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CAMPO tries to update 2040 plan, is held back by process

Thursday, February 14, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

Without concrete policies in place, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization could quickly fall short of its goal to incorporate transportation demand management into its 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt presented an amendment of the 2040 plan to the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board on Monday evening that she said would help the organization quantify its goals and outcomes regarding TDM. Citing the region’s likelihood of failing federal air quality standards in the coming years, increased peak time traffic congestion and severely limited alternatives to car travel, Eckhardt said the board needed measurable TDM strategies well beyond the tracking of carpool trips.

Eckhardt had the Capital Area Council of Governments voluntary TDM committee draft the amendment in light of two discussions facing CAMPO in May, one involving $500,000 previously dedicated to TDM but never allocated and another regarding changes to the 2045 Transportation Plan. Eckhardt was hoping to fast-track adoption of the amendment since the board is considering canceling its March meeting.

Unsurprisingly, CAMPO Executive Director Ashby Johnson said the amendment needs to go through the standard five-step process for policy proposals, involving the Technical Advisory Committee and an opportunity for public comment. That process and the CAMPO meeting schedule would push the item back to July 8 for adoption. At Eckhardt’s request, Johnson agreed to do his best to get the item to the TAC Feb. 25 meeting and have it back to the TPB for adoption as early as May, but more likely at the June 6 meeting.

After several attempts to speed up the timeline, Eckhardt accepted Johnson’s compromise. “If it doesn’t come until June, it doesn’t come until June,” she said. “I fear that we are kicking the can.”

Noting the item’s urgency, Chair Steve Adler said he and Vice Chair Cynthia Long are willing to work with Eckhardt and Johnson outside of the board meetings to expedite the process for a May decision.

The 2040 plan proposed amendment emphasizes a combined infrastructural and programmatic approach to TDM. Programmatic, or behavioral, TDM involves strategies to reduce traffic that are not direct changes to infrastructure, such as providing public transit passes to employees or raising the cost of parking.

The amended policy would target 5 percent of all Surface Transportation Block Grant Program funds to be used for programmatic TDM and offer incentives for infrastructure projects that encourage multimodal trips or use congestion pricing or other mechanisms to disincentivize peak hour commutes.

Other amendments include adding reduced vehicle hours traveled and improved travel time reliability to the plan’s policy goals.

Johnson noted that a number of similar efforts are already underway. He said CAMPO is working with a TDM consultant on its 2045 plan and that, additionally, recommendations from a $300,000 CAMPO/Movability Austin TDM study will be presented to the board in May.

Johnson suggested the board take time to thoroughly consider recommendations from the TDM study before going forward with any policy amendments, but the board did not want to delay the policy changes any further than necessary. Eckhardt said part of the reason for the amendment in the first place is that “we were not seeing any movement” regarding TDM policy since the board decided in May 2018 to address the issue within a year.

Photo by Kurt Haubrich made available through a Creative Commons license.

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