Request to RTA Board — April 25, 2013

posted Wednesday, June 11, 2014        

Request to RTA Board

April 25, 2013

Honorable RTA Board:     Thank you for my reappointment to the CART as an original member. I continue to be honored to serve the RTA and larger regional community in this role.

Having closely followed the Broadway Blvd Project at public meetings and interviews, I want the following comments to be considered by the RTA. These comments reflect my sense of responsibility regarding the role of the CART to oversee the fiduciary mission of the RTA and reflect significant changes in the larger community.

The 2006 RTA Plan is essentially a plan to increase the regional capacity for safe modes of mobility. While economic and political constraints did limit acceptable RTA projects to correcting deficiencies in the existing system, PAG and regional jurisdictions in 2006 were anticipating high future growth,  more than 50% increase in population near the end of the Plan period. One RTA campaign piece warned voters that a 550% increase in vehicular congestion would result if the Plan did not pass.

Needless to say, these and many of the original assumptions did not play out and most probably will never play out, in particular driving behavior due to high vehicle fuel costs indefinitely. Indeed, we have observed significant changes in travel mode preferences as well as population growth rates. Walking, biking, car sharing, and bus ridership have all increased much more than proportionally and population movement to urban centers has been significant.

Interpretation of the voter will as expressed in the 2006 election results therefore should come down to implementation of “equivalent functionality.” This means that what we plan and build for the Broadway Corridor Project, as well as any RTA project for that matter, should reflect the ballot plan in terms of  equivalent “trips” summed over all modes rather than simply car lane capacity.

Currently, the RTA is overly concerned with the notion of funding roadway lanes and roadway cross-sections instead of multi-modal corridors and multi-modal alignments. The RTA Grant Road Improvement Project did include parallel bicycle boulevards and recently did find funding for their construction. In the case of Grant Road, PAG’s own published data shows vehicular traffic counts on the segments of Grant Road included in the 2006 Plan declined 20% between 2004 and 2010. Yet the RTA Project is increasing roadway lane capacity at least 40%.

An overwhelming and growing group of Broadway Blvd stakeholders question the significant roadway lane expansion and associated removal of structures given all of the assumption changes since 2006. While Broadway’s role as Tucson’s most important multi-modal corridor and high capacity transit designation continues to be strongly supported, the somewhat rigid position taken by the RTA is not. The ringing cry at the Broadway Blvd Taskforce public forum a month ago was: “This is Tucson’s last chance to get it right.”

I truly believe that it would be madness to ignore the preferred vision the community is saying it wants and continue to plan and build and spend scarce resources for a future that will most probably never exist. If that becomes the case, Tucson will suffer irreversibly.

The bottomline is this. We live in a very different world than seven years ago. We have a voter-approved mobility plan and funding source that no one wants to scrap and redo. We don’t need to bring in the lawyers. We as a region have immense obstacles to overcome in order to attract the young skilled workforce that will attract better paying jobs going forward. Smart, sustainable development which is urban, multimodal and mixed land-use is what the new generations prefer. Our region has already begun to move in this direction. The RTA needs to loosen up and join with the active parts of our community including the Broadway Taskforce and Coalition to find every possible way to make this happen.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bob Cook,  RTA Citizens Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee

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