Thursday, June 30, 2011

See Click Fixed

SeeClickFix was introduced in Raleigh recently as a means for citizens to notify the city about things that need work or repairs.

People use the website or phone app to report problems in categories that range from graffiti to garbage, and potholes to parks and trails. The idea is that it gives citizens the power to let Raleigh know what we want fixed and provides the city a means to handle numerous reports.

I've reported two things so far. Both of these were addressed within a matter of days.

Our neighborhood park around the corner didn't have a trashcan. I reported it using my iphone and voila!, four days later I had a place to throw my garbage after I was done shooting airballs on the basketball court.

Later that week I reported a street light, which was flashing off and on intermittantly. While it was fun living on a street that resembled a disco it got somewhat annoying when we were trying to sleep. I sent the issue to SeeClickFix and Progress Energy came out the next weekend to replace the light.

It's a wonderful tool to get us normal folks involved and best of all it seems to get results. Now if I could just find a tool like SeeClickDoChores.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Progress in and around Rosengarten Park

After a few months of very little structural progress in the neighborhood, three house projects are now underway.

The intersection of Cabarrus and S. Saunders streets has been an empty lot for a long time. Last week though the foundation was dug and poured for a new house.

This foundation will ultimately support a house that looks much like the rendering pictured below:

One block south there is progress on two homes. A renovation is underway just west of S Saunders St. on Lenoir. The process will turn a duplex into a single family home. Most of the initial work is happening around back and inside, but this will make for a good before and after photo someday.

Lastly, a new construction is progressing very quickly just east of S Saunders St on Lenoir. Wake Crossroads Builders is building a two-story single family home on the corner.

It looks great so far and seems like it'll be done very soon.

That's the quick and dirty housing update from the 'hood. At a time when all you hear in the news is the housing market is crap this and the economy is dead that, I figured it'd be nice to show a little good news instead.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Time to talk transit

Today (Monday, April 25th) is the last day for public comment on how we want light rail to enter downtown Raleigh from the west. 

Currently, some of the options involve an aerial flyover the Boylan Bridge (60 feet above the bridge level today).  From that point aerial options either turn northward or run along the tracks to South Street near MLK and Wilmington by viaduct. That would be a mile long bridge in the Wye.

I don't want to tell anyone what to think, but neither of those options seem good to me. I don't particularly believe having airborne trains does much for my quality of life or enjoyment of downtown.

Thankfully, the TTA doesn't have all its Easter eggs in one basket.  It is also considering routes that run on the ground level into Union Station. In my opinion these options are more transit and people friendly, more accessible and better for Raleigh. I would also like them to take light rail one step (or a few blocks) further into downtown in order to more directly serve Fayetteville Street entertainment district, the state government complex and downtown businesses.

If you'd like to voice an opinion take <5 minutes and email the TTA at to let them know.

I told them two main things:
1) I do not support an aerial entrance via a bridge, viaduct or flyover.
2) I believe that light rail needs to enter the core of downtown.

Real simple. Real short. Real to the point.

You can learn more about the project as a whole at  The site has lots of maps, details and explanations.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Noise mitigation investigation

I've been working with PSNC for the last couple months regarding some noise mitigation possibilities for the above-ground natural gas sub-station on the corner of Cabarrus and Dupont streets.

It's been a somewhat slow crawl to get answers. Fortunately (or unfortunately) PSNC has heard about this issue before, hence the holly bushes that currently surround the pipes on three sides. 

The construction division came out this week with a decibel-reader to get an idea about how noisy the area gets as gas travels through the pipes. They got readings of between 70 and 90 dBAs.
It wasn't an ideal time for them to perform the test because it's pretty warm outside. Cold weather = higher usage = louder noise.  Still, they have agreed to take a couple steps to quell the noise. 

First they're going to put slats in the chain link fence along all four sides.  Secondly, they're going to plant more large shrubs to block the vegetation gaps around the pipes. 
It's an inexpensive option that may help in the short term. We agreed they should do additional tests when it gets cold again to see what decibel levels read.  In the meanwhile though these extra efforts by PSNC and warmer weather should make the hissing sound less prevalent.

Progress is progress!

Friday, April 8, 2011

We like walkability

One of the aspects that drove us to look at houses in Rosengarten Park is its proximity to so many great things in Raleigh. It turns out we aren't the only people seeking city amenities.

The National Association of Realtors recently published results from a study finding that Americans prefer walkable communities. Such areas are defined by being within walking distance to businesses, schools, entertainment, restaurants/bars, retail, parks and more.

Looking at the numbers, 56 percent of study respondents preferred smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. The numbers climb higher to 77 percent of respondents saying that they look for neighborhoods with plenty of sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly features.

The neighborhood's walkability is one of our favorite aspects of living in downtown Raleigh. Tonight we walked to the park, played basketball, talked to three sets of neighbors on our street and then rode our bikes to Harris Teeter so Amanda could get a half gallon of milk. Simple evenings like this really add value to our daily lives.

As it turns out our home's value may appreciate it too. According to the same study, 80 percent of those surveyed would prefer to live in a single-family, detached home as long as doing so wouldn't require a longer commute. Additionally, 59 percent of respondents said they would be okay with a smaller home if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less.

I think what many people see is that if an entire city is at your doorstep then you want to spend less time behind closed doors. We don't have a two acre backyard, but we do have downtown as our playground. That kind of access and neighborhood characteristics were deemed important to those surveyed, as 88 percent placed more value on the quality of the neighborhood than the size of the home. This desire to be connected to a community is something we've come to understand quite well.

To find out how walkable your neighborhood is try going to The site will give your address a score from 0-100 and map amenities within walking distance from your home. This was a tool we used during our house search and is still a good way to remind us what's nearby.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Look up in the sky! It's a's a's a viaduct!?!

Proposed light rail viaduct over west Raleigh.
Yep, that's right. A viaduct, not Superman. Heck, it's hardly super anything except for super tall.

It's not friendly. It's not approachable. It's not Raleigh.  It's more like a last resort if no other options existed, but thankfully they do.

Those options, which look similar to this picture are much more friendly and approachable...

Portland light rail station
Now that's delightful-looking transit.  That's something I'll walk up to, want to ride, won't make my dog cower in fear and won't make me scream like Chicken Little if a train passes overhead while I'm strolling through Boylan Heights on a quiet sunny Saturday afternoon.
So how did we get to the sky-high bridge options?  In my unprofessional opinion, I think the federal funding flop in 2006 when Dubya's people decided we didn't have the ridership numbers or money to support a similar system scared us to this. Now we have 270-foot long trains and cheap(er) route options along with the hope of a 1/2 sales tax increase on the horizon to ensure we don't fall on our face again.

I imagine the engineers' goal is to make the system move tons of riders for as little as possible. In the same way architects create big condo buildings that are functional and flashy. It's the interior designers and residents though that ultimately make those buildings livable. Similarly, building ginormous trains that seat hundreds won't make hundreds want to ride trains. Building trains that are approachable, sensible, walkable and that take people where they want to go will make our residents want to ride trains.

Luckily, if we do this the right way people will ride. We do that by having our lovely light rail trains leave the railroad corridor in west Raleigh and roll down Morgan St. at street-level. They continue on to the north end of beautiful Union Station where riders can see them but space shuttles can't.

There are two unfortunate things: 1) TTA didn't provide any renderings of this delightful, tree-lined path to our future transit hub and 2) I'm not talented enough to create one myself. So you'll just have to use your imagination about how this route would appear. TTA calls this invisbile choice, option D6. Seems nice doesn't it?

Here's the kicker.  We can maybe even improve option D6 after it leaves Union Station and ultimately heads north. If I'm looking at the map correctly (while I'm an Eagle Scout orienteering was never my strong-suit) current renderings have it heading up Harrington Street, a hot spot for commuters, businesses and entertainment. Hold up again, maybe I mean Wilmington and Salisbury Streets. Yeah, that's the hot spot. Taking riders a touch further east would ferry them past the north end of Fayetteville Street before heading north. That's within walking distance to all of the aforementioned, especially if Kimbrells is open to pop in and take a break on a comfy sofa for a few minutes. This route also runs on either side of the state government complex.  I think people work there.

Here is a map of what I just described (in yellow) that many others have drawn better. Folks are calling my yellow scribble the Hybrid D6 route.

The bottom line is that transit works when you put it on the ground near riders. It works even better when you put it on the ground where riders want to go. 

That's what I'm going to say at Triangle Transit's workshop Wednesday evening at the McKimmon Center. It'll be a time for putzes like me to come get educated, to ask questions and to learn why ideas like the map above aren't presently preferred.

Come to the workshop. It'll be super fun.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Stream Clean

On Saturday March 26th Rosengarten Park teamed up with the Boylan Heights neighborhood and Service Raleigh to remove trash, debris and overgrowth from the portion of Rocky Branch Creek between our two neighborhoods.

Throughout the morning more than 45 volunteers used rakes, shovels, pick axes, hatchets, trash
bags, bare hands, and a whole lot of teamwork to get the job done. We dug up kudzu, chopped down vines, cleared debris blocking water flow, removed a fence and beautified the blighted stream.

At 9 a.m. before our group started most of the area looked like the photo to the left. Kudzu grew up and over the fence. Water was present, but not visible and it was an eyesore.

By 2 p.m. our mass of volunteers made the area look like this:

I'll be the first to admit that it's not perfect, but that is amazing progress for five hours of work.

This is some of what I was able to capture throughout the morning...

Richard Johnson gave us permission to take down the chain link fence. Gerard made it happen.
Heaps of debris from the creek bed.
David standing knee-deep in kudzu. Rakes turned out to be the best weapon for removal.
I'm removing vines from the mystery pipe.
Volunteers bagging up years of trash.
Lyman emerges from the bank tangled in vines.
A team from Boylan Heights and Service Raleigh volunteers works to free a shopping cart buried in mud in the middle of the creek. It was impressive to witness.
Sutton was one of the hardest workers all morning. Every time I saw her she was contributing.
This is one of four giant debris piles cleared from the creek.
As people cleared out the bottom of the creek a second group of volunteers carted it away.
Jerry worked tirelessly to move rocks, increasing water flow and eliminating stagnant ponds that mosquitoes love.
David worked on moving rocks too downstream from Jerry. He was soaked, but kept at it for hours.
We called Progress Energy and they sent a worker out to remove dead vines from power lines.
For once, the spring flowers aren't overshadowed by overgrowth.
I didn't capture 90% of everything that went on this morning, but at least these pictures show how hard everyone worked. The effort and results far surpassed what I think anyone expected.
It was fun watching each group thank the other groups for their assistance. Service Raleigh, Boylan Heights and Rosengarten Park were all grateful for the others' presence.
Together we created a more friendly, healthier and happier environment today. Even better it was neighbors helping neighbors, showing each other that we care about our city.
Thank you again to everyone involved. It was a great morning.