Thursday, May 06, 2021

Since It's a Public Comment Anyway, Might as Well Post it Here

At its June 21st meeting, the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization for the Gainesville Urban Area will, as it does annually, review the latest draft of its Public Involvement Plan.

I've entered a public comment on that plan, specifically the section on recruitment for advisory boards. That section reads as follows:

When there are vacant positions on either the Citizens Advisory Committee or the Bicycle/ Pedestrian Advisory Board, a display advertisement is published in the Independent Florida Alligator, The Gainesville Sun and the Gainesville Guardian. The deadline for applying for a vacant advisory committee position is not less than four work weeks after the advertisement is published. Sample display advertisements are shown in Appendix E.

My comment (or, I guess, suggestion):

Look for a publication more widely read in the northeast part of Gainesville, or use some kind of billboard advertising there, to publicize advisory board vacancies. I notice that of the bicycle/pedestrian advisory board's members, only one lives east of Main Street, and that one lives south of University. The northeast section of the city is completely unrepresented, and probably more in need of representation on bicycle/pedestrian issues than any other area in the MTPO purview, with the possible exception of the UF campus area.

Of course, anyone can enter a public comment. I was interested in doing so because I'm a newly minted MTPO representative on the Alachua County / Gainesville / MTPO Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and thus received notification of the upcoming meeting and a link to the plan even though I'm not, strictly speaking, involved with making or passing approval of the plan.

Let me expand a little bit on the actual comment/suggestion:

The northeast section of Gainesville -- that is, north of University Avenue and east of Main Street -- is both "the poorer part of town" and "the blacker part of town."

While it does not (according to the demographics maps at from which I'm getting my numbers) have the highest rates in town of transportation to work on foot or by bicycle, it does have reasonably high rates of such. Whenever I'm in that part of town, I see more people who are obviously on foot or biking because that's what they've got, rather than for exercise/convenience/environmental reasons, than are obvious to me in other parts of town.

Yet, so far as I can tell (I did make a point of asking a city planner about it when I went out for the annual Ride With The Mayor last Saturday*), that part of town isn't getting anything like "its fair share" of funding love when it comes to making it easier and safer to get from Point A to Point B on foot or on a bicycle. The University of Florida area is by far the biggest focus. Which is fine and, so far as it goes, largely merited. But:

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and (to mix my cliches) that's a two-way street. If there were some northeast Gainesville residents on the advisory board raising a ruckus, their part of town might get more of what it needs. And if the recruitment process for that board made more noise in that part of town, there might be people from that part of town hearing that noise and applying to fill board vacancies.

To be clear, I am not positing current institutional racism as a reason for no northeast Gainesville representation on the board. I have no reason to believe that the organizations involved are, in this day and age, set up to avoid involving the community members in question in transportation planning. However, the residue of past institutional racism may have left a communications gap here that needs some attention.

* Yes, I know I didn't blog about it. Fun ride. Quite a few participants. Saw several street projects relevant to bicycle / pedestrian convenience and safety. The ride was single-digit miles, but the ride to and from the ride was 30+ miles. Hadn't biked that far in a while, and I did all but a few hundred feet of the ride in without tapping my bike's battery power. So I was sore for a few days.

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