Monday, January 23, 2012
BikeWalkLee comments on Transportation “white paper” at Jan. 23rd LPA meeting
As explained in our Jan. 17th blog post, Bike WalkLee 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 policy papers included a paper on key transportation strategies, including level of service standards, transportation concurrency, and a potential mobility fee.
Dr. Margaret Banyan and Darla Letourneau, both representing BikeWalkLee, spoke at the meeting to highlight some of the paper’s recommendations, put others in context, and to share our ideas about some of the transportation policy changes needed in the Comp Plan.
Below is a summary of our comments:
To achieve a balanced transportation system that increases walkability, multi-modal transportation choice, and compact mixed use communities, there are three issues that must be addressed.
1st Issue: Transportation LOS.
• Current LOS standards require that the county and MPO planning systems value moving cars as quickly as possible above any other goal, such as bicycle and pedestrian safety, viable public transit, and economic development.
• Using only the automobile LOS means that roads are overbuilt to accommodate traffic at peak hours /day/periods.
• This has a detrimental effect on a healthy multi-modal transportation system, livable communities, and economic development. If roads must move cars fast, then they have to be wider and raise speed limits – making them less safe for users, destroying opportunities for infill development, and raising construction and maintenance costs for the county.
• Gary Toth, with the Project for Public Spaces says, “Most [traffic models] ignore changing demographics such as the aging of our population, rising energy prices, ... and societal changes. Most assume that our economy will continue to grow at the same rate as it has over the last 30 years."
• We suggested that the County eliminate the use of an “A –F” grading system in any revised LOS approach. It is an overly simplistic tool that hides the full range of factors that should be taken into account in making transportation policy decisions.
• Not only does an LOS approach need to be multi-modal, it needs to have more dynamic operational measures. Now we just look at the volume of traffic during peak hours in peak season & only look at an estimate of the population growth 25 years out, not the change in demographics and their implications for planning differently. Dan Rudge’s “Generational Dynamics” presentation illustrated clearly that Gen X’s and Y’s want more urban living, walkable communities, and more choices in transportation. These dynamics need to be reflected in planning for the future. Using the current methodology which simply perpetuates the status quo will mean Lee County will not attract or retain Gen X and Y citizens or companies.
• If you do not deal with LOS issue, there is no point in considering any other ‘fix’ to the transportation system or the EAR, because the models will continue to spew out the ‘need’ for wider and faster roads.
2nd Issue: Sustainable Performance Criteria & Measures
• To facilitate the goals of a balanced transportation system -
• We would like to highlight the absolute critical tool that is mentioned at the bottom of page 4 of the transportation white paper – which is the use of Sustainable Performance Criteria & Measures as they are applied to transportation decisions.
• These tools, from respected sources, such as the Federal Highway Administration, provide an important framework for decision makers to understand the economic development, land use, transportation, and community livability tradeoffs in each transportation decisions.
• The use of these existing tools should be seriously considered & adopted by Lee County while implementing it transportation vision.
• The key is to marry the revamped LOS approach with sustainable transportation measures….no matter what improvements are made in LOS, they must be combined with performance measures to accomplish the EAR vision.
3rd Issue: Funding
• The white paper addresses certain funding options and concurrency requirements for transportation. There are 3 goals that should be considered:
1) ensure that infill and redevelopment opportunities are maximized and that robust incentives are provided for building compact and mixed use communities
2) ensure that fees are used as significant disincentives to continued sprawl & greenfield development
3) and perhaps most importantly-- provide for transportation funding options that fund both construction and operations– this is most crucial for growing a viable transit system
Now that the state has returned transportation control to local governments it’s important that Lee County use this opportunity to make it support our local vision and our community plans.
FDOT’s December report on “Proportionate Share” (mandated by the Florida Legislature after the state law change removing the mandate for transportation concurrency) illustrates that local governments throughout Florida will be moving in this direction. It’s important that the County coordinate with the MPO and other local jurisdictions so that we’re all moving in the same direction on these issues.
• BikeWalkLee representatives pointed out that the FDOT Green Book (cited in the white paper as a barrier) is in fact guidance rather than a standard and the county needs to surmount this “barrier” rather than not fully implementing the vision in the EAR. Ultimately, Lee County can develop its own design standards that would supersede the Green Book guidelines.
• In response to comments from LPA members about funding constraints, BWL provided three recent examples to show the cost savings that can occur from changing the way we think about transportation…all of which were covered in our blog post from Friday’s MPO Board meeting. Click here.
• The next step in the process is for the Community Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC) to review and comment on these same issue papers at its Feb. 15th (6 p.m.) meeting.