The Problems & Progressive Local Solutions
With aging transportation infrastructure across the country, local governments are faced with decreasing rideshare on public transportation, increasing congestion, safety issues for pedestrians and bikers, and a need to address carbon emissions. Now more than ever local governments need robust transportation policies, with careful and intentional planning local governments can create thriving transportation infrastructure.
Through investment incomplete streets, public transportation, electric vehicle charging stations, electric city fleets, creative land use, and more, local governments can develop high road solutions to updating their transportation infrastructure for the present and future.
When thinking about transportation policies, local governments should think about:
1. How is this reducing carbon emissions?
2. How is this making it safer for pedestrians and bikers?
3. How equitable is our transportation infrastructure?
Available Local Levers & Targets of Reforms
Transportation sits an interesting intersection of elected representatives and government agencies. Transportation planning commissions, county elected leaders, city elected leaders, and at times regional authorities all have an impact on local transportation infrastructure. Transportation doesn’t end there, with a need to engage with state lawmakers and agencies.
Engaging with these lawmakers on developing comprehensive plans, with funding to back them up, while encouraging cooperation between these entities, is where change happens. When doing so, it is important to know there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel. There are many plans and model legislation that can be drawn upon when engaging with these entities to show what can be done.
The city of Seattle is a great example to draw upon, with its investment in public transportation and biking infrastructure. In doing so, not only have they made their streets safer, but they have seen rider share increase on their bus system. It becomes easy to justify not investing in public transportation when rider share continues to decrees, but when the infrastructure is invested in and works, people will use it.
Current Reforms & Tools to Fight for Them
ProGov21 has a wealth of resources at hand for you to start putting together a plan for your transportation infrastructure. You’ll be able to find Seattle’s New Mobility Playbook, their Bicycle Master Plan, and their Complete Streets policy guiding principles. We also have resources from City Lab, such as them exploring exactly how Seattle increased rider share on their buses. You can also find an Alachua County Board of County Commissioners Ordinance investing in public transportation improvements. Progov21 also has a guide book from Smart Growth America, for policymakers, guiding them through developing a Complete Streets policy.
There is a diversity of resources on ProGov21 for you to explore, such as Minneapolis’s made Climate Action Plan, which includes how they plan on reducing CO2 emissions through transportation policies. Here they set hard goals for the reduction of CO2 in transportation emissions, focused on reducing the number of miles driven, they also include land use in their transportation policy- including land use, zoning, and transit-oriented development is a growing trend across the nation. For example, you can find an Austin zoning ordinance on Transit Oriented Development.
ProGov21 also includes its Green Fleet policy, which explores how to move a city fleet to alternative fuels in reducing carbon emissions. Portland integrated low-carbon fleet purchasing policies, centering “electric first” in its Sustainable Purchasing Policy.
Improving safety, transportation access, and reducing emissions can also be done through mitigation management. A Transit Center report, Modern Mitigation, explores best practices around Transportation Demand Management, which includes an intersection of many issues such as land use, bike and pedestrian safety, equity, and more for city policymakers.
Taking it to the Next Level
While a lot of work has been done across the country, with the need to rapidly de-carbonize there are still too many gas cars, and just cars on the road, many people biking, walking, or taking public transportation. There is also much work to be done to make transportation more equitable across the nation. With issues of funding and political will seem to be getting in the way.
Luckily there is movement on both fronts. Transportation Unions have been working to organize transit riders to put pressure on local governments to invest in better transportation infrastructure, especially public transportation. There is also a growing amount of resources that can help county, city, and regional government entities, such as Green Bonds, and capture value strategies in making- where cities capture the value of strong transportation infrastructure increasing the value of the surrounding land.
Helpers & Allies
You can find more resources from the following organizations on Progov21 to help build out local transportation policies:
- Center for Neighborhood Technologies has resources that touch on transportation around on land use, equity in transportation, and economic development.
- Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition has resources to help local governments develop Complete Streets policies.
- The Mayors Innovation Project has resources around how to reduce carbon emissions through transportation policies, parking, and bike infrastructure.
- Strong Towns