According to our Comprehensive Plan, our community has a vision that “residents and visitors will safely, efficiently, and economically move within our community and throughout the region using alternative transportation,” and that future transportation demand will be met through use of alternative transportation (not more asphalt and single-occupancy vehicles).
The Integrated Transportation Plan (ITP) was designed in 2015 to address those goals, but in many ways, the plan diverges from the Comp Plan vision. It calls for new roads through open space and wildlife habitat that would induce more demand and traffic, such as the North Bridge, Tribal Trails, and an East-West Connector through South Park. Additionally, most walk, bike, and transit strategies haven’t been implemented, leading us to already blow past projected traffic levels for 2035. And all this new traffic comes with climate-polluting emissions. Currently 82% of our community’s climate impact is from transportation, and building more roads will make this worse.
Luckily, the ITP has a built-in update process. Recently, a transportation consultant who is well-versed in other mountain towns, Jim Charlier, spoke with stakeholders, Town Council, and the County Commission. He highlighted a number of key issues that we’d like to share with you.
- We will never resolve our congestion, but we can still make Jackson “work.” Decades of planning research have demonstrated the realities of induced demand: widening roads doesn’t resolve traffic – it creates more. The demand to drive in Jackson is bottomless, and just adding more lanes won’t solve our challenges. We need other creative strategies, like bus or HOV lanes, allowing buses to drive on the shoulders during peak congestion, and paid parking downtown. This will incentivize both locals and visitors to choose alternatives to driving alone, and while it won’t end congestion (an impossible goal), it will create a transportation network that still works even during peak congestion. (Imagine you’re on a shoulder bus lane, sailing by backed up traffic between Wilson and town…)
- We have no regional transportation planning. The county has failed to hire and retain a transportation planning director or other staff who can lead efforts and be directly responsible for implementation. We have no staff to engage regularly with the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and represent our community goals. Many of our identified strategies are not one-off, easy strategies, but rather labor-intensive, ongoing initiatives that deserve a dedicated staff person.
- Capacity and funding are key issues. Simply put, additional staff are needed to do the additional work identified in the ITP. Funding could help bring cash-strapped WYDOT to the table, and a stable funding source would provide the capital for necessary infrastructure – such as devices that keep a traffic light green as a bus approaches – and services. As with roads, in transit, you must build it before they will come. And if we are to meet our ITP goals of doubling START ridership, and then doubling it again, we will need the staff and stable funding to do the building.
The Alliance’s highest priorities for the ITP update include:
- Making an explicit commitment to implement all walk, bike, and transit strategies before considering building new roads or new lanes – and considering the climate impacts of transportation decisions
- Hiring county transportation planning staff
- Dedicating new public funding for transportation options
Review our letter for more detail, and if you have questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. The updates to the ITP will be formally reviewed and adopted in a special Joint Information Meeting on January 30 from 3-5pm at Town Hall.