Article

DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD: A PICK-UP STIX MAZE OF MISMANAGED UGLINESS

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, AUG. 19, 2011 — There are many “eternal debates” in Pittsfield. The rotary around Park Square went on for 60 years before Mayor Jimmy Ruberto set in place the decision to implement the “straight shot” from south-to-north. That’s a rare example of an “eternal” issue the politicians actually addressed. Most “eternal debates” never reach resolution. Examples: the parking problem in downtown Pittsfield, pedestrian crossings downtown, coordination of vehicular traffic in that location, and the Route 7 bypass.

Funny how the examples that pop quickly to mind center on The Car, actually, motorized vehicles of all sorts. No modern device changed the way we live our lives more deeply than The Automobile — not the phone, computer, or the pet rock.

The Auto broke up families and neighborhoods. It introduced ugly asphalt-and-tar ribbons of roads to dissect communities. It made our world dirtier, noisier, faster, and more convenient.

Crosstown Traffic: Rending the Fabric of Life Assunder

No one has to point out to THE PLANET how The Auto has made possible economic development and contributed greatly to the emancipation of subclasses of people (women, for example, were no longer tied to the house). Few, however, ponder how The Auto has complicated life and greatly increased stress levels. Mother Earth also would rather we hadn’t created a world economy predicated on gasoline and oil and perpetuated only by the ecological rape that assures stockpiles of these poisonous fuels.

But back to the Land of Benigno Numine. That latter phrase is the Latin name for Pittsfield. It means, “When you drive or walk downtown, you take your #$%^&*!@ life in your hands.” Where to begin to identify the problems?

Downtown Pittsfield: An Accident That Isn’t ABOUT to Happen; It HAS Happened

Traffic volume and flow: Downtown Pittsfield is in the Guinness Beer of World Records for having more traffic signals (lights, signs, painted, pictoglyphs) than any spot on earth, including downtown Tokyo after its rebuilding from the latest attack from —insert name of monster here— (Mothra, Gorgo, Godzilla, Gihdra, or Rodan).

Too many wheels: With every person 14 and over now owning his and her own vehicle, with every lazy-assed porker (grossly obese because of their own negligence and nothing else) who needs a motorized wheelchair-scooter to get around), and with every work or service vehicle that must pass through North Street to or from another destination, the amount of traffic boggles the mind’s steering wheel.

Signal corps: Traffic signals in downtown Pittsfield are as coordinated as the Keystone Kops responding to a liquor store robbery. THE PLANET took information from various urban design websites:

Traffic Signals may work in isolation responding to local traffic or pedestrian conditions, or can be controlled from a central computerized system known as Urban Traffic Control (UTC). The Urban Traffic Control system provides co-ordination between a network of junctions in order to provide progression during busy periods. The traffic signals in downtown Pittsfield are timed to assure that (a) the greatest  amount of vehicular traffic will be inconvenienced and (b) the lives of the greatest number of pedestrians will be endangered.

Fixed time control: The simplest control system uses a timer (fixed-time): each phase of the signal lasts for a specific duration before the next phase occurs; this pattern repeats itself regardless of traffic. Many older traffic light installations still use these, and timer-based signals are effective in one-way grids where it is often possible to coordinate the traffic lights to the posted speed limit. They are however disadvantageous when the signal timing of an intersection would benefit from being adapted to the dominant flows changing over the time of the day. Since when have you as a motorist or pedestrian had the sense that the time controls in downtown Pittsfield are responding to the ebb and flow of actual traffic volume. For example, do you sense that the signals do well adapting to busy versus dead times?

Dynamic control: Dynamic, or actuated, signals are programmed to adjust their timing and phasing to meet changing traffic conditions. The system adjusts signal phasing and timing to minimize the delay of people going through the intersection. It is also commonplace to alter the control strategy of a traffic light based on the time of day and day of the week, or for other special circumstances such as a major event causing unusual demand at an intersection. Do you, the Pittsfield motorist or pedestrian, have the sense that the dynamic controls actually match what’s happening in real life? In other words, when is the last time you sensed a strategy, a plan, a sense of competency in behind downtown Pittsfield traffic or downtown planning?

The controller uses input from detectors, which are sensors that inform the controller processor whether vehicles or other road users are present, to adjust signal timing and phasing within the limits set by the controllers programming. It can give more time to an intersection approach that is experiencing heavy traffic, or shorten or even skip a phase that has little or no traffic waiting for a green light. Detectors can be grouped into three classes: in-pavement detectors, non-intrusive detectors, and detection for non-motorized road users. Do you have the sneaking suspicion couple with the sinking feeling that the controllers and detectors in downtown Pittsfield are applied in random fashion, like the pattern of so many pick-up-sticks falling to the ground?

Video Monitoring Is Not the Answer and will only Add to the Problem

This discussion says nothing about bad drivers and careless pedestrians. It leaves out skateboarders and sidewalk cyclists. The incidence of each category of idiots seems to be on the ascendancy. That discussion shall be for another time.

One of THE PLANET’s respondents suggested the use of video surveillance to assist the police with their downtown duties. THE PLANET dislikes this suggestion.

First, we don’t see the need to go Orwellian when the problem is easily solved or at least managed with good old-fashioned police work. Simply put, downtown Pittsfield needs cops pounding the beat again. THE PLANET speaks for We the People in saying that until that happens, the deterioration downtown — divas or not, “renaissiance” or not, barbershops or not — will continue. Cops pounding the beat will at least stabilize the patient, who is now in critical condition.

Second, what’s lacking isn’t technology but good management. Pittsfield taxpayers could pay for a $2 million video system, but wouldn’t you bet it would be improperly installed, not set up right, not managed the way it should be, and not regularly maintained?

The downtown has many honest, good shopkeepers, service purveyors, artists, and entrepreneurs who have been left stranded in a conspiracy of ugliness and inattention. Before this year is out, several, at least four, will be out of business.

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TIME TO “YEE-HA” OLD PAINT AND RIDE INTO THE REST OF OUR LOVELY DAY. UNTIL THEN, PARDS …

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

18 Responses to “DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD: A PICK-UP STIX MAZE OF MISMANAGED UGLINESS”

  1. San Simeon
    August 19, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Yes, Planet, the diva (gimme shelter!!) would never paint this picture and, as someone who has to be downtown often on business, I think you portrayd an accurate picture. the diva has a huge conflict of interest as she runs a retail store on N Street so anything she says about the downtown being the gratest place in the world has to be laughed out of town

  2. CONCERNED
    August 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    talked to several people in last few days and asked each ” what is biggest reason you don’t like going downtown Pittsfield” Well there were several reasons, however the biggest was PARKING They says can’t park over an hour, then a ticket. They hate the parking desks, no free parking, or at least not for long. One got ticket because he parked in same lot twice in one day

  3. PITTSFIELD BELIEVER
    August 19, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    So who wants to see a picture taken of the governor and valenti, the two of them, dining alone at Wheatleigh. Governor was in Pittsfield for 3rd Thurs. to flog his book then to his private dinner last night with the Robin Hood of the Little Guy. Yeah right. Wonder how many of you “little guys” who fall for valenti’s sensationalistic site eat at Wheatleigh with the governor on a semi-regular basis. Got the picture from a cell phone camera, btw.

    • Allen
      August 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      Are you going to share it or not?

      • danvalenti
        August 20, 2011 at 9:05 am #

        ALLEN
        I have received several comments, privately and not for posting, about PB. Some want me to ban “him” from the site. I will not do that. I want people to see the ridiculousness of most of the criticism I get from the rich and powerful who get riled by my exposes and coverage. I would also like to see such a photo, but since one does not exist, I don’t think we’ll be seeing one any time soon.

    • Allen
      August 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

      It’s about time you backed up your feverish claims.

  4. Real Deal 2
    August 19, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Dan, those “lazy ass porkers,” you refer to have made the motorized scooter famous. In fact, I think the company who makes them have taken out a patten on them, or at least the new name. They will no longer be known as a ‘motorized scooter,’ but instead as a Pittsfield Cadillac.

    If you ever want to see the latest and greatest model of the Pittsfield Cadillac, you can spot them either in Hobo Park on North Street or at dinner time in the all you can eat buffet in Berkshire Crossing with the initials: O.C.B. (hint-it’s next to Applebee’s).

    • Jim Gleason
      August 20, 2011 at 8:08 am #

      Is that a George Patten or a Fred W Smiff Patten? (I know, G Patton)

      • Real Deal 2
        August 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

        Sorry G-Spot, I meant to say patent. What model do you drive?

  5. danvalenti
    August 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    RD2
    Yes, “The Pittsfield Cadillac.” Fits perfectly.

  6. CONCERNED
    August 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Boy your right on about scooters, oops Pittsfield Cadillacs. I know some need them, but others should park them and take a stroll. Also tell them, people can not get by in markets and stores when two of them stop and talk to each other

  7. Shakes His Head
    August 20, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    The way the City manages North/South street traffic fails people of all mobility levels, whether car or foot or motorized scooter. Yes I did suggest using live video feed for monitoring conditions downtown AS PART OF A COMMUNITY POLICING STRATEGY. Cherry pick someone else’s words. High visibly police, walking and biking downtown as well as other neighborhoods are essential components of such a strategy. Removing tools from the box would be like saying the FD couldn’t use ladders. It’s the city’s responsibility to propose comprehensive strategies and ours to consider them in context.

    Lastly, I know better than anyone how pedestrian/bicycle/motorcycle negligence causes crashes that injure and kill, not to mention emotional scarring for all those involved. The comments on here that assume the random people in downtown Pittsfield are of a lesser class and somehow deserving of harm or disdain are disgusting and boorish. Dan, I’m disappointed to read your commentary that assumes all obese people are products of their own actions. You could study up on how urban poverty and malnutrition cause obesity. Rocks don’t belong in glass houses.

    • danvalenti
      August 20, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      SHH
      Thank you again for an intelligent and measured response.
      Granted, as a “tool in the box” video surveillance should be an option. Talking to urban planners, police, and downtown workers, the problems of managing N-S traffic can be solved without that tool, would would be an over-reaction. I have a problem with the growing excuses for increased “video surveillance” — most applications, however benign they start out, can and do turn draconian. Also, I would never say “all” obese people, and I didn’t. I said “every lazy-assed porker.” This excludes those who aren’t “lazy assed” and have good cause. Granted, though, the phrase can be read as alarming. THE PLANET appreciates your contributions.

    • Allen
      August 20, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Don’t be upset because the professor didn’t give you an A this time. And don’t argue about your grade. That’s the worst.

  8. Shakes His Head
    August 20, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Downtown’s problems have a complex solution. There is no silver bullet. Traffic circulation can be fixed, even with the myriad of deployed technologies on the strip. Parking can be fixed. The City can do a better job of understanding the needs of small business owners while still courting large employers and national retailers. Reinvigorating housing stock and neighborhood activity centers must balance out downtown to make Pittsfield vibrant in the future. Our residents are subject to a jobs/education mismatch that could exist for another generation post-GE without innovation in the public schools. None of these things can happen if City Hall remains subject to cronyism and clandestine deals. Dan, if you ever want to pick my brain off the record, you know how to get in touch with me.

    • Dusty
      August 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

      I agree with what you say about cronyism and clandestine deals. Unfortunately, this multi-layered fiefdom spreads wide in the city and beyond to Boston. They know there asses are covered pretty much no matter what they may do. They recruit newbies into their syndicate well before elections and trot them out to appeal to those sick of the old ways. Unbeknownst to the voters, many times they are replacing a good old boy with one of the same. Different name, different face, same old agenda.

      And it is hard, very hard, for a decent citizen to get up the motivation to run for city council when he/she knows they will be working with a group who will squash their every effort to do the right thing. As one can see, even now, the outgoing gob mayor has filled appointments with a crowd who will work against any new mayor with ideas of changing to a truly democratic form of government, of and for the people.

      • danvalenti
        August 20, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

        Masterful, Dusty. Well done.

  9. Shakes His Head
    August 20, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Dan’s not the only prof here…