Since the workshop: Boulder, CO continues to develop new transportation strategies for sustainable development

Bike lanes at the intersection of Broadway and University. Photo by City of Boulder via Flickr

Boulder, CO has ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions and improve transportation in the city. A newly adopted transportation plan—informed by Smart Growth America’s work with the city—is the most recent step toward achieving these goals.

In August 2014, the Boulder City Council accepted an update to the city’s Transportation Master Plan (TMP). The updated TMP addresses bikeways, pedestrian infrastructure, and regional transit, acknowledging that each has an important role in supporting the sustainability and quality of life goals set by the local community.

One of the main policy focus areas highlighted in TMP update is the need to focus on roadway enhancement and street corridor projects that advance multi-modal transportation in the region. The TMP update includes a comprehensive plan with immediate, short-term, and long-term action items in support of increasing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Boulder officials have already made significant progress in achieving this goal as they recently completed a Complete Streets corridor study along Canyon, East Arapahoe, and 30th Street in support of the Envision East Arapahoe planning project.

Smart Growth America visited Boulder on March 4 and 5, 2013  to help city leaders identify, develop, and implement travel and mobility strategies to help Boulder reach its ambitious environmental goals. The interactive community workshop series focused on identifying specific smart growth strategies and tools for implementation in Boulder from the Cool Planning Handbook, developed by Otak, Inc., a planning and design firm based in the Pacific Northwest and a member of SGA’s technical assistance team. Representatives from Otak and Smart Growth America helped facilitate the workshop sessions.

Kathleen Bracke, manager of GO Boulder, says that the TMP update’s success was greatly aided by Smart Growth America’s Cool Planning workshop. “The workshop gave us the chance to look through a broad lens and think about the role of transportation and how it supports our community’s sustainability goals.”

In particular, the workshop stressed that because successful transportation and land-use decisions must satisfy a variety of uses and users, the planning, implementation and maintenance of new transportation policies must be the work of a variety of City departments as well. Ms. Bracke points to enhanced coordination across departments as a key reason for the success of the TMP update. An example of this citywide collaboration was the formation of a bi-weekly working group that included representatives from Boulder’s departments of Transportation, Public Works, Community Planning, and Sustainability. This group worked collaboratively to help draft the TMP update and address other environmental initiatives in Boulder.

Another key takeaway from the Cool Planning workshop was the need to engage community members in the TMP update process and make the connection between transportation policies that mitigate climate change and how these policies benefit economic prosperity and quality of life. Ms. Bracke acknowledges meaningful engagement with community members as a key reason for the success of the TMP update. “In all of our planning initiatives we want to make sure that our goals are connected back to the community’s sustainability goals.” GO Boulder’s community outreach included an active presence on social media, town-hall meetings, and public bike and walk audits. The outcome was a collaborative, multi-faceted TMP Update that was embraced by community members and policymakers alike.

Smart Growth America’s free annual technical assistance program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.

Technical assistance