Fixer of the Month: Doug Hausladen

Here at SeeClickFix, we meet and get to know a tremendous number of government officials who work hard every day to fix issues in their cities.

We're starting a blog series called "Fixer of the Month" in efforts to highlight some of these folks in, at least, a small way. For this month, I sat down with Doug Hausladen, Chief of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking for the City of the New Haven and active SeeClickFix user, to hear about what he's fixing in his community.

Issues

Name: Doug Hausladen

Title: Chief of Transportation, Traffic, & Parking

Municipality: City of New Haven, CT

Municipality: City of New Haven, CT

SeeClickFix Rank: Jane Jacobs

SeeClickFix Civic Points: 29,780

Hometown: Edgewood, Kentucky (Covington suburb)

Favorite Form of Transportation: I would have to say bicycle. It's the perfect speed, especially if you're not trying to go up mountains or go vast distances. You're going about ten miles per hour; you actually see the color of the brick you're passing, but you also don't necessarily see the crack in the road you're passing. So it's this good balance between human and built environment. And walking is wonderful, but it's just too slow. Driving is great, but it's not sustainable economically and environmentally.

I've also been on everything the past three days [while traveling]: bicycle, car, bus, train, boat, and plane. And I just really like the autonomy of a bike. If you're on a boat, clearly you're only going to be on water. If you're a train, you're on fixed rail. If you're in a car, you can kind of go anywhere but it can be hard to park near your destination.

Favorite restaurant in New Haven: That's a tough one. The ones that are gone were always big favorites of mine: The Doodle was a big favorite of mine. The one I got to go to the most right now has got to be Meat & Company. It's not a sit-down restaurant but it's the place I eat the most. Also Tikkaway is one of these newcomers that is so fantastic ' so fast, so good. And then if I'm going to sit down, I'm always a sucker for Bentara. It's been a staple for years.

What are you trying to fix in New Haven?

Two things in equal priority right now that are offshoots of the same fix: New Haven is a small town, so how do you get a population around ' how do create mobility in a population that doesn't necessarily have a car? So, the two things that I'm trying to fix are the ability for transit to work and to provide multi-modal transit options. Then, more specifically, how do you make biking as safe as possible in New Haven and really make "car-free" an option. Because right now, I feel like we're really there for some people. And we're getting there for a lot of others. But we're really on the edge of being a car-free city. And while I'll never want to make it a car-free city, I want to make car-free an option. Mainly just for how expensive it is to have a car ' expensive for the individual and expensive to society.

That's what drives me to want to make this fix for the last 6 or 7 years or so now.

Why it is important that this is fixed in New Haven?

We did not get to where we are, in an urban planning sense, by accident. We've been trying to get here for the past 60 years. But it's only been in the past two or three generations – about only 60 years - that we've been undoing the city center. And so it's distinctly possible to redo what we've undid. And there's a lot of hacks, tactical urbanism that's trying to do it real cheap.

And I walk around other cities and see a lot of infrastructure that kind of gets you there. A lot of bollards in the street, a lot of parking stalls in the street, creating bike lanes or creating pedestrian zones. And I feel as though right now in planning, America in particular, has a tough time imagining life without an automobile. And we're all children of our parents whose generation idolized the automobile. And so we're sort of the first generation in a long time to not have the infatuation with the automobile.

And you see the amount of vehicles decreasing, while the shared economy is increasing. People are recognizing that their cars are not necessary and, like a lot of products nowadays, people are second-guessing what their products say about them. A lot of people felt like their car was an outward extension of their own personality. Humbly, I think bikes are that equivalent for me: that was a big purchase. So I feel like it is very possible to have incremental changes that have exponential outcomes. Like a tiny bike lane has more than just a tiny bike lane of impact when you add the public health and financial aspects into creating biking and walking as a mode share.

What is the most challenging part of fixing this?

Resources. But resources follow mindset. I would say a variable we have to live with when fixing these things is that here are competing interests and priorities. And being "pro-bike lane" or "pro-multi-modal transportation" is being perceived today as being "anti-car", which is not the same. Fixing our bus system is better for the bus passengers but is also better for automobiles because theoretically it reduces congestion and opens up some lane space for other users.

There's a term called "bike lash" now around the world. And it's generally seen as a sign that you're town had "made it" in the biking community. First, you have the early adopters. Then, you have where New Haven was two years ago. And then you have bike lash, where you have people saying "get those damn bikes of the road". And then you have infrastructure where room is made available for bikes. And then you see a bigger growth in the transportation mode shift. So for us the biggest challenge is affording the infrastructure to make alternative transportation safer. When I talk with the city engineer Giovanni Zinn (who is fantastic!), I talk about how awesome the big bike lane we're planning for in the spring, the big one, the big kahuna; it's going to be the greatest bike facility in CT to date: 2.1 miles of protected cycletrack on Edgewood Avenue and it only costs $70,000 for two miles, that's $35,000 per mile! To put it in perspective for the city engineer, it's the equivalent of 875' ft of granite curb for the price of a fully constructed mile of cycletrack. He laughs, he literally laughs at my budget. And I can't find the resources to build a $35,000 per mile dedicated protected bike lane that's going to the best bike lane in CT and Giovanni says "We'll find that money, don't worry, no problem". But for me, my whole budget is $35,000 for a bike lane. Which is why having the City Engineer, the Economic Development Administrator (my boss), and the Mayor on board is crucial for the work in providing more infrastructure.

What is the most rewarding part of fixing this?

What is the most rewarding part of fixing this?

I don't know if I can answer that yet.

The most rewarding time will be the Spring of 2015, when we install a 2.1 mile Edgewood Avenue cycle-track that will redefine mobility for about 6-7 neighborhoods.

It will extend all the way from Forest to Park Streets – a protected cycle-track with 6 foot lane, 4 foot buffer protected by parking. You don't get that in Connecticut. Resetting the standard will be the most rewarding part of all of this.

The Elm Street bike lane is fantastic, however, it is not very protected, so it doesn't really give you the 8-to-80 that we're all looking for in the cycling community. Making bike lanes safe for ages 8-80 is the goal. And, God bless us, we have built a lot of bike lanes in New Haven but we have not yet built that facility that's going to make and shift the conversation to a new standard. So that's going to be a good day.

And thank you to Mayor Harp for hiring some young whipper-snapper, Giovanni Zinn, with ideas. It's been fantastic to work alongside Giovanni these past weeks. He's only been on the job for 4 weeks and doing it with a partner in crime is so much easier. We have two department heads preaching the gospel of tactical urbanism and multi-model complete streets so it has been very rewarding to find someone else in the trenches that is willing to go toe-to-toe with maintenance staff. Because that's really what we're talking about here. We're about to create massive problems for maintenance teams. As a city we don't know what to do with a ten-foot lane with a four-foot buffer. How do you plow that? How do you sweep that in the summers? That's going to be a challenge that we're going to have to figure out. While on the one hand, it's the most rewarding to build this facility, what's going to be the next big challenge for us is going to be figuring out who has to maintain these facilities. Other people have done it, but generally speaking, if it hasn't been done it CT, folks don't want to hear it. It's just how it goes – a lot of staff will say "Show me a place in CT where this is happening." Generally speaking, you can't. When you're talking about designing facilities for multi-modal transportation, you got to go outside of CT. So that's a challenge and really an opportunity for us to redefine the conversation. And I look forward that. It's going to be a long winter, if you will.