The Master Bike Plan has not been updated since it was passed in 2008. In the intervening years the City has made some progress in improving our bike facilities, but not nearly as much as we should have. I brought forward an update to the Master Bike Plan on an emergency basis after nearly a year of work because the City was in danger of losing out valuable grant opportunities because we haven’t added new projects to the plan. This is an important step forward in making cycling safer and more appealing in our City, and will be important to helping the City retain it’s Bicycle-Friendly status. Thanks to City staff Louis Meuler, and Nathan Gwinn for their work on this and thanks to my fellow Councilmembers for being committed to a balanced transportation network. Passed 5-2 with Councilmembers Allen and Fagan voting against but not giving a reason why. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday evening, the Spokane Plan Commission held a hearing on updates to the Master Bike Plan brought forward by Councilmember Snyder at which they unanimously approved the updates. The Master Bike Plan was passed by Spokane City Council in 2009 and had not been updated since to reflect new bicycle facilities that have been built in the intervening years. Councilmember Snyder brought these revisions forward to ensure that the plan accurately reflects past, present and future planning efforts for bicycle facilities in the City. To read more about the proposed updates, which will now come before City Council, click here.
Recently, there has been a lot of commentary on the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza, in part due to the Boards’ decision to delay the renovations of the plaza at the behest of Downtown Spokane Partnership and Greater Spokane Incorporated, but there are two pieces worth reading if you haven’t already had a look at them.
First up, Heather Svandize wrote a great editorial column in the Spokesman-Review on why the transit renovations are key to a vibrant city. Second, after the article in the Spokesman on Monday by Dave Wasson quoted Chuck Hafner as saying the “only resolution to it will be to move the plaza,” Board Chair of the STA Councilwoman Amber Waldref set out to set the record straight that there are no plans to move the plaza. Read her email to STA Board members in the Inlander article here.
At yesterday’ council meeting, the council voted 4-1, with Councilman Fagan voting against, in support of a resolution I asked for which would dissolve the Transportation Benefit District if the administration does not present a Pedestrian Master Plan within the next two years. Past efforts to bring forward such a plan have resulted in unfinished work, and no final product. My hope is that this will provide an incentive for the finalizing of a Pedestrian Master Plan. Our Comprehensive Plan, which is the guiding document for planning in the City of Spokane, calls for pedestrian planning to be a priority for the city. It is my belief that we have not done enough to reach this goal.
The other major agenda item for the night was an update to our unit lot subdivision standards to provide a new form of ownership with cottage housing projects, townhouses and other similar developments. We are beginning to see an increase in cottage and townhouse developments in this city, especially in Kendall Yards, and the benefits they can provide. The changes are in line with the goals of our comprehensive plan, which calls for efficient land use and a diversity of housing types to meet the needs of our city. The item was passed unanimously. Other items that came before council last night included an ordinance to update our municipal code to allow high density polyethylene pipe for water service and changing the allowable location of a water meter box and the approval a local improvement district for street improvements on 12th Avenue from Spruce to Inland Empire Way. Both of these items passed unanimously.
In 2010, the City of Spokane was awarded a bronze status (on a scale of gold to bronze) from the League of American Bicyclists, signaling that Spokane was a friendly place for cyclists to live. With the recent cut of our Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, our status as a Bike Friendly City could be in jeopardy. But there is something you can do about this. At the Bicycle Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday at 6pm, there will be a discussion what can be done to maintain our Bike Friendly Status. The meeting will take place in the lower level of City Hall (808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.) in the Council Briefing Center. If you have an interest in this topic, I would urge you to attend and take part in the discussion.
The United States Department of Transportation files a report to Congress called the “Conditions and Performance Report to Congress.” In the report, they estimate the number of vehicle miles that are likely to be traveled around the Country. The most recent report estimated that in 2012, national vehicle miles traveled would reach 3.3 trillion. According to the State Smart Transportation Initiative, this estimate ended up being eleven percent too high.
According to SSTI, past estimates have faired little better. The chart above summarizes how past estimates have compared to the actual VMT total. You can read more about the data and the reports from the US DOT’s here. As SSTI notes, overestimates of this sort have numerous negative impacts that include over building projects and discrouaging low cost alternatives that would be better suited for the population.
The next C&P report is due soon. The question remains as to whether the estimates in it will be closer to reality than ones in the past.
Today, Shawn Vestal with the Spokesman published a great article about the University District Bike/Ped Bridge which you can read here.
This project has been in the works for over ten years, when a study concluded that there was a need for a connecting bridge from the South U-District to East Sprague in 2004. The need comes from the fact that the East Sprague area and East Central neighborhood have been cut off from the University District for decades now. A pedestrian connection of this sort would help stimulate growth in all of those areas. A type, size and location study for the bridge was done in 2010-2011 with extensive public input. Recently, the Council voted to amend a resolution to allocate $3.1 million of a previous bond (totaling $3.97 million) that was issued to the Bike/Ped Bridge. This was done because the University District Public Development Authority Approved a motion asking Council for this.
If you would like to keep up to date on the project, you can see the latest developments here.
I’ve been getting a lot of emails regarding the elimination of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator position for the City of Spokane. I did not support this move. I think it has the potential to be an enormous step backward, especially since the City is set to reapply to the League of American Cyclists for Bicycle-Friendly City status next year. Right now we are the only city in Spokane County that has this distinction. (Liberty Lake lost their status). Spokane Valley has been recognized for its improved bike infrastructure and they could even overtake us. But status aside, we have thousands of citizens who are depending on the City to improve walking and biking as modes of transportation. We lag way behind other Northwest cities in improving these modes.
The city has made some positive strides in the last year, and some new road projects are really embracing Complete Streets, but now is the time for dialogue with the Mayor and staff about what is the best way forward to implement bicycle and pedestrian improvements in our City. Washington Bikes (formerly the Bicycle Alliance) has created an online petition with a urgent request for more dialogue on this issue. You can find it here:
For the past couple of months, myself and Councilmembers Waldref and Stuckart along with organizations such as Futurewise have been voicing our concerns about the Urban Growth Area expansion that was voted on by the Spokane County Commissioners on July 18, 2013. We believe that the 6,000 acre expansion will only increase unnecessary sprawl within our City, further strain finances and resources and was justified using shaky population estimates that did not fall in line with either the Spokane County PTAC (Planning Technical Advisory Committee) report or the Office of Financial Management’ estimates. Well, we just received some good news about this development.
Yesterday, Governor Inslee authorized the Washington State Departments of Commerce and Transportation to file a petition to review the UGA Expansion voted on by the Spokane County Commissioners. Among the State’s concerns are potential encroachment on Fairchild Airforce Base and the cost to taxpayers for property acquisition and building up infrastructure in the area. Governor Inslee has requested that all development in the UGA area stop until all Hearings and Appeals are resolved; something that is fair to both developers and taxpayers. The hearing will be held by the Growth Management Hearings Board and the hope is that this issue can resolved in such a way that we can avoid the constant cycle of UGA expansions that end up increasing sprawl and costs to all of our citizens.
Every year since 2004 Outside Magazine, a National outdoor recreational magazine with a total circulation of over half a million people, ranks the best towns/cities for outdoor activity and living. This year, Spokane made it’s way on to the list. Read the rest of this entry »