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Voting on bikeways in San Luis Obispo County

Session summary: A staffer at San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) wants to learn about ways to have residents learn about proposed bikeways in the jurisdiction, their costs, and possibly vote or rank them to prioritize installation. SLOCOG is also considering a referendum for a sales tax that would fund transportation improvements to pay for road maintenance, transit service, and bikeways. This tool could be used to decide how the sales tax revenue is spent.

UNEDITED

SLOCOG – what a funny name
250-300k population for the county.
slow-growth county, not affordable

GIS, web interface – routes of bikeways, identified by color
$30m over 25 years
bike plan
Oh, you want that class 1 to the beach? That’s $15m
survey of unmet bike needs

This is what we want to do, this is the money we have.
This is where 10k people want a bike lane.

passenger car sales tax (I missed how the sales tax would work)? county sales tax increase to fund transportation
quadruples range of options.

Adriel Hampton: Bright Idea – ideation, vote them up and down
Lot of marketing, moderation, outreach
Just cuz you build it, people don’t come
You have to market it hard.

Me: Will there be a soft side to this? In-person charrettes? No, but will consider.
Have the potential bikeways already been identified and have all had their costs estimated?
Yes, bikeways identified.
Costs will be estimated soon based on past construction projects.

Starting with bikeways, then complete streets modules, streetscapes.

Jeff Wood:
Phily Planning Organization, web interface – click on the projects you want
Portland
Sacramento – Willingess to pay game?

Matt: How do they frame sales tax? This is the touchiest subject for us.

OpenPlans GeoExt application.

Adriel: I think scenarios is better than open.
Matt: We’ve made the plan, have the network. We need the people to justify the funding decisions we make.
[email protected]

Leah: TechSoup – let county-wide bike coalition get grants to pay for software/application.
Google StreetView – have the trike feature your best bike route.
LA Times, if you do this in the budget, then this happens. Generated a lot of buzz.

Sean Hedgpeth: Capital and operating budgets.
I added about federal funding not paying for maintenance.

Matt: rideshare.org
Richard: 66% votes needed to approve the sales tax.
Sean: Have to sell sales tax with potholes.
Matt: Cycling will get 7% of sales tax.

What’s the county’s policy on open data? It’s not that it’s hidden, it’s just that the organization and outreach is not there.

SidewalkChalk (?, url)

Adriel: SeeClickFix – civic points – put a gaming aspect on things. participation rates are so low.
1-9-90 model. Create, read, do nothing to web content.
Look at
Adding some goofy elements to project.
So anti-Farmville until I found out about their special corn that would help Haiti

The truth about Wal-Mart’s contribution to the tax roll

I recently wrote about how Wal-Mart plans to expand its reach in Chicago in a big way (30 new stores big). Politicians around the country consistently like to be heard saying how one way the store(s) will benefit the city is the additional tax revenue the city will see from property and sales tax contributions. Here are selected quotes from Chicagoans:

On Tuesday, [Chicago Mayor] Daley noted that a Wal-Mart expansion would pave the way for sales tax windfall for the cash-starved city budget.

In suburban Cook County, about 20 percent to 30 percent of all sales tax revenue comes from Wal-Marts, Daley said.

Chicago Sun-Times, June 15, 2010

“Everyone realizes we need the tax revenue,” [Alderman Anthony] Beale [9th Ward] said.

Chicago Sun-Times, May 5, 2010

Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, a pro-union alderman, lamented Wal-Mart’s domination of the nation’s retail market and its tendency to sell foreign-made products, but voted for Pullman Park because of the need for jobs and additional tax revenue.

Chicago Tribune, June 30, 2010

Comparatively, Wal-Mart brings in little property tax revenue on a per acre basis, according to a study from Sarasota County (Florida) and Public Interest Projects and posted by Citiwire. I’ve summarized their findings:

  • Single-family home: $8,200 per acre
  • Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club: $150.00-$200.00 per acre
  • Southgate Mall: $22,000 per acre
  • High-rise mixed-use project in downtown Sarasota: $800,000

That last one’s the kicker! From the Citiwire article, “‘It takes a lot of WalMarts to equal the contribution of that one mixed-use building,’ [Peter] Katz noted.” Read the full story for more examples and for more discussion on how this specific breakdown of costs and benefits is only one way to look at fiscal and retail impact.

If the same tax revenues were true for Chicago or Cook County (and I can’t say it is or isn’t), then the city planners and aldermen should be seeking developers to build high-rise mixed-use projects. Right.

But the issue Chicago and other cities have is that Wal-Mart is one of the most willing developers – they will build where no one else will. They have capital that no one else has. They have the resources to sway the population. It’s more politically difficult to resist such a willing partner like Wal-Mart than it is to seek relationships with developers who have the resources to create more beneficial mixed-use projects in the neighborhoods Wal-Mart seems to prefer.

Taking the train

A bunch of people asked me how much I paid for my train ticket between Portland and Seattle. I paid $29, one way, 310 miles, for a comfy ride. Every seat pair has a power port, ample leg room, and tons of luggage space. The train left on time. I didn’t pass through security, and I didn’t have to turn off any electronic device.

The last time I took an Amtrak train was in the 1990s, from Minneapolis to Chicago. That was during the time Amtrak and United Airlines had a partnership where you could easily book a trip that involved a plane in one direction and a train in the return direction. Interestingly, I took a coach bus to Minneapolis just last September for a trip to try out their bicycling infrastructure.

The Amtrak Cascades trainsets from Talgo feature remarkable branding and livery. Find more photos.

What’s up with bicycling in Minneapolis, part 1

I present you a synopsis on what I observed about bicycling in Minneapolis. I visited the city (surfing someone’s couch) over the Labor Day weekend, rented a bike, rode the train and spent 9 non-stop hours exploring the city.

Sorry if it seems I only noticed the off-street trails and paths. Please read my experience in two parts, part 1 below:

  • Residents like trails. Trails connect residents to suburbs, several neighborhoods, cut across the city, get bicyclists downtown, to the light rail, and help preserve open space. Many of the trails are converted railroad rights of way. Some of the railroads are still active. I liked seeing railroads and bicyclists and other trail users traveling together. I wish I had
  • Hennepin County takes care of the trails. The trails’ pavement quality and their signage exhibited supreme guardianship. The designers of the trails obviously went to great lengths to keep low the number of bicyclist-pedestrian conflicts, provided restrooms, and when most convenient for riders, made a trail carry only one-way traffic (a loop around the Lake of the Isles).
  • I enjoyed Minneapolis’s crown jewel trail: the Midtown Greenway. I liked not only how the trail stretches uninterrupted (save for one at-grade street crossing) for 5 miles, but also the respect citizens give it. The 20+ (what’s the official count?) bridges crossing the Greenway give users a neat view.
  • Minneapolis has implemented several ways to remove conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians and bicyclists and motorists. The Martin Sabo bridge over Hiawatha Avenue and the Hiawatha segment of Metro Transit’s light rail lets trail users ride continuously from trail to trail, making the connections easily, quickly and best of all safely.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

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