The trial is an error

In a recent meeting with city staff, I was disappointed to learn that, ignoring their own studies, they are seriously considering converting Charlotte Street to three lanes on a trial basis. After my disappointment I was then shocked to learn how little thought had been put into a trial of this nature.

Some of the items missing from their trial assumptions are: no defined objectives; success/measurement criteria; start/end dates; cost estimates; or risk analysis. Having run many trials and prototypes during my 30-year career with IBM, these missing assumptions led to the following unanswered questions:

1. What will the trial prove? 2. Who is going to be the judge of success or failure? 3. Who decides what “good” and what “bad” means when it comes to qualitative analysis? 4. How to lessen frustrated drivers seeking alternative routes through neighborhoods? 5. Will the trial be done during the height of tourist season or in the dead of winter? 6. How long will it last? 7. What are the costs of a trial (new signage, re-striping, new traffic signals, added public safety cost, etc.)? 8. Has an allowance been made for all the confusion and risk a temporary conversion could create? 9. How about the cost to undo the conversion when the trial ultimately fails?

These are just some of the unanswered questions. There are probably many more. Why would you do all this to disprove something that traffic study after traffic study has already disproved? Why spend scarce money for a trial that has already been proved empirically to meet with certain failure? Is there nothing better to do with tax or grant money? Can’t the city staff spend their time on more beneficial endeavors? Has the city no other problems for which our money can be used? Are there no other, more pressing problems for which city staff time can be directed?

— Max Alexander

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