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Climate Action Plan

From Preston Jordan, 5/17/09
As you know today is Green Albany Day, an event at the Veteran's Memorial Building in Memorial Park from 11 am to 3 pm where you can learn how to decrease your impact on the environment, and learn about/comment upon the City's draft Climate Action Plan (CAP).  There will be two public CAP workshops conducted by the City's CAP consultant, EDAW.  One workshop will take place in the morning and one in the afternoon.
This message has a status update on the draft CAP measure relevant to AS&R to better inform any members attending the workshop.  I know few will have a chance to read this before the event, and I apologize.  I intended to send this much earlier, but unexpected family obligations prevented this.
At the last Sustainability Committee meeting, EDAW presented cost information for many of the proposed measures.  The main measure of interest to AS&R is TL-1.1A, "Improve/expand bike lanes and bicycle/pedestrian path network." The consultant envisioned this to mean construction of about eight complete streets throughout the City. Complete streets accommodate all street users. The complete streets envisioned by the consultant would have sidewalks, cycling paths and motorist lanes.
The median cost estimate for this measure is $42 million, which is 23% of the City's projected capital improvement funds over the next ten years. This is the most expensive measure overall to the City overall, and likely the most expensive per ton carbon dioxide avoided.  Part of the reason for this is that the expense of most of the other measures to the City is primarily the administrative cost of adopting and administering new policy, with the implementation cost being carried by citizens during building remodels and other activities.
Based on this information, AS&R judged that the likelihood of getting this much money spent on complete streets over the next ten years was 1) unlikely, and 2) likely unnecessary given the physical layout of Albany.  This judgment was based in part on the history of Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) implementation since its adoption in 2003.  Staff has been working diligently on this effort, and yet due to the normal timelines associated with public process, grant writing, project design and construction, only a relatively small percentage (~10%?) of the routes in the plan have been implemented.
AS&R indicated to the Sustainability Committee that simply having the CAP set accelerated targets for implementing the infrastructure called for in the existing BMP would be very effective.  Full implementation of the BMP in ten years would be quite an accomplishment, and yet in the realm of the achievable.  The Sustainability Committee agreed and asked the consultant to look at the cost of fully implementing the current BMP.  Presumably this will be presented today.
More thoughts are included below, but that is the important information for today.  Take care.

The effectiveness of this less intensive accomplishment, compared to the consultant's extensive complete street vision, is indicated by the numbers of cyclists passing Albany's energizer station on Bike to Work Day.  While the many other AS&R's who orchestrated and staffed this incredible event will post a report later, the statistics are relevant in the CAP context.  Not to steal their thunder, but over 400 cyclists passed the station this year, up from the mid 300 last year.  This despite the incredible reduction in gas prices and the downturn in the economy.  These numbers indicate we are really moving to a tipping point where culture rather than infrastructure is the driving motivation for adoption of alternative transit.
This is not to say infrastructure is not important to many people's decision whether to engage in alternative transit, but that calling for probably unachievable dramatic investment over the next ten years is likely not needed to keep the arc of increasing cycling going. Rather, actually achieving what has already been laid out in the next ten years would be sufficient.
If funds do materialize during this time for more dramatic infrastructure improvement, then perhaps such implementation can start during the this ten year CAP period. Otherwise, this dramatic improvement can be scheduled for the next ten year CAP (this is really just the beginning after all).
Writing this message suggests to me that it might be wise to articulate two visions for the Albany cycling network in the upcoming BMP update, due to start this fall.  The main vision would be an update on the current of paths, lanes and boulevards plan.  A second, less articulated vision would be for a broader network of paths throughout the City.  The second would look toward the next ten year period (2020 to 2030), but set something in place if funds suddenly become available earlier.  We are in historic times, and it is difficult to predict how we as a society will decide to deploy the resources over the next ten years.  Consider the stimulus funds for instance.

The next Sustainability Committee meeting in which they will provide comments to the consultant is Wednesday, September 16th in the Community Center's Edith Stone Room, 7:30pm.