Thursday, December 19, 2013

Leadership in Motion Winners Define Leadership

On December 16, I had the honor of presenting the 2013 COMPASS Leadership in Motion awards. The annual awards ceremony is always a highlight of the year at COMPASS, and for me personally.

In my August 5 blog, when we were just opening Leadership in Motion nominations, I posed the question of “what is a leader?” As I reviewed this year’s nominations and award recipients, it was clearly evident that the concept of “leader” and “leadership” were embodied in the projects and individuals we were honoring.

I’d like to share a few of my personal observations and experiences regarding this year’s recipients.

·         The Kuna Downtown Corridor Plan, a joint effort by the City of Kuna and Ada County Highway District, provides a model of how different agencies, with different missions, can work together to create a plan that meets the needs not just of the agencies themselves, but more importantly, the needs of the citizens. Being able to jointly work toward a common goal of meeting the citizens’ needs is exactly what “government” should do on a daily basis. However, it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Both agencies showed tremendous leadership throughout the planning process to truly build a plan for the citizens of Kuna.

·         It takes vision to look at an old building and imagine what it might become; it takes true leadership to turn that imagined “what if” into a solid plan that not only preserves an old historic building, but also provides much-needed local amenities. The Historic Mercy Hospital Plan does just that. Unfortunately, history has shown that all too often good plans sit on shelves and gather dust. It is my sincere hope that this well thought-out plan will be implemented to turn that vision into reality.

·         The concept of serving the greater good through bicycles may sound far-fetched, until you see what the Boise Bicycle Project has done. Many people and organizations promote biking, but the Boise Bicycle Project goes far beyond advocacy…the organization provides lessons on bike safety, classes on bike commuting, and free and reduced cost bikes for children and others in need. The organization does much more than support biking; they support the community.

·         Janie Burns was asked to join the COMPASS Communities in Motion 2040 Planning Team in 2012 to represent agriculture and farmland interests. While Janie is a farmer, community volunteer, and a passionate advocate for local foods and farmland preservation, she is not a transportation planner and she did not have to say “yes,” when asked to serve. Yet, she did say “yes,” and took on this new role with gusto, attending meetings, asking questions, participating in work groups, and providing valuable input and insight that have helped to create a better, more thoughtful plan. Janie demonstrates leadership and the willingness to lead by getting her hands dirty (literally as well as figurative) on a daily basis.

·         I have had the honor of working with Kathleen Lacey and seeing her in action over many years.  While her professional accomplishments are impressive, Kathleen the person―the leader―is even more so. Kathleen is someone who leads by example; as an individual, she “walks the walk” of the principles she espouses in her professional life. Even beyond that, Kathleen exhibits leadership simply through who she is. She is a consummate professional who truly is a team player—she is respectful, thoughtful, and gracious with everyone she interacts with. Kathleen embodies “leadership” simply by being herself.

·         Senator Brackett may seem like an unlikely recipient of a COMPASS Leadership in Motion award.  After all, technically, he doesn’t represent Ada or Canyon Counties. However, it is exactly that that demonstrates his leadership—he is looking beyond his jurisdiction at the big picture and advocating for increased transportation funding, which will benefit the entire State of Idaho, including Ada and Canyon Counties. It takes a courageous leader to strive for the common good, no matter how difficult the task may be.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Photo Challenge a Resounding Success

We asked and you answered.

On November 30, COMPASS wrapped up its year-long “Your Treasure Valley Future Photo Challenge.” We asked you to submit photos representing values, ideals, and “things” you would like to see carried into the year 2040, or even changed for the better, and you responded.

Your photos will be used to illustrate Communities in Motion 2040, the regional long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon Counties, as well as outreach materials and other related documents.

Communities in Motion 2040 is nearly complete and is based on a vision for future growth that was developed by you and approved by the COMPASS Board. Key goals of that vision include walkability, preserving farmland, minimizing congestion, increasing transportation options, improving jobs-housing balance, providing better access to parks, and maintaining environmental resources.

That vision was developed through an extensive public input process, but the photo challenge took it the next step. Your photos, and the descriptions of what they represent and why they are important, will be used to illustrate and augment the Communities in Motion 2040 Vision, with words and pictures straight from you.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit photos. The photos themselves and the explanations of them are fun, creative, and thoughtful. They definitely help “tell the story” of our region and where its residents want to see it headed.

Take a few minutes to view the photos and read what the photographers had to say about them on our web page or our Facebook page and watch for them in the Communities in Motion 2040 plan and related materials.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Communities in Motion: Why Do You Care? Part VIII

This is my eighth installment in the series of blogs about why people care, or should care, about long-range transportation planning in general and Communities in Motion in particular.

We have been asking people – Treasure Valley residents, such as you  –  this question. I have committed to sharing those reasons with you each quarter in my blog. Below is the newest list. 

I’d like to extend a special “thanks” to those of you who shared your ideas on the “why I care” poster at the COMPASS open houses in August. You’ll see several of those below.

Why people care about Communities in Motion 2040, as submitted by you:

  • 2040 will be here before you know it!
  • It’s time for our region to be as great as it can be.
  • If you don’t plan it, it will never happen!
  • You can text while commuting on the bus.
  • The future is coming fast and it sure would be nice to keep the Treasure Valley a wonderful place to live – maybe even better than it is now (air quality, livability for seniors, etc.)
  • If people don’t start walking, they’ll be too fat to get in their cars!
  • Let’s preserve trees, farms, and open space to reduce air pollution.
  • We should all care! 
To share why you think Communities in Motion 2040 is important and why people should get involved ― why you care ― email and we’ll post your ideas here. The next installment will be posted the beginning of January.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Communities in Motion 2040: Focus on Maintenance

A prioritized list of 33 transportation corridors and projects for Communities in Motion 2040 (CIM 2040) is open for public comment through noon on Wednesday, September 4. These corridors were identified through an analysis of transportation system needs by the year 2040. In general, they represent improvements to, or expansion of, the current transportation system.

However, financial projections indicate there will not be enough revenue in the future to maintain our current transportation system, much less expand it. Therefore, the COMPASS Board of Directors has chosen to focus all federal transportation funding allocated via CIM 2040 toward maintenance.

What does that mean, and how does it relate to the projects and needs currently open for public comment?

For the purpose of allocating funding through CIM, “maintenance” has been defined as “protecting and preserving existing transportation systems and opportunities.Existing transportation systems include roadways, public transportation, and alternative transportation infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycles. The federal funding for local projects will be split (for maintenance) between roadways (82%), public transportation (15%), and planning/special projects (3%). Some “off the top” funding will also be allocated to Ada County Highway District’s Commuteride program and to COMPASS, before the funds are split.

The prioritized list of 33 transportation corridors and projects focus on improving, or expanding, the system (therefore, not maintenance), and are still vitally important. CIM 2040 must show future transportation needs and priorities. While these needs and priorities will be “unfunded” in the plan, they will help the region focus future efforts and serve as a starting point when looking at potential future funding opportunities.

The list was developed by assessing future growth as shown in the Communities in Motion 2040 Vision, and running a “deficiency analysis” to see which corridors will likely be the most congested as we grow. Current and future issues surrounding those corridors and the potential future transit system were summarized and the Communities in Motion 2040 Planning Team used that information to rank the corridors/projects in priority order from priority #1 (improvements along I-84 from Centennial Way to Franklin Boulevard in Canyon County) to priority #33 (build a connection between Beacon Light Road and Purple Sage Road, crossing the Ada/Canyon County line).

I encourage you to weigh in on the prioritized list of projects and corridors. Do you agree or disagree with the priorities? Why? We’ll pass your comments along to the COMPASS Board to consider before they act on this list and it becomes part of the draft CIM 2040 plan. The full draft CIM 2040 plan will be available for public comment in spring 2014. Click here to submit your comments – due by noon, Wednesday, September 4.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why Does COMPASS Keep Amending Communities in Motion?

A proposed amendment to Communities in Motion 2035 is currently open for public comment; comments will be accepted through noon, Wednesday, September 4, 2013.

The proposed amendment would add two projects to the “funded” list of projects in CIM 2035 – road widening on Eagle Road in Meridian and design of a road widening project on US Highway 20/26 near Caldwell. (Technically, the US 20/26 project would be listed as “partially funded,” since only the design work – not construction – is proposed for funding through this amendment and the project only encompasses part of the corridor.)

CIM 2035 has already been amended twice to add four other projects to the “funded” list of projects in the plan – rebuilding Interstate 84 interchanges at Gowen Road, Broadway Avenue, and Meridian Road, and widening Interstate 84 between Gowen Road and Broadway Avenue.

So, what’s up? Why do we keep amending CIM? After all, it will be updated next year, and we haven’t amended our other long-range transportation plans this frequently. CIM 2030 was only amended once, to add just one project. Why so many amendments now?

If a transportation project is going to be funded with federal funding it must be listed as “funded” in the long-range transportation plan, be included in the Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and potentially undergo an air quality conformity demonstration. However, long-range transportation plans must be fiscally constrained, meaning we can only plan for, or list as “funded,” projects that our financial projections show we can reasonably afford. Everything else must be placed on an “unfunded” list, meaning that the need has been identified, but there isn’t funding to pay for it. Some projects also end up on a “partially funded” list meaning that only part of a larger project or corridor is funded (if the CIM 2035 amendment is approved, US 20/26 will be on a “partially funded” list because the project proposed for funding is narrower in scope than what is listed in the plan). When financial situations change, plans need to be amended to reflect that.

That is what is happening with CIM 2035. The plan was adopted in 2010, and its financial forecast was developed in 2009. The financial situation was tenuous in 2009 and the financial forecast was bleak. The number of projects funded in the plan was significantly reduced from the previous plan.

However, two things have happened since then. First, the “Great Recession” caused construction prices to drop, in some cases significantly. This resulted in cost savings, meaning projects came in under budget, which left “extra” money that could be put toward previously unfunded projects. This was the case with the three interchange reconstruction projects. Second, as the economy has rebounded, development has picked up. The new Meridian Town Center development at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Eagle Road, under development now after delays due to the recession, is what spurred the need for the widening along Eagle Road.

Interestingly enough, this same Meridian Town Center development is what triggered the need for the same widening project on Eagle Road and the amendment to CIM 2030; however, when the economy crashed the development, and the widening project, were delayed, and the project reverted to “unfunded” in CIM 2035. The development is now underway, and the widening is again scheduled, triggering the proposed amendment. Most of the project is initially being funded by the developer, who will later be paid back through “Sales Tax Anticipation Revenue.” You can learn more about this at

Widening US 20/26 came about for a different reason altogether, though economic conditions and opportunities have set the stage. In a proposed agreement with the City of Caldwell, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), who manages US 20/26, would widen the road between Smeed Parkway and Middleton Road and the City of Caldwell would take over long-term maintenance of a different ITD road – a business loop route through Caldwell. This proposed agreement has allowed the US 20/20 project to move into the design phase and helps ITD fulfill its mission of enhancing mobility and supporting economic opportunities. The project will support economic growth in the city’s new Foreign Trade Zone. Design work for the US Highway 20/26 widening project will begin in 2014; however, construction for this project is not yet funded.

However, CIM will be updated next year. Why don’t we just wait and add the projects then? The short answer is, “we can’t.”

Projects with federal funding cannot be initiated unless they are in the TIP. Projects cannot be added to the TIP without first being listed in the long-range transportation plan as part of the “funded” transportation system. Projects must appear in the TIP when they are scheduled and budgeted – whenever an agency will begin to spend funds on that project, even if the funds are not for the actual construction, such as the case with this US 20/26 amendment. So, if an unanticipated project is scheduled to occur in the near future and belongs in the TIP, CIM must be amended first. It can’t wait for a regularly scheduled CIM update. 

Confusing? Yes. Bureaucracy? Maybe. But the process serves a purpose – it ensures that improvements are carefully considered, prioritized, and planned, and that public input is considered, prior to making decisions on projects that cost millions of dollars and affect the lives of everyone using the transportation system. Please take time to submit your comments on proposed CIM 2035 amendment by September 4.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

TAP in the TIP

Yes, it sounds like we’re about to tiptoe (or tap dance?) through the tulips. But, word play aside, putting some TAP into the TIP is a good thing for the Treasure Valley. The “TIP” is the Regional Transportation Improvement Program; a five-year budget of federally funded and regionally significant transportation projects in Ada and Canyon Counties. The draft FY2014 – 2018 TIP is open for public comment through noon on Wednesday, September 4.

“TAP” stands for “Transportation Alternatives Program,” and is a new (ish) funding stream developed under MAP-21, the federal transportation law passed in July 2012. TAP funds are meant for alternative transportation projects, such as developing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, managing Safe Routes to Schools programs, and improving transportation infrastructure to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The reason I say it is “new-ish” is that it is actually a combination of three old funding streams ― Recreational Trails, Enhancements, and Safe Routes to School. However, the implications to the Treasure Valley are greater than just a combining and renaming old programs. I’ve outlined a few of the more significant impacts below:

-          TAP funds provide funding that was previously not available in Idaho. In 2008, the Idaho Transportation Board voted not to allocate “enhancement” funding in Idaho. Prior to 2008, enhancement funds had been available for projects such as sidewalks and landscaping for transportation projects. But, since 2008, federal funds had not been available for those types of projects. The Idaho Transportation Board voted to allocate TAP funding for its intended use in June 2013, meaning funding is again available for alternative transportation projects. This is good news for all of Idaho, and locally will primarily affect the Nampa Urbanized Area and rural parts of both Ada and Canyon Counties.

-          “Transportation Management Areas” (TMAs) will receive their own TAP funds. A TMA is an urbanized area with a population over 200,000. The Boise Urbanized Area (generally encompassing northern Ada County) is the only TMA in Idaho. As a TMA, the Boise Urbanized Area will be directly allocated approximately $414,000 in TAP funds each year.

-          Safe Routes to Schools funding has now been lumped into TAP. Previously, Safe Routes to Schools had its own “dedicated” funding. Now, Safe Routes programs must compete with other programs and projects for funding. In addition, a 7.5% “match” of local dollars is now required for Safe Routes to Schools projects; before, no match was required. This has caused some concern for Safe Routes to Schools advocates, as its funding is less secure from year to year. However, Safe Routes to Schools was the top priority for TAP funding in the COMPASS planning area and is funded in the FY2014 - 2018 TIP.

We have already witnessed the great demand for these funds. In July, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) solicited applications for TAP projects statewide. A total of 89 applications were submitted, totaling over $14 million. Unfortunately, those applicants are competing for only $3 million, so many quality projects will not be funded. For the Boise Urbanized Area, 18 applications were submitted totaling approximately $4.6 million to be spent over fiscal years 2013 - 2018; all competing for approximately $414,000 per year, or $2.48 million over the six-year period.

You will see several TAP projects in the draft TIP. They can be easily identified by the “TAP TMA” notation under “funding source” in the TIP documents. At this point, only TAP projects in the Boise Urbanized Area (TMA) are included in the draft TIP. Because of the timing of ITD’s applications for TAP projects outside of the TMA, TAP funds allocated by ITD for projects in the Nampa Urbanized Area and rural areas of Ada and Canyon Counties will be added later, if funded.

I encourage you to take a look at the draft TIP and submit your comments on any of the projects -- TAP related or not. Comments must be submitted in writing and received no later than 12:00 pm (noon), Wednesday, September 4, 2013. Comment online or at an open house or send comments to or A. Luft, COMPASS, 700 NE 2nd Street, Suite 200, Meridian, ID 83642 or fax to 208/855-2559.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

COMPASS wants you to comment, comment, and comment some more!

Does COMPASS really want you to comment, comment, and comment some more? Well, yes, but bear with me. There is a method to this seeming public comment madness.

Two of COMPASS’ primary responsibilities are developing the regional long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon Counties (Communities in Motion) and developing the short-term (five-year) Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), or budget, of federally funded and regionally significant transportation projects.

We update the TIP yearly, and amend it, if needed, throughout the year.  We update Communities in Motion every four years, and amend it, if needed, in between. We ask for input from the public as we update or amend the documents.

Timing this summer has given us a public comment “trifecta” – we are simultaneously asking for public comment on three things:
  • An amendment to the current regional long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion 2035)
  • The annual update of the TIP
  • Transportation needs and priorities for the next regional long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion 2040)

The timing of the three different processes has coalesced so that we’re asking for your input on everything at once. We hope this will make the public comment process easier – you can visit just one open house or go online just once to view and comment on all materials.

That said, we do recognize trying to comment on three different issues at the same time can be overwhelming. To try to help, I’ve briefly outlined the three issues below – separated according to the time frame of each issue– along with why each is open for comment now.    

Time Frame #1, Within One Year: 2014
COMPASS is proposing to amend the current regional long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion 2035) to widen Eagle Road (State Highway 55) in Meridian between River Valley Street and Interstate 84 and begin designing a project to widen US 20/26 between Smeed Parkway and Middleton Road near Caldwell. Both projects are already discussed in Communities in Motion 2035, but are listed as “unfunded.” The Eagle Road project would move from the “unfunded” list to the “funded” list of projects and the US Highway 20/26 project would move from the “unfunded” list to the “partially funded” list, as only the design portion of the project would be funded through this amendment and only covers a portion of the 20/26 corridor. Construction on Eagle Road and design work on US 20/26 would both begin in 2014.

Why Now? We are proposing to amend CIM 2035 now because a project must be listed as “funded” in the current regional long-range transportation plan before it can be built with federal funds. Funding has become available to begin these projects in FY2014 – before the next update to CIM will be complete. Additionally, the project must be shown as “funded” in CIM before it can be added to the TIP. These projects have been added to the draft FY2014-2018 TIP, but cannot be part of the final TIP unless CIM 2035 is amended. The draft FY2014 – 2018 TIP is out for public comment now (see below).

Time Frame #2, Within Five Years: 2014 - 2018
The draft FY2014-2018 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) – a five-year budget of federally funded transportation projects -- is also available now for public comment. This is a routine, yearly, update. Among many other projects, the draft TIP includes the two projects discussed above that are included in the proposed amendment to CIM 2035. Accompanying the TIP is the draft air quality conformity demonstration, which is required in areas, such as northern Ada County, where air quality standards have not been met in the past. The air quality conformity demonstration shows that transportation projects in the TIP will not degrade air quality.

Why Now? COMPASS updates the TIP on a yearly basis, to be adopted by the COMPASS Board before the beginning of the federal fiscal year, which is October 1.

Time Frame #3, 25 Years and Beyond: 2040
Communities in Motion 2035, discussed above, is the current regional long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon Counties. COMPASS is updating that plan to produce the next regional long-range transportation plan: Communities in Motion 2040 (CIM 2040).

For CIM 2040, the COMPASS Board has decided to focus federal transportation funding on maintenance to address an ever-increasing maintenance shortfall. Even though federal transportation funds will be directed toward maintenance, CIM 2040 still needs to contain a list of future transportation needs and priorities. These needs/priorities help the region focus future efforts and serve as a basis for potential future funding opportunities. COMPASS is looking for your feedback on transportation needs/priorities as shown on a prioritized list of 33 transportation corridors and projects.

Why Now? The COMPASS Board is expected to act on this list of corridors and projects in September, and will be provided with your comments to take into consideration prior to taking any action. The full draft CIM 2040 plan will be available for public comment in spring 2014.

Comments must be submitted in writing and received no later than 12:00 pm (noon), Wednesday, September 4, 2013. Comment online or at an open house, or send comments to or A. Luft, COMPASS, 700 NE 2nd Street, Meridian, ID  83642; or fax to 208/855-2559.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What is a leader?

Each year, COMPASS presents its annual Leadership in Motion awards. Nominations for the 2013 awards have just opened; visit to submit your nomination between now and September 26, 2013.

As we’ve been preparing for the 2013 awards, something made me stop and really think about the title of the awards: Leadership in Motion. What does it mean?

First of all, what is “leadership”?

Warren Bennis, pioneer in the field of studying leadership, states that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” To me, this captures the essence of leadership. It is not simply about getting something done. Given time, tools, and training, most of us can accomplish even the most complex tasks, but that doesn’t necessarily make us leaders. Anyone can get something done; a leader inspires others to accomplish something visionary.

Second, what do we mean by “Leadership in Motion”? While “in motion” is obviously taken from the title of our long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion), to me it also signifies that aspect of leadership that is truly “in motion” – striving to be better and not content to be stagnant or rest of the laurels of what has been done.

As you consider what people or which projects to nominate for the 2013 Leadership in Motion awards, think about what being a “leader” who is “in motion” actually means. Consider who, or what, truly fulfills the meanings of those words. Then, take a moment to submit your nominations. Learn more about award categories and submit your nomination online at

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Transportation and Economic Development

This is my seventh and final post in a series of blogs discussing Communities in Motion 2040 and the relationship between transportation and other elements addressed in the plan. You can find the previous blogs below. Today I am discussing transportation and economic development.

The concept that the transportation system and the economic vitality of an area are linked is not new. From rivers to railroads to Interstates, the proximity of a community to a high quality transportation system is key to a community’s prosperity or demise.

While we don’t anticipate a “new” type of transportation system to change the modern transportation landscape and affect the prosperity of the Treasure Valley, as happened with the advent of the transcontinental railroad and later automobiles, changes that we make to our existing transportation system have the potential to generate significant economic consequences. And, on the flip side, a changing economy can have significant consequences on our transportation system.

First, let’s talk about the effect of changes to our transportation system on our economy. COMPASS has purchased software called “TREDIS,” that allows us to calculate the long-term costs and benefits of building specific transportation projects. We recently ran this model on four road widening projects that could potentially be funded through Communities in Motion 2040: widening State Highway 44 west of the City of Middleton to State Highway 16, widening Interstate 84 from northwest of the City of Caldwell to the City of Nampa, widening State Highway 55 from the Marsing to the City of Nampa, and widening US Highway 20/26 from the City of Caldwell to the City of Meridian.*

The costs of these projects are staggering – they range from an estimated $95 million to widen State Highway 55 to an estimated $200 million to widen US Highway 20/26. However, the economic benefits are even more staggering. The model predicts that if built, these roadway improvements could generate an additional 9,500 jobs. These are new, long-term jobs; the figure does not include jobs generated by the construction itself. In addition, these projects would generate millions of dollars of cost savings to local businesses and the traveling public– mainly by reducing the time needed to get from Point A to Point B.*

Second, let’s look at the impact of economic development on our transportation system. If you’ve lived here long enough, you remember a time when Eagle Road was the quickest way to get from Eagle to Interstate-84. It would be an understatement to say there has since been significant economic development along that corridor.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of what was done “right” or “wrong” on Eagle Road; I only mention it as a prime example of how development can affect our transportation system and how things have changed in how this is addressed. For example, the Meridian Town Center, a large new commercial development, is being constructed at the intersection of Fairview Avenue and Eagle Road. The new development has the potential to increase traffic volumes on Eagle Road. The Idaho Transportation Department is working closely with the developer to improve Eagle Road to accommodate the anticipated increased traffic.

As COMPASS continues to develop CIM 2040, we are constantly reminded of the extent to which impacts of decisions made concerning our transportation system reach far beyond impacts to roads and buses, but touch all facets of life in the Treasure Valley, now and into the future.

*For this discussion, I've greatly simplified the descriptions of both the projects and the results. If you’d like more information on the proposed road widening projects or the TREDIS results, contact

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Communities in Motion: Why Do You Care? Part VII

This is my seventh installment in the series of blogs about why people care, or should care, about long-range transportation planning in general and Communities in Motion in particular.

We have been asking people – Treasure Valley residents, such as you  –  this question. I have committed to sharing those reasons with you each quarter in my blog. Below is the newest list. 

Why people care about Communities in Motion 2040, as submitted by you:

·         So when you’re walking down the sidewalk you don’t step on a crack and break your mother’s back!
·         Because if we don’t plan, someone else will make the decisions for us.
·         Believe it or not, today’s roads haven’t always been there. Someone had to plan for them. Now it’s our turn.
·         When gas prices go up (and they will!), what will you do?
·         Idaho ranks last in income and first in people with second jobs. Let’s plan so our economic future is brighter.
·         Because they don’t make SPF 5,000 sunblock!
·         My wife said, “let’s go out… and take me to someplace expensive.” So, I took her to the gas station.
·         Because when I turn 85, I want the ambulance to be able to get to me!
·         Have you ever waited for the bus that didn't come? Let’s fix that!

To share why you think Communities in Motion 2040 is important and why people should get involved ― why you care ― email and we’ll post your ideas here. The next installment will be posted the beginning of October. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Transportation and Health

This is my sixth in a series of blogs discussing Communities in Motion 2040 and the relationship between transportation and other elements addressed in the plan. You can find the previous blogs below. Today I am discussing transportation and health.

Transportation and health connect in many different ways, from providing transportation options for low income individuals to access healthy foods to environmental health and its impact on human health. However, in this blog, I’m just focusing on one aspect of the transportation/health nexus: active transportation.

As we were waiting for a staff meeting to start at the COMPASS office the other day, the conversation turned to working out. One of our staff members mentioned that as a child, she thought “exercise” was pronounced “extra-cise” – basically something you did “extra” to be healthy. 

While this got a chuckle from our staff, it occurred to me that too often that is the case – we view being active as something “extra” we do as a part of our day to lose weight or be healthy. Unfortunately, many of us fail to do this “extra” thing, which has lead to high levels of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many other ailments.

Through CIM 2040 we are striving to create a transportation system that encourages active transportation – walking and biking to get from “Point A” to “Point B” – by providing the appropriate infrastructure to do so, such as safe, high quality sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways. If we can design our communities to be places where exercise is simply how you get to work or to the store, instead of something “extra” to try fit into our busy days, we end up with healthier communities and citizens.

This concept reaches beyond a simple “feel good” message. The adult obesity rate in Idaho in 2011 was 27% -- more than one quarter of our adult population! That obesity epidemic comes with a cost, not only in lives and quality of life, but in dollars and cents. In 2010, the obesity epidemic cost Idahoans $320 million in health care, health insurance, lost productivity, and more. While that cost is staggering, it is nothing compared to future projections -- the cost of obesity in Idaho is projected to reach $1.5 billion by 2018.*

An active population can reduce those costs by helping curb obesity. While active transportation supported in CIM 2040 is not the “silver bullet” to cure the obesity epidemic, it is a tool available to transportation professionals to provide additional transportation options, improve our overall transportation system, and help Idahoans lead more active lives.

*Statistics courtesy of the Idaho Department of Transportation.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Transportation and Farmland

This is my fifth in a series of blogs discussing Communities in Motion 2040 and the relationship between transportation and other elements addressed in the plan. You can find the previous blogs below. Today I am discussing transportation and farmland.

Our rich agricultural heritage is part of what makes our valley the “Treasure Valley.” Yet, as Ada and Canyon Counties become more urbanized, it can be easy to forget how important farming is to our economy and way of life. Studies show that over 6,000 people are employed in the agricultural sector in Ada and Canyon Counties and that farmland encompasses 28% of all private land in the two-county area.*

The COMPASS Board of Directors has identified protecting agricultural land as one of the goals of Communities in Motion 2040. For that to happen, farming must continue to be a vital segment of our economy. But, as with any other industry, farming must be profitable, or the business owners – the farmers – will pursue other livelihoods.

Quality transportation facilities play a key role in ensuring that farming remains locally profitable and viable. Farmers rely on “farm to market” roads to transport their commodities to markets, distributors, and processing facilities. However, as our population grows, there is increasing pressure on these same roads from commuters. In addition, due to growth in urban areas, some traditionally rural roads have been incorporated into surrounding cities, but their function as a farm to market road has not changed, leading to large farm vehicles needing to move through congested urban areas to get from farm to market.

As we plan for a transportation system that meets our needs in the future, it is important to ensure farmers can safely and efficiently transport their products from farms to markets or processing facilities. We need to plan for preservation, and improvement, of these “farm to market” roads to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the agricultural community.

COMPASS has taken a first step toward this by considering agriculture’s needs in the long-range transportation planning process, but it is truly just a first step. We must continue to include these needs in our long-range planning to ensure agriculture remains a key and vibrant element of our region’s economy,

*Statistics from “Sustainable Agriculture: Measuring Success” study by the Urban Land Institute-Idaho.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Transportation and Community Infrastructure

This is my fourth in a series of blogs discussing Communities in Motion 2040 and the relationship between transportation and other elements discussed in the plan. You can find the previous blogs below (transportation/land use, transportation/housing, and transportation/open space). Today I am discussing transportation and community infrastructure.

First we need to tackle the issue of defining “community infrastructure.” defines infrastructure as “the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, such as transportation and communication systems, power plants, and schools.” In the context of developing Communities in Motion 2040, “community infrastructure” primarily refers to utilities such as sewer, water, and power.

So, what is the relationship between transportation infrastructure and “community” infrastructure? Quite often, these types of infrastructure are built, and work, in concert – or at least they should.

One practical example of the intersection (yes, pun intended) of these types of infrastructure involves construction and maintenance. We've all experienced what appears to be a lack of coordination when a road is torn up for a road construction project, only to be torn up again a few months later for a utility project. Coordination of construction and maintenance of transportation with other infrastructure can minimize impacts on citizens and potentially reduces costs.

A second example of how these types of infrastructure interconnect relates to development. New development depends on available infrastructure capacity, and in some cases may bring about the need for completely new infrastructure -- new roads, new sewer and power lines, etc. Or, the advent of one of these types of infrastructure may lead to the need for the others – the “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon. For example, construction of a new road can open an area for development, which then leads to the need for additional new infrastructure to accommodate growth in the area.

Communities in Motion 2040 goals highlight the desire of community leaders to “maximize the use of existing infrastructure” and to “encourage infill development,” to better manage the need for new infrastructure.

Why does that matter? Relying on existing infrastructure and minimizing the addition of new infrastructure can…

·         Preserve undeveloped areas. Using existing infrastructure, even for new development, generally means that new development will be occurring in or near a community or other development, as opposed to in an area that is currently farmland or open space. This, in turn, helps support Communities in Motion 2040 goals of preserving farmland and open space by discouraging development in those areas.

·         Make the most of existing investments. Encouraging growth in areas with existing infrastructure helps communities use any excess infrastructure capacity, and thus make the most of the investment.

·         Save money. Not only is building new infrastructure expensive in the short-term, maintaining that additional infrastructure is also expensive in the long-term.

I certainly do not mean to imply that growth should rely solely on existing infrastructure or that new infrastructure is “bad.” New infrastructure will be needed to support the growth forecast between now and 2040. However, as new developments and new infrastructure projects are planned, consideration should be given to how existing infrastructure can be used to its fullest potential before new infrastructure is built.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Communities in Motion: Why Do You Care? Part VI

This is my sixth installment in the series of blogs about why people care, or should care, about long-range transportation planning in general and Communities in Motion 2040 in particular.

We have been asking people – Treasure Valley residents, such as you  –  this question. I have committed to sharing those reasons with you each quarter in my blog. Below is the newest list.  

Why people care about Communities in Motion 2040, as submitted by you:

  • New projects may be coming to your neck of the woods…you’ll want to know!
  • Do you really want someone else planning your future?
  • So it’s still relevant to teach your kid how to ride a bike.
  • Because gas is expensive!
  • Because we all breathe the same air.
  • So “the journey” is as enjoyable as the destination.
  • Hindsight may be 20/20, but isn’t having foresight even better?
  • Because I don’t want to rely on a holster to carry my inhalers.
  • It’s your money!
  • It’s the citizens who know best what is needed.

 To share why you think Communities in Motion 2040 is important and why people should get involved ― why you care ― email and we’ll post your ideas here. The next installment will be posted the beginning of July.

Also – just a reminder to submit your photos for the “Your Treasure Valley Future Photo Challenge.” Visit to see what your friends and neighbors have submitted so far, then upload your photos.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Transportation and Open Space

This is my third in a series of blogs discussing Communities in Motion 2040 and the relationship between transportation and other issues discussed in the plan. You can find the previous two blogs below (transportation/land use and transportation/housing). Today I am discussing transportation and open space.

Transportation planning has slowly evolved from a focus strictly on moving people and goods in the most efficient manner to a broader focus that encompasses moving people and goods, but also integrates transportation solutions with land use policies to support broader societal goals, such as quality of life and a healthy environment.

As shown through the passage of the Foothills levy in Boise in 2001, the COMPASS scenario planning process in 2012, and the popularity of local parks, hiking trails, and the Boise River Greenbelt, preservation of, and access to, open space are key factors in the quality of life in the Treasure Valley.

What is the relationship between transportation and open space? How can planning for future transportation have a positive impact on open space in the Treasure Valley?

On the surface, these answers seem fairly straightforward.  The future transportation network can be designed to provide access to open space, especially for those who may not have easy access to open space today.

In addition, preservation of open space should be considered as new roads, bridges, etc. are designed and built. Are there places to augment the transportation network without infringing on existing open space?

However, is there more beyond that? Today I’m turning this blog around to you.

How do you view the relationship between transportation and open space? What connections exist, or should exist, from your perspective? Above we discuss how transportation can impact open space. How should or could open space impact transportation? Comment below and share your thoughts on this relationship.   

Monday, February 4, 2013

Transportation and Housing

This is my second in a series of blogs discussing Communities in Motion 2040 and the relationship between transportation and other issues discussed in the plan. I posted my first blog in this series (transportation and land use) on January 14, 2013, (see below). Today I am discussing transportation and housing.

Linking transportation and housing planning together is essential, since home is either the origin or destination for most personal trips. Also, transportation and housing are two of the largest household expenses. When the first national household expenditure surveys were conducted in 1901, transportation accounted for less than 2% of the family budget. Now it is 18% and rising.*  As families spend more on getting around, they have less money available to save for a down payment on a house and can also have more debt that will hurt their chances for mortgage approval.

The transportation system also affects where housing is built and where people are able to live. People need to locate where they can get from place to place and access jobs and services. Further, public investments in transportation guide developers in where they choose to build housing. An investment in a new road or rail line encourages housing developments along that route, particularly if surrounding land is inexpensive.

Similarly, development patterns can impact the need for, and viability of, transit services. Higher density housing, such as apartments, condos, or homes on small lots, lends itself to transit services, while dispersed housing does not. Additionally, lower income neighborhoods can have greater need for transit than higher income ones.

One of the biggest planning challenges local officials and the region face is how to make the best land use decisions with regard to transportation and housing. Being able to look at housing and transportation development together can help improve decisions that will create communities that meet current needs and are flexible enough to adapt for future growth.

When transportation and housing are coordinated, communities benefit from less traffic congestion and air pollution, lower costs for housing and transportation, lower labor costs, preservation of open space and community character, more efficient and environmentally-friendly land uses, and greater choices in development patterns, housing types, and transportation options. Through Communities in Motion 2040, COMPASS is striving to facilitate this coordination to achieve these benefits as the Treasure Valley prepares for the future.

*Better Coordination of Transportation and Housing Programs to Promote Affordable Housing Near Transit. US DOT-FTA and HUD, August 2008.

Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.