Do Colorado Springs transportation planners care about how you want to travel or do they want what they want, figuring you’ll adjust to what they feel is best for you?
Their priorities don’t match your priorities. Two recent exchanges between transportation planners and city council members were very revealing. If you like to drive to and from work in your personal automobile, stop on your way home to see your kid’s soccer game, and then pick up groceries, you’ll want to keep reading.
During the March 7th Colorado Springs City Council Work Session, an update was given on the Connect COS Transportation Plan. Connect COS is the 20-year Colorado Springs transportation plan that has been in the works for the past 2 years. These planners say they want transportation to be: safe, equitable, sustainable, efficiently reliable, accessible, and connected.
Those sound great, right? Well, they aren’t. These are planner code-words to make ideas sound more palatable to the general public than they really are.
Their projects are really social engineering —pushing residents out of cars and into less convenient modes of travel. They have plans, and we will all be footing the bill if voters extend the PPRTA sales tax in November.
If you’d like to watch the full presentation, you’ll find it here.
What is PPRTA, who pays for it, and what do they want to do with our money?
PPRTA stands for Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. PPRTA consists of six regional governments. The members are Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, unincorporated El Paso County, and the towns of Green Mountain Falls, Ramah and Calhan. The PPRTA tax is a 1% sales tax, and the funds are divided between capital projects (55%), maintenance projects (35%), and transit (10%).
The prioritization of the PPRTA-funded Connect COS projects is based on input from:
- Colorado Springs Traffic & Planning bureaucrats
- Connect COS Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC)
- Project Manager Ted Ritschard from Olsson Consulting
This group identified 17 critical transportation corridors. Fewer than half of the critical projects are roadway projects.
Here is a page from the PowerPoint presentation they presented to city council on March 7th.
Some of the exchanges between council members and the presenting bureaucrats were truly telling about the direction the transportation planners want to push you. Their stated plans were initially vague, but details became clearer when council members asked questions and commented.
Councilwoman Nancy Henjum asked Ritchard, “What are we striving to become?” Ritchard replied that the biggest thing people want, according to a recent 1,700-respondent survey, is transportation options. Travis Easton, Director of Public Works, stepped up to the mic and said the goal is to move people more efficiently in the modes of travel that they choose. Keep that goal in mind.
A very simple question reveals lack of preparation
Councilman Dave Donelson asked for an estimate of the percentage of citizens who travel by automobile vs other modes of travel. You’ll find the entertaining exchange here.
Multiple city staff members scrambled to the microphone to pipe in with their best guesses. These are the people who are planning for our transportation needs over the next 20 years, and they don’t know how many of you prefer to travel by car!
Their guesses for the answer ranged from the low numbers of 77-88%. What if instead, the question was: what percentage of our population who work outside their homes intentionally selects an alternate method of travel that isn’t an automobile when traveling to their jobs?
According to 2019 census data, only 4% of the Colorado Springs population uses buses, bikes, walks, or uses another transportation mode to get to work. We believe the 4% figure is on the high side, as only .5% of the Colorado Springs population commutes by bicycle. Donelson told them he didn’t think their guesses were accurate. Bravo to Mr. Donelson! It’s about time there was some push-back against these planners.
Donelson went on to ask how many of the transportation dollars would be used for roadway projects. The answer was estimated at 80%. Keep in mind those roadway projects include bus transportation and bicycle lanes —modes they wish to push you into. Donelson said, “We should be putting more money into what people are actually doing.” Again, bravo!
Donelson pointed out that there isn’t enough focus on the reality, and there is too much focus on things the city planners would desire to have. He pointed out that with local weather and terrain, private automobiles are the most practical mode of transportation in Colorado Springs.
Additionally, Ritchard told Councilman Donelson that if we continue to invest in vehicle infrastructure to the level we have been, that people will continue to go in that direction. He said people travel by the easiest way possible. When investments are made into other modes, they can achieve “mode shift.” We don’t know about you, but we don’t want government bureaucrats to “shift” us. It’s our personal decision how we choose to move from one place to another.
Councilwoman Nancy Henjum made additional comments. She said they need to balance what people want with what they need for the future. She said if we design just for what we want, we will continue to have greater and greater challenges with our climate, our air quality, and with equity. Henjum is the sole council person on the Connect COS Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), by the way. You’ll find these comments at 1:01:49 here.
We contacted a City Council representative about what’s next with Connect COS. We want to know whether it’s already set in stone, or if it can be stopped. City Council Constituent Outreach Coordinator Sam Friedman says his understanding right now is that the Connect COS plan, in its final form, will have to be presented to the city council for a vote, for it to be formally recognized by the City as the long-range planning effort.
We say the majority of their plans can be stopped with a “no” vote of the PPRTA extension, which will be on the November 2022 ballot. If there is no PPRTA funding source for these projects, they will have to prioritize which projects are really essential to the area. Another way to stop Connect COS is for council to vote against it.
Please contact Mayor John Suthers and City Council representatives and tell them not to support Connect COS until it is adapted to focus on the majority of users —automobile drivers. Tell them you oppose efforts to push us into less convenient modes of travel. It’s senseless to spend taxpayer funds on another scheme of “if we build it, they will come.”
- Mayor John Suthers Jsuthers@springsgov.com
- Tom Strand Tom.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bill Murray Bill.email@example.com
- Yolanda Avila Yolanda.Avila@coloradosprings.gov
- Mike O’Malley Mike.OMalley@coloradosprings.gov
- Dave Donelson Dave.Donelson@coloradosprings.gov
- Nancy Henjum Nancy.Henjum@coloradosprings.gov
- Randy Helms Randy.Helms@coloradosprings.gov
- Wayne Williams Wayne.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Stephannie Fortune email@example.com