Category Archives: Transportation

Email to DeAnne Butterfield re: the Public Policy Working Group Report (7/10/2017)

Dear DeAnne,

Thank you for sharing this public process report with me. It certainly shows a lot of quality work was done. However it is used, Boulder is sure to benefit.

The PPWG’s recommendation that Boulder “assess, plan and pilot a change of culture” makes sense – our high octane civic debates may not be unique, but stepping back long enough to consciously choose a new approach to community engagement, leading to “integrated, representative, and transparent decision-making” and collaborative problem-solving is an achievable and worthy goal.

In one of my 2009 EAB opinions, I wrote, “(d)emocracy cannot survive in an environment suffused with tirade-driven, bumper-sticker logic.” Today, we’re testing this thesis nationally, and at a local level, with uncivil discourse that scorches podiums and drives reasonable voices from the room.

Promotion of mutual respect, clarification of decision-making roles and better coordination between volunteer boards and City Council should also help quite a bit, but I’ve always thought Council should consistently note the community DNA that is unable to attend and participate effectively in our hearing processes. It would be interesting to collect demographic data on hearing attendees, gathering the data on separate sheets that do not include individual identifying information (Ever addressed board or council before? How often per year? Rent or own? Children at home? Income? Work in Boulder? Retired? Years as resident? Car, bike or walk to hearing? Etc.) It shouldn’t be hard to collect and the profile generated could be very enlightening. This gathered data could be collected at all of our council and board meetings and might go a long way towards identifying who we’re missing, both in terms of diversity and balance of viewpoints.

Active listening by city representatives (elected and appointed) and a request for interest-based, instead of positional commentary could also be encouraged. Tell us the “why,” not just the pro or con, including whether the concerns expressed are personal, representative of a named group or special interest, of from a community-wide perspective.

It is important to acknowledge that the public process challenge is ongoing and will never die. Determining the appropriate level of civic engagement for any particular issue or plan is a valuable exercise, if for no other reason than it encourages us to determine before a process is designed what we hope to achieve, from whom we hope to or need to hear, and whether we should embark on the “vision quest” at all.

The background examples were a good mix of challenging topics and more or less dysfunctional public processes. This year’s council election is likely to pick at these wounds again and again. I was personally involved in all but the North Trail Study Area process.

The Housing Linkage Fee “compromise” was developed outside the hearing room, but it was fashioned by stakeholders with direct knowledge of the market forces involved. Much higher linkage fees were desired by some, but the unintended consequences likely to flow from use of linkage fees for growth management of non-residential development (some, but not all; new, but not existing) might have been significant. I’m glad the increases were modest under these circumstances.

The Housing Boulder Working Group process was interesting to watch, as you know. I thought our group was pretty well balanced. How did yours hold up? It was a little odd that staff developed the list of “solutions” we ranked – an exercise that had everyone scratching their heads – but the rankings, themselves, gave some focus to positional debates that might otherwise have added little of value to the overall community debate. We’re all in this together, and stacking the groups with self-selected neighborhood representatives could have stifled discussions that needed to be more robust.

As legal advisor for the co-op folks, I was in the room as our proposed revisions to City Code were developed. I kept asking them to consider carefully the opinions of their neighbors and the resulting recommendations really were designed to require a commitment to active, relatively sophisticated co-op governance up front, in order to discourage “pretenders,” and promote better self-regulation within the existing code. Our idea was to reduce the City’s enforcement challenge on the back end and prevent future problems that would have tarred and feathered “good” co-ops along with bad ones. Instead, Tom Carr designed a revocable license-based approach (facilitating stricter enforcement, not encouraging creation of well-managed co-ops).

Unfortunately, Tom’s strategy re-opened issues that were, presumably, hotly debated and laid to rest when the first Boulder co-op ordinance was passed. The public perception was (and still is) that co-op advocates were listened to, when, in fact, our recommendations were largely ignored. It took more than a year of interminable revisions and painful public hearings to convert this Code re-boot into something that may encourage co-ops – we’ll have to wait to see.

Finally, the “right-sizing” of Folsom kerfuffle could have been avoided entirely had staff recognized that the shift from 4-lanes to 2 single lanes with a shared third (turn movement) lane would not work where raised medians already occupied the potential “shared” middle lane (south of Spruce and north of Arapahoe). People would barely have noticed the changes elsewhere on Folsom. I wrote about this in the Camera before the lanes were down-sized (July, 2015), but to no avail.

BTW – Andrew Shoemaker announced he will not be running for reelection to Council this year. I have decided to run.one last time. Wish me luck? {;< ) Ed Byrne

Moratorium on The Hill (8/23/2014)

Today, the Hill is struggling – a shadow of what it once was, but can no longer be: a place entirely dependent on students and their spending; where three months of summer was a welcome respite. The land is simply too valuable to sit relatively idle for that long. We need responsible adults to hang out there year-round.

The Hill ought to be Boulder’s hot spot: a place where young entrepreneurs, talented students and neighbors of all ages cross paths regularly in an environment designed to promote and nurture creative collisions. If you prefer to go to sleep early or the sound of parties sets your teeth on edge, you might not want to live there, but students who could care less what the neighbors think should live elsewhere, too.

Many plans have been developed for the Hill. The best of them see the inherent tension associated with conflicting student, neighborhood and business interests as, instead, the Hill’s seeds for greatness. Well-served by transit, but still somewhat dependent on the automobile, underground parking, first floor retail, second floor office and upper floor workforce and student housing will all be needed to create the critical mass essential to make this potential university village/neighborhood center thrive.

The streetscape and the bricks and mortar should reflect every Hill constituency (including neighbors, empty-nesters and families), students, faculty, and university employees), plus offices, retail, and restaurants prepared to feed off each other. The sooner, the better.

Land Assembly Improves Neighborhoods, May Serve In-Commuters

January 25, 2014

When asked how to find out what in-commuters would buy or rent in order to live in Boulder and avoid their daily  commute, I suggested that we should ASK them. Radical notion, but I’m glad the City has finally decided to do it. Continue reading Land Assembly Improves Neighborhoods, May Serve In-Commuters

Chautauqua Parking Test Program

April 21, 2012

The beatings will continue until morale improves — or should I say, parking tickets will be issued until we leave our cars at home. Motor vehicles are considered a suspect class in Boulder, so driving disincentives abound. However, our land use patterns require most people to drive almost everywhere to do almost anything.
Continue reading Chautauqua Parking Test Program

State of the City of Boulder

February 18, 2012

Boulder’s great, but it could be better. Drive through most older neighborhoods in Boulder and one can’t help but wonder why we don’t have “affordable” housing. More than 50% of Boulder’s dwelling units are for rent. Many owners have little incentive to upgrade while their tenants slowly buy their properties for them. Selling the lot as a scrape-off yields a reliable return.
Continue reading State of the City of Boulder

Safe Streets Begin Between Your Ears

February 11, 2012

“The last time I should speed is when I’m in a hurry.” “While waiting to make a left turn, it’s not what I see, but what I don’t see that could kill me (look for blind spots, not semi-trailer trucks).” “If I’m on a bicycle, I’m invisible, but if a driver sees me, he may try to kill me (eye contact does not equal awareness).” “If I ride a bike at night without a light, I’m an idiot.” At one time or another, but more frequently towards the end of my career as a prosecutor in Boulder’s municipal court, I often suggested to drivers and bicyclists that the above thoughts just might save their lives some day.
Continue reading Safe Streets Begin Between Your Ears

Need for a Longer Planning Horizon (2012 City Council Retreat)

January 14, 2012

It’s time to dramatically extend our planning horizon to anticipate a future where carbon-based energy resources become so expensive that market-based assumptions are irrevocably altered and to protect ourselves and our beloved community from the negative consequences resulting therefrom. This means more renewable energy sources, better energy storage technologies, more robust year-round agricultural productivity, and strategic primary resource planning.
Continue reading Need for a Longer Planning Horizon (2012 City Council Retreat)

2011 Boulder Election Results

2011 Boulder Election Results
November 5, 2011

More than 26,000 people voted, 48% of those receiving ballots. During our last off-year election (2009), only 18,353 (29%) city residents voted. Direct mail worked this time. Give PLAN-Boulder, the Sierra Club, New Era, and Renewables: Yes credit for turning out their supporters, winning a close fight over 2B and 2C, while also electing their preferred city council candidates: Suzanne Jones (ran a near-perfect race for a newcomer), Lisa Morzel (best showing by an incumbent) and Tim Plass.
Continue reading 2011 Boulder Election Results

B-Cycles: A Solution in Search of a Problem?

May 21, 2011

Not long ago, the Boulder Convention and Visitors’ Bureau determined that there are about as many bicycles in Boulder as residents. 7 of 10 residents own a bike, but enough have more than one to reach parity. However, 50-60,000 employees commute into Boulder every work day. Many of them leave their bicycles behind. Therefore, a demand for “rentable” bikes would seem to exist. Creating a critical mass of bike stations and bikes where they are desired – to transport customers where and when they wish to go – is B-cycle’s nonprofit challenge. Will 12 stations and 100 bikes suffice?

Bike renting seems to be working well enough in Denver (and Paris), but it remains to be seen whether Boulder has sufficient demand for point-to-point bicycling in our charming, but not very large or dense downtown. The cost of parking and length of commute cause many downtown Denver employees to leave their cars behind. 400 bicycles and 55 stations increase the likelihood that one-way bike trips between popular destinations in Denver will occur with sufficient frequency to have enough bikes where and when they are needed for round trips.

I want B-cycle to succeed. Many civic-minded supporters have pooled their resources to give it a chance. Will the numbers ever pencil? Time will tell. We buy EcoPasses every year and rarely ride buses. I wonder, though, why some in Boulder want urban amenities and services while opposing changes that might allow Boulder to have enough people living here to sustain them?

Gas Price Increases Won’t Persist

March 12, 2011
The law of supply and demand does not apply. Speculators rule. We (literally) pay the price.

Is $3.75 per gallon the new normal, or will this be just another bump in the road? Experts are attributing half the price increase since last fall to competition with India and China. That is unlikely to change. The price increases during the past couple of weeks are harder to explain.

The situation in Libya is very troubling from a humanitarian perspective, but Saudi Arabia has committed to replace Libya’s 2% share of world oil production. Experts have indicated there is no shortage of oil or gasoline in the supply system, so emotions and potential profits, not market principles, underlie the recent price spike. This, too, shall pass.

U.S. consumers have shown a remarkable ability to rapidly reduce gas consumption in response to historic price hikes. The result has been clogging of the distribution system, which has often lead quickly to price decreases to clear out the excess inventory. Thus, in ordinary circumstances, we profligately waste gas, but we know how to conserve when that matters.
The gas price roller-coaster rides we have taken in the past have braced us for a future that is not built upon a cheap energy foundation, but it hasn’t lead to widespread industry retooling, business model revision, or personal behavioral adjustments. We have, however, sold our clunkers, greased our bikes, and identified trip-combining opportunities – our personal transportation “Easy” buttons. The future is likely to demand more.