Is the mega Cleveland region ready to tap the brakes on decades of sprawl-inducing investments?
Some are advocating that Northeast Ohio’s transportation agency, NOACA, help the region move in that direction.
NOACA, the regional agency that oversees $40 million in transportation spending, set a goal to “build a sustainable, multi-modal transportation system” in its strategic plan last year. Since then, it has been working on how to make good on that promise.
The best practice, says GreenCityBlueLake Director, David Beach, a member of the NOACA Community Advisory Council, is to set sites on what is known as a mode share goal.
“A key indicator of a sustainable transportation system is the mix of modes,” Beach told a joint session of the NOACA Community and Business advisory councils yesterday. “If you have a balanced system, with more biking and transit, it promotes equity. It helps small and large towns to attack air pollution. It’s a healthy option, and a way to have a system that is more affordable.”
In essence, a mode share goal is an educated guess on the number of people that will switch from driving to biking, walking and transit. It is a policy aimed at producing the investments, like bike lanes and reliable bus service, that incentivize transportation choice.
“NOACA should set a goal for how much biking and transit use (it expects),” he said, “and then it would have to figure out which projects will make that shift.”
The greatest example, Beach added, may be Copenhagen where 40 to 50% of the population has switched from driving to riding bikes and taking transit.
In the United States, mode share goals are newer, but arriving quickly.
For example, Boston, Seattle and Columbus have or are setting mode share targets in their strategic plans. Columbus regional transportation agency, MORPC plans to increase commuters by bike, transit and walking by 1% in five years, and its expects a +5% mode shift by 2040.
Columbus’ mode shift goal may not sound ambitious when compared to Boston, which wants to triple its mode split, but it is arguably better than no target at all.
“This is something leading MPOs like NOACA are doing,” Beach said. “Its about the kind of vibrant, urban places we could be creating.”
Once mode share targets are in place, NOACA can figure out the projects it needs to fund in order to hit the targets, Beach concluded.
“It’s a good idea,” responded the NOACA community advisory council chair, Board Treasurer and Cleveland Chief of Governmental Affairs, Valarie McCall. “I think we should pursue it.”
“If this is something the council wants to take up, NOACA would provide the research,” NOACA Executive Director, Grace Gallucci said about devising the mode share targets.