Constituent Newsletter

Protected Bike Lanes on Forum Boulevard: A Temporary Demonstration Project

April 2, 2017

Dear Constituent:

As I have discussed previously, I do not support the City’s plan to widen a 1-mile stretch of Forum Boulevard from 2 lanes to 4 lanes, at a cost of $12.7 million to the taxpayer.

I know that many of you agree with me because, in a 2015 poll I conducted, 80% of you supported my position that we should trim back very expensive road expansion projects such as the four-laning of Forum, in order to develop a more efficient and economical transportation system.

This is a badly-conceived project for several reasons:

  1. It’s too expensive and will also create extra maintenance costs;
  2. We have an enormous backlog of sidewalk and traffic calming projects that constituents are demanding to address safety and speeding in neighborhoods;
  3. Forum does not have a congestion problem and, even if it did, it is well documented that adding lanes is not an effective strategy;
  4. Americans are driving less and MoDOT data show no increase in traffic on Forum over the last 20 years.

Not only is it clear that there is no growth in traffic on Forum over the last two decades, the actual numbers do not come close to warranting four travel lanes. A rule of thumb for traffic engineers is that a single lane can comfortably accommodate at least 18,000 vehicles per day. Referring to the chart:

  • The location just south of Stadium handles fewer than 12,000 vehicles per day in each direction - far below the 36,000 vehicle capacity of the existing two lanes in each direction;
  • The two locations at either end of the section that is proposed to be widened (just south of Chapel Hill and just north of Nifong) receive no more than 7,500 vehicles per day in each direction - again far below the 18,000 capacity of a single lane in each direction.

In fact, the section between Green Meadows and Woodrail is currently (and unnecessarily) four lanes, creating a great opportunity to add protected bike lanes, thereby increasing safety and encouraging more people to commute by bicycle from south-west Columbia. Recent experience in other cities has shown that:

For very little cost we could re-purpose the right lane (northbound and southbound) between Green Meadows and Woodrail as a temporary protected bike lane demonstration project. This would not hinder traffic at all because the remaining lane can easily accommodate the 7,500 vehicles/day in each direction. With the wider lanes south of Green Meadows, it would create a high-quality bicycle connection from Nifong to Woodrail, where the protected bike lanes could safely flow onto the bicycle shoulders going down the hill, over the new bicycle/pedestrian bridge and connect to the MKT Trail.

I think we should give this a try for 6 months, along with careful evaluation of traffic counts, bicycle and pedestrian counts, and public opinion. Please let me know what you think!

COMO Connect Bus Service Evaluation and Public Input Meeting

The City’s public transit consultant, Olsson Associates, recently presented their final report to the City Council.

Their recommendations include:

  • Use back-and-forth trunk routes instead of loops;
  • Increase service frequency on the popular Black and Gold routes;
  • Replace fixed-route service with a “Flex Network” that provides an on-demand van service to areas with low ridership;
  • Adopt data-driven “service design standards” to determine when routes should be modified and bus stops added;
  • Increase the operating budget by up to 35% to improve service.

I have been very impressed with Olsson’s work and with the oversight of this project by COMO Connect staff and the Public Transit Advisory Commission, and I support implementing these recommendations. With the University of Missouri now contemplating a new partnership with COMO Connect through which all students will travel free of charge throughout the city, now is the time to start planning for bus service improvements and a funding increase.

Please take a look at the Olsson report and let me know what you think. There will also be a public meeting to collect community input on the recommendations on Thursday, April 20th, 5-7pm at City Hall.

Community Development Needs Survey

Each year, the City of Columbia receives federal funds for affordable housing, community facilities, and economic development in low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods.

We estimate we will receive approximately $830,000 in Community Development Block Grants and $400,000 in HOME funds in Fiscal Year 2018, and we want your input on how we should invest this money. Please take five minutes to complete the following public opinion survey (your answers will be confidential, and you may choose to skip any question):

https://goo.gl/forms/eVjP6IWuWejlqPo63

Thank you for providing your valuable input!

Constituent Conversations

Finally, this month’s Constituent Conversations will be held on April 2nd (today!) and 16th, 2-4pm at Dunn Brothers Coffee.

Cheers, Ian