Assignment Spotlight: Ryan Holt

*The ESLLC was tasked with writing a letter to their hometown politicians about the walkability, bikeability and access to public transportation in their towns and cities. Using Jeff Speck’s Walkable City, the students gave suggestions on how to make their hometowns safer, healthier and cleaner.*

Mail to: 24401 Lockport St, Plainfield, IL 60544

Dear Mr. Garrigan,

My name is Ryan Holt and I am a student at the University of Denver. I am living in the Environmental Sustainability Living and Learning Community. We have been talking about “walkability” of urban landscapes and I took the liberty of looking up the “walk-score” of my house in Wallin Woods and it came up as a “Car-Dependent” walk score of 40. On the same website there are options for a Transit Score and a Bike Score that Plainfield, unfortunately, didn’t even place on those scores. In my class for the Environmental Sustainability Living and Learning Community we are studying how walkability can make cities thrive. By increasing Plainfield’s walkability, I think we can make it a much livelier city that can compete with more prominent ones in our area, for example: Naperville.

In Jeff Specks book, Walkable City, he claims that in order to “attract corporations, citizens, and especially young, entrepreneurial talent… cities need to provide the sort of the environment that these people want.” He proceeded to take surveys in several towns and cities that showed: “how creative-class citizens, especially millennials, vastly favor communities with street life, the pedestrian culture that can only come from walkability”. In order to not only prevent people from leaving Plainfield but also to attract people to Plainfield, our walk-score needs to increase. In Walkable City, Jeff Speck lays out “The Ten Steps of Walkability” that I believe can help Plainfield become “not so plain”. One of the biggest problems with cities today is that they are centered entirely around cars. With the exception of downtown Plainfield, most of our city is car-dependent; meaning if I have to run a simple errand like getting eggs from the store, I have to drive to do that. Route 59 is not a walkable road. While downtown Plainfield is more walkable than the rest of Plainfield, it can most definitely be improved upon. The sidewalks are large so they make the pedestrian feel safe, but those that choose to walk need a useful walk. Their walk must serve a purpose which downtown Plainfield is lacking. There should be a variety of stores and restaurants in a downtown. The easiest way to fix this is to increase the housing in and around the downtown area. This will not only increase peoples urge to walk in the first place, but the amount and variety of businesses who will want to be in our downtown.

One of the most important things in a walkable city is to have public transportation. The addition of the “Pace” bus station right by the entrance to Wallin Woods was a fantastic start, but there should be more local transportation options. The addition of a Metra train line connecting Plainfield to Chicago or a surrounding suburb i.e. Naperville would be ideal. I looked up the Village of Plainfield Transportation Plan and saw that the Star line Metra plan was cancelled due to lack of funding, but would be a great addition to the walkability of Plainfield.

Also on our Transportation Plan were “Bicycle and Pedestrian Trails Plan” which is excellent for increased walkability. If Plainfield wants to be a bike friendly township, the Village should implement bike lanes that could share the road with automobiles. In the Bicycle Trails Plan there were several examples of buffered bike lanes and on-street bike lanes which would be ideal for increased “bikability” in Plainfield. These plans were dated in 1999 and in all of my time spent in Plainfield I have not seen many bike lanes (with the exception of the Van Dyke bike lane) besides the “paved shoulder” bike lane implemented on Plainfield-Naperville Road. Plainfield-Naperville Road is hardly a bikeable road. The paved shoulder displayed in the Transportation Plan in Figure 4.5 on page 18 that “will encourage more bicycle travel” is really not all that bike friendly. In order to increase bicyclists, these people have to feel safe, and by adding a mere 1.5-2ft of pavement is not going to make these bikers feel safe. Another way to increase bicycling in Plainfield is to simply add more bike racks so people that do bike have a place to safely lock their bikes for the day. For increased walking in Plainfield, I am really excited for the newly constructed Riverwalk path. I have heard that there our plans to connect this with Naperville’s Riverwalk which would be fantastic for both cities.

Realistically I know a lot of my ideas are quite far-fetched because of lack-of-funding but there should be more thought put into increasing the walk-score of Plainfield. This will not only improve the health of all who choose to walk or bike in the newly constructed areas, but it will transform Plainfield into a much livelier area.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Ryan Holt

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