Further Reflections on Long-Range Transportation Plan Draft

Given BB’s small, select audience of public policy nerds, I’m guessing the sight of the “DRAFT” watermark below engenders a flurry of emotions, including ennui, sleepiness, and panic:

mtp 2040 goals pathways
One of the simpler corrections to “Connections 2040” is eliminating this “Environmental” and replacing it with “Economic.” Other corrections are not so simple.

As noted here last week, we’re currently in public/email comment phase regarding the draft of “Connections 2040,” the area’s update to its long-range transportation plan. As such, you, I, and all other transportation policy nerds are encouraged, if not required, to read the 287-page draft and respond with edits, corrections, insights, and improvements.

“Oh, goody,” many of you are thinking, “can’t wait to start on that…”

If it makes you feel any better, I’m trying to do the same, at least when something more interesting doesn’t distract my attention, such as doing laundry or checking scores on Bahraini soccer matches. Building on initial comments of last week, here’s what’s going through my mind as I read the draft, Bahraini soccer scores aside:

  1. Writing is hard.
  2. Writing documents that are supposed to fold together the thoughts, dreams, demands, and public declarations of wildly disparate public policy nerds is very hard.
  3. This draft does a very good job of illustrating how hard this is.
  4. We’ve got a long, long way to go before I’d feel comfortable taking that dreaded “DRAFT” watermark off this document.

“Where to start?”

Always a tough writing question, and an extremely difficult one in terms of commenting on this draft. We could kinda wimp out and simply point out all the copy errors such as “Environmental” above and self-righteously proclaim our civic duty “done,” but it always pisses me off when somebody does that to anything I write, and, besides, there are bigger fish to fry in this transportation document ocean.

So, moving a whole bunch of copy edits and wordsmithing to one side, let’s make a few conceptual comments and then back those up with a useful comparison:

  1. This draft very much appears to see Middle Rio Grande transportation like that famous group of visually-impaired men who come across an elephant. It’s at least three wildly disparate documents thrown together by three wildly disparate committees/authors charged with writing different parts of the draft:
    1. The “Congestion Management Process” (CMP) committee which sees the Middle Rio Grande as a horribly congested land full of drivers waiting too long to their jobs, recreational activities, and Hobby Lobby;
    2. The Active Transportation Committee, which instead sees an unfortunately car-centric “elephant” that really needs to consider other ways of getting places and how many people are being killed/injured trying to do so.
    3. Somebody who evidently got paid to write a chapter on Climate Change and who wasn’t entirely successful in tying Climate Change back to transportation in the Middle Rio Grande.

Commiserating, truly, with these fellow travelers in both writing and public policy nerddom, I very much come to light a single candle instead of cursing any darkness in this draft. And that single candle is:

Write one report, not at least three.

Writing aside, the draft’s disjointed nature, of course, reflects the difficulty in integrating anything involving overlapping government jurisdictions, policy advocates, and political office-holders. Unfortunately, you can’t get much more integrated than transportation. Things literally overlap, all over the place.

So while lighting this metaphorical candle, I will also do something that writers and public policy nerds have done since the dawn of bureaucracy:

I will steal stuff from another, better, long-range transportation plan.

Hell, reflecting my extremely lazy and uncreative mind, I won’t even both typing or formatting it. Below are a few screengrabs (apologies for the length of them, but I think they’re worth it) from the 2016 Tucson/Pima Association of Governments *2045 long-range plan. I use Tucson not only because it is the Portland to our Seattle in terms of broad similarity (population, demographics, weather, etc.), but because Tucson’s plan:

  1. Calls it a “Regional Mobility and Accessibility Plan” (RMAP) instead of simply a “Metropolitan Transportation Plan,” putting accessibility right there in the title.
  2. States and constantly integrates a cohesive vision throughout its plan.
  3. Heightens emphasis on safety and environmental stewardship.
  4. Includes emphasis on environmental stewardship without including a disjointed chapter on Climate Change that doesn’t tie back to transportation.
  5. (Here’s the most important one) Includes specific goals/performance measures steeped in the document’s cohesive mission.
  6. Thoroughly integrates the goals/performance measures, illustrating understanding of the jurisdictional, policy, and political overlaps of transportation.

rmap vision goals

goals rmap one

rmap multimodal

rmap stewardship
The Vision/Goals page and selected excerpts from Appendix 1 of the Tucson “RMAP.” Personally, I think we in the Middle Rio Grands should just steal all of the above and send the folks in Tucson all the Duran’s carne adovada they can eat as sign of appreciation.


*Why Pima Association of Governments already finished their 2045 long-range plan back in 2016, while we’re just getting to finalizing our 2040 update in 2020 is a good question. Thanks for asking that.

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