Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Hire City Consultants

Regional Active Transportation Forum October 14, Garden Grove, credit M Martinez

Last Friday 10/14 the Orange County Council of Governments (OCCG), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) hosted another Active Transportation Forum, this time in Garden Grove. The agencies share a common mission, to prepare our county planning documents to qualify for state and federal grant funding for new transportation infrastructure, that means if their planning documents are not in order, they cannot compete for the funding.  In 2016 there was $79 million available in Federal CMAQ grant money up for grabs yet Laguna's General Plan Circulation Element was updated once in the last 42 years. Councilwoman Diana Carey showed the audience six essential preparations her city of Westminster used to qualify for funding and prepare for Active Transportation, Laguna doesn't meet any of the six.

Other Orange County communities are struggling to meet ever-increasing vehicular traffic so the Departments of Public Health, MPO and SCAG are cooperating to redesign urban settings from car-centric back to livable environments and public space for people. Active Transportation plays a role by moving people not just cars, how we plan and design our public space makes an impact on the economic, mental, physical and social health of city inhabitants.

Our speaker Hasan Ikhrata Executive Director of SCAG had advice for city institutions. When hiring planning consultants Hasan said "provide choices, don't direct options" meaning ask consultants for best design choices, don't specify the requirements to win the job.  For example to update the Laguna Beach Specific Plan the hired consultant will read these instructions:  Balance the need to preserve the existing village character and pedestrian orientation with the objective to accommodate the traffic and parking demands generated by tourists.   Wha?  That's like saying preserve our pedestrian orientation but hide the parking garage. What should a consultant design? A parking structure? A Gateway Opportunity?

Our City sells the illusion that if we get the parking just right our traffic congestion problems go away, if we hire the right consultant they can work this out 'cuz they are experts. It just ain't so. Laguna should hire experts for demonstrated best practices, not for options the city manager prescribes. If our city council cannot exercise oversight on behalf of residents (they don't) then it's time for new leadership from a council person who gets it. Judie Mancuso listens to consultants, she knows the difference between compensating for expert advice and paying for a jobs program. Judie knows to qualify for grant funding we need to get our General Plan in order and up to date.

Our keynote speaker was Founder and Director Daniel Iacofano of MIG Consulting -yes that MIG. Daniel explained a benefit of Active Transportation is Real Estate Value Capture:  to revitalize any business district and raise property values, you reduce automobile traffic and increase walk-in traffic. Parklets done right are a means of creating community space that people are drawn to, hence walk-in traffic.

Caltrans, OCTA and SoCal cities shared good company at the event, Laguna did not send a city Rep.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Get-Moving OC Forum #2 Results

The I5 Bottle-Neck Problem Depicted for Toll-Road Solution
Orange County expects another 400,000 inhabitants between now and the year 2035. During that time the Orange County Transportation Authority will administer $14.8 Billion in Measure M funding to alleviate traffic congestion but the delay times are still projected to increase 64% if nothing more is done. Fortunately the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) that brought us the 241 and 73 Toll Roads have begun a rigorous program of public uptake to determine 1) if I5 has a congestion problem, 2) if a community consensus can be found 3) who holds the keys to gain community support for making infrastructure "improvements".  In Public Forum #2  held 5 October 2016 the TCA in collaboration with Caltrans and OCTA (Orange County Transit Authority) revealed 14 Ideas for road infrastructure projects, consisting mainly of Toll Roads and widening of existing roads. The following are highlights of the TCA plan.

Special Consultant Conclusions:
  1. A community-wide agreement on I5 solution is unlikely
  2. There is a high level of agreement that I5 has a congestion problem
  3. Due to 1. elected officials are perceived as the most appropriate persons to develop (I5) solutions
What the 14 Ideas (roadway modifications in the map) show
  • The single modality considered for moving people is automobiles
  • The single requirement for improving transport is car delay time (LOS)
  • The single performance criteria for improvement is reducing delay time
  • Among the roads modified is Ortega Highway 74 as 4-lanes
  • Idea #7 widens 133 Laguna Canyon Road and arterial highways
  • Toll-Road costs start at $100 million per mile 
  • Average reduction in delay time is a meaningless 1-5 percent.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Homer's Mobility Rules of Mobility

Homer plans his day
 Four simple mobility rules:

Trip distance 0-1 miles: Walk
Trip distance 0-1 miles: Skate
Trip distance 1-5 miles: Bike
Trip distance 5-10 miles: Bus
Trip distance 10-100 miles: Car