This past Thursday, I attended the Mid-Region Council of Governments 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Planning Public Meeting.
It was not as boring at it sounds.
The meeting included a short presentation about the plan, what it means for the region and why we should care. For more detailed information, click on the following link: 2040 MTP Update & Scenario Plan.
The primary reason I am writing about the meeting is the graphic below:
This graphic should be the primary guide to future transportation planning in the region.
The graphic has two lines. One line is a “trend line” and it represents a prediction about the future. It is the solid line and it shows a steady increase of vehicle miles traveled per capita. Historically, this trend has held true. However, if you look on the right side of the image (I know it’s blurry and I apologize) you can see the growing gap between the trend line and the actual regional VMT per capita, the other line on the chart.
This, coupled with a doubling of regional transit ridership since the beginning of the century, tells a very compelling story. It is a story which is being told in metro areas across America: the car is no longer king. People no longer want to be enslaved to a three ton money-eating obesity-creating community-killing machine. When other options exist, people use them. When they don’t, people demand and crave them.
What Can I Do?
This is where you, the citizen, come in.
I asked Aaron Sussman, one of the two great presenters, a loaded question about the “implementation process” regarding the plan. It was a loaded question because there is no implementation process. The MRCOG is not an agency which can enact policy.
However, they have the ability to guide policy. They funnel federal money into local agencies. MRCOG has the ability to affect local policy making through the backdoor using data and local connections.
Therefore, I encourage you to fill out the short survey which goes along with this plan. The topic is personal travel habits and the survey is quick and easy.
Click the link below and happy bubble filling!
4 thoughts on “The MRCOG 2040 MTP: Telling a New Story”
How is “regional” for the geographic area of the graph defined?
I believe “regional” entails all of the roads which are included in the annual MRCOG Traffic Count; link here: http://mrcog-nm.gov/transportation/metro-planning/traffic-counts.
Each year, traffic counts are taken on the major roads found on the traffic count map. The information on the chart I posted is most likely based on population within the jurisdiction of MRCOG vs. vehicles counted per day on the major roads.
This is only my best guess. Someone at MRCOG would know better than me.
Also, the data you posted on Twitter on our employment was quite telling. It’s entirely possible that VMT would increase again as employment increased. However, others would argue that the employment market has changed so drastically that VMT and employment are no longer as closely correlated as they used to be.
The chart you posted on our average population growth really says it all. I think we are in for a new normal and the implications are far and wide.
Thanks for reading, commenting and retweeting!
Dan – Thanks. I’ll call MRCOG to find out more. There’s grist for a newspaper story in here somewhere. The total US VMT seems flat (hope this link works):
That would mean that per capita VMT nationally is going down a bit, if I’m thinking about this right, which would match the numbers in the graph above.
That is great to hear! I think there should be an entire series of articles written on the topic and the larger context around it. I am suggesting this to you because your blog/the ABQ Journal has far more visibility than my website.
For example, the Paseo/I-25 project speaks volumes about the problems we will face as a region going forward. The fact that Sandoval County is not paying a cent for the project demonstrates how much of a resource sucker they are. The money that the county, state and city contributed should have gone to infrastructure improvements for alternative modes, especially transit.
From a rational/economic perspective, local mass transit is growing far more rapidly than local VMT (see the image I tweeted to you + share it with everyone!). Therefore, the funding patterns should correlate with these trends. Adding capacity for a mode which is decreasing in popularity (single passenger automobile travel) is receiving millions of dollars. In the meantime, a mode which is increasing rapidly in popularity (mass transit) has not even been discussed in the context of increased funding.
The reasons for this are many. Two big ones, in my opinion:
1) Lack of local champions. I can’t think of one local or state level leader who is fiercely in support of mass transit. Plenty of local leaders pay lip service to the idea but few, if any, actually do anything about it. Ike Benton is perhaps the one exception but mass transit is difficult to champion solo. It is the type of issue which requires support on a variety of levels.
2) Low levels of local cash flow. At this point, we are trying to prioritize all modes at once. However, subsidized automobile travel is almost impossible to fund without federal support. As federal level austerity discussions continue, more projects will be funded the way Paseo/I-25 was: without federal support. This just amplifies the percentage of resources pulled from better “bang for the buck” projects such as bike/ped infrastructure, road diets, etc.
Without major policy change, this region is setting a course for long-term stagnation.