Ward 1 City Council candidates on transportation: A WeBikeEugene survey

WeBikeEugene distributed a questionnaire to all five candidates running to fill the City Council seat of outgoing Councilor George Brown in Eugene’s Ward 1.

We asked eight questions about transportation issues, particularly active transportation (same questions we posed earlier to the mayoral candidates).

Of the five Ward 1 candidates, three answered the questions: Emily Semple, Joshua Skov and Chris Wig. (Chad Anderson and Kelly Boyd have not responded.)

The candidates’ answers are published below verbatim, without editing except to correct obvious typographical errors. We thank them for their time.

Question 1

Please give us a brief assessment of what you see as the major strengths and deficiencies of Eugene’s transportation system (not so much air or rail, but the system most of use daily to get around town)?

Chad Anderson

[awaiting response]

Kelly Boyd

[awaiting response]

Emily Semple

Like most cities in America, Eugene seems to rely on those modes of transportation that leave the heaviest carbon footprint: cars, trucks and (non-electric) buses. We need to improve the ease, attractiveness, and safety of walking and biking, as well as improving the efficiency of mass transit in order to decrease carbon emissions.

I am glad we have our buses but we have lost many routes and frequency of buses. We need to replace and add to routes and schedules so more people will find buses convenient to use. This is especially a problem on Sundays. We are moving toward more and more electric buses to lessen air pollution and this is a trend we need to continue.

I use our bike paths and lanes and would not ride my bike nearly as much without them. It is good to see them well-used and we need more. I would like to see more off road or buffered bike lanes which are safer, especially for children.

We have a huge problem with bicycle theft in this town. We need more secure places to lock bikes. I will also encourage etching id on bikes. A shared bicycle program would be wonderful, allowing many more people to use biking for transportation without the upfront cost of a bike.

Joshua Skov

We have many strengths:

  • Many walkable neighborhoods.
  • A tremendous system of bicycle lanes and paths, especially for recreation.
  • Not a lot of car traffic.
  • A transit system that is one of the best in the country for a community of our scale.
  • Culture – a driver culture of tolerance and care toward alternative modes (compared to other places), and a vibrant bicycle culture.
  • A policy commitment to Vision Zero by the City and the transit district.

At the same time, we have some deficiencies:

  • Many neighborhoods lack complete sidewalk networks, or even safe non-sidewalk routes.
  • Our bicycle network is patchy, with some big missing elements.
  • A too-slow pace of funding strategic pedestrian/bike investments, and little institutional flexibility for funding investments to accompany our narrowly defined pavement preservation program.
  • Little coherence regarding the implementation of Vision Zero.
  • A focus on parking that fails to acknowledge the legacy of too-high parking requirements in other communities, technological change (e.g., such as the possibility of autonomous ridesharing vehicles), shifts in preferences among millennials (away from the car), the high cost of providing so much parking.

CHRIS WIG

I believe major strengths of Eugene’s transportation system include establishing Bus Rapid Transit as the backbone of our transit system, following through on our commitment to make public transportation more environmentally friendly by purchasing more electric buses and empowering citizens to get involved in creating the transit system of the future (e.g. Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, MovingAhead Sounding Board, etc.).

One of our greatest transportation infrastructure challenges is the lack of protected bike lanes and a shortage of well-maintained sidewalks. In order to convince everyday people to utilize environmentally friendly modes of transportation we must first convince them that active modes of transportation are safe. We must also continue to replace our old diesel buses with new electric buses to reduce the carbon footprint of our transit network.

Question 2

If elected, what transportation-related improvements, if any, would you want to make a priority? How would you suggest they be funded?

CHAD ANDERSON

[awaiting response]

KELLY BOYD

[awaiting response]

Emily Semple

I would like to see us investigate free buses. Corvallis does this so we could look at their model. I realize this will take time and cooperation with Lane County, state and federal governments as well as creative funding.

However, free buses would allow many people to not need or use cars, dramatically reducing carbon emissions in accordance with our Climate Protection Ordinance.

Joshua Skov

Two thoughts.

First, apart from specific improvements, I will simply bring a different tone and attitude to Council, when it comes to pedestrian and bicycle investments. I viscerally understand the situation of people on foot and on bike, and I will represent them. Furthermore, I understand the connections between active modes and our high-level policy objectives and broadly held community values – on climate change, health, safety for physically vulnerable populations, and affordability for working families and especially low-income households.

Second, here’s a quick list, though I am sure these will change over time:

  • Fully funded Pedestrian Bicycle Master Plan: I will push for a schedule of full funding of the Pedestrian Bicycle Master Plan projects on a reasonable timeframe, perhaps 20 years or less. I think these investments should be funded at least in part through the pavement preservation bond measure (see #5 below) and the existing gas tax, though I will look for other funding as well. Other communities (e.g. Portland) have tried additional gas taxes, for example.
  • Explicit support and funding for innovation: We know that we don’t yet have all of the necessary tools in our infrastructure toolbox, so we need to empower City staff to seek designs and innovations from elsewhere – and implement them here. Just as we have learned from the Alder cycle track, we will learn from other innovation. (I keep looking for a candidate for the protected intersection!).
  • More Sunday Streets: Our two annual Sunday Streets celebrations have been wildly popular (4,000 people downtown, 3,500 in the Friendly), and they represent a way to transform local culture to be more open to walking and biking. They also don’t cost the City very much. We should find cultural program funding and outside sponsorship opportunities to make many more of them happen, perhaps eight to 10 per summer.
  • More Complete Safe Routes to School Integration: We already have a potent Safe Routes to School program, but it should have more influence in City investments so we can ensure that all children have safe non-motorized routes to school. This goal should inform our prioritization of bond money (again, see #5).

CHRIS WIG

I strongly support the expansion of the EmX along Highway 99, Coburg Road and River Road/30th Ave. Improving public transit on corridors targeted by the MovingAhead project will provide safe, accessible and environmentally friendly transportation for neighborhoods that are currently underserved by these services. This extension is essential to helping Eugene reduce its carbon footprint and to serve as a model for other mid-size communities to follow our lead.

I also believe the city should install a significant quantity of secure bike storage lockers downtown to protect and encourage active transportation and work with the Eugene Police Department to create a bike theft task force.

Question 3

The city’s Transportation System Plan, intended to guide transportation policy through 2035, is now in draft form and is expected to go to council for adoption later in 2016 or early 2017. Goals of the plan include a focus on reducing “drive-alone” automobile trips and doubling trips made by transit, bicycling and walking. Do you support these goals; that is, do you see value in encouraging more use of “active modes”? Why or why not? If so, how do you see us achieving those goals?

CHAD ANDERSON

[awaiting response]

KELLY BOYD

[awaiting response]

Emily Semple

I absolutely support these goals. More active modes of transportation have many benefits: less carbon output, less wear on roads, more exercise resulting in better physical and mental health, more connection with nature and the outdoors, and a better feeling of community with a slower pace and interaction with other walkers and riders.

Safer and more bike paths and sidewalks will draw more people to biking and walking.

More free parking lots near outer bus terminals could reduce drive-alone trips. People would drive shorter distances from home to the parking lots rather than all the way to their destinations.

Joshua Skov

I completely support these goals, just as I pushed for them when I was on the Pedestrian Bicycle Master Plan Citizens Advisory Committee. I see tremendous value – economic, social, health, environmental – in fostering this modal shift.

We will achieve this goals by fostering the right culture and building the right infrastructure. As a city councilor, I will do both. First, I look forward to being a conspicuous pedestrian and bicyclist as an elected official, and a supporter of the huge amount of good work being done by so many people in the community. Second, I will advocate for building out the system we should already have, such as the one described in the Pedestrian Bicycle Master Plan.

CHRIS WIG

I support setting goals to reduce automobile trips and substantially increase the number of community members who choose to use active transportation. Achieving these goals is an essential component to reducing carbon pollution and meeting the benchmarks established in the Climate Recovery Ordinance.

We can accomplish these objectives by supporting compact urban development as our city grows and by making it safer and easier to bike or walk. As we grow, we must remain mindful of who could be left out when we limit the discussion to prioritizing active transportation alone: seniors and other people with mobility challenges. We need to ensure our transportation infrastructure is ADA accessible, not just “accessible.”

Question 4

What is your primary mode of transportation to and from work? Do you ever use other modes? If not, have you considered other modes, and what has kept you from trying them?

CHAD ANDERSON

[awaiting response]

KELLY BOYD

[awaiting response]

Emily Semple

I have lived in downtown Eugene for thirty years and started my graphic design business, Semple Design, 15 years ago. For all that time, I have been lucky enough to work at home or have an easy walk to my office.

In the summer, I often ride my bike but my primary mode of transportation is walking. I only use my car when I need to purchase something I cannot carry or from a distant store.

Joshua Skov

Our household (the relevant unit of analysis here, as we are a family of four) is split mainly between biking and driving. We have one car, used primarily for shuttling kids to activities in bad weather or at considerable distances; otherwise, we bike to work and school whenever circumstances permit. Also, the parent without the car (usually me!) commutes by bike.

We use the bus, but rarely, but only because the car and the bicycle are typically more convenient and faster. At times in the past, when the routes and our needs have matched up well, we have been regular bus users.

I believe my regular use of the bicycle makes me empathize better than I would otherwise with people who rely on walking, bicycling, and transit. It also gives me insights into those needs. I will bring that empathy and insight to council decision making.

CHRIS WIG

I walk or drive to work depending on whether or not I will be working at more than one office throughout the day, the location of any responsibilities I may have after work and the weather. I am excited for the completion of the West Eugene EmX line, and for the first time since I graduated from college I am considering using public transit as my primary mode of transportation to work.

Question 5

Eugene’s 2012 pavement bond measure allocates about $8 million a year for five years to resurface and repair city streets. Of that $516,000 annually (about 6 percent) is allocated to support bicycle and pedestrian projects. Will you support a renewal of this bond measure when it expires? Do you think there should be any change in the allocation to bicycle/pedestrian focused projects?

CHAD ANDERSON

[awaiting response]

KELLY BOYD

[awaiting response]

Emily Semple

I will support a renewal of the pavement bond measure. I believe the portion of non-road money should be increased to be used for sidewalk repair, safer street crossings, and more bicycle lanes. With more walking and biking, there will be less wear and tear on our roads allowing us to spend less money maintaining our streets.

Joshua Skov

I will absolutely support the bond measure next time around, as we have a tremendous backlog of transportation system repairs that are desperately necessary. The measure was popular (passing with over 60 percent of the vote), which demonstrates that people understand the need and are willing to pay for it.

I’m hoping we have a change in allocation and approach with the next bond measure. First, given the centrality of pedestrian and bicycle modes to major policy objectives – land use, climate action, and health, to name a few – we need councilors who are willing to push staff and members of the Street Repair Review Panel (SRRP) to more fully support a build-out of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

That said, I am cognizant of the political danger of this allocation. I have no doubt that opponents of a higher pedestrian/bicycle allocation will portray it as an extravagant concession to a special interest, rather than an investment in infrastructure that is consistent with values that are widely shared in the community. I will do whatever is necessary to craft a careful compromise that moves active transportation modes toward the center of our policy priorities.

CHRIS WIG

I strongly support renewing the Bond Measure to Fix Streets and continuing the work of the Street Repair Review Panel, and I am prepared to campaign vigorously the next time the measure comes to the ballot. I am willing to consider increasing the percentage of funds allocated to bicycle/pedestrian focused projects, especially projects to build sidewalks in places with significant pedestrian traffic. While going door-to-door and talking with residents of Ward 1, I have had many conversations about bike safety, and almost all those conversations were about poor street conditions, for example potholes on West 8th Avenue and West 12th Avenue.

Question 6

In November 2015, the council passed a Vision Zero resolution, saying the city should strive to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries on Eugene streets to zero. If you had been on the council at the time, would you have supported this resolution? If you were on the council then, tell us about your vote and your thinking on the resolution. How do you see the city accomplishing this goal? What role would you play?

CHAD ANDERSON

[awaiting response]

KELLY BOYD

[awaiting response]

Emily Semple

I would have supported this resolution. I do not see how anyone could be against it! Many people came to Council to express their concerns about safe crossings, particularly for children. Council listened and acted properly. We need to build safer pedestrian crossings, review signage and traffic control, and enforce no texting laws. I will support these ideas and more, including finding funds to implement them.

Joshua Skov

Given that I was one of the people working with and lobbying council to pass this resolution, and pushing Better Eugene-Springfield Transit’s effort to get this done, I can credibly say that I would have voted for the resolution.

More to the point, I think we need a Council that is regularly engaged on Vision Zero – a council that will push staff and the City Manager for more progress, more frequent updates, clearer goals, and more tangible signs of progress.

CHRIS WIG

I support Vision Zero and would have voted in support of the resolution if I had been on council at the time of its passage. In order to accomplish our Vision Zero goals, we need to prioritize bike and pedestrian infrastructure that actually protects bicyclists and pedestrians. This includes bike paths, protected lanes and intersections, and clearly marked crossings. As our next councilor, I will be a reliable advocate for policies that decrease traffic-related injuries and fatalities. For example, I would speak out in favor of common sense adjustments like putting a “no turn on red” sign at the intersection of 11th Avenue and Jefferson Street and making the intersection of 27th Avenue and Lawrence Street a four-way stop.

Question 7

Would you like to list any specific accomplishments in which you helped improve conditions for people who ride bikes, walk or take transit to get around town?

CHAD ANDERSON

[awaiting response]

KELLY BOYD

[awaiting response]

Emily Semple

I keep a bag of inexpensive bike lights to give away. I have homeless friends on bikes who do not have lights. This is quite dangerous for them, cars, pedestrians and other bikers. It’s very important to be lit at night whether you are walking, biking or in a car. I will encourage the use of lights, helmets, strong locks, and bike riding/safety classes for kids.

Also, I live on a corner and have a lot of sidewalk to take care of, and I do. Leaves get slippery and ice and snow are worse. All of us can help make walking safer.

Joshua Skov

Honestly, all of the good things that have happened on these fronts have been collective efforts, but I’ll list a few projects to which I have contributed:

  • As a member of the BEST board, I lobbied Council to pass the Vision Zero resolution.
  • As a member of the EmX Steering Committee, I fought hard to keep Vision Zero on the agenda, and ultimately helped persuade several LTD board members to support a board resolution on Vision Zero.
  • I was on the Pedestrian Bicycle Master Plan and gave momentum to the doubling-of-alt-modes goal.
  • I repeatedly advocated for stronger bike/ped policy and more bike/ped funding while a member and then chair of the Sustainability Commission.
  • I advocated for strong goals on alternative modes for their carbon reduction benefit, in the context of the Climate and Energy Action Plan.

CHRIS WIG

As Chair of the Democratic Party of Lane County (DPLC), I have advocated for the following positions excerpted from the 2016 DPLC Platform:

Support reliable and affordable public transportation such as Oregon passenger rail from Eugene to Vancouver and expansion of EmX bus rapid transit system to include electric and hybrid buses.

Support city planning redesigns in Lane County through the Envision Eugene process and the Seven Pillars of Livability considering needs of pedestrians and bicycles, affordable housing, respecting urban growth boundaries and need for agriculture and green spaces.

Question 8

Anything else you want to add on this general topic?

Emily Semple

I lived in Eugene when we took our first steps towards making this a bicycle-friendly city. I know that Council, in the past, has been able to think of creative ways of changing our lifestyle, the way we did then. On this issue, and on many others, Eugene needs to regain its old attitude of creativity and experimentation. This can only be done if the people of Eugene feel that their municipal government represents them and for that to happen, the culture of our city government needs to change.

Joshua Skov

I will be proud to be the first Eugene city councilor …

  • in a household with cargo bikes (an Xtracycle and a Bike Friday).
  • to have participated in all local editions of the Disaster Relief Trials.
  • and to show up at city council meetings consistently by bicycle.

Chris Wig

Thank you for the opportunity to share my positions on public transit and active transportation. As our next councilor, I will be excited to advocate for safer sidewalks, more secure bike storage, enhanced ADA-accessible transportation options and an expanded Bus Rapid Transit system.