Monday, September 23, 2013

Take-aways from Broward presentation at MPO Board meeting on 9/20/13

Greg Stuart making presentation to Lee MPO Board
Lots of great "take-aways" for Lee County on rail, transit, complete streets, and economic development from the Broward MPO Peer Exchange presentation and discussion at Friday's MPO Board meeting.  At
that meeting, the Board also adopted the MPO Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (BPSAP) and discussed TIGER implementation, which is reported in a separate blog post.
At the Sept. 20th Lee MPO Board meeting, Board members, staff, and citizens had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Greg Stuart, Executive Director of the Broward MPO, about its innovative transportation plan.  The plan includes a shift from road capacity expansion to transit investments, transit funding innovations, better integration of land use and transportation planning, and implementation of its newly adopted Complete Streets program. 
Greg Stuart, Broward MPO

When the economic crisis hit Broward in 2008-9, the Broward MPO Board realized that the way they were doing business would have to change since the funding to implement their plan was simply not there.  The Broward MPO decided it couldn't  afford to build any more roads and instead embarked on a strategy to grow transit.  Greg Stuart described how they worked with their FDOT district to shift funds that had previously been used for roadways to transit funding.  They experimented with shifting funds, with an initial investment in transit.  The result of their efforts demonstrated that the investment increased ridership.  In turn, they then tripled their investment in transit (from $15.5 million to $58.2 million) and added $100.3 million investment for more sidewalks and bike lanes to connect to their transit system. 

One of the key concepts that Mr. Stuart talked about was how Broward measures success.  They employ both performance and return-on-investment (ROI) measures to evaluate the success of their investments.  This allows them a broader set of tools to address how people access the places they want to go.

Mr. Stuart also talked about Broward's complete streets initiative, that started with a large CDC grant focused on the health benefits of complete streets.  Broward is taking a corridor approach and currently has two complete streets/road diet demonstration projects underway.  These projects have spurred economic development, resulting in clear high returns on investment.  Mr. Stuart described how Broward started paying attention to traveler behaviors instead of LOS models that simply measure how many cars are anticipated on a road.  As a result, they reduced one of their roads from a 6 lane road to a 4 lane road based on the finding that people who lived there walked or wanted to walk more.  They found that people adjusted to their environment and automobile congestion didn't get worse.

Finally, Mr. Stuart also talked about how they had integrated land use and transportation planning through the MPO process even though the MPO didn't have jurisdiction over land use planning.  Greg emphasized the importance of jurisdictions working together as a "council of governments" to move forward together as partners.  

Lee MPO Chair, Kevin Ruane
There was an extensive discussion between the MPO Board members and Mr. Stuart on a wide range of topics.  Several members commented about how timely and valuable this exchange of ideas had been.  As Commissioner Mann said, we can't continue to do "business as usual", and agreed that we needed to focus on return on investment.  There was also discussion about the new rail system coming to the East Coast, called All Aboard, a privately funded project.  The rail project to the University and Miami airport is costing $500 million; however, it is spurring development at exponential rates. For example, Ft. Lauderdale has already approved $3 billion of development along the rail line.   

Fort Myers Councilman Flanders discussed research from Jeff Speck's Walkable Cities book which demonstrated that cities get the most economic development results/ROI on a multi-modal street.  Cape Coral Mayor Sullivan and Bonita Springs Councilman Simmons delved into the freight component of Broward's rail project.  Mr. Stuart indicated that the Broward rail/freight project was going to substantially reduce maintenance costs on roadways. 

Mr. Stuart also emphasized that there's lots of federal money out there but you have to look for the new sources.  Federal investments today are about leveraging the resources you have.  Broward has received two TIGER grants since the program began in 2009 and plans to go after another TIGER grant next year.  Sanibel Mayor Ruane noted he planned to follow-up with Mr. Stuart for ideas about how Lee County can best leverage our TIGER grant. This Broward discussion on transit and rail projects serves as helpful background for the November Lee MPO Board meeting, which will focus on the rail feasibility study, the land use study, and the transit task force.

BikeWalkLee comments
Dr. Margaret Banyan
Dr. Margaret Banyan pointed out that in looking at all these issues, policymakers need to first ask, "what's the ultimate goal?"  We're trying to achieve three things--economic development; livability; and fiscal responsibility.  We have to connect our policy choices to those goals.  For example, more efficient transportation means getting more people out of cars.  We need to figure out how to measure the impact of policy decisions.  We need ways to measure ROI of complete streets, of transit.  We know they have high returns for economic development and livability.  How do we get staff of all jurisdictions to look at the real impacts and costs of decisions.  How do we find ways to make consistent transportation decisions?  Businesses are looking for consistent policy choices.  If we want businesses to relocate here, they have to have certainty about things like transit investments.  We know from research that the firmest commitment to business is a rail line (or subway).

There was discussion by several Board members as well as BikeWalkLee of the need for Lee County to move towards a regional transit authority.  Councilman Flanders requested that the Board be updated about the regional transit authority issue at the November meeting, which the board agreed to.

Darla Letourneau highlighted the collaboration between the Broward and Lee County staffs over the past two years on complete streets, which has been beneficial to both communities.  She urged Lee County to consider using the Broward Model Complete Streets Manual as the tool for making planned changes in our policies and design standards, including the recommendations in the BPSAP adopted on Friday by the MPO Board.  She also highlighted the innovative public engagement approaches that Broward is using in their 2040 LRTP plan and urged the Lee MPO to consider some of these innovative approaches as a way to better engage our community in the transportation discussion.

Next in the series of Peer to Peer Exchanges
Upcoming exchanges will focus on a presentation of the  Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) FDOT-sponsored report, which reviewed the MPO 2035 LRTP's done by Florida communities five years ago and addresses the funding shortfalls ahead.  This presentation is tentatively scheduled for the joint Lee/Charlotte MPO meeting in December.  The Hillsborough County MPO will be invited in early 2014.

Links from Previous BWL blog Peer Exchange stories:

Report by Darla Letourneau

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