A “news app developer” who moved to Tyler, Texas has found that it is difficult to walk around the community due to a lack of sidewalks and development that revolves around the automobile:
Several people insisted I couldn’t live without a car in Tyler–and they were absolutely right. When I landed at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport I hadn’t driven a car in four months. Since I landed, I’ve driven nearly every day. (Mostly ferrying my son to school and various activities.)
I very carefully selected the house I’m renting–an eccentric, hundred-year-old single-story in the Charnwood neighborhood–so that I can get to as many things as possible without driving. It’s within a mile of:
- 2 parks (Children’s Park and Bergfield Park)
- 2 coffee shops (Brady’s Speciality Coffee and Downtown Coffee Lounge)
- 2 hospitals (Trinity Mother Frances and East Texas Medical Center)
- 1 bookstore (Fireside Books)
- 3 bus lines (the red, green and blue)
- Tyler Public Library
Interestingly, it seems like the city knows about the problem. But addressing the issue won’t necessarily be easy:
Now that I’ve been out and walked the streets of Tyler, I have to say I think the plans laid out in Tyler 21 are impressively on-target. Tyler needs to build a lot more sidewalks. However, I also foresee a few challenges that just building more sidewalks won’t solve:
- Tyler’s downtown is a food desert. It is impossible to live within walking distance of a grocery store. Getting a green market as a downtown anchor should be a very high priority.
- The lack of pedestrian signals makes travel on foot unsafe. Front and Broadway have some of the longest continuous sidewalks in the city, but crossing either one on foot is nearly impossible. (The tunnel under Broadway at Hogg Middle School is a notable exception.)
- Too many bus stops lack shelters. Nobody wants to stand on the corner and look lost. If there isn’t a shelter, there effectively isn’t a bus stop.
This sounds like the sort of place James Howard Kunstler would love to visit so that he could bemoan its unfriendliness toward pedestrians. As this writer points out, Tyler would have to undergo some major changes to make it truly walkable. The infrastructure of sidewalks needs to be there but there also need to be places for people to want to walk to. Building the sidewalks doesn’t necessarily lead to a street culture. Can a regional center like this effectively revive itself through building sidewalks and encouraging businesses and residents to take advantage of these new public spaces?
Second, isn’t the bigger issue here who is going to pay for all of this? Perhaps Tyler has some money set aside for this but this could be expensive and particularly in an era of economic crisis, some would argue that the money could be spent elsewhere. (To be fair, some people could always argue that the money could be spent on something more necessary than sidewalks.)
I don’t know much about Tyler, Texas but wouldn’t this plan also involve convincing people to move back into the denser parts of the city rather than living on the fringes in typical suburban neighborhoods? What would be the selling point?
On the whole, it sounds like there is a lot of work to be done.