Bikes, Buses, and Coordinated Regional Transportation Planning
Mark loves his Subaru for getting to the trailhead, but his primary means of getting around town is his bike.
Since 2012, transportation related greenhouse gas emissions in Bozeman have increased by 27%. Ask yourself, for all those additional emissions, does our transportation system work better now than it did ten years ago? We're on the wrong path.
We're building a transportation system based on the model of the most expensive and most congested systems in the world. Instead, we need to build a transportation system that scales with growth by providing better options and alternatives, including safe streets for pedestrians and cyclists and better transit service.
We Can Build Better Bike Routes
People in Bozeman love their bikes! What better way to get to Music on Main on a beautiful summer's evening or to work on a crisp fall morning? Approximately 5% of Bozeman residents already use a bike as their primary means of commuting, despite Bozeman having a very limited network of bike routes.
Every day I meet Bozemanites who want to ride their bike to work but do not feel safe doing so. We can fix this by building networks of “low-stress” biking routes that separate bicyclists from from fast-moving traffic. In the last five years, Vancounter has doubled the share of its residents who choose to ride to work to more than one-in-ten, simply by creating safe places to ride (source).
It's time for a #BasicBikeNetworkBzn
By completing just two projects from our Transportation Master Plan, we could place 20,000 residents and 20,000 jobs within a one mile buffer of a safe, connected bike grid.
A Cyclist Rides on Rouse Ave, September 2018 (Photo: Mark Egge)
A cyclist commutes to work on the Gallagator Trail, March 2017 (Photo: Mark Egge)
Simply by installing a separated bike path on Babcock Street and converting Black Avenue into a bicycle boulevard, the city could put nearly half of all city residents within one mile of a safe and comfortable way of reaching MSU, downtown, The Fairgrounds, and The Cannery District.
Creating a #BasicBikeNetwork for Bozeman's historic core is just the beginning. Next, we need to build a sister network for West Bozeman, and improve the east-west connections between!
Here's a concept map of how we can build awesome E-W and N-W bicycle connectivity across town:
A safe mid-block crossing design, as illustrated in NACTO's Urban Street Design Guide. Source
Improve Pedestrian Safety
Nationally, an epidemic of distracted driving and unsafe roads is pushing the number of pedestrians being killed in traffic is nearing a thirty-year high. In March, a Bozeman resident was hit and suffered serious injuries while crossing a street downtown. If we want to encourage more walking in Bozeman, we need to make walking safe.
Fortunately, we know how to make streets safer. For example, curb extensions (sometimes called "bump outs") provide greater visibility for pedestrians at cross-walks. These, and many other safety improvements, are prescribed in NACTO's Urban Street Design Guide, which the City should adopt to replace its AASHTO (the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials) design guide that is ten years out of date. Doing so will save lives and make Bozeman a better place for walking.
Better Transit, Transit Oriented Development
When buses arrive at frequent intervals and can move more quickly through a city than a personal automobile, transit becomes a compelling alternative to driving.
If designed well, transit can offer an appealing alternative to driving. Bus Rapid Transit describes strategies that can be used to help buses move quickly (in many cases, more quickly than personal automobiles) through a city. These include features like priority at stop-lights and dedicated lanes.
A Streamline Bus travels Rouse Ave. Image Source: Streamline
Many cities align areas for new growth along corridors that are well-served by high-frequency transit service. Transit oriented development (TOD) creates areas of relatively high density along transit stops, which results in more residences and more destinations being easily accessible via transit.
Bus Rapid Transit and Transit Oriented Development are powerful tools for increasing transit ridership. Both rely on the integration between transportation planning and city planning. As a professional transportation planner, I view the two as inextricably linked, and would bring this perspective to the City Commission.
I lived in Pittsburgh for two years for grad school and used transit for most of my transportation needs (despite having a car). My current work as a transportation planner is inspired by my love of transit. My transit related work has been published in Transportation Research Record and the Journal of Public Transportation, shared on social media by Pittsburgh’s mayor, and used by Pittsburgh’s regional transit provider to promote creating new Bus Rapid Transit in Pittsburgh.
Bozeman’s West side benefits from a significant quantity of trails. Unfortunately, many of these trails are disconnected in a manner that greatly reduces their usefulness. As Bozeman updates its Parks, Recreation, and Open Space (PROST) Plan, my priority would be to ensure that existing trail segments are connected together in a usable network, connecting residents to destinations and open space.