Yesterday on Radio West the show was discussing the 2030 Transportation Plan. The 2030 transportation plan is focused on the Salt Lake Valley, but it includes the Mountain View Corridor and the Mountainland Association of Governments has a plan with a similar scope. I listened to the program with interest as many callers expressed concerns similar to mine that too much reliance on roads brings more congestion in the longterm.
One concern the planners had with putting in transit options is that they are inefficient where there is significant open space between residential areas. Considering that these plans are focused on transportation through areas that are sparsely populated right now, that sounds like a valid concern. In response to that, Marc Heileson from the Sierra Club made two compelling observations: that people cannot choose to use transit if it is not available; and that a good transit system is more than just a transit option.
A good transit system makes it easy to get between places that you need to go so that the advantages of a car are not significant when compared to the transit system. Mr. Heileson also noted that transit systems are less sensitive to changes in volume of use than roads are. Based on discussions with some of my family members who live north of Salt Lake and are affected by the changes in the transit system that are being implemented there I feel safe in concluding that it is easier to plan a good transit system in advance than it is to build or modify a transit system in established areas.
Another thought that was briefly covered in the program was the idea that transportation planning could help to shape growth and traffic patterns, and not just react to the existing and projected patterns.
Virtually absent from the discussion is the fact that transportation plans can react to poorly planned development, but they cannot truly overcome that development. Transit alone is not enough in order to have the high quality living conditions in a growing region like ours. Equally important, if not more so, is the planning for commercial and industrial development. This is important so that cities have a commercial tax base and also so that residents have employment options without being forced into long commutes. This is one area where Lehi, and the northern end of Utah County in general have not traditionally done very well. Based on the plans I have seen from the city of Lehi I am hopeful that this situation will be remedied in the coming years.
I was planning to give a detailed breakdown of the Mountainland Association of Governments’ regional transportation plan, but I think this post is too long already so I’ll save that for another day.