Around-the-World Responses to COVID-19

Hello again!

As you may recall, we are part of a national cohort for the Livable Community Corps (LCC)! The LCC is a partnership between AARP, Public Allies, and local partner sites in five (5) states across the country (Arizona, Iowa, Florida, New York, and Maine) focused on building safe, all-inclusive communities for people of all ages and abilities. We are lucky to be working with Living Streets Alliance, our local host site.

A lot has happened since beginning the LCC back in March 2020. Although the year has shifted the course of our work, we are appreciative of the opportunity to self-reflect and explore new ideas and perspectives brought forth by these unprecedented times. As we scratch at the surface of the world of transportation and city planning, we are continuously learning and then unlearning the many oppressive patterns within our society. We have also kept up with the pandemic and have come across some of the ways cities across the country are changing their streets in response to COVID-19. We have found that these practices have been successful in allowing outdoor physical activity for recreation in a safe and socially-distanced manner, as well as active transportation to essential destinations. Many of these practices have begun as temporary and are slowly becoming more permanent additions to streets. We created this presentation to share what we have learned and we hope to bring some of these changes to Tucson!

We’ve also created pre-written phone scripts and email templates stemming from the six (6) examples we covered in the presentation, Around-the-World Responses to COVID-19 and we encourage you to use these to contact your City Council Member with the request of bringing these changes to Tucson. If you need assistance in verifying which ward and city council member to contact based on your location, please see this map. Please CC us (info@livingstreetsalliance.org) if you email your ward office to keep us in the loop.

–River & Jenny

Council Members by Ward

Ward 1

Lane Santa Cruz

940 W. Alameda Street

(520) 791-4040

ward1@tucsonaz.gov

Ward 2

Paul Cunningham

7575 East Speedway

(520) 791-4687

ward2@tucsonaz.gov

Ward 3

Paul Durham

1510 E. Grant Road

(520) 791-4711

ward3@tucsonaz.gov

Ward 4

Nikki Lee

8123 E. Poinciana

(520) 791-3199

ward4@tucsonaz.gov

Ward 5

Richard Fimbres

4300 S. Park Avenue

(520) 791-4231

ward5@tucsonaz.gov

Ward 6

Steve Kozachik

3202 East 1st Street

(520) 791-4601

ward6@tucsonaz.gov

 

Phone Scripts

Streateries

Hello, my name is (name) and I am calling to speak with (city council member) in regards to implementing more Streateries in Tucson. Streateries allow local restaurants to utilize their parking spaces for outdoor seating expansion. With the spread of covid-19 still on the rise in Arizona and the state’s recent decision to reopen, restaurants are challenged with keeping guests and tables spaced 6ft apart. Recently shared information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has shown outdoor seating to be optimal as it not only allows for proper social distancing, but also serves for better ventilation as opposed to indoor dining.  In an effort to help both citizens and local businesses, I believe the safest measure is to temporarily waive the application fee needed for restaurants to turn parking spaces into safe outdoor dining areas during the covid-19 pandemic. In addition to utilizing parking spaces, many cities are also creating streateries by closing entire street segments down to car traffic and turning them into large outdoor seating areas.

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Slow Streets

Hello, my name is (name) and I am calling to speak with (city council member) with the request of bringing the city’s Slow Streets Program to the (specific neighborhood). Slow Streets allow residents to walk & bike at a comfortable 6ft distance in the street by closing the street to thru traffic. This encourages our citizens to meet their weekly physical activity needs while also creating a safe network of streets for citizens to navigate to/from essential places during covid-19. I feel this would benefit my neighborhood directly and encourage the city to expand its current Slow Streets Program to this area. 

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Automated Push Buttons (Signal Recalls)

Hello, my name is (name) and I am calling to speak with (city council member) with the request of updating Tucson’s pedestrian crosswalk system. The pedestrian is the most vulnerable person at an intersection, they are also the only ones who have to push a button and request safe access when it comes to navigating the street. When covid-19 is added to the situation, it does not take long to realize these push buttons are a high contact touching point for strangers and therefore pose the risk of transmitting the virus. Tucson has an ethical obligation to update the city’s crosswalk buttons so that they run on automated timers changing with the streetlight. This will create a safer situation for the pedestrian in terms of crossing the street while also reducing interaction with unnecessary high contact points for disease transmission.

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Temporary Walkways & Bikeways

 Hello, my name is (name), and I am calling to speak with (city council member) in regards to implementing more temporary walkways and bikeways in my ward as a response to covid-19. Temporary walkways and bikeways are constructed of low-cost, quick build materials that would create a safer environment for the residents of my neighborhood to walk and bike. Recent studies have shown a decrease in vehicular travel since the spread of covid-19 but with that, a rise in speeding as well, which puts pedestrians and cyclists at a higher risk than pre-pandemic circumstances. In addition to this, cities have been finding a spike in the amount of people walking and biking due to covid-19. It is because of these reasons I urge city council member (council name) to implement more temporary walkways and bikeways in ward (ward #). I believe this would be a low investment project that would result in the safety of our residents, while also reducing pollutants in communities and promoting physical activity.

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 Essential Places

Hello, my name is (name), and I am calling to speak with (city council member) with the hopes of encouraging the city to implement traffic safety improvements to provide safer access to essential places located along busier streets in my neighborhood. These are areas where pedestrians are faced with multi-lane crossings to get to essential places like grocery stores, drug stores or COVID-19 testing sites. Oakland has been the first city to implement these zones and the concept is quite simple and cheap. For example, one way to create safer access is by placing traffic cones in an oval shape in the middle turning lane of busier streets. This allows for pedestrians to have an island of safety, or buffer zone, in between opposite sides of the street when crossing. I believe this would be ideal in my ward specifically on (list streets you would like to see implement this strategy) and would overall increase pedestrian safety when visiting essential places. I would also like to reiterate how cheap of a strategy this would be, Tucson would be increasing safety for pedestrians with the low cost of mere traffic cones.

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 Public Transit

Hello, my name is (name), and I am calling to speak with (city council member). Thank you for waiving public transit fares through the end of the year. I am calling to request that the bus fares remain waived at least until the end of the pandemic. With cases of covid-19 fluctuating in Tucson and job uncertainty a main concern for our citizens, I believe this is the simplest way to ensure residents can still make it to essential destinations such as pharmacies, grocery stores and places of work. I also believe that the city should announce this decision as a confirmation to citizens that the city is hearing their concerns and responding as best as they see fit for the situation. Many residents are unsure when they will need to start paying for public transit again and this uncertainty adds unneeded worry to a situation that is already heightened by covid-19. Additionally, I encourage the City to adjust bus routes and schedules to better serve lower-income communities and communities of color as essential workers are more likely to rely on public transit.  Continuing to waive fares and maintaining reliable transit service will keep riders and transit workers safe and help ensure that they can travel to work and other essential destinations.

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Email Templates

Streateries

 

The above renderings show a portion of the street being used for a shaded seating area. These areas could be as small as one parking space! (Right)

Dear Council Member,

I recently learned about restaurants and businesses around the world building “streateries” out front of their building. Streateries are outdoor restaurant seating areas located in a space that was previously dedicated to vehicles, such as on-street parking spots, parking lots or in some cases segments of entire city streets. Although these types of pilots normally require businesses to apply, many cities are waiving application fees and temporarily providing leniency with parking requirements so businesses can make use of private parking lots. I believe something like this would be beneficial in my community because it not only allows community members to safely connect with friends while maintaining a safe distance, but it also greatly benefits struggling businesses to temporarily expand seating capacities during pandemic restrictions.

This form of outdoor dining is safe because restaurants take cautious measures to practice social distancing. Restaurants can maximize their service capacities as long as tables are at least 6 feet apart, masks are mandatory and are to be worn by staff and customers (especially if customers are not eating), and in cities such as Brooklyn, a required minimum of 6 inch-thick barriers, railing or planters used to separate the dining area from the street. Some cities have shut down segments of city streets that are densely populated with restaurants, turning the entire street into a streatery.

The City of Tucson is currently waiving application fees and issuing temporary streatery permits to food and beverage establishments through a streamlined review process. I would like to suggest the City continue to support restaurants for the remainder of the pandemic and consider extending outdoor permits to other types of business such as retail stores or barber shops. I would also encourage the City to consider street closures to create larger outdoor dining, vending and socializing areas where several shops and restaurants are located. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to see this initiative happening in Tucson in the near future.

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Slow Streets

San Francisco Slow Streets (photo credit: SFMTA)

Dear Council Member  ____,

I recently learned about the Slow Streets program taking place in neighborhoods around Tucson. The additional space created by these “soft closures” of residential streets has been beneficial in many ways – they decrease pedestrian congestion along sidewalks, encouraging physical activity. Not to mention, being able to enjoy time outdoors and socialize responsibly has very positive effects on mental health. 

The City started out with a few pilots in place for a small amount of time. However, it is wonderful to see that Phase 2 of this project extends the time the pilots are in place, from two weeks to a month, because sufficient time is needed in order to be able to gauge the effects these demonstrations have on neighborhood streets and engage with the residents to see how the program is working. I would like to suggest further expanding to include more neighborhoods as well as keeping Slow Streets in place beyond the pandemic. 

I would also like to encourage the City to reach out to the communities that already have Slow Streets in place for feedback on changes residents have noticed since the pilot was put in place, inspiring future locations and modifications of the program. Community engagement invites people to ask questions and express what they would like to see in their neighborhoods. For example, the City of Oakland has continuously kept communities engaged as they roll out their Slow Streets program. The feedback they received from residents led to the modification of the program, called Slow Streets: Essential Places, which make it safer for people to get to essential destinations, like the pharmacy or grocery store.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to see this initiative continue to expand in Tucson post-pandemic.

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Automated Push Buttons (Signal Recalls)

Minneapolis, Minnesota (Left photo credit: StarTribune); Berkeley, California (Right photo credit: News Break)

Dear Council Member _____,

I recently learned about automatic pedestrian signals. Over 35 cities around the world have programmed their crosswalk push buttons to be on automated, repeated, timed cycles. Many crosswalk buttons can also be set to provide pedestrians with a ‘head start’ interval, which gives pedestrians the right of way before turning vehicles.

I believe something like this would be beneficial in my community because it would send the message that pedestrians matter just as much as people in cars. These buttons, also known as “beg buttons,” prioritize the movement of cars over people on foot. Even before the pandemic, some cities were removing their beg buttons, recognizing that people should be able to cross the street without having to ask for it. Automated, properly-timed signals provide pedestrians with ample time to cross the street without being intimidated by cars.

Another great benefit of automated push signals relating to the pandemic is to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Although the virus is spread primarily through respiratory channels, physical contact with contaminated surfaces is still a concern. These buttons are not disinfected and touched by countless people, countless times, each and every day. 

Thank you for your time and attention. I hope to see this initiative happening in Tucson in the near future.

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Temporary Walkways & Bikeways

 

Brookline, MA (Left photo credit: Streetsblog Mass); Washington DC (Right photo credit: Greater Greater Washington)

Dear Council Member ___,

I recently learned about pop-up bike lanes and walkways cities are creating to combat pedestrian congestion along sidewalks in busy commercial areas by extending the sidewalk into an adjacent walkway and to provide safer bike lanes physically separated from car traffic. Social distancing restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have limited people’s ability to engage in outdoor physical activity and use public transportation. People who previously relied on public transit have expressed concerns regarding the inability to maintain a safe distance in enclosed spaces. Due to increased active transportation resulting from the decrease in motor vehicle and public transportation use, I would like to suggest that the City create more safe spaces where people may walk or wheel in a socially distanced manner.

Sidewalks and pathways can be expanded quickly and in a budget-friendly way using materials the City of Tucson has on-hand, such as traffic cones and barricades. I believe something like this would be beneficial in the community to decrease congestion on sidewalks as well as accommodate the increasing number of people walking and wheeling to reach essential destinations, such as work, medical facilities, pharmacies and grocery stores.

Thank you for your time and attention. I hope to see this initiative happening in Tucson in the near future.

______________________________________________________________________________

 Essential Places

 

Oakland, CA (Left photo credit: The Mercury News); (Right photo credit: City of Oakland website)

Dear Council Member ____,

I recently learned about the City of Oakland’s adjustment to its Slow Streets program, called “Essential Places.” Community feedback has played a big part in the way the City rolls out these types of initiatives and when residents expressed their desire for safer access to essential destinations such as pharmacies, grocery stores and COVID-19 test sites, the City responded by implementing different traffic safety treatments. For example, they created a temporary crossing island with traffic cones and signage which acts as a pedestrian “buffer zone,” providing pedestrians a safe midpoint to wait for passing vehicles.

The launch of Essential Places was intended to help reduce traffic collisions involving pedestrians. I believe something like this would be beneficial in Tucson, where we had over 79 fatalities resulting from traffic collisions in 2019 alone, 45 of which involved pedestrians or bicyclists. I suggest making safety improvements such as placing temporary crossing islands at crosswalks with median lanes across from shopping centers, public and medical facilities, and pharmacies.

Thank you for your time and attention. I hope to see this initiative happening in Tucson in the near future.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Public Transit

 

Tucson (Photo credit: SunTran)

Dear Council Member _____,

The City of Tucson has done a great job waiving bus fares through the end of 2020, providing personal protective equipment for transit drivers and enforcing CDC recommendations by requiring passengers to wear masks to ride and to maintain a safe distance as much as possible. Additionally, local transit Sun Vans began providing transportation to and from homeless shelters beginning back in April. 

I believe riders  could be supported by maintaining fares waived until the end of the pandemic at minimum. I also suggest expanding the consistency of trips in lower-income communities. Transit operators can safely carry about 12-18 passengers per bus trip with current social distancing restrictions. This has resulted in essential trips taking twice as long after buses reach trip capacity. 

Public transit has been shown to be the primary method of transportation for essential workers such as medical staff, grocery and food workers. According to TransitCenter, national ridership trends show that people of color make up 60% of transit users and that 67% of essential workers who rely on public transit as their main source of transportation are non-white. Continuing to waive fares and maintaining reliable transit service will keep riders and transit workers safe and help ensure that they can travel to work and other essential destinations. 

Thank you for your time and attention. I hope to see this initiative happening in Tucson in the near future.

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For more information on these types of programs and other action cities are taking in response to the Coronavirus crisis, check out NACTO’s (National Association of City Transportation Officials COVID-19 Transportation Center.

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