Posts Tagged ‘Columbus’

If you’re like me, you’ll stay up late every now and then.  Maybe its because you’re out with friends or maybe it’s because you’re engaged in something interesting like reading a book, watching a movie – something like that.

Consider this:

Scenario A)
Let’s say that you’re up late one night and get to sleep around 3 a.m.  About five and a half hours later you wake up, stumble to the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee – maybe some fruit or a danish, or maybe french toast and eggs.  Gaze out the window for a while contemplating the day ahead of you – then freshen up, brush your teeth, lace up your shoes and hit the streets with a plan.

Scenario B)
Maybe you don’t like staying up that late.  And maybe you like to sleep more than six hours.  So, let’s say that you hit the sack around 2 a.m.  After a full eight-hours of sleep you wake up, brush your teeth, have a leisurely breakfast, chat with a few folks over coffee and then decided to spend the rest of the afternoon taking in the sights and sounds of the city.

Scenario C)
Some may like the idea of getting up early, watching the sun rise, reading the paper or knocking out a few chapters of a great book.  Then it’s a intriguing conversation over lunch, an afternoon nap, and by early evening you’re ready for the theater, the opera and a late dinner at a little bistro around the corner.

Imagine that in Scenario A, you walk out the door and find yourself in downtown Chicago – at the base of the Sears Tower no less.

In Scenario B you walk out the door and find yourself just four blocks from the National  Mall in Washington, DC.

And in Scenario C, you open the door and find yourself at Penn Station in New York City.

Do you know that these options currently exist, using Ohio’s existing passenger rail service?  Sure, it requires a drive to Cleveland to catch the train, but it’s possible, it’s completely do-able and it’s relatively inexpensive.  Amtrak operates two trains a day to Chicago, and one a day to both New York and Washington DC.

Yes, it requires a trip to Cleveland to catch the train, but passenger rail exists and it works.   And it’s comfortable.  Even with the drive to Cleveland, it’s relatively convenient.    It’ll be more convenient when boarding the train in downtown Columbus is possible.

Supporting the expansion of Ohio’s passenger rail service also means taking advantage of what we have today, funding what we have today so that those funds can be used to expand service in the future.

If you one of the supporters of the expansion of passenger rail in Ohio which will include the 3C Corridor project, I encourage you to take the train next time you’re planning a trip to one of the three destinations, served directly, on Amtrak today.

$49, one way to Chicago.
$77, one way to DC.
$86, one way to New York.

These are next-day departures, not advanced reservations departing from Cleveland.  Chicago and DC are can also be reached from Cincinnati, but with longer travel times.

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Join us next month as WOSU and NPR bring this one-day “un-conference” to Columbus.

We’ll spend the day at the WOSU studios at COSI sharing ideas and concepts that are important to you – because the topics will come from you, the audience.  Let’s see what we can discover together.

Register soon, bring your ideas about community involvement and help us lead the discussions.

Learn more about PubCampOhio by clicking this link.

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With an arriving winter storm coming on the heels of one just a week ago I’m finding it difficult to navigate large stretches of the city’s sidewalks because many residents and businesses have failed to clear their sidewalks.

This is of particular concern because I use public transit to get to and from work almost exclusively.  While I never mind a brisk winter walk, such walks become dangerous when snow-packed sidewalks turn to ice.  Even a light dusting of snow or blowing snow over ice covered sidewalks creates potential danger.  Walking in the street, although much easier, should not be advised.

This year I decided to look into why certain sidewalks remain snow packed and icy winter after winter.

My commute to work on public transit takes me to the Easton area where sidewalk clearing is apparently not addressed whatsoever.  Morse Crossing, Easton Way and Stelzer Road are the streets along which COTA’s service operates.  The majority of pedestrian traffic is along Morse Crossing to and from COTA routes 16 and 95.   (The New Albany Express #40 travels along Stelzer where the land is currently undeveloped).

I contacted Easton management to get some information since the strip malls, hotels and restaurant along Morse Crossing are demarcated by the brick pylons with the Easton “E” carved into them.

Easton management stated that each business along Morse Crossing is responsible for clearing the sidewalks adjacent to their property as stated in the City Code.  I stopped by a couple merchants to see what they knew about this.

At Pier One, which sits on the large corner lot at Morse Crossing and Gramercy Street, I was given contact information to the corporate offices in Ft. Worth.  When I called and explained the situation I was first asked if there had been an injury.  I said that there hadn’t been, but as a transit/pedestrian commuter, I was concerned about the conditions.  I was then asked to describe the sidewalks.

“They are the concrete walkways that parallel the two streets.”  The woman at corporate said she’d look into the situation but did not offer to follow up.

I also contacted the Marriott Hotels as one of their properties sits on a large corner lot at Morse Crossing and Easton Way.  Within a few hours I was contacted by the hotel manager.  The manager responded to my inquiry with these words:

“I appreciate your suggestion but would be remised if I did not note that our parking lot is not an access route to the bus stop behind the hotel.  The sidewalks on the exterior of our landscaping are city sidewalks and should be used for getting to the bus stop.  The walks on our property only lead to the building and to the back parking lot.  The only way to get to the bus stop through our lot is by trampling through our landscaping which is not acceptable.”

He seemed to miss the point all together – that being that pedestrians might be walking through this parking lot precisely because the sidewalks surrounding this Marriott are not shoveled, nor have they for the three winters that I’ve been commuting by public transit.

Today I stopped by Chase Bank, also on the corner of Morse Crossing and Gramercy Street.  I introduced myself to the branch manager and asked if he was making plans to have the sidewalks cleared around his facility.  I explained that as a commuter I was concerned with navigating the now ice-packed sidewalks and that with the increase in bus service and ridership, I was concerned for my fellow pedestrians.

The Chase branch manager told me that he was of the belief that their lease lines did not include the public sidewalks.  “The sidewalks,” he said, “belong to the City.”
“Yes,” I replied.  “Just like the sidewalks in front of my house, for which I have the same responsibility.”  He was gracious and understanding and said he’d contact Easton management to learn more.

It’s not just the sub-urban locations where sidewalks go un-shoveled, but it is the most prevalent location to find an unfriendly pedestrian environment   Along portions of High Street downtown one can find business which fail to properly clear their sidewalks, and this is Columbus’ central business district.

While Columbus City Code states that it is a requirement for property owners to clear the adjacent sidewalks of snow, I am not aware of how or if the City enforces this code.  Is $100 the only penalty for non-compliance?  How is that $100 collected?

If you know the answer, please let us know.

In the mean time, however, I enlisted the help of a local graphic designer to make a little something that we can all use in our neighborhoods and along our streets.  Available in both English and Spanish, this printable door hanger offers neighbors a gentle reminder that it is their responsibility to clear snow from their sidewalks.

Simply click, print, fold or cut, then cut along the noted lines so that it’ll fit over a doorknob and voila’! (It’s a full-sized .pdf of the image to the right).

As with most Columbus challenges, things here work best when we work with each other – and perhaps this door hanger will be a way to get the conversation started where you live and along the streets where you walk.

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The debate over the increase in parking meter rates in Columbus has been raging for a couple of weeks now.  I’ve listened to and read information from the opposition – those who feel that they were not informed about the rates and that the new rates will be too high.  I’ve read and listened to the folks on the defense – those hoping to gain additional revenue for the city to help fund the new convention center hotel.  Both sides of the story have specific merits.

One certainly can’t fault the city for looking for additional sources of revenue.  Columbus is not alone in it’s search.  And downtown business owners are there against all odds, coming to the table with as many creative ideas as they can to help sustain themselves.

There is, in my opinion, a debate that should come somewhere in the middle of both arguments.  It is, I believe, why there is such a chasm being created within this issue.

The middle argument is really about density (or lack there of) and transportation.  Columbus city government has been saying for years that they’re in favor of a strong and healthy urban center – an anchor for the region.  The challenge is that they have failed to deliver.

When we speak of “downtown” I believe its safe to refer to it as the land mass between Nationwide Boulevard and the 70/71 split.  The Short North and the Arena District are doing rather well, but only the revival of Gay Street can be seen as a tiny speck of hope within the landmass referred to as downtown.

While there are more people living downtown than in the past  (4,900 as of the end of 2007), there is now less retail than there was in 2007.  Commercial (office) vacancy rates are now about 13% and there are fewer and fewer reasons to spend time in downtown Columbus.  The city may be constructing parks and parkways, but until there is sufficient pedestrian activity, these amenities are not much more than landscaping.

Columbus city government has also failed to develop a comprehensive transportation system that will support the future growth of the downtown core.  While COTA’s bus system works to a certain degree for the residents of ‘in town’ neighborhoods, it simply does not address the needs of bringing in large numbers of suburban workers or visitors.

Additionally, a vast majority of the new downtown residents still must depend upon the use of an automobile to get to and from basic vendors of goods and services.  That is hardly a draw for downtown living.

It should come as no surprise to Columbus city government that downtown business owners are upset over increased costs being applied to their customers.  The battle downtown businesses currently face is that they must rely upon people in cars to survive – the City of Columbus has failed to deliver an alternative to the automobile.  Density is still too low downtown and the public transportation system is not adequate.

Had these two situations been addressed properly over the past decade, there might be enough pedestrian traffic downtown to prepare for a parking rate increase – the demand would have already been present.  But downtown Columbus is failing and increasing the cost to park is yet another obstacle for our entrepreneurs to overcome.

The debate over this issue has sparked dialogue between the two groups and city government appears eager to appease these entrepreneurs by holding more meetings and carrying out more studies.

Perhaps it’s nice to live in a city where local government is willing to react to its mistakes.  It’s certainly nice to live in a city where the local entrepreneurs have a vision for the place where they chose to set up shop.

Perhaps it would be nice to live in a city where the government takes on a leadership role in the first place by providing vision and alternatives – rather than finding themselves at odds with it’s businesses and residents.

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It’s been six months since I’ve put my house on the market.  It still hasn’t sold, but that’s okay.  This time has given me the space to make sense of how it was that I found myself in Columbus and what I’ve gained while being here.

It has also helped me understand why it is that I find myself ready to leave.  This is part one of a two part podcast that explains exactly what happened.

Follow this link to Vocalo where you can listen to Part I.  The second part will be posted on Thursday, so stop back then.

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Let’s say that you own a little shop that is surrounded by a few homes.  Your shop sells just about everything your neighbors might need.  Your shop also has a few goodies – things that some people really want.  Some folks near your shop might save up for years to buy these goodies and a few have the means to pop in on a regular basis and splurge a little.

Let’s say too, that a few months ago the entire neighborhood decided to pitch in to make sure your little shop had enough money to stay in business.  Enough to fix the leaky roof, tuck point the exterior and pay for the heat and electricity.  Those are some really nice neighbors!

Several months later, one of your neighbors comes in to your shop and asks to buy some soap.   And as the shop keeper, you say, “We don’t have any soap.  I know you chipped in some money so that I could keep my little shop open, but I don’t carry soap any longer.  If you want soap, you should go somewhere else to buy it”.

A few days later, another neighbor comes into your shop and wants to buy a hammer and some nails.  In the past your little shop has always carried these items, but you’ve decided to stop selling them.
“This little shop – to which you’ve offered money so that I can remain in business, no longer sells hammers or nails.  If you’d like these items, you should go to another shop and buy them,” you tell your customer.

Sounds a little bit odd, doesn’t it?  What kind of shop owner would expect to stay in business under these circumstances?  First, the neighbors all chipped in to help out this shop owner, and then the shop owner decides to stop selling the very items that the neighbors need and want.  Worst of all – especially for the financial well being of this little shop, the owner suggests that the customers start buying what they want somewhere else.  It just doesn’t sound like a very solid business model.


Well, it seems that the Columbus police are doing the same thing.  Rather than responding to the needs of their neighbors, the very neighbors that decided to chip in and pay to keep their business up and running, the Columbus police have begun suggesting that their neighbors live somewhere else.  This, according to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, is taking place in various Columbus neighborhoods.

These suggestions are not a very wise business model.  After all, if the neighbors take this advice, there will be even less money available for the Columbus police department.

A better business model would be to make the neighborhoods safe and attractive so that other people would be willing to move in and increase the amount of money that the police department could earn through tax generation.

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