As explained in numerous blog posts over the past year, BikeWalkLee is participating in this year-long process to ensure that the complete streets/sustainability focus in the EAR is carried through in the actual Comp Plan amendments. This month's Lee Plan draft elements for review include the Capital Improvement Element, which touches on two transportation elements of interest--Level of Service (LOS) and funding.
Darla Letourneau, representing BikeWalkLee, spoke at the May 31st LPA meeting to highlight our comments on the Capital Improvement Element, which are summarized below:
BikeWalkLee made comments at the Jan. 23rd LPA meeting on the Transportation White Paper. At that meeting, we highlighted the three issues that must be addressed if we are to achieve a balanced transportation system that increases walkability, multi-modal transportation choice, and compact mixed use communities.
Those issues are transportation LOS, sustainable performance criteria and measures, and funding. The draft Capital Improvement element you have before you today touches on two of those issues--LOS and funding. While the bulk of these issues will be addressed in the Transportation Element that will be presented in July, the CI element is a glimpse at what is to come. We are encouraged by what we see.
First, we are pleased to see the staff recommendation to end concurrency for transportation, schools and parks, as allowed under the 2011 state law changes. As we stated in January, it's important that Lee County use this opportunity to take back local control and support our local vision and our community plans, as reflected in extensive public input as part of the EAR process.
However, eliminating transportation concurrency is just a first step in the needed changes to realize the vision in the EAR, as adopted unanimously by BoCC in February 2011.
We're pleased to see proposals dealing with LOS that begin to move us towards the county's goal of a balanced transportation system. First, we applaud the statement in Policy 1.1.3: "The LOS for transportation facilities will be established through an assessment of all transportation modes including roadway, bike, pedestrian, and transit capacity and service volumes consistent with the standards established in the Transportation Element."
Since the Comp Plan was last amended, the Florida guidelines for determining LOS have been updated. Beginning in 2009, the Florida LOS Quality Handbook provides LOS standards not just for vehicles, but also for transit,pedestrians, and bicycles. Using this updated guideline, staff is proposing to establish LOS standards for these other modes and to use them in determining whether a road meets LOS standards for further development to move forward.
This means that the county can establish the LOS standard for a given road to be a transit standard, a bike/ped standard, or a vehicle standard or some combination of these. What this broader approach to LOS says is that the solution to a roadway"problem" needs to address the full spectrum of deficiencies that the lack of safe choices in modes of transportation can be addressed by enhancing transit services, sidewalks, paths, and bike lanes.
It could allow for solutions that foster complete streets rather than assuming that any increased traffic requires roads to be widened. With a multi-modal LOS approach, the logical next step is a change in the way solutions are financed from the vehicle-only impact fee approach to a multi-modal mobility fee approach.
This shift to newer alternative funding mechanisms was envisioned in the December 2011 FDOT report on "Proportionate Share" and two Florida counties--Pasco and Alachua--have each modernized their funding mechanisms to reflect the transportation demand changes. In addition, Collier County is developing a mobility fee approach, the cities of Destin and Jacksonville have implemented it and Orlando and Kissimmee also have it under development.
We look forward to reviewing the Transportation element to see how the county plans to define and apply this new LOS approach in supporting a balanced multi-modal transportation system. While this new LOS approach is a step in the right direction, we encourage staff to go further.
In addition to changes in the LOS, we would like to see the staff and the various committees take a step back and look at the intersection of transportation and land use and ask the big picture vision questions--where in the county do we want to invest in transportation infrastructure and where do we not want to invest? Then let's make sure that our LOS standards assist us in realizing this vision.