Traffic volume plan not anti-developer

Monday, June 08, 2009

From a commentary in The Capital Times by Eric Sundquist, a member of the city's Plan Commission and Long Range Transportation Planning Committee:

Madison's City Council will soon review a proposal aimed at providing efficient transportation access in the city. The proposal would save money for the city, which spends millions of property tax dollars on roads. It would reduce pollution and protect productive farmland. And it would provide better access to work and other destinations for those who cannot or choose not to drive.

The resolution would judge our success in this effort by measuring traffic volumes, setting a target of 25 percent fewer vehicle-miles on city streets by 2020, after accounting for population growth. This goal would return us to the same levels of driving that existed in the 1980s. . . .

The resolution would not force anyone to stop driving. Rather, it would encourage development and infrastructure that lets people and businesses make fewer and shorter car trips, and would make walking, biking and transit more feasible for those who choose those modes.

A Capital Times story of June 3 paints the resolution as anti-developer. This is not the case. Zoning applications today are judged on "public health, safety, morals and general welfare," a general standard that can vary depending on who happens to complain about a project.

In contrast, the traffic resolution would make clear the public interest in transportation efficiency. Developers would know better how to design and present projects that can get approved -- by ensuring good and varied access between uses.

Some have worried that because some traffic comes from the suburbs, city policy is irrelevant. This problem is overstated because Madison has two-thirds of the population of the regional transportation planning area, most trips people make are local, and Madison's built environment affects travel even for those coming from other localities.