Utahns for Better Transportation
Ms. Teri Newell
February 14, 2007
Dear Ms. Newell,
The integration of transportation and land use planning for population growth in the Greater Wasatch Area, one of the fastest growing areas of the country, has been the subject of numerous public/private partnerships grappling with the complex issues of growth. Indeed Envision Utah working with public, private and citizen participants has received national attention for its proactive approach to planning for quality growth. This letter is a request that the studies agreed to in the Mountain View Corridor Voluntary Agreement fully analyze an optimally sequenced, multi-modal solution to travel demand in the Mountain View Corridor that will help reduce the rate of growth of vehicle miles traveled and improve air quality. We are also asking that it consider the health effects of a major freeway so close to schools and homes.
When the citizens of the Greater Wasatch Area voted in November 2006 to increase their taxes by a quarter cent to build transit networks faster, their action demonstrated a sea-change in their preference away from auto-only dependence and toward a balanced transportation system that would offer more mobility and more choices.
The MVC Sequencing Analysis performed by Parsons Brinkerhoff fails to meet the basic purpose of exploring the longer term effects on future land use patterns of alternative transportation strategies. We have attached a memorandum from Smart Mobility, dated February 9, 2007, for your review and urge you to incorporate their findings into your plans.
Quality Growth Planning
In the lead up to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics we made significant improvements to our transportation system by beginning to build a regional transit system to provide more travel choices and create a balanced system whereby all modes (walking, biking, transit, cars) have their proper role in our circulation system. The Future Moves Conference in March 1995 gathered transportation experts and community planners "To identify transportation options that will keep us moving well into the next century." The conference highlighted the problems inherent in trying to accommodate the predictions that vehicle miles traveled will grow faster than population. The question was asked “How can we make transportation investments to allow us to grow as a community and not sacrifice our quality of life?”
In January 2000 Envision Utah published the Quality Growth Strategy(QGS). The QGS laid out six primary goals that need to be addressed if we are to protect our environment and maintain our economic vitality and quality of life as we accommodate anticipated growth. The top two goals based on residents concerns about the effects of population growth are “Enhance air quality” and “Increase mobility and transportation choices.” The other four goals cover critical lands, water, housing and infrastructure. The top transportation strategy to implement the goals of the QGS is “Promote the building of a region-wide transit system to make transit more convenient and reliable.”
In 2005 a planning effort involving public, private and community stakeholders developed Wasatch Choices 2040: A Four County Land-Use and Transportation Vision that developed growth principles and implementation strategies based on integrated land-use/transportation planning. Two of the key principles for transportation planning from that effort are to “Develop a balanced multi-modal transportation system” and to “Support actions that reduce growth in per capita vehicle miles of travel.”
In the Wasatch Choices 2040 process four scenarios were developed to define the configuration and measure the performance of various approaches to growth. The report outlined lessons learned from the scenarios such as:
Mixed-use development reduces driving distances and congestion
In 2003 Envision Utah facilitated the Mountain View Corridor Growth Choices process to run concurrently with Mountain View Corridor Environmental Impact Statement. On March 10, 2004 the various stakeholders endorsed the Mountain View Corridor Vision and each participant signed the Mountain View Vision Voluntary Agreement with the following Principle of Agreement:
We desire a balanced transportation system for our future that will involve more transportation choices. The phasing and implementation of transportation investments over the next decade will effect land use development patterns and therefore affect future travel needs and the availability and effectiveness of other viable transportation choices. The sequencing of transportation investments needs to be studied to recommend the most effective and cost efficient way to meet future travel needs, reduce the rate of growth of vehicle miles traveled, improve air quality through a better balance between auto, transit, walk and bike trips, and to recommend the best way to encourage the types of land uses throughout the corridor that will support these improvements.
Sequencing and Integration
In a time of change, the order in which we do things will affect the overall outcomes. The November 2006 vote of Salt Lake (64%) and Utah County (69%) citizens to raise their own sales tax to speed up the implementation of additional TRAX lines in Salt Lake County and complete the commuter rail from Ogden to Provo was a clear demonstration of the public's commitment to transit. The public has embraced the idea that convenient, reliable transit can play a key role in reducing peak hour traffic and providing more viable transportation choices. Additional light and commuter rail development was in the Long Range Transportation Plan for development by 2030. The 2006 vote was about moving the transit development up to 2015. People recognized that sooner would be better than later to influence development and household behavior to achieve a balanced transportation system.
Health Effects of Freeways
Recently completed medical studies in Southern California document the serious health risks of living and exercising close to freeways. The study, Effect of exposure of traffic on lung development in children from 10 to 18 years of age; a cohort study, W. James Gauderman, January 26, 2007 found that children who live within 500 meters of a freeway have a lung function growth rate 11 percent lower than those children who live at least 1500 meters away from the freeway.
The issue of mobile toxins in the air is especially important when school yards and homes are in close proximity to major roadways. Given that the proposed Mountain View Corridor eight lane freeway is proposed to be immediately adjacent to one high school and two elementary schools and hundreds of the residential back yards the analysis of health effects on residents cannot be ignored.