Managed Growth, Less traffic
Susan’s grandparents on both sides, were farmers.
She learned the importance of “carrying capacity” from the ground up, understanding that there is a point beyond which no amount of infrastructure improvements can sustain a healthy community, be it a farm or a city. It’s not a matter of wanting to maintain a certain level of service for those “first in”, as some special interests would have you believe. Rather, it’s a matter of wanting to maintain the things we value about Boulder, the things that previous generations worked so hard to maintain for us -- like our Open Space and our mountain views -- so that everyone in Boulder, both newcomers and old timers, can continue to enjoy the friendly, creative, low-stress place we all love.
One of the challenges that comes with our business prosperity is the amount of people commuting in and out of Boulder every day, some 60,000 cars. Susan would like to see us work more closely with Boulder employers to lessen in-commuting by encouraging regional offices in commuters’ local communities. Boulder is at the point where we can say, “We’re doing pretty well” in terms of jobs, with our 2.5% unemployment (which is, statistically, full employment). Perhaps we can “share the wealth” in terms of jobs, with our neighboring communities and be a better regional partner rather than monopolizing and dominating all the jobs. Our other NW Corridor partner cities of Lafayette, Broomfield, Longmont, Louisville, and Westminster need good jobs, too!
Further, Susan would like to see more business participation in mitigating the impacts of this added traffic by providing EcoPasses for all employees and taking other measures to incentivize less driving.
For those of us who live here, Susan would like to see even more emphasis put on biking more and driving less. Our system of bike paths is a good start, but we’re still not in the running for “The 20 Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities on the Planet”. The bright green bike lane designations showing up around town are great! Now, providing more physically separated bike lanes on major corridors to increase rider safety, and giving EcoPass users a place to lock their bikes at bus stops would be great first improvements. Susan would also like to see a city-wide campaign encouraging and incentivizing drivers to combine their trips, and achieve the personal goal set forth in the Transportation Master Plan that each person drive less than 7,000 miles per year.
there is a point, beyond which no amount of infrastructure improvements can sustain a healthy community
How many times have you heard someone say,
“Well, I guess
I shouldn’t complain about the traffic-
it’s so much better than LA.”?
Susan would insist that Boulder’s transportation staff develop plans for transportation service levels and cross-town transit time service levels that are acceptable for the people of Boulder, not based on national averages.
Managed Growth/Traffic Relationship to:
Climate Action: According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) estimates that on-road vehicles cause one-third of the air pollution that produces smog in the U.S., and transportation causes 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Minimizing motor vehicle traffic is one of the key things we need to do to take serious climate action.
And no, the answer is not to house all our in-commuters in Boulder. The Colorado average is 2.3 humans per job. So, if even half of our commuters lived here we would increase the population density by over 60%! Boulder does not have the natural infrastructure (primarily water resources) to support that, nor does it have the human-made infrastructure to support it, in terms of roads, traffic capacity, sewers, rec centers, libraries, parks, and police and fire.
Housing Diversity: Having people live near their workplace, whenever feasible, is a great way to reduce traffic. For that to happen, we need to have a better, quantifiable understanding of local workforce housing needs, both by income level and type of housing.
Open Space: The demands on Open Space, both from within Boulder and from regional visitors increase with growth. While I think it’s important to give people the opportunity to enjoy our Open Space, we must limit access to certain areas at certain times to allow Mother Nature the space to “do her thing”. We may need to explore “non-resident user fees” for our Open Space, vis-à-vis parking fees at OSMP trailheads for vehicles without City or County Boulder license plates.
Healthy Business: Our 60,000 in-commuters are a direct result of our business prosperity. By spreading jobs more equitably to the cities around us, we can significantly reduce traffic and the demands on our broader infrastructure. Since the same groups who have lobbied for our explosive commercial growth are very much against asking commercial developers to pay their way, they would be looking to - you guessed it - residents to pay for the massive capital improvements and more than doubling of Boulder’s existing infrastructure that would be required to support a substantial increase in population.
Social Justice: Providing low cost mass transportation for our workforce makes getting to work more equitable, as does spreading our prosperity throughout the region.
Arts and Culture: Great art happens when we have room to breathe!
Good Governance: City Council should insist that City Staff provide service levels that are appropriate specifically for our unique city, not as measured by some national average or by what’s deemed right for more urban places. Service levels can be defined as cross-town transit times, number of traffic light cycles before residents can clear intersections, waiting time for equipment at City recreation centers, crowdedness on Open Space trails, etc.