During Metro’s 2010 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) update, a question arose – was the current level of investment in the regional trails system adequate, since it would take nearly 200 years to complete? Pursuit of an answer to that question led to a need to look at the region’s active transportation planning and investment in general, and thus the planning for a regional Active Transportation Plan (ATP) began. Although other MPOs around the country have long-range plans that include active transportation components, Metro’s regional ATP is the first of its kind in the nation, and may set the stage for other MPOs to prioritize active transportation policies, projects and funding.
Since October 2013, a regional and diverse work group of staff from jurisdictions and agencies, advocates and other stakeholders, including the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, has provided input to the ATP. A draft ATP has been developed and is currently being refined with community stakeholder input; the public review draft of the plan will be available for public comment and input in Spring 2014.
Importantly, the ATP looks at the issue of equity around the region – that is, does the transportation system equitably serve all citizens in the Metro region, regardless of how they get around? In regional planning across the nation, and no less in the Portland Metro region, there is a need for increased infrastructure and policy to support active transportation – for those who make the choice to travel actively, but especially for those who don’t have a choice. To be sure, active transportation networks, especially when implemented in a seamless and regional manner, will address many issues of transportation equity that we struggle with today:
- Can children safely walk or bike to school? If they live too far to walk or bike the entire trip, do they still have the opportunity to incorporate activity into their daily route to school?
- Do our transportation choices improve the quality of life for all of our kids and families, and are we creating safe, active and healthy communities – urban and suburban?
- Do those who can’t afford not to choose to ride transit, or persons with limited abilities, have reasonable and reliable connections, sidewalks, and transportation networks in order to access transit stops?
- Is our population able to age in place, with safe access to reliable transportation and the ability to stay active by getting around actively?
The ATP will be a stand-alone plan, and will complement the RTP, providing new pedestrian and bicycle maps, and updating and strengthening pedestrian and bicycle policies in the 2014 update of the RTP. This regional vision for active transportation will assist municipalities across the region to implement their own planned walking and bicycling projects. A strong ATP will help craft policy and direct funding for active transportation projects in the tri-county region, and will knit together existing walking and bicycling plans and projects from jurisdictions within the region. The effort will create a regional network of pedestrian and bicycle investments that can increase access to public transit and destinations such as schools, improve public health, help reach climate goals, increase energy independence, and create walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.
Follow the ATP at Metro’s website. The public comment period for the ATP will run from March 21-May 5, 2014.