Saturday, March 22, 2014

Five Corners flaws

I'm still waiting for some kind of explanation of what's happening right now at Five Corners.  Meanwhile, I thought I'd piggyback on my first Five Corners post to draw additional specific attention to one of my long-term least favorite subjects, which is the lack of pedestrian access in our area, and the fact that Five Corners is not safely navigable for anyone traveling by foot or bicycle.  And this has serious ramifications for many local families.  Case in point.
Willie Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money is.  Street Smart Driving School set up shop near Clear Creek High School because that's where the driving students (and their moneys) are.  

Screengrabbed from Googlemaps.   
If you examine that map grab, you'll immediately see that the distance across the Creek campus itself (that pile of development to the northeast, wedged between Marina Bay Drive and FM 518) is not much different than the distance from the southwest corner of the campus to the driving school.  It should be a very easy and quick walk from one to the other.

However, given the ill-conceived configuration of this area, the only way to get from the high school to the driving school is through Five Corners.
And Five Corners is simply not safe for pedestrians.  There are umpteen lanes of intense traffic and virtually no pedestrian improvements.  You can see white crosswalks painted on the road itself, but they largely don't connect to sidewalks or other non-motor vehicle conveyances.

Screengrabbed from Googlemaps.  
I'm not one of those overprotective parents who wants to pamper my child with chauffeur service and 24/7 climate control.  I raised her free range, and she describes herself as having "grown up playing in the streets".  She's not the kind of helicoptered kid who can't handle normal challenges presented by her surrounding environment.
We are not one of these families.  Screengrabbed from TIME magazine's seminal article on helicopter parenting.  
But I can't allow her to traverse either Five Corners or FM 270 on foot - without supportive infrastructure, it's simply too dangerous.

So what happens instead??  Sixteen times thus far, either my husband or I have had to leave work in the late afternoon on weekdays, drive several miles to the high school, pick her up, and drive her the whopping 3,500 feet (as the crow flies) from the high school to the driving school.  Sixteen times, and we're not nearly done with it because she hasn't even started the behind-the-wheel portion of the training course.

Now, mentally integrate that impact over time and space.  If you check the driving school's class schedule, you'll see that they have new classes starting every other week.  Each one of those classes is typically so chock full of students that most of them must queue up for class by waiting outdoors on a series of benches that the school has set up to handle the volume.  An enormous number of local students use this resource, but none of them can drive there under their own power because, duh, they're all in driving school.  I see a few of those students walking from the high school, but most do not because of the safety issues I've described.  Most get driven by family members.

Integrate mentally and what you come up with over time is thousands of impacted families, tens of thousands of hours of lost productivity due to the driving burden, and who knows how much extra money spent on gasoline and per-mile automotive depreciation.  

And that's just from that one isolated Point A to Point B transaction.  The amount of money squandered locally on the sum total of all student-schlepping simply boggles the imagination.  And a lot of that is done because parents correctly deduce that their kids can't walk safely around here for lack of infrastructure.
And then all of a sudden, lo and behold, we've got THIRTY-ONE THOUSAND CARS PER DAY traversing the area in question.

AADT stands for "average annual daily traffic" and this table is screengrabbed from this report.  However, this is probably way out of date because it's ten years old and League City's population has almost doubled (!) in the past ten years.  Today's AADT number is probably much higher than 31,000.  
So what seems to happen in public policy is that the decision-makers say, "Ah, we will eliminate sidewalks, curbs, shoulders, and other safety features from our new roadway project and this will save the taxpayers money."  But then what happens in response is that we have all this extra driving and we have to start spending major money to handle the extra driving that develops because there's no other safe option but to drive.  Right now they're apparently in the middle of spending another $5.5 million trying to fix the mess that is Five Corners, but what would it have cost them to have included sidewalks in the first place?

I'm not even remotely suggesting that sidewalks would be the total answer to all of this, but hopefully I've been able to make the point that they would be an integral component of any sensible solution.  Meanwhile, I'll just keep doing my part to help congest Five Corners multiple times per day because I don't have a viable alternative.
This is what it looks like when Clear Creek High students walk north on sidewalk-less and shoulder-less Egret Bay Blvd.  Tell me that this is even remotely safe or sensible.  Who designed this jack-ass right of way, and according to what hare-brained justification?!

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