Car-reduction vision to PPACG board Feb. 9

       A public workshop meeting Jan. 20 revamped but did not significantly alter a draft set of Long Range Transportation Plan Update goals that will go before the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board of directors Wednesday, Feb. 9.
       Volunteer workshop leaders, who had been appointed by PPACG staff last year, combined and condensed their original set of 35 goals into 17 that retain their vision of an area that - starting in 2015 and continuing to 2035 - would have fewer people in cars and more using buses, bikes, van pools and even trains.

A call for a commuter train to Denver is included in a Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments workshop group's list of goals in its Long Range Transportation Plan Update draft. The draft offers no details on what kind of train it would be, or its economic viability, but it might be safe to assume that the engine would look different from the one above - shown on the last day of the Midland railway in 1949. Its regular commuter service had been discontinued several years before.
Courtesy of Mel McFarland

       The public meeting will start at 9 a.m. in the PPACG conference room at 14 S. Chestnut St. The phone number is 471-7080, and the website is ppacg.org.
       PPACG is the regional planning agency for El Paso, Teller and Park counties. Its board consists of elected officials from government entities, including Colorado Springs and El Paso County, within that area.
       The transportation plan update, when finalized, will be used to guide the regional direction local governments take toward transportation issues.
       The workshop members appear confident of their work. The document's mission statement announces that the effect of carrying out the goals will be “multi-modal transportation facilities and services that efficiently move people and goods, support economic vitality, and sustain and improve the quality of life in the Pikes Peak Region.” Also, there is a Goal 11 (“Improve economic competitiveness of the region by enhancing the transportation system”) that predicts future upswings in gross regional product, per capita income, added tax revenue and other financial yardsticks.
       A major transportation addition - a commuter rail service to Denver - is proposed in two places, but without cost-benefit information.
       Potentially contentious is Goal 15, which calls for reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels - 10 percent less in 2015, 20 percent in 2025 and 30 percent in 2035. According to the draft document, transportation causes 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. But the draft document does not state what specific socio-economic changes in the region would be required to bring about these reductions. The Westside Pioneer also asked PPACG staff Jan. 17, “Where is an impact study showing that cutting greenhouse gas emissions in this region will in any way improve our lives, economically or environmentally.” No response has been provided to that question as yet.
       At their December meeting, some PPACG board members - including current chair Sallie Clark - expressed doubts about the plan's seeming lack of fiscal realism.
       The draft contains several proposed “strategies” Among these are ideas for bolstering transportation funds, including renewing the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority's 1 percent sales tax, lining up “public-private partnerships,” increasing commercial and freight air service into the Colorado Springs airport, finding dollar sources “more stable than sales and excise tax revenues” and changing the present situation in which only about 25 percent of Colorado Springs' gas tax revenues stays in the city.
       Several goals contain language either discouraging cars or encouraging forms of transportation with fewer pollutants.
       Points in this regard include:
  • In Goal 2, using “demand management” (a method of influencing driving behavior) to reduce the number of cars on the road at peak times.
  • In Goal 12, calling for steadily decreasing “number of lane miles per person” in connection with protecting wildlife and advocating infill development.
  • In Goal 4, proposing the construction of grade-separated crossings for some trails (not for roads) “to enhance functionality and usability for users”).
  • In Goal 7, seeking to “increase opportunity for all travelers, including special needs and protected-class travelers, to choose methods of travel other than single occupant motor vehicles.” The goal's “Rationale” claims advantages resulting from “zero emissions,” “physical activity” and reduced personal vehicle costs, and concludes that “a safe and attractive environment for pedestrians has been shown to promote economic development.”
           Key to the draft plan is what the draft document calls a “meta-goal” (defined as a “goal about goals”), intended to reduce vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) per capita throughout the region.” The document elaborates: “Workshop participants felt that the concept of VMT is so thoroughly intertwined in all of the other goals, either directly or indirectly as objectives or performance measures, that it will be achieved through meeting these other goals. Therefore, it should be elevated as a special case, without its own objectives or performance measures.”
           Other goals among the 17 include calls for transportation systems that are safer, less polluting, more secure, more efficient, more cost-effective, better maintained, and protective of areas with cultural or historic qualities as well as of “citizens with disabilities, low incomes, and other special needs.”
           Regarding the last point, Goal 9, which is based on federal “environmental justice” guidelines, would add “HUD-defined special-needs groups” to those that must not be overlooked when making “transportation system investment benefits.” This appears to involve making sure bus routes run near them, according to a Goal 9 performance measure.
           The draft update also reveals a workshop-group wish that it not just be a transportation plan but an instrument of social change. Goal 17 calls for better communication and collaboration in area decision-making, followed by this “rationale”: “Over the past two decades researchers have shed light on the complex interrelationships among the built, natural, and social environments. These realizations have been mirrored by an expressed desire on the part of the public for transportation investments to affect change not just in improving mobility and safety, but also in expanding the economy, enhancing communities, protecting natural resources and improving public health.”

    Westside Pioneer article