Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sunny Sunday Smiles

by Tom Bozzo

It was this kind of a day:

Actually, I was a very good boy and, for a double shot of virtue, biked to the gym for a quick upper-body focused workout, and picked up a couple groceries while I was out and about. That itinerary took me through Madison's mostly low-density suburban middle-southwest side. The University Research Park is an alternate downtown of low-rise office buildings sprawling amid surface parking lots with nary a mixed use in sight. At the nearby shopping district surrounding the intersection of Whitney Way and Odana Road, the choice between sharing the sidewalk or trusting that motorists will respect cyclists' right to the road is what passes for ped/bike accommodations.

This focused my incredulity at Brenda Konkel's blog post encouraging me to discount the Hilldale Whole Foods development's actual convenience to multiple transit modes in evaluating its degree of transit orientation. Another postmortem on the Council vote, which I expect everyone in the audience who cares knows fell narrowly against the development [PDF], is here at Paul Soglin's Waxing America.

In an exchange with commenter "Bratfest" and co-blogger Ken, I'd suggested that sometimes what's lumped under the heading of "transit oriented development" can be a buzzword whose utterance sometimes seems to put a tingle in the toes of local planning activitsts beyond the substance of the improvements. "Bratfest" went on to ask, "So why do you bow down to the King [Automobile] in your argument that we sholdn't even require the 'window-dressing?'"

My short answer, and I do draw on my fair-weather bike commuter's cred (and, for Madison, where the University's chronic parking shortage and high parking prices encourage a lot of the bike commuting, the additional cred flowing from the factoids that our excellent bike trail network can't take me directly to my workplace, that I have a free reserved parking space steps from my building's entrance, that my car has heated and air conditioned seats, and that the drive is short enough that the price of gas is largely irrelevant to my decision) is that I have no objection to the "window-dressing," but can't neglect that location is eight or nine-tenths of transit orientation.

I wish opponents of the development well in their goal of extracting additional concessions from Hilldale's developer; as I noted in Soglin's comments, that would be the ideal outcome. However, it is not the foregone conclusion — as I see it, depending in a complicated way on the extent to which Hilldale needs Whole Foods more than Whole Foods needs Hilldale — and my position boils down to a concern that action of the Laws of Unintended Consequences will lead the anti-sprawl alders to end up 'bowing to King Automobile' anyway.

On a brighter note, before it gets gloomy and wet for the week, here's a Sunday Botanical Blogging duo:

Tiarella (Foamflower), in front garden sunlight.

Trillium with some possibly weedy neighbors in the "woodland" corner of the back yard.

(Title pseudo-reference.)
The "weedy neighbor" to the trillium looks like meadow rue or something similar. If so, I'd leave it as a nice foil for the larger leaves of the trillium. In our neck of the woods, at least, meadow rue is one of the more easily controlled volunteers.
Thanks for the provisional ID, Kim. We have enough that's both ugly and invasive from our predecessors' neglect of the back yard (including their use of canine trampling for weed control) that this would be low on our list to remove anyway...
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