Bicycle and pedestrian issues task force

RECORD OF MEETING

 

 

DATE, TIME, LOCATION: February 2, 1999, 4:10 - 6:00 PM, CDTC offices

 

PRESENT: David Adler (New York Parks and Conservation Association), Don Robertson (NYSDOT Region 1), Ivan Vamos (New York Bicycling Coalition), Katherine Forster and Steve Allocco (CDTC)

 

MEETING TOPICS: Updates on Regional Bike/Hike Map; Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail maintenance; improving access to Hudson segment of Mohawk-Hudson Trail, Spot Improvement Program candidate review procedure; Transportation Enhancements Program; future of Task Force.

 

DISCUSSION SUMMARY

 

Administrative Notes/Corrections

 

Steve Allocco noted that in the record of the November meeting, he had incorrectly indicated that Kevin McLaughlin was with the New York Parks and Conservation Association; Kevin is in fact on the staff of the Hudson River Valley Greenway.

 

Also, Steve introduced Katherine Forster, a recent addition to the CDTC staff who will among other duties be working on bicycle and pedestrian issues. Katherine comes to CDTC from the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (Ontario), where she was the staff liaison to the RMOC's bus/pedestrian advisory committee. (The "future of the Task Force" section, starting on Page 3, will include some notes on Katherine's experiences with the RMOC bus/pedestrian group which may have elements transferable to the CDTC Bike/Ped Task Force and, eventually, the Advisory Committee.)

 

Update on the Regional Bike/Hike Map

 

Work on an informational writeup on the effort to develop a new map (Action Item 1 of the November meeting record) is underway. Also, with regard to commissioning a small run of the Mohawk-Hudson Trail map to cover the period until the new regional map has been prepared, it appears that the printer of that map has gone out of business. CDTC will explore other means of getting an interim map prepared.

 

Update on Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail Maintenance/Improving Access to Hudson Segment of Trail

 

A letter to agencies with responsibilities for Trail maintenance has been drafted, and should be sent out in March. With regard to the Task Force's providing input to the Hudson River Waterfront Strategy effort, Steve reported that Mike Borges (who was one of Albany County's main participants in this effort) has left the Albany County Department of Economic Development, Conservation and Planning for a position with Albany Law School; CDTC will get in touch with the County's new contact on the Study with regard to Task Force input.

 

Update on the Spot Improvement Program

 

The details of the program continue to be worked out. Steve reminded the group of the challenges faced in structuring a program of this sort in a regional setting, noting that the model for the Spot Improvement Program operated in a single municipality, making it easier to execute from the perspectives of "area to cover" and general administration. Some of the contrasts and challenges can be summarized as follows:

 

Element

Single-Municipality Program

Regional Program

Project submission

Postcard system

Municipal proposal

Funding

Line-item in budget

Regional funds plus local match

Area covered by program

Within municipal boundary (typically 1-30 square miles)

Here, four counties (2200 square miles)

Project implementation

Municipal forces

Primarily contractors

Administration of small projects

Minimal

As much as for larger projects?

Intermunicipal arrangements required

Usually none

Commitments to local match, insurance coverage, permits in place

 

With regard to the types of projects which would be desirable for pursuit under the Program, the group discussed the idea of including safety projects in the list of eligible activities, if not in fact encouraging submission of proposals for such projects. Ivan noted that given the ultimate cost to society of cyclist and pedestrian crashes (see Page 6), it certainly seems appropriate to encourage safety project proposals; in fact, he suggested that certain high cyclist and/or pedestrian crash locations could be identified and "flagged" (perhaps in the Program call letter) as possible project sites, giving as examples Hoosick Street in Troy, Western Avenue near Crossgates in Guilderland (and probably the Albany section east to SUNY) and the Hudson Valley Community College area (Route 4) in Troy and North Greenbush.

 

Recorder's Note: A "balancing act" will be necessary here, for while various projects enhancing cyclist and pedestrian safety will be eligible for the Program, it is not a "safety program." This point is not made to suggest discouraging safety project proposals, but rather to raise the reminder that just one of even some of the more limited-scale actions to enhance cyclist and pedestrian safety (e.g., installation of a midblock traffic signal with pedestrian heads and buttons) could easily consume most or all of the Program's funds for any given year. Safety projects -- especially those of the sorts which might be necessary to even begin to remedy the cyclist/pedestrian concerns at locations such as the examples in the last paragraph -- tend to have costs on a higher order of magnitude than do the sorts of improvements which have been envisioned since the Spot Improvement Program concept was set forth in course of the New Visions effort. That said, perhaps we should fall back on the point raised in the November meeting regarding making sure that the call letter expressed the full intent of the Program such that the maximum degree of creativity could be applied to proposal development; one would suspect that the result would be a Program implementing a mix of "cyclist/pedestrian convenience-"type projects (e.g., bike racks and short-length sidewalk connections) and some basic safety-oriented steps (e.g., retrofitting a traffic signal with pedestrian heads and buttons). High cyclist/pedestrian crash locations could certainly be identified and used as "for instance" locations if people ask for examples of eligible projects, but there are potential problems vis--vis both program intent and "finger-pointing" (the latter is not a CDTC practice) which suggest that the call letter might not be the place for such indications.

 

Update on the Transportation Enhancements Program

 

Steve reported that a workshop on the Enhancements Program would be held on February 8, with the expectation as of the time of the Task Force meeting that there would be roughly 20 communities and agencies from the CDTC area in attendance. Steve noted that from CDTC's reading of the Program Guidebook, it appears that CDTC will have the opportunity to provide its own ranked list of proposals to the Transportation Enhancements Advisory Committee (which will make funding recommendations to the NYSDOT Commissioner). This is important, for CDTC's four counties are within NYSDOT Region 1, as is the area served by the Adirondack-Glens Falls Transportation Council; the initial concern was that a single ranked list would have to be submitted for the entirety of Region 1, and thus some attractive projects from within the CDTC area could be "pushed down" in the ranking in the course of assembling a single list from among three. (By way of comparison, in the Syracuse area, word is that NYSDOT Region 3 has already unilaterally decided that it will create a single ranked list of proposals which will include projects within the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC)'s area.)

 

CDTC staff have suggested to Region 1 that if for some reason a single list had to be submitted, some objective methodology such as a point scoring system with little potential for variation due to "subjective interpretations" would probably be the best tool to use; in such an instance, the possibility would exist that several projects would end up "tied" for high scores/placements.

 

Recorder's Note: The meeting took place as scheduled, with CDTC area turnout closer to 30 communities/ agencies (26 communities within CDTC's area, and 5 entities such as state agencies and consulting firms which may ultimately submit proposals for projects within CDTC's area). This bodes well for the Capital District's seeing a good range of quality project proposals and, hopefully, selection of a few proposals for funding.

 

Discussion: Future of the Task Force

 

The group spent most of the meeting discussing this issue, and generated several ideas for how to make the structure and function of the Task Force conducive to a vital Advisory Committee (the status which the group will have upon official adoption of CDTC's new Prospectus, or operating plan). Still, the course of action for enhancing the Task Force is by no means set, and future meetings will build from the starting points in the summary which follows to develop a new blueprint for the Task Force.

 

Citizen Involvement and the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton's Bus/Pedestrian Advisory Committee

 

To start off the discussion of how to revive the Task Force, Steve asked Katherine Forster to relate some of her experiences with the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton's Bus/Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Some of the highlights of this discussion were the following:

 

       the Regional Municipality (RM) also had a bike advisory committee, with a relationship to the workings of the RM similar to that of the bus/ped group

       the advisory committee met monthly, with meetings including a review of all transportation projects underway in the region

       there was a requirement that the RM get the input of the advisory committee on project development

       the bus/ped committee's meetings were well-attended, partially due to the fact that the Ottawa area has a good number of advocacy groups interested in participating, but also because many "unaffiliated" people simply went on their own

       the advisory committee included students

       the RM issued a call for intersection improvements each year based on accident histories; in addition, one problem location for pedestrians and one for cyclists was selected each year regardless of accident history (the latter point would seem to get around the "nobody does anything until after there has been an accident" concern)

 

Recorder's Note: From this discussion, it could be argued that the main difference between CDTC's Bike/Ped Task Force as it operated during the New Visions effort and the RM's bus/ped committee was that what the Task Force had to work on -- development of the bike/ped component of the regional transportation plan -- did not provide it with the opportunity to participate in decisions on shorter-term, "in the field" project content. Subsequent discussions (highlights below) included some ideas which would move the group into this new realm of action-oriented activity.

 

Attracting and Retaining Participants

 

Among the obstacles to getting people involved in the Task Force's work and maintaining this involvement is the general feeling that there is no continuity between the planning process and what happens "on the road." This discontinuity is arguably rooted in three sources:

 

       Who Plans versus Who Implements: The long-range plan contains regional goals, developed through a cooperative regional planning process. By comparison, projects are proposed for the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) by municipalities and individual agencies (the latter e.g., NYSDOT and the Thruway Authority). While the TIP is supposed to be in essence the implementation of the long-range plan, and the long-range plan may state for example that "critical travel routes such as Main Street should have bike lanes," the municipality and/or agency holding jurisdiction over Main Street may not desire to put in a bike lane due to

 

1.      having other TIP priorities such as pavement rehabilitation and signal replacement,

2.      having philosophical objections to providing bike lanes at all, or

3.      both (1) and (2).

 

As such, there is not the sort of "intellectual continuity" which would be the case if the people who developed the regional plans were the same people who participated in project proposal and selection.

 

       Time Lag between Project Selection and Implementation: Simply put, the way the TIP and federal aid processes operate, it can be as long as five years from when a project is added to the TIP until it is implemented. Over this time, even people who resolve at the time of TIP adoption to "stay on top of" a given project may (1)find that their vigilance wanes because "nothing is happening" with regard to that project, (2)forget about the project, (3)move on to other things, (4)leave the area, et cetera.

 

       Project Implementation -- Who Scopes the Project?: Project scoping (the identification of the purpose and goal(s) of a project) and the initial development of project content to meet the aims identified in the scoping effort are the bailiwicks of a municipality or agency which may or may not be inclined toward soliciting much "outside input." As such, there simply may not be a genuine opportunity for interested outside parties to influence the design of the project.

 

The group raised several ideas which could address these "discontinuities." Many of them were fairly basic, but there is value in listing even the most straightforward platitudes as watchwords for how the Task Force's new function should be defined:

 

"make sure people don't feel like they are wasting their time"

 

"make sure people have something substantial to do"

 

there should be some "cachet" or "status" to participation

 

a "large, flashy project" can attract/retain participants

 

there should be a sense that the committee will be "doing something big"

 

(As an example of "cachet," David Adler pointed to the SMTC advisory committee, to which people had to apply for membership. The SMTC committee's work on a major trail project connecting Camillus and Dewitt was given as an example of a "large, flashy project." As for "doing something big," Ivan cited the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council's advisory committee's sending a call letter to agency heads asking for their participation, stressing the importance of the players around the table. Steve noted that a similar approach was used by CDTC's Expressway Incident Management Subcommittee in convening a group of Incident Coordinators in the region's expressway corridors -- letters were sent to the chief elected officials of these municipalities, asking that they designate Coordinators who could speak for the capabilities of their agencies, that is, people "high enough up" to make decisions rather than simply say, "I'll have to check into that with my superiors.")

 

Steve noted that the highlights of David's and Ivan's experiences with SMTC and NYMTC seemed to offer some building blocks for a model for the new Task Force/Advisory Committee.

 

Working List of Elements: Model for a New Task Force

 

Context: Ivan provided some ballpark math based on statewide statistics as food for thought for the discussion of how to justify/motivate the next generation Task Force:

 

One recent year saw 3,294 bike-related hospitalizations and 4,404 pedestrian-related hospitalizations

 

If we assume 1,000 (only about 13%) of these hospitalizations were crash-related, and

 

we assume an average cost of $25,000 per hospitalization (Ivan noted that the costs of his 1997 crash exceeded $100,000),

 

this works out to $25 million per year

 

/ Thus, if nothing else, there arguably exists an economic rationale for taking steps to reduce the public costs of bicyclist and pedestrian crashes.

 

Ivan also noted that

 

for every assault injury, there are ~3 1/2 bicycle or pedestrian injuries of equal severity.

 

This context in mind, the group generated several ideas for future work, including the following:

 

       Bike/Ped element project development and presentation: Taking, say, six projects that are on the TIP, conducting thorough field examinations of their locations, and developing proposals for the bicycle and pedestrian elements of these projects. Present these proposals to the CDTC Planning Committee, with the aim being to get Planning Committee approval of CDTC staff's transmitting the proposals to the project implementers.

       Implementer education: Getting local agencies and officials to think about destination treatments such as crossings, bike parking and so on, and to see both project add-ons and free-standing pursuits of these treatments. (Developing an approach to getting this education accomplished seems worthy of future exploration.)

       Task Force composition: While all four counties should be covered, perhaps representation should emphasize the Albany/Schenectady/Troy urban core, where there is arguably the greatest prevalence of obstacles to bicycle and pedestrian travel.

       Staff work: Steve reminded the group that the Task Force has the opportunity to propose CDTC staff work in the areas of research, field assessments and the like. Much of this activity has historically been based on direction from the CDTC Planning Committee through CDTC's Unified Planning Work Program (the annually-updated blueprint for all CDTC activities); still, the Task Force needs to recognize that as it is a resource to the Planning Committee, the CDTC staff can be resources in turn to it.

       CDTC (based on Task Force indications) "imprimatur" on individual projects?: The question was raised (although a definitive response was not crystallized) as to whether there could be some special "flagging" or other indication of significance when a project with potential bicycle/pedestrian significance is added to the TIP. While the group will have to further consider this question and develop the concept, the basic idea was that CDTC could somehow distinguish a (non-bike or ped) project as particularly worthy of having greater care given to the question of whether and how to include bicycle and pedestrian elements in it. In essence, this would be a "signal" of sorts to project managers and designers. Were this idea to be pursued, it would be important that this imprimatur be truly selective in its application. Having the sorts of updates on project statuses Katherine noted in her RMOC advisory committee discussion as routine elements of CDTC Task Force/Advisory Committee agendas could provide the group with the opportunity to identify candidates for this sort of flagging by the Planning Committee.

 

ACTION ITEMS

 

Ongoing

 

1.      Preparation of one-page writeup on bike/hike map update effort to continue.

2.      Work to continue on outreach mechanism to be sent to potential "new players" in Task Force work, with sending out of this letter to be deferred until the group has firmed up its "blueprint" for the development and function of the new Task Force/Advisory Committee.

3.      CDTC staff to explore options for commissioning new Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail map using new vendors.

4.      CDTC staff to contact Waterfront Study principals regarding the Task Force's discussions of issues raised by the Study.

5.      CDTC staff to finalize and mail letter regarding Trail maintenance activities/budgets to municipalities with responsibility for M-H Trail maintenance.

 

New

 

6.      CDTC staff to work on development of evaluation basis for Transportation Enhancement Program proposals

7.      CDTC staff to review its mailing lists of general interested parties, advocacy groups and the like which might be interested in participating in the revitalized Task Force. Lists will be distributed at March meeting (see details below) for the group to review for additions and changes.

8.      CDTC to look into administrative and other implications of early ideas raised regarding workings and function of Task Force (e.g., presentations to Planning Committee, letters from CDTC to project implementers).

9.      Next Meeting: Friday, March 12, 1999, 4:00 to 6:00 PM, CDTC offices, 5 Computer Drive West, Colonie.