PedNet analysis of Columbia Imagined for 2020 Status Report

Columbia Imagined is an excellent plan. Its Goals and Objectives are consistent with the goals of the Climate Action & Adaptation Plan, and many are repeated in intent, if not word-for-word, in the Climate Action & Adaptation Plan.

It is clear that the public input process for Columbia Imagined was extensive. We agree that the Goals and Objectives included in the plan accurately reflect community members’ priorities, as they are consistent with community input received for many other City plans:

  • Vision Zero (2016-2017)
  • Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (2018-2019)
  • 2050 Long-Range Transportation Plan (2019)

While we wholeheartedly support the intent of Columbia Imagined, we have serious concerns with its implementation, and particularly with what appears to be a lack of following the plan’s clear direction in policy and budgeting decisions.

This concern also applies to other City plans, in which excellent planning processes, reflective of community-identified needs, seem to be ignored and entirely disconnected from the policymaking and budgeting process.

Columbia Imagined Goals and Objectives in comparison to recent policy and budget decisions:

Land Use and Growth Management

Encourage density in the city’s core

  • Residential downtown parking minimum requirements were doubled as part of Unified Development Code policy update in 2017

Promote neighborhood schools

  • Every new school built since Columbia Imagined was adopted in 2013 has been constructed on the outskirts of the city, encouraging suburban sprawl

Environmental Management

Encourage development of trails to reduce reliance on private automobiles

  • The growth of the trail system has been incredibly slow, with only 10 miles of trail added since Columbia Imagined was adopted in 2013

Infrastructure

Emphasize infrastructure maintenance

  • Significant recent funding has been allocated for high-speed road expansion and new construction, rather than maintenance
    • $12.3 million Nifong Boulevard widening (~1 mile, approved 2017)
    • $6 million Discovery Parkway extension (<1 mile, approved 2020)
    • $12.7 million Forum Boulevard widening (~1 mile)

Expand the ability to bike in/out of the downtown area

  • No new bike infrastructure connections to downtown have been added, despite an opportunity to add safe bike infrastructure as part of the significant Broadway pavement improvement project in 2015

Build more bike and walking paths to complement more trails

  • Limited growth in off-street trails/paths
  • On-street bike infrastructure has been limited to only conventional, painted bike lanes that provide minimal safety; there are currently no protected bike lanes in Columbia

Mobility, Connectivity, and Accessibility

Columbia is accessible for all modes and abilities

Promote non-motorized transportation through easy access to safe infrastructure

Columbia will have an interconnected trail and walking/bike path system

  • Columbia’s 2016 Vision Zero policy to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries has largely not been implemented
  • Columbia’s street design standards (adopted in 2004) have not been updated to be consistent with modern best practices that prioritize safety for people walking and biking, despite calls for safer designs in the Vision Zero Action Plan
  • Columbia’s traffic fatality rate is double that of comparable cities, and has shown no recent significant decreases
  • Traffic crashes disproportionately kill and seriously injure people walking and biking; from 2010-2019, people walking or biking were involved in only 3% of crashes, but accounted for 25% of fatalities
  • In 2019, the number of people killed by a vehicle crash while walking was double the highest number in the previous 13 years, and accounted for nearly half of all traffic deaths
  • Few City-owned streets include best-practice accessibility features such as audible crosswalk signals

Reduce reliance on automobiles as residents’ primary transportation mode

  • Mode share is very low (only 7% of trips are taken by walking/biking/transit) and has shown no significant increase; CAAP mode share goal is 40% by 2035
  • Funding continues to be overwhelmingly allocated to road projects, rather than walking, biking, and transit; 90% of the transportation funding allocated in the most recent Capital Improvement Projects list was for road projects
  • Columbia Imagined contains no recommendations or requests from community members for additional high-speed roads, yet this is where the vast majority of transportation funding is allocated

Promote a good public transit system

Ensure that public transit fits the needs of all people

  • Public transit service in Columbia has become worse since Columbia Imagined was adopted, with significant divestments in City funding and reduction in service area and hours

Promote regional public transit

  • No progress to create regional public transit

Livable and Sustainable Communities

Promote easy access to health care, social services, mental health, and elder care

  • Live Well Boone County (2018) identified access to basic needs as the primary impediment to health, and pinpointed transportation as a primary barrier
  • Easy access to basic needs is not possible without safe transportation through walking, biking, and transit, especially for people whom the transportation system places at the highest risk of harm (Black Columbians, low-income families, older adults, children, people with disabilities)

Development standards encourage compact, contiguous neighborhoods within reach of workplaces

  • Council has recently approved neighborhood downzoning requests, including in central city neighborhoods closest to the highest proportion of workplaces, which limit density and infill development

Plan future developments that are livable and walkable for residents throughout the city

  • Recent neighborhood development has primarily occurred on the outskirts of the city, promoting suburban sprawl
  • Columbia’s most walkable areas are the oldest areas of the city that predate modern zoning codes

The fact that many transportation-related Goals and Objectives from Columbia Imagined (adopted in 2013) are repeated in the CAAP (adopted in 2019) makes it clear that Columbia Imagined has not achieved its goals.

This lack of implementation over the last 7 years may be the result of the Implementation Plan (P. 142-149) failing to identify a responsible party for each action item, and a timeline for its completion. While the plan does identify participants and stakeholders, each is outside the City of Columbia and none is tasked with ensuring the action item is carried out.

Going forward, we make the following strong recommendations:

  • Identify a City of Columbia responsible party for each of the plan’s action items, and timeline for completion
  • Make each action item measurable, by identifying a baseline measure and target goal, and include accountability progress reports on each measure in Status Reports
  • Implement a process to ensure that City staff recommendations and City Council policy and budget decisions are consistent with the plan’s Goals and Objectives, which are reflective of community-identified priorities.

Provide your input on the implementation of Columbia Imagined by filling out the status report survey by November 6, 2020.

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