Published March 31, 2008
Youngstown needs to rethink its recently mobilized plans to permanently alter West Federal Street—downtown Youngstown's crown jewel and only bona fide success story—before it does irreparable harm. The architects of the plan have since retired. The budget, though seventy-percent state funded, still amounts to $142,405 that could be used to invest in bringing additional businesses to West Federal or other areas of downtown or to improvements on the existing streetscape or more modest repairs to the electrical grid that don't involve ripping up the roadway and disrupting life and commerce for more than a third of the year.
I'll concede the sixteen additional diagonal spaces on Symphony Place and seven diagonal spaces on Vindicator Square may be defensible. Once the Mr. Peanut bridge detour is resolved, those are side streets that could use the additional parking, particularly on event nights and for YBI-complex employees and visitors. There's twenty-three spaces right there, happy?
But let's agree that West Federal Street should have parallel parking. In fact, let's rip the diagonal parking out of West Federal Plaza and make it parallel parking, too. Whose idea was it to put diagonal parking right around the corner from downtown's central intersection, whose tall buildings make peeking around corners an impossibility? Try backing out from the old Phar-Mor building in a four-door sedan, next to an SUV, with two kids in the back, just praying there's no Hummer bearing down on you from the turn lane, where he's just pushed down on the accelerator to dodge an oncoming car. When I attended the City Council meeting where it was discussed how the West Federal plans were based on Federal Plaza's "successful redesign" (Carmen Conglose's words); my jaw dropped to the floor.
Downtown parking in historic cities across the country, whether Washington, DC, New York, New York, San Francisco, California, Chicago, Illinois, or Cleveland, Ohio, asks its drivers to parallel park. What does our city's plan say about us, about our place in the world? Are we so inept, so special-needs, that we can't parallel park?
Is changing the parking angle going to so revolutionize the available parking that it's worth the negatives to this plan? Let's take a look. Aside from the additional eleven handicapped spaces called for in the plan for West Federal Street proper, you and I, average driver, will net ten new parking spaces from the realignment. That's right: $474,684 = TEN NEW SPACES.
Is that all? No, let's not forget we're LOSING twenty-five percent of the medians, four percent of the trees in the medians, a maintenance-free concrete street for an asphalt street that will need to be consistently repaved—and the attendant semi-annual disruptions that will bring, and, finally, whatever struggling businesses that are hanging on now and won't be able to make it through four months of decreased traffic while this ill-advised plan is moving forward.
As long as we're getting some fresh blood in City Hall, we could use some fresh ideas. And on this plan, the city needs to seriously think again.