With dark clouds gathering, now’s the time to rethink our transportation priorities

picture-14.pngYesterday I heard a local elected official describe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and transit improvements as “fluff” that would be impossible to fund in an increasingly difficult economic environment. He suggested it would be a struggle just to keep the grass mowed in the medians. That was important, he said, because motorists need clear lines of sight. Otherwise they might crash into each other.

In tough times, he seemed to be saying, we must concentrate on the important things. Like cars. Public transit and infrastructure for non-motorized vehicles? Not so much.

Yet there are those who say funding projects that get people out of their cars and into more sustainable modes of transportation is exactly what we should be doing when the financial chips are down. Transportation for America’s “Build for America” campaign suggests a five pronged approach to moving people and improving the economy:

  • Build rail and transit networks that are competitive with those in China and Europe, reducing oil dependence and connecting metro regions.
  • Invest in “the cleanest forms of transportation — modern public transit, walking and biking.”
  • Adopt a “fix-it-first” policy to repair crumbling roads and bridges rather than building new ones.
  • Stop wasteful spending and re-evaluate projects that have already been approved.
  • Save Americans money” by providing them with cost-efficient, sustainable transportation options where they live and work.

Viewed through this lens, transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements should be moving to the top of the priority list, not the bottom.

This entry was posted in Economics, Government, Neighborhoods, Transportation on by .

About John Bennett

Transportation, land use, local farming and green building are all potential topics for Sustainable Savannah. The goal is to aggregate content about local events and projects, so there will be a central place to review everything that’s happening. The site is aimed at encouraging collaboration and information sharing between groups and individuals currently engaged in sustainability efforts. The site can also provide a snapshot of Savannah for green-minded people who are considering visiting or moving to the area.

4 thoughts on “With dark clouds gathering, now’s the time to rethink our transportation priorities

  1. John McMasters

    Thanks for hosting the forum.

    Remember these points which I made Tuesday night:

    1. The Truman Linear Bike Trail was a SPLOST project from 1998. It has been fully funded for 8 years. As of today, the county has only built 1,316 feet of 21,056 planned feet. 6% completed in 8 years tells me the county isn’t run too well. By comparison, the Savannah Airport Authority doubled the covered parking at the airport in 9 months. The City of Savannah dug out Ellis Square to build a 4 story underground garage and it has taken only 2 years. Shows you how important cars are and how unconcerned the commission is with bicycle infrastructure.

    2. SPLOST will not pass in 2012 if we don’t put important projects on the ballot. A County wide mass transit system needs to the first on the list.

    3. “Stop wasteful spending and re-evaluate projects that have already been approved.” The average SPLOST project, from my experience on the commission, runs 60-150% over contract award. They pay the extra from the accured interest they collect by waiting 10 years to start the average project. Stephenson ave widening (.8 mile) was awarded at around 2 million dollars. It was finished at a cost of over 8 million.

    M y advice, don’t vote for any incumbent because this is what you will get: More of the same.

    John McMasters

  2. Drew Wade

    Thank you for your participation at the forum, John.

    My understanding of the funding of Truman Linear Park phase II is that a substantial portion was a priority project (i.e. earmark). We have repeatedly asked the county for updates on “progress” but have gotten nowhere, only various versions of the same with a continually shifting deadline. Very frustrating, and hard to seek more federal dollars when you have not put the last project on the ground.

  3. Karen Grainey

    I would like to thank the Bicycle Campaign and the Georgia Conservancy for co-hosting the candidate forum and for bringing transportation issues to the forefront. They are doing great work.

    But please let’s not be shy about naming names when quoting the publicly made statements of elected officials. The incumbent who said that bicycle lanes and transit improvements are “fluff” was District 7 Commissioner Dean Kicklighter. No one is challenging him in this election so we are guaranteed another four years of his input in the County Commission’s decision-making.

    Three members of the Board of Commssioners do have challengers who have demonstrated strong support for a transportation system which will provide viable alternatives to the automobile. I am one of them. Please visit my blog http://www.karen4us.com to read more aboout my positions. My opponent, David Gellatly is saying all the right things in response to being challenged and made some positive statements at the forum in favor of bicycle lanes. However, actions speak louder than words and he has done nothing during his eight years on the Commission for better transportation planning in Chatham County. I implore everyone who wants to see action in this arena to vote against the incumbents who are being challenged in this election.

    Karen Grainey
    Candidate Chatham County Commission, District 6
    http://www.karen4us.com

  4. John McMasters

    Drew

    It was my pleasure. Let’s do it again soon. Karen Grainey makes a good point that Kicklighter is so far off in developer mana he is just plain hard to listen to. Probably find loads of developer money in his wallet. Actually since he works for Ben Farmer Realty there is actual developer dollars in his wallet.

    JM

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