Sustaining into Phase 2
But post-survey analysis includes major downsize of future transit goal

       A few inner doubts about its recent citizen survey for a proposed regional sustainability plan gave pause to a Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) “consensus committee” Dec. 6, but not enough to slow the 29-member volunteer group's plans to continue into a “Phase 2” that's expected to start in January.

Heather Bergman (center opposite) serves as facilitator for the volunteer consensus committee (meeting above) that is working with topic- specific subcommittees to develop a sustainability plan for the region. Members of the committee include elected officials, environmental advocates and representatives of military, schools, business and construction.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The eventual agreement of the members attending a survey review meeting Dec. 6 was that it's important to move forward on the concepts, that future surveys can do a better job of reaching out to more and different people, and that in any case Phase 2 will more clearly define how those goals will be achieved.
       However, a meeting consensus did drastically change a survey “stretch goal” that some respondents had been uneasy about - the one that had called for transit to provide 50 percent of vehicle trips by the year 2030. The committee's new 2030 goal for transit is 3 to 4 percent, based on staff information presented at the meeting.
       The survey as a whole suggested a future in which the region would be wealthier, healthier, better educated and more supportive of the arts by meeting such sustainability targets as use of more renewable energy, less water and fewer cars and production of less waste. The goals in general scored higher in terms of desirability than achievability, although even in that area a majority was in favor or at least “neutral” in all categories, according to PPACG staff member Sarah White.
       However, she added that some respondents raised questions “with how the goals would be implemented and if they would require high government intrusion, regulations or higher costs or taxation.”
       Using public and private funding, the committee is working toward a regional sustainability plan to help local governments preserve natural resources in the future; however, the process at this time does not call for the plan to be voted on, either by local governments' elected bodies or the public at large.
       A total of 188 survey responses came in. It had been made available to the public between Nov. 18 and Dec. 1. Surveys could be accessed either on the PPACG website or from the agency's office at 15 S. Seventh St. The largest respondent age group (about 25 percent) was 50-59, the majority live in the 80904 zip code.
       There was no paid advertising to let people know about the survey. PPACG staff member Sarah White said that press releases went out, but only two media outlets printed anything in advance (the Westside Pioneer and the Colorado Springs Business Journal). In response to a survey question, 21.8 percent said they had been informed of it by the media. The largest number, more than 60 percent, reported hearing about the survey after attending the recent Southern Colorado Sustainability Conference in Colorado Springs, with the majority of the rest having heard from a friend, White said.
       As to the 188 total responses, “I wish there were more than that,” she said.
       “I'm a little nervous with that kind of response,” agreed Susan Davis of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, noting that a coalition survey in the last year regarding the future of parks had attracted well over 1,000 people.
       Discussion at the meeting indicated a committee belief that most of those who knew about the survey's existence were those already in favor of its goals.
       Committee member Jane Ard-Smith of the Sierra Club commented, half-jokingly, that “This [Phase 2] is a chance to start the conversations beyond the usual suspects,” including herself among the “sustainability groupies.”
       Gary Reynolds, representing UCCS, said he had a “concern that the person on the street doesn't think about this very much, and I'd like to know what they're thinking.”
       Rob MacDonald, director of the PPACG, said he hoped that the “next time we do a survey we get a broader feel that will reach out to more average folks.”
       Regarding the difference between desirability and achievability, White said in her report that, respondents were mostly “supportive of the goal topics, but many expressed concern with the achievability of the goals because of unknown costs, political and social will, or other considerations.”
       The strongest example of the desirable/achievable dichotomy was the goal of having half of all trips accomplished by mass transportation by 2030. Although 63 percent of the respondents rated this goal as “very desirable,” according to White, another 63 percent gave answers between “not at all” and “neutral” as to that goal's achievability.
       City Councilmember Jan Martin, a committee member, said she had issues with that goal - that people might mistakenly perceive it as a government mandate (against the many people who now drive cars) and that such a high amount of transit use was “not reasonable in 20 years.”
       During an ensuing discussion, staff data emerged to the effect that with the drop-off in transit funding in the past three years because of a slow economy, the area's transit budget spending would have to be six times bigger just to get back to where it used to be.
       According to PPACG transportation staffer Craig Casper, the 50-percent-transit goal was actually a subcommittee'smisreading of transportation data, which wasn't caught before the survey went out. He said the current usage baseline is 1.6 percent.
       Committee member Dave Munger, representing the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO), proposed the 3-4 percent transit-use goal.
       For the survey as a whole, White listed the five most desirable goals as follows (“very desirable” responses in parentheses):
  • “Ground and surface water sources will meet their designated water quality standards and classified uses (recreation, agricultural, aquatic habitat, and/or water supply).” (83.5 percent).
  • “Indoor and outdoor environmental quality will be healthy for all, with air pollutant levels below state and local health thresholds.” (83.2 percent).
  • “There will be increas-ed accessibility, integration, and connectivity between where we live, work, and play.” (78.9 percent).
  • “All students will receive a 21st~Century education that prepares them for the future.” (78 percent).
  • “Regional higher education and professional skills training will be increasingly affordable and accessible to residents of the region.” (77.9 percent).

    Westside Pioneer article