Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Transportation Funding – What Does it Really Mean to Me?

You have probably seen or heard news stories about funding our transportation system – from concerns over funding for vital regional projects, to the near bankruptcy of the federal highway trust fund, to debates on transportation funding in the Idaho legislature.

All of this may leave you wondering, “What does this mean to me…?”
  • Is our transportation system really in dire need of more money? If so, why?
  • How much money is needed? What would it be used for?
  • What would it cost me?
  • How do we pay for our transportation system anyway?
  • Are “they” going to raise my gas tax and make me pay more at the pump?
  • Is raising the gas tax the only option? Are there other things we can do locally?
  • If we raise more transportation dollars, will we get a better bus system? What about more sidewalks and bike paths?
  • If we don’t do anything, what will happen? Will it hurt our economy? Will our bridges collapse? Will I be stuck in traffic every day?

COMPASS is going to be addressing all of these questions, and more, over the next year in an intensive effort to raise the level of the conversation about transportation funding and what it really means to all of us.

We have created a new webpage to specifically address funding issues. In addition, be watching for monthly posts here in my blog, weekly “Did you Know?” facts on the COMPASS Facebook page, news articles, education series speakers (January – May 2015), and more, all addressing the many issues that surround transportation funding.

Take a moment to share your comments, concerns, or questions regarding transportation funding below (click on the “comment” button) …let’s make this a true regional “conversation” about this key issue and how it affects us all. 

Don't let the Treasure Valley fall through the cracks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Because inquiring minds want to know!

What do you want to know? Are you interested in how traffic congestion impacts how long it takes you to get from “Point A” to “Point B”? Or, are you more interested in how walkable our schools are, how many people are riding the bus, or how well the region is doing in preserving its existing farmland?

COMPASS has a new tool to help you find the answers to all of these questions and more. Visit the NEW COMPASS online dashboard (www.compassidaho.org/dashboard/) to pick your topic, then drill down into maps, charts, graphs, and more. 

Find regional data relating to the eight planning elements in Communities in Motion 2040, the 17 goals associated with those elements, and performance measures to track progress toward meeting those goals.

When and how can the COMPASS dashboard help you?
  • When making decisions that affect your community…Consider current conditions and how they compare to regional (Communities in Motion) and local goals when making transportation, land use, or other decisions. Will your decision help “move the needle” toward meeting regional goals?
  • When preparing grant applications…Use the information as presented – or access the data behind it – to provide a snapshot of local and regional conditions and trends to help get that funding you need for your project. 
  • When writing articles and reports…Find data and information to provide context or supporting documentation for news articles, professional research, or even school reports. 
  • When tracking issues or areas important to you…Whether you’re a parent who cares about access to parks and schools, a health professional concerned about access to healthy foods, or an interested citizen who just wants to see what things look like in your neighborhood, you’ll find data, maps, graphs, and more that tell the story you care about. 
  • When providing your comments to COMPASS and other agencies…How does the project or plan you are commenting on fit into the larger picture? Consider Communities in Motion goals and use the dashboard to see where we are now and where we want to be. Does the project or plan you are commenting on help fulfill Communities in Motion goals? 

Finally, I encourage you to a look just because it’s interesting. I find myself going in to the dashboard to look for one specific piece of information, then clicking on all sorts of other topics just to see what’s there. The amount of information in the dashboard is mind-boggling and will continue to expand as we are able to gather and track more and more data. Our goal is to provide a tool that is useful to the community as a whole, so if there are data sets you would like to have added, contact COMPASS and let us know. 

While the dashboard is intuitive and user friendly, even for novice users, it also provides many more powerful functions than meet the eye, including allowing the users to download the data for their own use. COMPASS staff will provide training in the near future to assist users in learning how to access and take advantage of these more advanced functions. Watch the COMPASS website (www.compassidaho.org/comm/publicevents.htm) and email blasts for more details.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Final Installment…Communities in Motion: Why Do You Care?

As you are likely aware, Communities in Motion 2040 was approved by the COMPASS Board of Directors in July. We are now moving from the “planning” stage to the “implementation” stage of the plan.

Throughout the planning process I have shared with you comments submitted by members of the public regarding why they care…or think others should care…about long-range planning in general and Communities in Motion in particular. Since the plan is now adopted, we have wrapped up this exercise, so this is my final blog in the “Why do you care?” series.

Without further ado, here is the final list of reasons submitted by you of why you care:
  • Transportation leads to jobs, which lead to higher paying jobs, which is people’s concern.
  • Don’t take what we have for granted – it didn’t just happen. Past generations planned and paid for the infrastructure we have today – it didn’t just materialize.
  • We need to work together for the greater good – it’s for everyone.
  • We should visualize what it would be like without good infrastructure – use our resources wisely so we continue to have it as good as we do now.
  • We need to work now to solve/avoid current and future problems – congestion, delay, and lack of mobility, and work to keep access to recreation/outdoors close to home.
  • We should maximize our use of limited resources for the greater good.
  • People cared before us and built for us.  We should pay it forward with planning and monetary investments.
  • We need to raise awareness that resources will be limited in the future, even if they aren’t now.
  • I think people should care about transportation, and especially alternative transportation, because every time I ride my bike in a bike lane that is so narrow in places that it isn’t even large enough for the “bike lane” symbol, every time I begin to cross State Street (with the green light and pedestrian “walk” sign lit!), and nearly get run over by an obstinately ignorant right-turning car, and every time I breathe deep in sheer joy at my daily commute on the greenbelt, I am more convinced than ever that we, as a community and a society, must fundamentally change the parameters of how we go about getting from point A to point B.  This earth we inhabit, and indeed our very lives, depends upon it.

While we have completed our four-year exercise of continually asking “why do you care?” that doesn’t mean that question, or the answers to it, are any less important. As was stated by more than one person above, past generations cared about the future and we have benefitted from that. It is now our job to do the same for our children and grandchildren.

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.