PLAN-Boulder County urges Council to recognize that transportation decisions drive (or largely determine) land use patterns and quality of life. Transportation infrastructure and policies, therefore, should be conducive to the land use and quality of life vision Boulder seeks for associated nearby land uses. Conducive transportation decisions are the necessary first step in achieving desired land use patterns, financial objectives, and quality of life.
Oversized Streets and Complete Streets
PBC believes that a number of streets, intersections and parking lots are over-sized in Boulder. Oversized street, intersection and parking infrastructure induces excessive (or “low value”) car trips, excessive greenhouse gas emissions, excessive fuel consumption, a decline in the health of residences and locally-based retail, excessive noise pollution, a decline in community attractiveness and unique identity, and excessive sprawl. Such infrastructure also leads to a decline in lifestyle and travel choices, and creates affordability problems for households and local government.
Boulder is therefore to be commended for its plans for creating right-sized “complete streets” on Canyon between 9th and 15th Streets, as well as 30th Street. PBC generally supports the idea of having Boulder transform streets into “complete streets” (often achieved with a “road diet,” where one or more street lanes are removed), and evaluate such street transformations to determine if they are successful enough to duplicate elsewhere.
Capital Improvement Policies
PBC supports the capital improvement investment policies/priorities listed in the draft TMP, which includes: system operations, maintenance and travel safety (highest priority); operational efficiency improvements and enhancement of the transit, pedestrian and bicycle system (next priority); quality of life, such as sound walls and traffic mitigation (next lowest priority); and auto capacity additions (new lanes and interchanges)(lowest priority). This prioritization would support PLAN-Boulder County’s principle which calls for a “better balanced transportation system that actively promotes transit, bicycle commuting and pedestrian travel, and provides for smarter use of automobiles.”
Community-Wide Eco Pass
PBC would like to express support for a community-wide Eco Pass because it is an effective way to induce significant new transit ridership in the community, and because Boulder residents/employees already pay for a large portion of the increased cost of community-wide service.
Parking Maximums and Market-based Pricing
Minimum parking requirements often require the installation of excessive amounts of free parking, and the lowering of residential densities. Parking in Boulder should be made more efficient, not only by moving away from minimum parking requirements, but also by allowing more shared parking, more priced parking, more parking “cash-out” by employers, and more unbundling of the price of parking from the price of housing. When implementing these reforms, there will possibly be an increased likelihood of “spillover” parking, and Boulder may need to take measures necessary to address this. Motorists should not overlook an important benefit of these parking efficiency tactics: There will be less need to endlessly circle for an available parking space, as vacant parking spots will become more abundant.
PBC would like to express support for a market-based increase in parking prices, where appropriate (such as locations which tend to lack parking space vacancies). PBC also supports the eventual use of a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee. PBC urges Boulder to lobby the state legislature for authorization to use mileage-based car insurance, and authorization for intra-city toll roads. Each of these approaches would help Boulder effectively achieve many transportation and quality of life objectives, as well as institute more equitable, sustainable funding for transportation needs.
PBC recognizes and supports Boulder, in its updated TMP, putting much more emphasis on regional transportation, in part by analyzing the role that regional transit can play. In particular, we support regional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service on South Boulder Road, US 36, Arapahoe, and Diagonal Highway, as well as proposed development of Boulder Junction. We also support the policy to “promote urban design and development that supports walking, cycling, and safe access to transit,” including “affordable housing and transit demand generating land uses along existing or planned Community Transit Network and BRT corridors.”
Level of Service Standards for Bicycling, Walking, and Transit
PBC is of the opinion that the objective calling for a cap on congested road miles is outdated and counterproductive in achieving many important Boulder objectives – particularly in the Boulder town center. Like many other state and local jurisdictions around the nation, PBC believes Boulder should start transitioning away from such a car-centric (vehicle level of service) metric. PBC commends Boulder for introducing other metrics into the draft TMP update such as a VMT cap, and the use of a level of service (LOS) that includes bicycling, walking and transit.
An additional measure Boulder should consider (to begin moving away from the vehicle LOS objective) is a “Person LOS” measure that is now being crafted locally, is being strongly considered for adoption by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), and is already being used in cities such as Portland OR. A “Person LOS” prioritizes the number of people that pass through an intersection, rather than the number of vehicles. By doing so, a “Person LOS” gives the highest intersection design priority to transit and the lowest priority to single-occupant vehicles.
Should Boulder opt to move toward such a transformation away from the conventional vehicle LOS measure now in the TMP (and toward such measures as “Person LOS”), PBC urges Boulder to ensure that new measures discourage increasing the size of roads or intersections, and encourage the change of oversize streets and intersections to smaller, “right-sized” streets and intersections. The “Person LOS” measure may not fully achieve that objective as currently used elsewhere.