on my bike, once totaling the bike. I’m VERY careful at crosswalks and always make sure people stopped are looking me in the eye, but 4 times I’ve been hit in crosswalks. They look, don’t see, and then go. The city and WSU do a good job making the area pedestrian friendly, but the drivers are not.

By The Way, I’ve found that it takes less time to walk (25 minutes for me) than take the bus and FAR less time to bike (7 minutes) than drive.

April E. Coggins said...

It just goes to show how silly the perception. Hey! Look at us, we are too broke to drive (or park). Our student housing looks just like East Germany. Aren't we special.

April E. Coggins said...

Bruce, as I recall, the rating is based on proximity. The website didn't visit Pullman, they only looked at our layout. They determined that Pullman is very walkable because we appear close to everything. Nevermind the huge hills, weather, etc. Pullman's planning department monthly newletter has all the info.