LSA goes for the Gold

We want to see pedestrian projects funded!

You’ve heard us say it many times, and we’ll say it many times more: everyone is a pedestrian. We’ve all been there; waiting to try and cross a busy street with cars speeding by at 45mph; clinging to the shade of a telephone pole while waiting for a ride; going for a walk with an elderly neighbor or a grandparent and having to help them get off the curb because there’s no ramp down.  Our entire region needs major improvements so that we can all walk safely and comfortably, but right now there’s virtually no money specifically designated for making those improvements. That’s why we’re going for it!

LSA is proposing that the next Pima County Bond include a pot of money designated for improving walking conditions in our region. 

Sidewalks, shade trees, push-button signals, better and more crosswalks,… whatever it takes on the ground to make it easier for us all to choose walking, because our health and the health of our community, the environment, and the quality of the air we breath all depend on it.

As part of our 2012-2013 Pedestrian Safety & Comfort Campaign, we think that increasing funding for pedestrians projects and programs should be a major objective in our region.  We can educate and encourage walkability from dawn to dusk, but if there’s no way to make improvements on the ground (literally!) our efforts will only go so far.  That’s why we’re working to make sure that dedicated funding is included in the next Pima County Bond.

LSA has been working on this for over a year and the bond selection process has dictated that we apply in a variety of ways.  Below is an example of our first application, based on the format provided by the County.  It will give you a good idea of what we’re proposing:

 

Project Name:  Pedestrian Safety and Walkability Improvements

Location: Pima County

Scope: $50 million for pedestrian safety and walkability capital improvement projects to be allocated on a need-basis in Pima County member jurisdictions.  There are numerous enhancements across the rural and urban landscapes of Pima County that would vastly improve safety and walkability at a relatively low cost. These may include, but are not limited to: enhanced connections and crossings; continuous sidewalk networks; streetscape improvements; traffic calming; and green infrastructure.

Each jurisdiction will be eligible to apply for funding by showing their commitment to developing a need-based pedestrian bond implementation plan within a larger long-term pedestrian plan that aligns with the goals and objectives outlined in the Pima Association of Governments Regional Pedestrian Plan Update, which will be completed by Spring 2014.  The PAG plan will include specific indicators that measure progress toward desired outcomes in pedestrian infrastructure and safety and thus will thus provide a built-in evaluation for the implementation of this bond project.  Living Streets Alliance will convene a transparent oversight committee to review proposals from each jurisdiction and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors based on each proposal’s demonstration of need and potential to fulfill the goals and objectives outlined in the Pima Association of Governments Regional Pedestrian Plan Update.

Bond money will be made available in two phases, with Phase 2 funding being contingent upon completion of projects from Phase I.  Unexpended funds from Phase 1 will be returned to the funding pool and dispersed in Phase 2.

Benefits:  Walking is the most basic mode of transportation and one that, until recently, has not received as much attention as other modes.  This, despite that every person is a pedestrian and walks at some point during their day.  To increase the number of people walking, the distances being walking, and the diversity of trips made by foot, walking need to be safe, comfortable and convenient, meaning that pedestrian networks need to be continuous and accessible, shaded or sheltered from harsh summer sun, provide safe connections that reduce conflicts with other modes of transportation, and connect neighborhoods to destinations from door to door.  A truly walkable environment has numerous benefits to individuals and communities including:

    • reduced traffic congestion, plus increased efficiency/effectiveness of a multi-modal transportation system
    • reduced levels of obesity, heart disease, adult onset diabetes, and other illnesses resulting from sedentary lifestyle
    • increased access for people of all ages and abilities, including the 33% of the population that can not or does not drive an automobile at any given point in time
    • improved air and water quality
    • curbed urban heat island effect

Costs: Currently undefined and infinite.  The proposal process will necessitate that each jurisdiction quantify the monetary value of pedestrian improvements needed within their own jurisdiction.

Bond Funding: Fifty Million Dollars

Other Funding: None identified at this time, however potential “match” regional or state transportation money may be a possibility.

Jurisdictions applying for funding will be required to provide a 2% match that will be designated toward implementing pedestrian education and awareness activities (which will be defined in their application).These activities would be designed to encourage Pima County residents to walk and utilize pedestrian capital improvement, and also educate pedestrians and drivers on pedestrian safety.

Fiscal Year Project Start and Finish Date: (Start: FY2015, End: FY2020)

    • FY2015-2016 Phase 1, $20 million: Jurisdictional pedestrian plan/project development, followed by first round of funding for capital improvements
    • FY2017-2020 Phase 2, $30 million:  Second round of funding for improvements, based on performance from Phase I

Project Management Jurisdiction: Each jurisdiction that receives money through this bond will be responsible for managing the construction of identified pedestrian capital improvements and administering accompanying education/awareness programs within their jurisdiction.

Future Operating and Maintenance Costs: Each jurisdiction will assume responsibility for future Operation and Maintenance costs of improvements made within their jurisdiction and will be required to provide documentation of their existing O&M policies.

Regional Benefits: The bond money will be allocated across the entire county in all jurisdictions that apply.  Thus benefits outlined above as they relate to pedestrian safety, the economy, public health and the environment are all on a regional level.  Additionally, a truly multi-modal transportation network (which benefits and is used by the entire region) necessitates walking as a mode of transportation.  Because everyone is a pedestrian, each and every resident of Pima County has a stake in improving the entire pedestrian network in the region.

Supervisor District of Project Location: All

 

The next section reflects the “why” behind our proposal.  The Bond Advisory Committee asked that we provide the following criteria , which we submitted in the following format on July 15th:

 

1. Broad Demonstrated Support by Public:  A desire for a more walkable community via increased pedestrian infrastructure has been clearly expressed by the public through extensive public input processes conducted by Imagine Greater Tucson.  Four of the nine principles identified by the public are directly related to walking: accessibility, environmental integrity, healthy communities, and quality neighborhoods.

2. Has Regional Public Benefit:  Every resident of Eastern Pima County is a pedestrian and stands to benefit from improving the walkability of the region.  Whether it is safe routes for children to walk to and from school, curb ramps for the elderly to move around their neighborhoods, or enhanced crossings for locals and visitors alike to access multiple businesses along a corridor, everyone has a reason for needing a safe, comfortable, and convenient walking environment.

When residents have a walkable environment that allows them to walk more and drive less, the following benefits apply across the region:

    • reduced traffic congestion
    • increased efficiency/effectiveness of a multi-modal transportation network
    • reduced levels of obesity, heart disease, adult onset diabetes, and other illnesses resulting from sedentary lifestyle
    • increased access for people of all ages and abilities, including the 33% of the population that can not or does not drive an automobile at any given point in time
    • improved air and water quality
    • curbed heat island effect

This funding will be allocated across the entire county in all jurisdictions that apply. 

3. Partnerships:  As the lead organization advocating for a more walkable region, Living Streets Alliance has received firm support and commitment from both the Pima County and City of Tucson Departments of Transportation, Downtown Tucson Partnership, Watershed Management Group, Imagine Greater Tucson, and numerous neighborhood organizations.  It is expected that the ELDER Initiative, Pima Council on Aging, numerous school districts, and the DOTs of other jurisdictions will be partners in encouraging and creating a more walkable environment through this process.

4. Other Funding Sources or Matches:  No matching funds have been committed at this time; however, if approved, it is expected that “match” regional or state transportation money will be a strong possibility.  Also, jurisdictions applying for funding will be required to provide a 2% match designated for implementing pedestrian education and awareness activities, which will be defined in their applications. These activities will be designed to encourage Pima County residents to walk and utilize pedestrian capital improvement as well as to educate about pedestrian safety.

5. Education and Workforce Training:  Each jurisdiction that applies for pedestrian funding will be required to include a method for youth training and employment in their pedestrian plan.  (An example would be training and employing local youth to pour sidewalks, conduct neighborhood walking assessments, etc.)  Additionally, part of the decision-making process in each jurisdiction will be to engage neighborhoods in understanding the public health benefits of walking.

6. Advances Board Adopted Principles of Sustainability and Conservation:  It goes without saying that of all the modes of transportation, walking is the most sustainable.  It is the most cost-effective, healthy, has the least amount of harmful environmental outputs, and is the most equitable – anyone can walk.  It has the smallest “footprint” on the land, and encourages density thereby increasing the efficiency of cities.  Investing in walking infrastructure will move regional transportation and growth patterns in a significantly more sustainable direction. 

With auto emissions accounting for 75% of Tucson’s air pollution (as of 2010), decreasing auto trips can have a major impact on reducing greenhouse gases and slowing climate change.  With 65% of U.S. trips less that one mile currently being made by automobile, a shift from driving to walking becomes a key mitigation strategy against the detrimental effects of climate change.  A walkable environment creates opportunities for “park-once” stops, which allow people who have already parked to leave the car and do the next few close trips on foot, rather than having to get back in the car in between destinations.

Many families cannot afford homes in urban centers, pushing them to the suburbs, which necessitates that they then spend a significant portion of their annual income on commuting.   This also expands the footprint of development upon the natural environment.  On the other hand, as walking (especially to good transit) becomes a more viable transportation mode, having one car instead of two, or no car, (a cost savings of $8,600-$17,200 per year) becomes more realistic for lower income families, making well-located housing in urban centers much more affordable to Pima County residents, even at seemingly higher rent or sales prices.

7. Previously Authorized Large-scale Bond Projects or Programs that are Now Short of Funding:  Not applicable.

8. Phasing of Large Projects:  Bond money will be made available in two phases:

    • FY2015-2016 Phase 1, $20 million: Jurisdictional pedestrian plan/project development, followed by first round of funding for capital improvements
    • FY2017-2020 Phase 2, $30 million: Second round of funding for improvements

Phase 2 funding will be contingent upon completion of projects from Phase 1.  Unexpended funds from Phase 1 will be returned to the funding pool and dispersed in Phase 2

9. Impact on Operating and Maintenance Costs for Governments and Commitment to Fund These Ongoing Costs:  Each jurisdiction will assume responsibility for future Operation and Maintenance costs of improvements made within their jurisdiction and will be required to provide documentation of their existing O&M policies.

10. Project or Program is a Capital Improvement, Not a Repair or Maintenance Project:  Capital Improvement: $50 million for pedestrian safety and walkability capital improvement projects to be allocated on a need-basis in Pima County member jurisdictions. There are numerous enhancements across the rural and urban landscapes of Pima County that would vastly improve safety and walkability at a relatively low cost. These may include, but are not limited to: enhanced connections and crossings; continuous sidewalk networks; streetscape improvements; traffic calming; and green infrastructure.

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