Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow In A Real Livable City

OK, I noticed pretty quickly here how generally reluctant people are here to those who make even mildly critical remarks about the city and how it's run. You can't fool everyone all the time, so this condition quickly leads to war between those who want to look on the "bright side", and those who hole up on a hillside and call in to radio hosts to tell people the city sucks.

The truth I think most people know, is that the city is very beautiful and could be very livable if it was run better.

I mean sh-- Snow happens, and for the most part it should not cause a city that many problems-- even in large amounts, especially one in that does get some regular significant snow.

OK, I have to admit to finding it somewhat funny and sick that the city needs national guard troops to help shuttle people around and help with emergency response. Yes, many people live in out of the way places, on narrow winding streets (and that's a subject in itself) but--hello many of these streets were blocked and too narrow to be plowed because of parked cars.

The adult thing to say when a major storm is known to be coming is --get your car off any narrow street or it will be towed. Get your car off any major snow route or it will be towed. Move your car to one side of the street so we can plow and the other side the next day, so we can plow.

There is no such thing as a city without any chance of a lot of rain, or snow or some other natural problem and there can be no livable city run by children. (just look at yinz pension fund)

What are Yinz living in a Rob Rogers Cartoon here? Be back with more thoughts about snow.


Unknown said...

In Ottawa, Canada, if your car is on the street and there's been more than 4" of snow, it will get ticketed and/or towed if it's out on the street.

Oreopithecus bambolii said...

I, too, think that the city's response to the snow has been laughable at best, but where do you suggest we put our cars instead? In many parts of the city, especially older neighborhoods, most houses don't have driveways or garages, so on the street is the only place for us to put our cars.

"Alternate side" parking, where parking is only prevented on one side of the street at once, may seem like an option, except for all the streets that are so narrow, parking is only possible on one side to begin with (or streets like mine with a 10-foot-high retaining wall on one side...).

John Morris said...

"but where do you suggest we put our cars instead? In many parts of the city, especially older neighborhoods, most houses don't have driveways or garages, so on the street is the only place for us to put our cars."

Logically, I don't have answer to that, LOL--I don't drive or own a car here. All I can say is that this is something people should be actively thinking about and planning for. Is there an alley you can plow out. A garage, available, a friends house?

As you can see, the Public Service anouncement in ST Paul is to get people to make those plans so they can get their cars off the streets--property they do not own.

Perhaps the best plan for some is living on say the South Side, is to dump the car and use public transit, bike or walk.

More thoughts.

Oreopithecus bambolii said...

Maybe you haven't noticed, but it's incredibly difficult for those of us who don't live or work in certain neighborhoods to get around this city without a car. There is a bus to my neighborhood (11E Fineview), but it hasn't been running most of the week, and when it does run, it's infrequent and slow.

The 54C and 500, among others, are relatively 'nearby'---except that the 1/2-mile walk also includes nearly 500 feet of vertical.

"Dump the car" is a nice slogan, but simply not practical for much of the city.

John Morris said...

Well, I don't take this as a joke at all. I know it's hard for many people.

The general way land is used in the city relates to this. Why don't people live in more practical places, like the Strip, East Liberty, The North Shore, Downtown?

This is the subject of my next post when I get around to it.

Oreopithecus bambolii said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but a big part of why I don't live in a more "practical" place is economics.

My wife and I pay about the same amount monthly for a 3-br house that lets us have a dog and cats and has a great view of the city that we paid for a considerably smaller townhouse in North Point Breeze with a view of a UPMC parking lot, and not much more than we paid for a 1-br apartment on a rat-infested alley at the bottom of Squirrel Hill.

Unknown said...

If there was a greater focus on clear routes for pedestrians, you might have a stronger point about ditching the car. I live nearby one of those stairwells that will take you to a bus stop. The thing is steep, and never cleared of snow. I often wonder that as I watch people risk their lives on these steps to catch a bus (a bus which will no longer run after this latest round of route cuts). Oh wait, these difficulties are, of course, MY FAULT for choosing to live in this neighborhood on a hill.

Travel in the city was hard for (and elicited complaining from) car owners and non alike. If you are going to blog about this, I suggest you put some further thought into the complexity of this issue.

And too be honest, I didn't think the plow situation was bad as most did. But maybe I got lucky. I didn't expect to see a plow on my street for days considering where I live (dead end street, low brow neighborhood), but after an hour or so of shoveling the day after that first heavy snowfall I was on my way to work.

John Morris said...

Look, I know this whole post set me up as insensitive, which is why it's always easier to just wash your hands and say things are fine.

I haven't gone into it in detail, but If you read this blog, you can see a lot of anger about issues like where the sports stadiums are and why there are highways cutting off the waterfront and why the city and the URA have torn down son many buildings downtown to build parking garages and about what happened to the Lower Hill, and Allegheny Center and destruction of Manchester.

Yes, a lot of this "urban renewal" was an outright crime and hurt thousands of thousands of people. But, even worse, it hurt the city in a very deep way.
To an outsider, who's lived most of his life in a dense city with many practical geographic barriers like New York has, I could see pretty clearly that something was structurally wrong.

How can a really a pretty poor city, with a very small land area throw away and misuse so much of it's scarcest assets, it's well located flat land.

Cities like New York and Hong Kong, and Singapore and to a large extent San Fransisco are richer partly because they have made much wiser and economical use of the land they have.

By the way, a large number of people in places like Fineview and the Hill and Polish Hill live in the city without a car. There's a post on Blogski right now saying 40% of the residents of Polish Hill are without cars.

Unknown said...

I'm not washing my hands. Nor do I live on Polish hill; this city has more than one set of steep stairways. Nor did I imply that all people in my neighborhood owned cars.

I'm just annoyed with all the complaining that the people in charge are doing things all wrong all the time. But most of those with complaints have any better suggestions to offer.

So there is a land usage problem in Pittsburgh, but we can't do anything about that before we clear the snow. This is just one of the complexities that make the snow removal problems in Pittsburgh unique.

Part of my annoyance stems from the snow issues here in Pittsburgh. Part of it has to do with an event that happened yesterday at the University of Buffalo: the major library on one of the campuses was shut down because there was a report of a sighting of a man with a gun. The library was evacuated. Students received alerts via email and text messaging. Classes were canceled. Building was searched. No man with a gun was found, or confirmed. But yet there were complaints all over the place that the situation was handled poorly. All precautions were taken with safety to the public in mind. And in this case of public safety, no person's rights were even violated! And still people are complaining.

My point is sometimes there isn't a viable "better" way. Sometimes there is. But complaining it about it without a feasible alternative isn't good for anybody.

John Morris said...

I really think most readers of this post will get the idea that I did offer some alternative ways of doing and thinking about things.

The core of the post was the PSA, run by the St Paul, Minnesota government warning people about the necessary steps tha city was taking to make sure streets can be completely cleared as soon as possible. Yes, ST Paul, gets more snow than us on average, but a reasonable city should take similar steps-- and most do.

Running ads telling people what the plowing policies are. Clearly marking major no parking areas in heavy snow, putting out clear signs, having an snow info number (311 should work) and posting policies online are good steps to take.

Asking people with cars to make plans in advance of big snowfalls to get their cars off the streets is the right thing to do. Most snowy cities tow your car and hit you with big fines for blocking snow plows.