The madness continues.

The following is a message from our friends at Livable Memphis sent by Sarah Newstok and here’s our earlier post on the 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan:

Dear partners,

Last week, we submitted this public comment on the draft of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Long Range Transportation Plan. I sent our comments to all members of the MPO’s Transportation Policy Board (the mayors) and the Engineering Technical Committee (the planners and engineers), as well as to all members of City Council.

Unfortunately, the LRTP was adopted at the most recent MPO meeting last week. While this is an expected loss, we hope that our comments may ignite some much needed overhaul for future MPO decision-making and planning processes. We will be following-up on our suggestions for accountability, transparency, ranking criteria, and linking implementation of transportation projects to goals for a multi-modal network.

Your support has enabled us to provide this kind of public feedback – thank you! I look forward to updating you as we advocate for policy changes that will improve our transportation network to better meet the needs of the entire community.

Subject: Livable Memphis public comment on Direction 2040

Dear Transportation Policy Board Members and members of the Engineering Technical Committee,

Last week, Livable Memphis submitted public comment on the draft of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Long Range Transportation Plan: Direction 2040.

Livable Memphis, a program of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, is a grassroots coalition representing participation from over 125 neighborhoods, virtually every zip code, across the greater Memphis region. Our members come from all types of communities throughout the region from urban to suburban to rural. With a shared vision for choice neighborhoods that are thriving, livable and unique, we advocate for equitable distribution of resources, reinvestment in existing neighborhoods, and increasing  public participation in decision making processes that affect the quality of life in our communities. Through this lens, I asked our stakeholders to join me in reviewing the draft. With their input, I have compiled this review of Direction 2040.

While my specific comments are outlined below, overall, the LTRP raises three areas of deep concern:

  • The Implementation Plan does not match goals or vision of the LRTP.
  • The Implementation Plan does not match the desires of the public.
  • The Implementation Plan is not equitable.

A detailed review of the LRTP addressing these points is attached for your review.

Also included in this documents are a number of suggestions for your consideration to help address these concerns:

1. CREATE A MINIMUM SCORING THRESHOLD:  A minimum scoring threshold for projects submitted to the MPO would ensure that top ranking project do actually meet the goals for the network (assuming that the scoring matrix truly rewards projects that align with the goals and vision.) In this fiscal environment – we should not be using public funds on projects that score lower than a B. Competitive and desirable communities, be them residential, commercial or industrial, should not consider low scoring investments acceptable. Municipalities will rise to the challenge.

2. INCORPORATE PUBLIC INPUT INTO THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS:  Just gathering public input is insufficient. This public input must be addresses transparently so that a) people know that their voice was heard b) they have an explanation for why their input was not selected for implementation, c) they are updated on how, indeed, their suggestions are being incorporated into the decisions regarding projects to implement.

3. INCLUDE COMMUNITY MEMBERS ON COMMITTEES THAT HAVE REAL INFLUENCE: The Citizen Advisory Committee should be overhauled to create a meaningful and effect venue for citizens to participate and influence MPO decision. For example, the chair of the Citizen Advisory Committee could be the one voting community member of the Transportation Policy Board. Inject public  participation early in the process, via the Major Roads Committee and/or the Freight Committee.

4. ACCOUNTABILITY/TRANSPARENCY: According to federal policies, both environmental justice (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act) and bicycle and pedestrian facilities (United States federal policy 23 USC 217(g)(1))should be considered when using federal dollars. An accountability checkbox should be included as part of the ranking of projects. Implementation plan project lists should contain a column that shows how the projects scored relative to the matrix (project points/total points possible.) In an additional column on the Implementation Plan project lists, please indicate for each project the specific goal(s) the project addresses/supports.

Additionally, Livable Memphis has developed some suggestions for the next update to the LRTP in four years, as well as for MPO processes in general:

1. PROCESS: Start the LRTP review process earlier.  Involve more stakeholders, and allow their input to influence the outcomes of the plan.

2. ASSUMPTIONS: Change the assumptions, particularly regarding population growth, going into the modeling. A more realistic view of population growth and distribution in our region would initiate a meaningful conversation of how, as a region, we want to use our public infrastructure resources.

3. BEST PRACTICES: Do a peer cities comparison. Other regions are making headway toward the goals and vision for a safe, accessible, multimodal network. For example, the Nashville Region’s LRTP focuses on multiple urban centers, fleshing out the existing network. Our urban center is nearly vacant of projects to be implemented.  What are they doing to get it right? How can we improve the outcomes from Memphis MPO? Leslie Meehan, Director of Healthy Communities, for the Nashville MPO shared this information: The $50 million in transportation funds there were spent 60% on multimodal funds and40% on Streets and Paving.  Impressively, the 60% included sidewalks, bikeways, greenways, and transit.  The 40% included paving and resurfacing, wayfaring, bridges, and traffic signals.

Our region can become more attractive and safe for all stakeholders: cyclists, pedestrians, transit users, people with disabilities, as well as vehicle drivers and freight. Our transportation network can support real economic development for the region, rather than a zero-sum-gain. But Direction 2040 won’t get us there. Through adjustments to the TIP and in preparation for the next four years, the Memphis Area MPO could present a Long Range Transportation Plan that is truly transformative – creating a network that serves the multi-faceted community while building infrastructure to support.

Here’s the attachment referred to in her email.  It’s a must-read:   LM LRTP Final 2 17 12