Looking Forward to Transportation Options

The front page of San Antonio Express-News, on May 19th, had a great article on the fastest growing cities in US. Turns out that Texas has four of them, with New Braunfels the second fastest growing! The other three are Geogetown, Frisco, and Pearland. San Marcos had previously led the list for three years. The article also mentions the high traffic volumes in Austin and that IH-35 in Austin is gridlocked a lot. When Atlanta had 100 miles of sprawl, the business leaders went to Atlanta and said they did not want their employees driving 100 miles to and from work, so please put in light rail. That is how Marta was born, for those of you who have been to Georgia and ridden Marta. The San Antonio/Austin region is in need of options to get around in each city and between the two cities. Austin has one commuter rail to Leander, and we are waiting for resolution of regional rail from San Antonio to Austin.

In the San Antonio Express-News on May 22nd, there was an article entitled "Texas Can Help Solve Nation's Transportation Ills" which is promising in that the goal is for university research and academia to help solve local, regional, and national transportation problems. And it turns out that researchers and government agencies are already working together more. There is promise in this approach. Perhaps, just perhaps, when we think about capacity, it will have a broader definition beyond road capacity, which means adding more lanes to a grid locked road, that may soon be gridlocked again. It might mean moving people not cars, as the San Antonio Tomorrow Plan 2040 suggests. Visit the SA Tomorrow website to read about the San Antonio Plan 2040, which includes the Multimodal Transportation Plan.

Learn about Transportation Options: Here Are Two Research Links

To get up to speed on research on transportation and transportation- related issues, go to Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Click on TDM Encyclopedia and Documents. There is even a Search function. This is an exciting, easy- to- read research organization that supplies transportation information.

Also visit the American Public Transportation Association and also read reports there in the Resource Library.

Barbara McMillin
Transportation Chair
May 22, 2016

Sierra Club Principles for Renewal of the Federal Transportation Bill (T5)

Strong Goals in T5 Authorization can direct federal agencies and constrain states, MPOs, counties and cities to spend federal funds to meet our goals below. Federal transportation funding is handled by separate congressional committees but we have included goals for it too.


Our goal for the federal T5 legislation is that it will increase connectivity between people and destinations, and  minimize Greenhouse Gas and other pollutant emissions while moving people and freight.

Our goal for state funding initiatives is that they empower and incent local governments to take positive advantage of federal programs to initiate policies and programs that build healthy communities.

Healthy communities yield positive benefits for people:  Vibrant, walkable communities that enable people to combine short trips resulting from higher densities and mixing housing and commerce with safe, enjoyable walking and cycling (resulting from short trips, complete streets, unbundled driving & parking costs, and reduced driving speeds) and great public transit. It's "healthy" for the individual because she walks a lot. It's "healthy" for the community because commerce flourishes and open spaces are abundant. It's healthy for the economy because less money is wasted on gas, construction materials, etc. It’s healthy for the planet because dense, compact construction requires fewer resources for streets and buildings and saves heating, cooling and transportation energy and emits less GHG and other pollution.

Therefore, T5 and state legislation should encourage, incentivize and fund projects and strategies that will reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), by means such as:
* complete streets, including narrowing roadways, widening sidewalks & extending them at intersections, creating a network of protected bikeways, and calming traffic to encourage walking and cycling as safe and attractive alternatives to driving,
* local zoning designed  to achieve dense mixed-use infill development, to shorten trips to jobs, markets, services and recreation,
* safe speeds (30 km/h) in built up areas to reduce injuries and fatalities for all road users – motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, to achieve Vision Zero goals,
* safe, convenient and cost-effective public transit service that provides connectivity between concentrations of destinations,
* right sized parking, including elimination of unnecessary parking minimums, unbundling parking charges from rents, jobs (Parking CashOut), shopping and transit, commute alternatives  and Transportation Demand Management, and
* continued national efforts to construct a modern intercity passenger rail system.


* Transportation Projects, including federally funded, must address land use plans including effects on land use and evaluation of total and per capita VMT (increased or decreased) as a result. Projects intended to reduce VMT should be incentivized
* Projects should be evaluated on the basis of a comprehensive set of performance measures which include minimizing climate change and road collisions.
* Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) must evaluate risks to highways and transit systems and strategies for adaption and resilience.
* Require state DOTs and MPOs to investigate transit, TOD and Complete Streets solutions when evaluating traffic problems. Replace Level Of Service (LOS) requirements with accessibility and reducing regional VMT.
* Projects should be designed and prioritized to increase multimodal access.
* MPOs and local governments should be authorized to have flexibility in using all funding.       
* Rename the Highway Trust Fund as the Surface Transportation Trust Fund (STTF)
* Spur innovation and local initiative thru:
- national merit-based grants (e.g.TIGER) to states, MPOs and localities to improve infrastructure for moving people and freight while reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT),
- giving communities increased access to state administered funds for reducing VMT, increasing bicycle and pedestrian programs and achieving the legislation’s Goals,
- reward communities that raise local funds to address transportation efficiency.
* Spur Transit Oriented Development (TOD) near stations and intermodal centers thru innovative financing programs, including upfront credit.
* Measure performance to learn from and replicate best practices.


Increase freight efficiency thru:
* continued development of a national multimodal freight plan and optimize multimodiality by removing impediments to mode sharing using alternatives to trucking whenever possible,
* competitive funding of projects, without regard to mode, to relieve bottlenecks and improve last-mile connections,
* promote funding of projects that encourage shift of freight from trucks to rail,
* electrification of passenger and freight rail, and
* removal of capacity barriers to track sharing with passenger service. 

Spending Priorities

Reverse the traditional imbalance toward high-VMT modes by funding: 
* Transit and road maintenance first;
* Transit design and construction; and
* Road design and construction, weighted toward complete streets.


* Pricing should reflect fuel efficiency / GHG emissions like the current gasoline tax, and ZEV drivers should pay least
* Pricing should vary by weight to reflect road impacts
* Favor ease and low cost of administering the collection of taxes and fees
* Ensure privacy of electronic vehicle location data (if collected) and handling of  non-equipped vehicles
* Drivers should pay their fair share of the full costs of transportation infrastructure without subsidies
* It is appropriate for driving fees to fund transit, biking, and walking because these reduce vehicles using roads
* Land value capture, such as thru special tax districts, should be considered for funding transit.
* Truck only lanes should be a last resort and paid for from truck user fees.

See the Sierra Club's Transportation Policy for underlying principles which guide these recommendations.