Published by the Colorado Daily 7/20/94
AS THE MILLENNIUM TURNS by Evan Ravitz
You see it from the former USSR to South Africa to Mexico. You
see it here, with the Albino/regents/faculty fiasco, the Board
of Education/Superintendent Damon debacle, the police/Chief Koby
You are seeing the breakdown of authoritarian, secretive, "professional" power elites. The millennium is about openness and democracy: government by the people.
Consultants are no substitute: The regents' $15,000 consultants, in a report some regents call "shallow" and "bland", say the regents should "get their act together". Any 12-year-old could do as well, and some could tell them how, as well.
Knights on white horses, perhaps? Our first choices, the best and brightest candidates, like John Mosely for CU Chancellor last month, or Jim Miller for Boulder City Manager in '90, have the wisdom to stay away.
PR people? CU spokesman David Grimm's fairy tales are hardly covering up the embarrassment of CU politics. None of this virtual reality is working.
The City's $50,000 Integrated Planning Project? While its polling made it clear that the great majority want to control growth and traffic, the vote on HOW to solve our transportation mess was predetermined. ALL FOUR "choices" made "transit" (i.e. busing) the solution! So (surprise) the 6/1/94 Camera states that "transit and congestion were listed as top concerns" in IPP polling. Noam Chomsky has a book and movie about such manipulation, both called Manufacturing Consent.
The result is the bogus Transit Plan up for your approval in November, with $12 million per year for more empty, polluting buses and lip service for on-demand vans, flex-time, cycling, walking and other solutions citizens want. Analysis of RTD Riding Checks shows that 7 of 10 in-city bus routes carry less than 7 passengers on average, which RTD and other sources say are necessary for a bus to break even on fuel, compared to all 7 driving alone. Roughly 50,000 extra gallons of fuel are wasted a year, increasing pollution.
The recent City Potential Ballot Issues Survey shows that residents want an increase in county bus routes (which are fuel-efficient) more than in-city. Yet the City's plan calls for only a 30% increase on County routes, and a 127% increase on in-city routes!
A University survey of CU bus passholders show that 58% of users would otherwise walk, bike, blade or board. 17% would carpool, and only 25% would actually drive alone. So the 7 passengers buses need to break even on fuel should really be more like 20, at least for students. No RTD route averages 20 riders. Virtually all RTD buses are diesel, which means extra particulate pollution, one of the two major problems in the metro area.
In spite of 43% of the City population having passes giving free local service (24,000 CU passes, 14,000 Ecopasses, 2,150 High School passes and 100 Nyland Co-housing Community passes), only 1 trip in 47 is taken by bus! This is according to the City's May '93 Modal Shift Report. So the City's transit plan philosophy seems to be: build on busing failure.
The Modal Shift Report also shows 1 in 8 trips taken by bicycle. There is nothing in the Transit Plan yet for cycling, except racks at a few selected stops. The Transportation Division is also trying to build medians and "neckdowns" (curbs that jut into the road) all over town, in spite of cyclists, Planning Board and City Council opinion that they endanger cyclists by forcing them into a narrowed traffic lane. The apparent philosophy: destroy cycling success.
The Transit Plan has no disincentives to drive. Under the plan we will actually continue to subsidize parking all over town, and to require plenty more parking for new development. National figures show there are already 16 parking spaces for each car here, accounting for over 10 of Boulder's 27 square miles.
There are no legal initiatives to enable increases in gas taxes, to permit using them for alternative transportation, or to enable the use of photo radar as in Europe and Japan to slow traffic and raise funds. (It photographs the license plates of vehicles over a preset speed, and sends a ticket in the mail. It can ticket a speeder every half second, unlike a cop who needs 10 minutes each ticket.) Nothing to permit cyclists to treat stop lights like stop signs, and stop signs as yields, as Municipal Judge Hansen supports.
Why is the city not planning more bike paths, putting bike racks on buses, or building bike shelters with showers for white-collar workers at employment centers? Why not mandate flex-time for all 9-5 workers to spread out the rush hours? Why are there no creative transportation solutions, as the IPP results call for? Transportation division is now trying the big lie technique, including claiming that cycling is now getting more money than busing! Lying With Statistics is their bible. In reality, we've funded 42,250 "free" bus passes and some 22 free bikes through the Wheel Appeal program.
Other City anti-democratic actions have resulted in citizen lawsuits over the Academy project, the NIST-NOAA project, the Rio Grande liquor license, etc. With another Planning Department "managed process", the North Boulder Safeway may be next.
With autocracy failing, the solution being called for worldwide is more democracy, not less. The City's lying lost us '93 voter approval to try the tool for frequent referenda: voting by telephone, which in Canadian primaries in '92 and '93 quadrupled turnout, which in National Science Foundation-funded trials in '74 cost one tenth what traditional methods do, and which experts (and common sense, once you hear our plan) tell us will better protect voting integrity.
If you'd like a copy of the RTD fuel analysis, a compilation of transportation statistics, or would like to help reform the transit plan or advance citizen democracy, call me at 440-6838. Council will take written input about the Transit Plan for its July 19th meeting and a public hearing is scheduled for August 2. Everyone gets to give a three-minute speech.
Evan Ravitz is director of the Voting by Phone Foundation and the instigator of the 13th Street Bike Path and the Free Speech Tables now allowed on the Mall, where he performs on the tightrope.