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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 result of spending $1565 million for TransPlan will be more congestion in Eugene-Springfield. We don't think that's good enough.
 

 

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 Says

The 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, lshoemaker@lane.cog.or.us, 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.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

ATTEND the PUBLIC HEARING
SEPTEMBER 29, 6PM, at the Lane County Fairgrounds.

Mail a letter or email your city council, with a copy to LCOG to go into the official TransPlan public input record, with your views on the draft TransPlan. Tell them you think the Council should give a "No Pass" grade to the current draft of TransPlan, and send it back for revisions including the following.

See the second box (below) for some specific suggestions.

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 regional population will grow by almost 50% over 20 years.
  • The number of automobiles is growing even faster than the population.
  • The number of miles traveled by automobiles is growing still faster.
  • Reliance on the automobile is increasing while the use of alternatives is decreasing.
  • Existing land use patterns encourage automobile use.
  • Transportation costs are rising while revenues are shrinking.
    Source: Draft TransPlan (February 1998), Chapter 1, Page 4.

    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."

    Source: Revised Draft TransPlan, May 1999, Chapter 2, Page 3.

    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.

    Source: Revised Draft TransPlan, May 1999, Chapter 3, Page 69.

    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.

    Source: Revised Draft TransPlan, May 1999, Appendix F, page 10.


    We all know great examples of natural Nodal Development in Eugene-Springfield. But we don't need more loopholes to subsidize big single-use developments like Hyundai.
     

     

    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 F

    Appendix F, Page 5, Paragraph 11 is interesting because it neatly puts the TransPlan marketing slogan—Improving Our Transportation Choices—in 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 usual—more 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 TransPlan

    The 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 TransPlan

    Despite the good stuff, there are several fundamental flaws in the plan and its approach:

    TransPlan is over budget before we even get started

  • $1.891 billion is needed, according the plan itself.
  • Only $1.565 billion is available, according to the plan itself—even with $131 million in new local taxes built in.
  • So the plan includes stuff like $95 million less of road repairs than even the usual standard.

    TransPlan makes traffic congestion worse

  • The plan itself says congestion will be worse, despite spending over $1.5 billion.
  • Expanding peripheral highways and adding new high-volume intersections at the outer edge of the urban growth boundary will mean more cars making longer trips over the same basic road network.
  • Lanes claimed for Bus Rapid Transit may restrict automobile traffic flow.
  • Transit ridership goals are too low to make a difference: for hundreds of millions of dollars of public investment, the transit percentage would only increase from 1.8% to 2.4% of trips.

    Trend modeling used for projections in the plan is deeply flawed

  • Timelines have been gerrymandered to over-count the value of improvements.
  • Projections include traffic improvements that the plan won't pay for.
  • Projections count improvements from nodal development, yet there's no funding for that either.

    TransPlan does not really support Nodal Development

  • Despite lip service to the concept, TransPlan is not serious about nodal development. In the current plan, virtually any area denser than usual is automatically labeled as "nodal development."
  • True nodal development is one of the best ways available to build compact livable cities without suburban sprawl. Fake nodal development is just a loophole for subsidies to big developers.

    Bus Rapid Transit needs closer scrutiny because of big potential roadway impacts

  • The first experimental piece of the BRT system will require variously taking over a lane or major street widening for the whole east-west length of Eugene-Springfield.
  • Large park-and-ride lots will impact neighborhoods, landscape, and social patterns.

    TransPlan encourages sprawl!

  • Transportation infrastructure creates development, because of simple economics. The current TransPlan is dedicated to expanding peripheral highways and adding new high-volume intersections right at the edge of the urban growth boundary. Building these overpasses will create a huge force for expanding development broadly north and west into farms and open land.
  • Instead of building for sprawl, the community consensus for compact growth needs to be the basis of a more open and serious approach to transportation planning. Simply to maintain our quality of life as more and more people come into this area, the quality of planning and development will need to steadily increase. We just can't afford to keep doing transportation planning in a vacuum. It's too important to the entire landscape to just delegate to highway engineers.


    We Oregonians care about living close to green space, even in town. As more people move to Eugene-Springfield, we need to raise the quality of planning to maintain our quality of life.
     

     

    TransPlan commits hundreds of road and highway projects all at once

  • The long list of road and highway construction projects listed in TransPlan (indexed with a unique approach that does not include any page numbers) are incorporated by reference into the LCOG Metro Plan. That means we're agreeing to all these projects right now in a big lump, without any chance for individual review.
  • TransPlan includes an amendment to eliminate the current system of "refinement plans" for road building projects. These local plans currently address immediate issues of land use, safety, crime prevention, and visual impacts.

    Environmental impacts of TransPlan are hardly even discussed

  • $1.5 billion of transportation spending, and the cars, trucks, and buses it will support, can have a big impact on the local environment in terms of air and water quality (for salmon and people, too), habitat continuity, and access to greenspace.

    What it Really Means

    The 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 choices—quite 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 same—more traffic congestion, more air pollution and more noise on deteriorating roads.

    WHAT TO DO ABOUT TRANSPLAN

    1. SHIFT a significant part of ROAD BUILDING FUNDS from edge-city road projects, which tend to promote urban sprawl, to smarter projects that improve and maintain our existing transportation system.

    2. A better plan would have better TRANSIT PERFORMANCE. A bus ridership of slightly more than 2% of all trips is just not good enough for a public investment of hundreds of millions. This should include re-evaluating the expensive Bus Rapid Transit proposal versus other options, such as frequent neighborhood shuttles that take people to local commercial and employment places as well as link to city-wide bus routes.

    3. Budget money and develop specific policies for GOOD LAND-USE PLANNING. TransPlan should foster quality "nodal development" in our communities—places where residential, employment, and commercial services are close together. TransPlan should mesh with Eugene's Land Use Code Update to prevent strip-mall type development. And, TransPlan's current definition of "nodal development," which calls single-use developments such as Gateway Mall or Hyundai in west Eugene "nodes," should be rejected.

    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

    Written statements regarding TransPlan can be sent to the Eugene Council, Springfield Council, or Lane County Board of Commissioners, care of LCOG, 125 East 8th Avenue, Eugene, 97401 until 5pm, Friday, October 29, 1999.

    A Citizen's Guide to TransPlan
    © 1999 Friends of Eugene, All Rights Reserved.
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