|Friends of Eugene|
|E U G E N E O R E G O N|
A Citizen's Guide to TransPlan
by Friends of Eugene - 1999.0915
TransPlan is a powerful document that will affect both the movement patterns and the development patterns of Eugene and Springfield for the next generation. Until last week, most people in Lane County had barely heard of it, yet TransPlan will effect every citizen for the next twenty years and more.
What is TransPlan?It might sound boring. It's a 20-year government plan to spend $1.53 billion on the transportation system of the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. But if you look beneath the surface, the implications of TransPlan get a little more exciting. That's because in reality this transportation plan is actually a stealth land-use plan. Put land use and transportation together, and you're basically defining the future quality of life of this end of the Willamette valley.
TransPlan is currently in a draft form, proposed for final approval by local government. There will be an important public hearing on TransPlan at 6pm, September 29, 1999, at the Lane County Fairgrounds. Following the public hearing, written comments will be accepted until Friday, October 29, 1999. After that, the Eugene City Council, the Springfield City Council, the Lane Board of County Commissioners, and the Lane Transit District Board of Directors will vote on whether to approve the current plan.
The Friends of Eugene believe that approving the current TransPlan would be a big mistake. To keep the Eugene-Springfield we know and love, it will take more than a business-as-usual attitude of just adding more and more highways and traffic lights. Even if the current TransPlan meets all of its optimistic goals, we'll see more congestion, more potholes, less available parking, and suburban sprawl taking over the landscape.
The Current TransPlan Document What it SaysThe TransPlan document itself is almost an inch thick. At the request of Friends of Eugene and some other community organizations, the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) has produced a tabloid "TransPlan Summary" which was distributed as an insert to The Register-Guard and Springfield News on September 8 and 13. (If you missed it, or they missed you, contact Lee Shoemaker at LCOG for a copy: 125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401, firstname.lastname@example.org, 682-4355.)
We highly recommend this official summary as an accessible source for the official story on TransPlan. Understandably, however, the official summary sticks strictly to the official "party line." We hope this unofficial Citizen's Guide to TransPlan will help you see beyond the summary to the inner workings of TransPlan and to its effects on the community.
Why is TransPlan happening? To meet federal, state and regional requirements, Eugene-Springfield must develop a 20-year regional transportation plan. Once adopted by Eugene, Springfield, Lane County, and LTD, TransPlan becomes part of the Metro Plan, the general plan for the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. The four jurisdictions are then bound to act in accordance with the plan.
Chapter One, the Introduction, points out some significant trends:
The stated goal of TransPlan is to "provide an integrated transportation and land use system that supports choices in modes of travel and development patterns that will reduce reliance on the auto and enhance livability, economic opportunity, and the quality of life ... by providing a transportation system that is balanced, accessible, efficient, safe, interconnected, environmentally responsible, supportive of responsible and sustainable development, responsive to community needs and neighborhood impacts, and economically viable and financially stable."
TransPlan proposes spending $1,565 million over the next 20 years: $966 million on roads, $579 million on transit and transportation demand management, and $20 million on bicycles.
TransPlan projects that the percentage of congested miles traveled (miles in stop-and-go traffic) will increase from 2.8% in 1995 to 4.9% in 2015. Spending $579 million on transit is projected to increase bus ridership from 1.8% of all trips in 1995 to 2.4% of all trips in 2015.
Although the TransPlan document is organized around several sections an Introduction, a Policy Element, an Implementation section, and a Performance Monitoring section, followed by A through G of appendices that's not the critical breakdown. You can cut through most of the details by focusing only on the one part of TransPlan that really counts: Appendix F, "Metro Plan Text Amendments." Appendix F contains all the stuff that would become legally binding government policy if approved by the cities and county. And, except for the road project list, if it ain't in Appendix F, it's probably just window dressing.
Close-up on Appendix FAppendix F, Page 5, Paragraph 11 is interesting because it neatly puts the TransPlan marketing sloganImproving Our Transportation Choicesin its proper place: "[various strategies all together] will improve transportation choices by helping to increase the percentage of non-auto trips from 14.1% to 14.6% by the year 2015."
Friends of Eugene does not consider a change of one half of one percentage point of trip types to represent anything except business as usualmore roads, traffic, noise, and sprawl. Eugene-Springfield deserves better.
In more detail, Appendix F breaks down into Goals, Land Use, Transportation Demand Management, Transportation Systems Improvements, and Finance. There is also a very long list of specific construction projects that is incorporated by reference.
What to Ask about TransPlanThe fundamental question in fall 1999 is whether the current draft TransPlan is good enough. Is over budget, underachieving, and threatening to the nature of our community the best we can do? Good Stuff in TransPlan There is some unreservedly good stuff in TransPlan. For instance, it includes $20 million (out of the $1,565 million plan total) for bicycle projects, including lanes and paths. Support in the plan for bike paths may or may not reflect open-minded local thinking, since these are required by state law to be part of the plan. And of course road building and maintenance are crucial ongoing activities.
Problems with TransPlanDespite the good stuff, there are several fundamental flaws in the plan and its approach:
TransPlan is over budget before we even get started
TransPlan makes traffic congestion worse
Trend modeling used for projections in the plan is deeply flawed
TransPlan does not really support Nodal Development
Bus Rapid Transit needs closer scrutiny because of big potential roadway impacts
TransPlan encourages sprawl!
TransPlan commits hundreds of road and highway projects all at once
Environmental impacts of TransPlan are hardly even discussed
What it Really MeansThe theme of TransPlan is stated as "improving our transportation choices." However, these seem to be little more than empty words to sugar coat a tough situation. There is no substance in TransPlan to improve transportation choicesquite the opposite.
TransPlan is constrained not only by limited revenues, but also by the limited vision of a plan that, although promising much, will in reality only deliver more traffic jams and potholes.
The level of spending, which is limited by expected revenues from federal, state and local gas taxes and other sources, is neither enough to allow for the anticipated increase in population of almost 50% (100,000 people) over 20 years nor enough to maintain existing roadways and bikeways. The result will be more of the samemore traffic congestion, more air pollution and more noise on deteriorating roads.
Eugene-Springfield deserves a better plan, a good and honest TransPlan. Nothing but old-fashioned down-to-earth coordinated land-use planning will allow for unavoidable population growth, for the development of new homes and the movement of more and more people around this town, while maintaining the close connection to the green landscape that we love.
TransPlan needs to be creatively rebuilt with real, practical, creative, and local solutions to the transportation problems we face, like small cities all over the United States. We need to communicate to our elected officials that we want a better plan, and that we're ready to help.
Official copies of the May 1999 draft TransPlan document and the TransPlan Summary are available from LCOG: Lane Council of Governments, 125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene, Oregon 97401, 541-682-4283 voice, 541-682-4099 fax
© 1999 Friends of Eugene, All Rights Reserved.
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