Boulder Junction is supposed to be one of the most bike, pedestrian, and transit accessible places in our city: a place where owning a car is optional, and costly structured parking can be purchased a la carte, instead of bundled with every rental unit. It’s also supposed to be a major transit hub for the eastern core of Boulder, which is now building out. Transportation planners are often stymied by “the last mile” — it’s much cheaper and easier to do a few trunk lines than it is to put high frequency transit within a 5 minute walk of most of a city’s population. Planning for people to drive to get to transit means you still require people to own cars, and they still contribute to traffic congestion within the city. They also require exorbitantly expensive or land intensive park-and-ride facilities. For all these reasons, it’s in our best interests to make it as easy as possible for people to combine bikes with transit to solve the last mile problem. One of the best ways to do this is to provide plenty of convenient, secure, sheltered bike parking at major transit hubs — essentially creating a high quality bicycle park-and-ride, at a tiny fraction of the cost and space required for an automobile park-and-ride of the same capacity. This is the idea behind the “Bus-then-Bike” shelters that the City and County of Boulder have been collaborating to install — in Longmont, at the Table Mesa Park-and-Ride, and most recently, at the downtown Boulder transit center, as well as elsewhere. Three more of them are going in elsewhere along the US-36 corridor in the near future. Incredibly, it looks like we’re at risk of failing to do the same thing in Boulder Junction!
Two of the three Boulder County Commissioner’s seats are up for grab this year, and it’s all but given that whoever secures the Democratic Party’s nomination will end up winning the election. In District 1 (which includes the city of Boulder as far east as Foothills, see this map) we are losing former Boulder mayor Will Toor, who has served two terms — the maximum allowed. Vying for his place are Elise Jones and Garry Sanfaçon. On June 1st, PLAN Boulder County held a lively candidate forum, moderated by Alan Boles.
My notes are necessarily an incomplete record of the exchange. Unless otherwise indicated by quotation marks, the words below represent my paraphrasing of the candidates statements.
As an introduction, Boles first asked: Who are you, and why are you running?
Elise Jones responded that given the political situation at the state and national level, she felt local politics is where important changes are likely to happen. She cited her 8 years on the Boulder Planning Board, and more than 20 years working on environmental protection statewide as relevant experience, giving her an intimate understanding of land use issues. She stated that she is the only candidate with experience working to regulate the oil and gas industry, and that this has been one of her primary focuses over the last decade, “Ever since Dick Cheney declared war on the West.” She was supportive of ending GMO use on county open space, and highlighted climate change as the single largest looming issue facing us (and the world) today, especially given the occurrence this year of some of the warmest, driest spring months on record.
Garry Sanfaçon spoke about his son who just graduated from Nederland High School. He wants his son to be able to move back to Boulder County some day, and the importance of making sure that we have both jobs and affordable housing to make it possible for regular folks to keep living here. He highlighted his experience working for the county as the Fourmile Canyon Fire recovery director, as a member of the Boulder County Planning Commission, and as a visioning facilitator for various organizations. Sanfaçon stated that he’s the candidate taking the “strongest positions” on GMOs and fracking, and said that if elected he “would vote to ban them on day one.”
From the looks exchanged during the introduction, it became clear pretty quickly that fracking was going to be a hot issue, and Boles went directly to it asking: Fracking appears to be a state regulatory issue, and the state is currently dropping the ball. What can we really do about it, from a legal point of view?
I went to one of the inaugural Boulder County Transportation Master Planning meetings… on January 13th. I took notes, but never wrote them up (bad blogger!). The process will probably take most of the year, and it’s looking out 25 years or so into the future, so really 6 weeks isn’t too big a deal, right? If you haven’t already, please do take the Boulder County TMP survey.
Before the meeting there was a mingling session with a bunch of poster board presentations (available here as PDFs), mostly maps showing a bunch of different current and projected data. Where people are, where jobs are, where trips go, both today and our imagining of 2035. I talked briefly to George Gerstle (whose bicycle parking spot is pictured above) about the current and projected population centers in the region.
Boulder County 2010: Blue=Households, Red=Jobs
The expectation is that there will be a lot of sprawling, suburban, car dependent development just beyond the southeast corner of Boulder County around Broomfield, in Jeffco, and also in the southwest corner of Weld County (which does not participate in RTD). Also, growth is projected along the I-25 corridor, and along US 36. By and large, what happens beyond the county’s borders is out of our control. There’s a little bit of open space out there that we own, and we can control what kind of infrastructure exists within the county, but barring sudden and sustained increases in gas prices, it seems unlikely that these communities are going to embrace transit oriented development and compact urban design. We’ve got sprawl at the gates, and we have to decide what to do about it. These bodies politic are apparently not interested in planning around the possibility of significantly higher fuel costs in the future.
Boulder County is slowly being invaded from the southeast and it’s not clear what we can do about it. Sprawling development is (still) the order of the day in Broomfield, Weld, and Jefferson Counties, and it looks set to generate a lot more trips through Boulder County in the coming decades. Personally, I’m praying for $8 gasoline.