Tuesday, September 15, 2009

City Director of Planning, Development and Transportation Responds to Budget Questions about Fort Collins Bike Plan

The City's Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) met last night and heard from Jeff Scheick about the City budget. The question and and answer session with Mr. Scheick and his staff (Bike Coordinator, Dave "DK" Kemp and Kathleen Bracke, head of Transportation Planning) was especially informative.

Questions were ask by a number of members on the BAC. The focus was the 2010/2011 City budget with specific reference to bicycle services, the bicycle program, and the bike plan implementation. Answers were provided by Scheick, Kemp and Bracke.

(The photo shows a bike education class with second graders in Commerce City. See questions h and m below for responses to questions about the City's priorities for bike education, the bike library and the FCBikes program).

This section is from the Draft minutes of the BAC meeting. Complete minutes will be posted on the City web site in the near future.

a) What about snow plow operations? These are funded at past levels.

b) Street sweeping? Cut to twice a year on collector streets. Eliminated in residential areas.

c) Are contractors required to sweep drag-out from construction sites? Could we enforce that? Scheick: Good point, we can and should do that, yes.

d) Parks has had significant cuts. What cuts there will impact bicycles? Scheick: $2M cut from Parks and Rec. Since this is not my area I can’t say how that will impact bikes.

e) What use might be made of Natural Resource dollars in our natural areas? Scheick: Open space dollars are dedicated. Skutchan: Yes, but they are being used creatively.

f) Can you speak to the two BFO offers from FCBIkes and the Bike Co-op that we heard about last meeting? DK: I can’t speak to the Bike Co-op offer (I don’t know if it was funded). FCBikes offer was above the line. Price: the Co-op offer was not even acknowledged by the City. It was not funded.

g) Can you comment on the BFO offer from the Bike Co-op? Scheick: I cannot. I read the offer and understood it but do not know how decisions were made to not fund it.

h) We were hoping to hear more from you about the Bike Program and funding for FCBikes. At Council on Sept. 1 Lisa Poppaw pulled the Safe Routes to School program from the consent agenda. Questions were raised about the $38,500 for educational expenditures versus funds of $100K for the Bike Library and $192K for FC Bikes. At what point does the City or does staff begin to reprioritize these allocations given the need for educational outreach to school children in particular? Scheick & Bracke: The CDOT grant for Safe Routes is comprised of specific funds as requested in the grant proposal.

i) The bike program is funded primarily by these three grants (exclusive of engineering funds). Council expressed concern about these priorities. Do we rely on Council to review priorities or should this group be making recommendations to Council in this respect? Scheick: Joe Olson, our traffic engineer is reviewing the 40 school zones in the City. We will bring this study to Council in Feb. 2010 to discuss transportation safety, including this topic. We are also working with Poudre School District on how to partner with them on educational outreach.

j) Has the FC Moves program been funded? Bracke: this addresses metrics for all modes of transportation. We will do this as a part of our regular planning budget. Skutchan: Metrics for bicycling is appearing as one of our priorities. Will the department be able to address this? Bracke: We will work with your group on this. We won’t do this by ourselves but welcome your input. The depth at which we measure bicycling will depend on resources.

k) There are lots of City departments that impact us as bicyclists (streets, cleaning, traffic engineering, park, etc.). How does this new organizational structure of PTD impact the ability of departments to communicate and work together or with the BAC? Scheick: Tell us what you’d like and DK can have any of these programs or departments come and talk with you. Skutchan: Will the reduction in staff impact your ability to respond to our needs? Scheick: You won’t see any change based on our reorganization. On the contrary, they should be more efficient now (pavement management is a good example.)

l) Do you expect snow removal to be maintained at the same level as in the past? And will that be prioritized as in recent years, including our trails through the Parks program? Scheick: I’ll have DK follow up on this. I don’t believe there is a change in street plowing. DK: Streets is very receptive to our priority bicycle routes. Scheick: Can you follow up on this.

m) The BAC is formulating a work plan. You don’t have a large budget to work with. Among the three current CDOT grants (Bike Library, FCBikes, and Safe Routes) what flexibility do you have to shift funds around? Scheick: We have no capability to reallocate funds. Council would have to support those changes and then CDOT would have to approve them. Price: So if this group were to recommend to Council that we shift our priorities, that’s a possibility? Scheick: Yes. Bracke: As you work on your plan and create your priorities that would be very interesting for us; what are the areas that you’d like to focus on? For example, CDOT is doing the next call for projects for Safe Routes to School in December. So your timing is ideal. If you have new ideas for us this is perfect timing. Also the NFRMPO is doing a new call for CMAQ funded projects soon. So I encourage you to shape your vision and work plan and we can help seek out funding for those programs. We have been very successful in seeking funding. Your ideas and support as a board would be very meaningful in moving forward those applications. Please don’t feel that we are “stuck” by the current funds. We’re lucky to have them but there are a lot of other opportunities as well.
Scheick: Very well said, Kathleen. The transportation pie is only so big. If you can help us make that pie bigger and help figure out how to slice it differently we could do greater things across multiple modes.

n) Are the $125,000 in B.O.B. funds “ours” to spend? Bracke: That is capital funding from Building on Basics. Ballot language specifies how those funds can be spent. It is for bike plan implementation. So if you have some ideas, let us know. Cardona: The language does say it can be used for “programmatic activities, special events, clinics, and services to promote cycling and safety” at the rate of $125,000 per year through 2015. Bracke: That’s another potential funding source for your ideas. Often those funds are used for matching funds. But yes, these funds are there for you to help prioritize. BOB funds have not yet been targeted for 2010 and 2011. So your timing is good for that. This year those funds were used as matching funds for grade-separated crossings. But they get used for a variety of different things. Morrell: So for ’10 and ’11 there are no earmarks yet? Bracke: Not yet. Price: Have the B.O.B. funds ever been used as programmatic funds or just capital improvements? Bracke: Only capital improvements.
Cardona: But the ballot language allows it to be used for programmatic purposes. Bracke: That’s correct. The City attorney’s office must verify that the projects qualify under the ballot language.

1 comment:

sda said...

thanks for posting rick, interesting exchange.