principles for transportation investment

As part of my work with transportation advocates, and my personal passions toward a transformed transportation system, here is my Principles for Transportation Investment. It applies to all government levels, but in particularly was developed as an alternative paradigm for Measure B and “Son of Measure B.” Text below, and also a pdf (Principles for Transportation Investment). This is long, but I hope you will take the time to read and reflect. And comment.

Principles for Transportation Investment

The overarching goals for investments in transportation are:

  • creation and support of livable, walkable communities that are economically vibrant for all citizens
  • reduction of distance between housing, jobs and amenities
  • reduction of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • reduction and eventual elimination of crash fatalities and severe injuries
  • maintenance of our transportation system in a state of good repair

Our transportation system is out of balance, emphasizing private motor vehicles over transit, walking and bicycling. A ten-year moratorium on new roadways and roadway widening, through 2028, will jump-start the process of bringing modes back into balance.

In the past and present, communities of low-income and color have been under-invested, and often dis-invested through lack of maintenance. Future investments must therefore work to return these communities to parity. Specifically,

  • communities of low-income and color must be present at the table for all major transportation decisions, and funding will be allocated to support that inclusion in all planning processes
  • 50% of transportation investments will be in or directly benefiting communities that meet the established ATP/GGRF grant criteria for disadvantaged communities, for at least 15 years or until significant parity is achieved

Transportation investments must meet the goal of reduction and eventual elimination of fatalities and severe injuries. Specifically,

  • the top intersections and corridors with fatalities and severe injuries will be identified and will be used as the primary though not sole criteria for project selection
  • projects which may increase crash rates for minor injuries and property damage while reducing or eliminating fatalities and severe injury, such as roundabouts and mid-block crossings, will be considered for funding without prejudice
  • sidewalks will be considered an integral part of the transportation system, therefore sidewalk installation and maintenance will be completed as a normal part of transportation investment
  • bicyclist and pedestrian fatality and severe injury rates are high and increasing; therefore 25% of transportation investments will be devoted to bringing fatality and injury rates back to parity with mode share

Transportation investment must depend upon a variety of income sources including user fees, property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes. User fees should be the primary source, while sales taxes should be used in moderation because they are inherently regressive. Specifically,

  • at a state, regional, county and city level, sales tax measures must be complemented by actions to implement user fees, property taxes and income taxes to support transportation

Housing and transportation cannot be addressed in isolation and must be integrated through planning and investment. The economic impact on housing affordability and individual mobility is not just housing costs or transportation costs, but housing + transportation costs. Specifically,

  • no investment in rail transit should be made in areas where there are not existing plans or reasonable expectation of affordable housing development, and no new bus routes created where there are not existing plans or reasonable expectation of affordable housing development
  • governments must invest in affordable and “missing-middle” housing at a rate comparable to or exceeding investments in transportation

A successful transportation system must be integrated with wise land use. Specifically,

  • no transportation investments should be made which promote rapid densification and displacement
  • and conversely, no transportation investments should be made in communities or areas which are unwilling to allow a natural increment of density
  • greenfield development must pay the entire cost of transportation, including long-term maintenance, related increases in transportation capacity for roads, transit, walking and bicycling throughout the region which are engendered by the development, and transportation demand management

Transportation investments at all government levels will support the SACOG Sustainable Communities Strategy. Specifically,

  • since achievement of greenhouse gas reduction targets can only be achieved through a strong investment in transit, walking and bicycling, transportation investments will reflect those goals
  • no project will be funded which would induce increased VMT

Congestion relief in the absence of other measures has and will induce more traffic and therefore additional congestion. Therefore, all projects which are intended to relieve roadway congestion will implement controls to prevent induced demand, including congestion pricing, or will mitigate induced demand through corresponding investments in transit, walking and bicycling.

All transportation projects must address maintenance of the infrastructure in a state of good repair for all time, including eventual replacement cost. Specifically,

  • user fees must support a significant portion of ongoing roadway maintenance
  • fix-it-first must be a continuing commitment at all levels of government until the entire transportation system is in a state of good repair (SOGR), and then state of good repair must be continued
  • all agencies will have and implement a complete streets policy before receiving funding; all roadway repaving projects must consider re-allocation of roadway width to sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit lanes
  • governments will no longer take on responsibility for the cost of maintaining transportation infrastructure which serves greenfield development; therefore the development must allocate a long-term reserve to the maintenance of internal transportation facilities and any highway interchange which primarily serves greenfield development

Fiscal solvency at all government levels must be a guaranteed outcome of major transportation investments. Therefore, all major projects will include a transparent and accountable analysis of the ways in which the project will increase user fees, property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes which meet or exceed the cost of construction and maintenance.

All transportation investments must support improvement and maintenance of public health. Specifically,

  • investment must reduce air pollution, however, the traditional assumption that congestion relief reduces air pollution must be justified by actual data
  • investment must encourage daily physical activity in all parts of society
  • transportation modes which generate air pollution (roadways and diesel rail) will not be located or expanded near schools and parks
  • transportation planning must consider the removal or reduction of existing roadway capacity such as freeways and/or conversion of diesel rail to electric rail

Education of youth in transit, walking and bicycling will reduce future demand for private motor vehicle travel, and increase demand for livable, walkable communities. Specifically,

  • elementary students will receive pedestrian and bicyclist education
  • middle and high school students will receive transit education
  • 1% of all transportation funds will be devoted to youth education
  • transportation agencies will work with California Department of Education, school districts, private schools and law enforcement to develop and fund model education programs

transit vs parking parity?

There is a bill before Congress to restore the parity between parking tax breaks and transit tax breaks. Most of the media, unions and environmental organizations are arguing to achieve parity in the tax subsidy, by raising the transit benefit to that of the parking benefit. Some have questioned whether it might not be better to reduce the parking benefit to that of the transit benefit (Level the Commuter Playing Field By Reducing the Tax Break for Parking, Streetsblog DC 2014-01-02). I’ll argue that there should be no tax benefit whatsoever for parking. As Shoup says, there is no such thing as free parking. Any parking subsidy at all encourages drivers to make poor economic choices, which means in this case that they are more likely to drive to work than they otherwise would be. Ultimately, there shouldn’t be any direct tax benefit for any modes of transportation, not even bicycles. We can better express societal priorities by rational expenditure decisions than by subsidies. In the short term, however, it might make sense to continue transit (and bicycling) subsidies in order to make up for the past perturbations that we forced into the system with parking subsidies.

We should be arguing for the complete elimination of the parking tax benefit. Period.

When people, and their employers, come closer to paying the real costs of parking, we will have less parking and fewer people commuting by motor vehicle. That is a benefit that doesn’t require a tax subsidy.

removing Business 80?

William Burg started a wonderful conversation on Facebook about removing Business 80 from B Street to Hwy 50, returning the traffic to surface streets. The post is now up to 115 comments, and still going after two weeks. I believe that you have to be a member of Facebook to view this thread, but don’t need to be friends with William Burg (though you should). I agree with Jared that this topic should be amplified for Sacramento Press.

Some people think that this is crazy thinking, it will never happen. I think it will. Why? Not because it is a good idea, though it is, but because we will not be able to continue to keep these freeways open and in decent condition with future transportation funding. Caltrans and others have just spent or are spending $202 million on Hwy 50, basically just to keep in it usable condition. Not to improve it in any significant way, but just to keep it working. Where is the money going to come from to maintain Hwy 50, Interstate 80, Interstate 5, and Business 80 (Capital City Expressway)?

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