Over the past three years and particularly since last summer, the TPB has asked the staff to review CLRP updates for conformance with the goals of Region Forward, the COG Climate Report, Access for All, and the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan. The COG staff, elected officials and a wide range of stakeholders have committed significant time and resources into developing these plans and associated goals.
Dear Chairman Wojahn and Members of the Transportation Planning Board:
Please accept the following comments on the draft 2014 update to the Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP). The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) urges the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) to fundamentally reevaluate the entire Constrained Long Range Plan this year in order to meet the Council of Governments’ (COG) own goals, including addressing climate change and meeting ever-stricter air quality standards for human health. This reevaluation should include the ability to remove projects which do not support your goals, including allowing for shifting funds to transit and the internal connectivity needs of the mixed-use, walkable and transit-oriented activity centers to which you have committed.
Thank you. My name is Kelly Blynn, and I am the Next Generation of Transit organizer for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. I came to the Coalition after five years at the climate organization 350.org and several years of youth and student organizing on climate change. Needless to say, I see climate change as the defining issue for my generation, and it motivates me to work for walkable, transit-accessible communities that we know enable people to live lower carbon lifestyles.
The Regional Transportation Priorities Plan represents progress in identifying and setting transportation priorities. Particularly noteworthy is public identification and support for fixing the existing system first and the focus of the RTPP priorities on fix-it-first including maintenance, operational performance, transit crowding and improved alternatives to driving for every trip.
However, significant concerns were raised last month by officials on this body, particularly the failure to conform the RTPP to the goals and objectives of Region Forward. The updated letters packet includes a detailed set of recommendations from DC, and I understand that the Region Forward co-chairs have, or will be, making recommendations. WMATA and others, including my organization and the business group – Urban Land Institute, have also provided important recommendations.
These recommendations center on the failure of the RTPP to integrate within the Region Forward vision, goals and objectives, the failure to incorporate Momentum, the failure to address climate change, and the focus on toll lanes which lack the proven record of our transit and TOD investments. I wonder if you are all ready to endorse a vast, costly network of toll lanes.
The newly adopted draft falls short of addressing these concerns and we are concerned about it being released for public comment without additional fixes. In particular, the Executive Summary doesn’t even mention Region Forward and the Introduction continues to portray this 2010 regional compact as a subset of the now very old 1998 TPB Vision. Instead of Region Forward, it adds a lot of text regarding the recent Economy Forward forum, but that one day unscientific poll was hardly as carefully thought out an investigation of the land use/transportation connections as the effort that went into Region Forward.
While the RTPP now mentions Momentum, it only proposes incorporating the 2025 investments provided funding can be found, while not applying the same standard to its toll and other highway investment proposals. The RTPP also fails to incorporate Momentum 2040 and other transit expansion in the scenario B, even while it proposes a very costly, and still unproven, network of high occupancy toll lanes. The RTPP also utterly fails to mention the threat of climate change and the resulting need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation using land use and transit solutions.
In addition, the draft solicitation document for the CLRP fails to mention Region Forward, the climate report, and activity centers, despite the fact that we’ve debated this before, when you adopted an amendment to the solicitation document a few years ago. The goals of Region Forward, activity centers and climate report can be integrated into the federal planning factors. And, of real concern is that you are being asked to vote on the CLRP solicitation document in November, one month before you vote on a revised RTPP, but your expressed goal of the RTPP is to shape the CLRP. The solicitation document should say more than that the RTPP “should be considered.”
We are at a crossroads as a region, nation and world. We must fight climate change. We must recognize the success of our region’s transit-oriented development in growing our economy, reducing the amount of driving, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We must recognize how demographics and the market have changed. Therefore we urge you to amend the RTPP to conform it to Region Forward, fully incorporate Momentum, and let it guide the most effective transportation investments for a sustainable and efficient future.