Deep Dive: Formal Comments on 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan Update

Emailed comments on the draft “Connections 2040 MTP” long-range transportation plan update mentioned frequently here at BB in recent weeks are due by 5:00 PM today, Thursday, February 6th. Here’s that email address.

mind the gap

For those interested, and there might not be very many, below are the comments passed along by your humble blogger earlier this morning. One of those “I’ve suffered for my verbosity, not it’s your turn” things. If the tome below is deemed very much TL:DR, the hyper-short version is: This thing needs work. Lots of it.

 

Dear MTP Authors and Decision-Makers:
Thank you for your work and invitations for public involvement in the crafting of the 2040 long-range transportation plan update. I was able to attend the January 30th public session on the plan, and the comments below are based on discussion at that meeting and a fairly close reading of the draft. While I could, and tend to, go on and on about such things, I’ll try to stick to some general comments (left also in the “comment box” at that public session) and a specific example of information/emphasis that I feel could dramatically improve the draft and process going forward.
Generally:
  • There were a record 103 traffic fatalities in Bernalillo County last year up from around 60 or 70 as recently as 2012. This fatality rate growth is much higher than has been our growth in vehicle miles traveled or our population during this time period.
  • The Target Scenario, Chapter 3, is core to this entire update, yet that Target Scenario doesn’t include safety/reducing traffic deaths/injuries as a regional challenge or guiding principle. This is an oversight that definitely needs to be corrected.
  • Aside from Chapter 5 on Active Transportation, little to no mention of how dangerous our roadways are can be found anywhere else in the draft. Cases of traffic death/injury are happening to all roadways users, drivers included, in record numbers, not just those cycling, walking, or taking the bus, the modes of travel emphasized in Chapter 5.
  • Chapter 4 on Optimized Mobility essentially defines “optimal” solely as getting from Point A to Point B as fast as possible with optimally minimal congestion. Getting to Point B alive or uninjured is evidently not considered an aspect of “Optimized Mobility.” This would be humorous if the issue were not so serious.
  • It is worth noting that Albuquerque ranks as 44th most congested city in the United States, with commute times lower than other cities, even those of similar size such as Tucson.
  • So, to sum these first few points up, the draft currently reads very much like separate documents written by at least two separate groups of folks with differing agendas and foci. The focus on safety and traffic fatalities/injuries in Chapter 5 needs to be a focus throughout the plan, very much including the Target Scenario. The pronounced focus on congestion throughout the rest of the draft is unwarranted to its current extent. All of us hate to be stuck in traffic, but we are currently stuck with a roadway system leading to record numbers of dying/injured roadway users, not record levels of congestion. Finalizing a long-range plan than relatively ignores this fact may very well be another factor in extending this unfortunate reality.
  • Finally, as a draft, many sections are understandably still incomplete, including specific performance measures and quantified goals to be crafted after these public meetings. Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be any chance for public feedback on those to-be-determined crucial measures/goals, and it’s hard to fully assist in this process without seeing those measures and goals. I understand that there is a bit of a time-crunch to meet a June 2020 federal deadline. This is quite unfortunate, and we need to realign future draft processes to better meet deadlines while providing sufficient time for public comment and involvement in development of specific performance measures and goals.
 
Specifically:
In seeking out best practices from other MPO’s long-range transportation plans, it’s hard to ignore the gap in quality between the Pima Association of Governments (PAG: Tucson/Pima County) work in this regard and our own. A look at their 2045 Regional Mobility and Accessibility Plan (yes, even its name for the document is better) is chock full of data, emphasis, and performance measures/goals currently missing from our MTP draft. To pick only one such gap, here’s a map included in the PAG long-range plan (page 50) reflecting completion of a process to prioritize sidewalk repairs in the MPO.
2045 rmap sidewalk improvement projects by tier
That prioritization process had been previously compiled by PAG into a 2014 Regional Pedestrian Plan, one that prioritizes sidewalk work into three tiers, breaking each MPO jurisdiction into a separate map and table specifying what is needed (such maps/tables begin on page 134 of the Plan.
Here’s an example map for City of Tucson tiers of sidewalk improvement in public right-of-way throughout that jurisdiction:
high scoring pedestrian needs tucson
While it’s a bit lengthy, I think it important to also read and consider the process outlined by the public and staff of Pima MPO (PAG) in putting this prioritization together:

 The following table of sidewalk segments and maps represents the highest scored sidewalk segments resulting from the use of the GIS-based pedestrian demand model developed for this Plan. Segments are limited to major roadways in the region. Other pedestrian-need locations have been included as high-need segments at the request of PAG member jurisdictions. The following tables are not an exhaustive list of all segments lacking accessible sidewalks, rather they represent only the top scoring segments in each of the region’s jurisdictions. Sidewalk status and accessibility data come from the 2012 ADA Sidewalk Inventory, which is current as of October 2011.

The data are presented at the segment level, not at spot locations; therefore if any spot location (such as a single curb ramp) along a segment is not accessible, the entire segment will be treated as inaccessible for this Plan’s purpose. These tables of identified needs are the result of an effort to provide a regionally-standardized method for proactively identifying needed pedestrian improvements. They are to serve as guidance and support to PAG member agencies in developing their own plans, Capital Improvement Programs, and as they submit for regional funding for pedestrian improvements. Tables and supporting maps are presented for each of the region’s jurisdictions. These do not represent a list of projects. The table also does not consider additional improvements, such as street furniture, shade, traffic calming, safety projects, or other elements that contribute to making public rights-of-way safe and enjoyable for all users. This Plan encourages incorporating those pedestrian safety and comfort concepts presented in the toolkit into individual pedestrian and roadway projects where appropriate.

As I understand it, elements of the process outlined above have been undertaken by Bernalillo County and a “Pedestrian Composite Index” (PCI) has been crafted by staff at MRCOG and is scheduled for updated inclusion into our updated Plan. While not having sufficient time for the public to see, digest, and comment on that updated PCI before final submission in June 2020 is unfortunate, far more distressing is that we are so far behind Tucson in:
  • Identifying needs in each jurisdiction throughout our MPO;
  • Prioritizing those needs;
  • Including results of this process in our long-range plan update; and,
  • Using those results to guide decision-makers throughout our MPO in funding desperately needed, highest-priority improvements.
Given how far we are behind in achieving any of the bullet-points above, my comments here are, unfortunately, geared toward future long-range transportation planning and not this interim update of the 2040 plan. I urge draft plan authors and decision-makers to deeply consider the gaps in what will be submitted as a “final” 2040 update in June, and commit to work toward bridging those gaps, sidewalk improvement prioritization very much included, immediately in order that such elements will not only be in future long-range plans, but will also be in place to guide jurisdiction decision-makers in doing what is necessary to make our community safer for all roadway users.
In short, I find it interesting that the marketing materials for this 2040 update process included this slogan:
mind the gap
I strongly hope our 2045 long-range plan does a far better job of following the directive to “Mind the Gap!” There is far too much gap left gaping in this draft.
Thank you again for your work to get us this far, and for the extensive public comment/involvement integrated into this process.
Sincerely,
 
Scot Key
Better Burque

 

2 thoughts on “Deep Dive: Formal Comments on 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan Update

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