$20,000 tornado in a bottle | Editor's Note

By Laura Daniali | Jan 15, 2015

The striping of Sunset Avenue is similar to the classic tornado in a bottle experiment.

With very few materials – a 2-liter bottle with cap, water and dish soap – and relatively little planning (well, basically no planning), an instant tornado in a bottle can be created.

It’s a great experiment for kids. With a few shakes of the bottle, centrifugal force creates a vortex – experiment complete.

It’s simple, straightforward and cheap. There are no variables to establish; no data to collect.

Here’s what the Sunset Avenue tornado in a bottle experiment looks like – spend about $20,000, paint the roadway, cause a stir, sit back and watch for a year – done.

It sounds like a reasonable, logical trial to apply to a project that could potentially cost the City, ie; taxpayers, from about $1.9 million to $2.4 million in the long run, according to the City’s Capital Improvement Program and Capital Facilities Plan.

There’s only one problem: Sunset Avenue isn’t a simple, straightforward, cheap project.

It’s complicated, controversial and expensive – grant money is not free money – and would include building on property the City does not own.

The City Council approved and funded the temporary striping of Sunset Avenue back in August, the paint was dry by mid-September, and now they’re sitting back.

All is going according to plan, and after one year the council will evaluate the results of the trial.

But wait – what results?

The council has yet to establish criteria or measurable variables for the trial.

If they plan to wait until the end, and do some number crunching to tally up how many accident reports were filed, for example, that works.

However, the council is obligated to let the public know what its intentions are and how they will decide what is and is not working.

Depending on what factors they decide to evaluate, about five months of valuable data or input is lost.

As of the Dec. 16 council meeting, councilmembers continued to discuss possible modifications to the project, including removing bikes from the path.

Barring significant safety issues, the scope of the project should not be changed midway.

It would impact the integrity of the trial and results, if and when they begin to collect data.

The council needs to determine a clearly defined set of measurable parameters and implement methods for collecting feedback as soon as possible.

A simple survey box on each end would at least be something.

Most people love to throw in their 2 cents, and I have a feeling there would be no shortage of opinions.

Questions to ask: How often do you use the walkway? Are you walking, biking, on a Segway?


While it is not hard data, it’s better than nothing.

Of course, there would be a margin of error, and not everyone would choose to do the survey, but at the end of the trial there would be, well, results.

Relying on people to email the City or voice concerns at a council meeting does not provide a broad enough range of opinions.

I have full confidence in the council’s ability to come up with better and more suitable ideas than this, given their knowledge of the City’s budget and resources.

But, they need to do it, and they need to do it now.

When the year is up, the results of this trial will determine whether or not the council moves ahead on a project with a $2 million price tag.

The trial period is a sound idea, but only if it yields significant, meaningful results. Otherwise, it is futile.


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