Monday, June 20, 2016

How to reduce flooding

 Sustainable Stormwater Solutions for Sedona and Village of Oak Creek

Sedona was asking for input on their stormwater management plan to reduce Monsoon flooding. So we put forth these recommendations: let Nature do a lot of the work.

The Goal: Managing for Multiple Benefits

Elegant, sustainable solutions to stormwater and flooding should address social, economic and environmental needs.
Reduce inconvenience and stress associated with flooding (eg, road blockages, fear of property damage).
Eliminate potential for loss of life.
Reduce stormwater flowing into the stormwater system which then must be treated and processed.
Reduce opportunity for property damage.
Reduce erosion and the spread of pollution
Maximize the use and retention of stormwater for landscapes and natural areas

Courtesy: Pima Association of Governments
Focusing on getting the rainwater quickly into the stormwater infrastructure is an ‘end of pipe’ approach. We believe that the Stormwater Management Plan should focus first on strategies that reduce stormwater from reaching the washes and slowing the water in the washes.  The following are recommendations from the Sustainability Alliance for a more sustainable, front-of-pipe solutions.

Reduce stormwater flows via “green infrastructure”

Hardscapes—Encourage property owners to manipulate the land to keep rainwater on their property, largely through ‘earthworks,’ manipulating the landscape drainage to retain water in a controlled fashion. This includes:
·       Porous pavement
·       Rainwater catchment systems for landscape irrigation
·       Rain gardens
·       Bioswales and collection ponds
·       Curb cuts that let water into natural areas like tree wells
·       Green roofs (not sure if these work in our harsh summers)

Softscapes and undeveloped land—City engineers should work with property owners along washes to:
·       Install check dams in the wash and use the silt as it builds up for landscaping
·       Remove debris and potential pollutants near and in the washes and culverts (and report large logs and debris to the City for removal before Monsoon Season)
·       Seed the banks with native plants to protect the washes from erosion

Investigate Public Policy Changes

Public policy has a large role to play in reducing stormwater flows and associated flooding.
·       Clarify ownership related to surface water. What can a property owner legally do and not do? (Is the table in the EPA document below still accurate?)
·       Where possible, create riparian buffers and/or buy up land adjacent to rivers to allow the rivers to flood naturally. Provide dry dams and ponds that can collect and slow stormwater. Avoid channelizing the water with barriers as this only moves the problem downstream.
·       Review building codes and urban plans for stormwater impacts. Do you require new construction to manage stormwater and use it in productive ways? Can you create incentives for HOA’s to put in stormwater collection systems? Have you zoned areas for development that should better be used as floodplains?

Resources we found especially useful
EPA—Green Infrastructure in Arid and Semi-Arid Climates:
Lancaster, Brad—books on earthworks and rainwater harvesting:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fed up with traffic?

There are better solutions than building more roads

Sustainable Traffic Solutions for Sedona and Village of Oak Creek

Frustration mounts when traffic backs up beyond the Ranger Station on Highway 179. Traditionally solutions have involved asking for road widening or new roads. But as Enrique PeƱalosa, former mayor of Bogota, said, 
“Trying to solve traffic problems by building more roads
is like putting out a fire with gasoline.”
The Alliance was asked to give input to the Big Park Coordinating Council on solutions to their traffic problems. Below is a revised version of our recommendations for the greater Sedona area. Let us know what you think.

The Goal: Managing for Multiple Benefits

Elegant, sustainable solutions to VOC/Sedona traffic should address social, economic and environmental needs.
Ensure timely access to emergency services and enable evacuations
Increase customers to local businesses
Reduce pollution, especially greenhouse gases
Eliminate serious accidents
Create new economic opportunities and good jobs
Capture stormwater and conserve/enhance habitat values
Reduce traffic delays and associated frustration
Reduce the cost of building & maintaining roads
Protect views and Dark Skies

Five Interrelated Strategies

Architect Mike Bower asserts that we have the perfect situation for public transportation: narrow, linear corridors and millions of visitors. It is unrealistic to assume we could get everyone out of their vehicles. But if we had these following five elements in place, we could make a significant dent in traffic jams while creating new job opportunities.

1) Magic Trolley on Steroids 

Imagine the tourist-focused Magic Trolley (or equivalent) ramped up to offer service every 15 minutes, stopping at:
·       Park-and-rides for day-trippers near shopping areas including the Ranger Station, The Collective/Outlet Mall, Tlaquepaque and Sedona’s Community Focus Areas).
·       Major trailheads so hikers and mountain bikers could start at one trailhead and hike to another.
·       Major hotels where hotel guests would leave their cars and ride.
·       Event venues during special events like the Sedona Film Festival or Slide Rock during holidays.
·       Other stops along the route as requested by riders, eg, the Medical Center.
Perhaps the trolleys could be retrofitted to accommodate bikes. This service could be paid for in a variety of ways including an increase in the Red Rock Pass, a fee paid by events and hotel rooms, diversion of some of the City funds going to the Chamber, or a park-and-ride pass paid for by the travelers. Ideally it would be ‘free to ride’ for visitors and locals.

2) Expand the use of bike lanes for other modes of alternative transportation  

Highway 179 in each of its bifurcated lanes is reportedly wide enough for two lanes in each direction. Dedicate the inside lane to cars. Dedicate the outside lane for:
·       Bicycles (as is the case now)
·       Trolley/public transportation (to ensure public transportation can be as fast as driving yourself)
·       Slow moving neighborhood electric vehicles (to get some percentage of people out of cars and make better use of the roadway)
Since these vehicles travel at different speeds, a priority order would need to be established. All vehicles could move toward the outside to let emergency vehicles to pass. The periodic trolley buses could slip into the inside lane to pass slower moving alternative vehicles.
In VOC itself, the highway is probably not wide enough for two lanes in each direction but we could use the sidewalks for alternative vehicles. One option is to put northbound traffic on the east sidewalk and southbound on the west; divide each sidewalk into two lanes: walkers and wheeled vehicles.

3) ‘Neighborhood electric vehicle’ rentals 

Imagine a vendor that rents a variety of zippy ‘electric neighborhood vehicles,’ two-, three- and four-wheelers, some with solar panels and pedals, that are allowed to travel in dedicated lanes with bicycles or where safe, share sidewalks. This is already allowed in Arizona. (See below.) Visitors and locals could would rent the vehicles, pull over when they wanted to take pictures, and get preferred parking in uptown where charging stations would be installed. Trailhead parking lots would be able to accommodate more vehicles because these vehicles require less parking space.

4) New Freeway Signage 

Traditionally little towns have wanted traffic to run right down Main Street in the hopes some will stop and spend money at local businesses. But what they get instead is traffic, noise and an unpleasant pedestrian experience.  VOC should aim to provide more to offer to bring people here but also shunt through-traffic headed to West Sedona around VOC.
We understand business owners have some concerns about losing business. We need data. Is it possible to do a traffic study to determine how many non-local vehicles actually stop in town? Perhaps signage on I-17 prior to 260 could indicate attractions best accessed via Exit 298. Signage at 260 might indicate, “Deliveries and events to West Sedona, this exit. Scenic highway access to Village of Oak Creek and Uptown, take exit 298.” On I-17 south of Camp Verde, a congestion management sign could indicate alternative travel times to West Sedona and Uptown via 260 and 179 (as recommended by a ADOT regional traffic study.)
It would also be helpful to have a sign indicating current travel times to West Sedona and Uptown via different routes so that all drivers would know when it made more sense to go via Cottonwood or Beaverhead Flat Road than via Highway 179.

5) ‘Visit Sedona’ App and Coordinated Tours with informational hub and park-and-ride at the freeway. 

We could do a better job of integrating the various venues and tour companies. A tourist-focused app could route visitors to the ideal routes, venues and tours. What if visitors could book online a collection of tours that were then served with integrated transportation? Finished with your Pink Jeep tour? Hop on the next Winery Shuttle or go check out the timeshares. Routes could be planned dynamically based on online registrations. ADOT recognizes a need to update the I-17 overpass. What if the I-17 exit to Highway 179 or the Rest Stop just to the south became an informational gateway to Sedona and surrounding archeological sites? It also could be a place to pick up pre-planned tours. It might also be a location for arts-and-crafts tents and food carts. It could also be a place for residents to coordinate outbound carpooling from Flagstaff and Sedona to Phoenix, Costco/Trader Joes, etc.

Image credits