GUEST COLUMN:
At the goals workshop
By Chris Baum

       I recently attended a workshop on goals for the Regional Transportation Plan and learned some unsettling facts.
       Three of the goals discussed in this workshop were surprising. First was a goal of obtaining enough funding to support our roads. One reason we are short on funds is that, per the transportation director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, 65 to 75 cents of every gas tax dollar collected in Colorado Springs is actually spent outside Colorado Springs, mainly in rural areas. The goal is to lower the amount we give away to 25 percent. In other words, we give our tax dollars to the feds and the state and they take three quarters of it and give it to other areas. Then we convene a workshop to figure out how to get it back. Why did we give it to the feds and the state to begin with?
       A second bit of unsettling information was put forth in another goal, to promote urban infill (developing empty lots) and blighted area redevelopment. Achieving this goal would mean that those in rural areas will see their tax dollars go to Colorado Springs since that's the only place that needs infill and redevelopment. This is hardly fair. So after the state and federal government have taken 65-75 percent of our gas tax dollars and given them to rural areas, we now have people being paid to develop goals of getting the money back. Our governments work at cross purposes.
       Thirdly, there were goals of reducing vehicle miles traveled per capita and increasing opportunity for travelers to choose methods of travel other than single occupant motor vehicles. This is the government trying to tell us how to behave, since these goals push for less automobile travel. In other words, the government solution to traffic congestion is to get us to drive less. This sounds really good on its face, but opposing arguments, that a more mobile public is more efficient, are not mentioned. For example, is it more efficient to go to the grocery in a bus? Is it more efficient to bring in experts from outside the neighborhood or use the less knowledgeable workers who are nearby?
       A more mobile populace means both the ability to bring in specialists who do things better and access to distant facilities that make our lives better. I can't imagine the plumber riding the bus. Nor can I imagine a trip to the Container Store near Denver via public transportation and carting back a load of large purchases. And if public transportation IS better, then why must it be subsidized? Wouldn't you rather have smooth roads than expensive public transportation?
       Most of the goals discussed would not affect much of anything. In fact, you wonder why 22 people would sit around and discuss why we need a goal of “maintaining or improving the current infrastructure” (I am not making this up). Can you imagine the opposite? Would it be: “Let our infrastructure crumble while we concentrate on light rail, bus service, and transportation for the handicapped”? Or is the latter the real goal and the former window dressing for the public?

Chris Baum is a Crown Hill Mesa resident and board member on the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN).