Boulder County commissioners adopt transportation

The Boulder County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday adopted the county’s first-of-its-kind plan aimed at expanding transportation access for the area’s most vulnerable residents.

On Thursday, county commissioners Matt Jones and Claire Levy agreed to adopt the Mobility and Access for All Ages and Abilities transportation plan after a virtual public hearing, where five Boulder County residents provided their thoughts and feedback. The new plan builds upon the fourth component of county’s already approved transportation master plan — accessibility.

Commissioner Marta Loachamin was not present for the public hearing.

“I think that shows that you’ve done your homework — that people have had their chance to have a voice, and they don’t need to show up at the last minute and say ‘I don’t like this or that’,” commissioner Jones told employees with the county’s Community Planning & Permitting department. “This is going to better people’s lives.”

The plan was created to better meet the transportation needs of elderly residents, people with disabilities and low-income individuals in Boulder County, said Cammie Piller Edson, youth transportation program manager with Boulder County’s Community Planning & Permitting department.

“It’s really the first plan of its kind for Boulder County, so we are very excited,” she said.

It was developed over the course of about 18 months in collaboration with Boulder County businesses, government agencies and organizations, some of which include Center for People with Disabilities, Boulder Valley School District, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Transit and Rail and Mental Health Partners Colorado.

While working with its partners, the county created seven categories, which encompass 25 strategies that it will use to address the county’s multimodal needs, Piller Edson said. The categories are data, access, cost, resource, service gaps, awareness and ongoing policies. The county also broke the categories into three tiers based on project priority level.

Tier one includes high-priority, short-term projects that will occur within the next two years; tier two is medium priority projects which will occur in three to five years; and tier three is long-term projects which will be completed gradually.

Some of the county’s short-term, high priority projects include creating more paved access routes and bus stops; expanding travel training for youth, families, caregivers and people who speak languages other than English; expanding  affordable or free transit fare programs; investing in recruitment and retention of bus drivers; and hiring a grant writer.

Medium priority plans include creating a volunteer travel buddies program to assist people with using public transportation; and providing transportation to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs sites in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Aurora.

Lastly, long-term or ongoing goals include land use planning to encourage more walkable trails or paths; and maintaining involvement in local or regional advocacy groups and efforts that support new funding streams for transportation and mobility.

Angel Bond, Mobility for All program manager with the Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting department, said the transit plan strategy, which falls under the plan’s access category, is a high-priority goal that the county has already allocated $100,000 toward completing. The transit plan will look at the data and services the county is lacking such as paved access and bus stops for year-round weather, she added.

“A transit plan typically costs quite a bit more than $100,000, just because of the specificity that you need to operate. So you look at how frequently does the bus need to come, where do the stops need to be?” Bond said. “I think that we’re looking to some federal funding that should leverage that $100,000.”

A few years ago after Boulder County resident Chris Bentley had several strokes, he struggled with getting from place to place. But his life changed for the better when he completed Boulder County’s Mobility for All program, he told county commissioners during the public hearing on Thursday.

“(Bond) taught me so much about how to get around that now, I have an electric scooter, (and) I take the bus everywhere,” he said.

Bentley thanked the county for sponsoring the program, but said he’s disappointed that the buses are often empty. He suggested the county look into downsizing some of its buses and purchase more energy efficient vehicles.

Boulder County resident Darcy Kitching, who said she works as an urban planner, commended the county for its work on Thursday.

“I’m so grateful to have been able to be part of this process which emphasizes mobility and access for all ages and abilities,” she said. “We know that places that meet the needs of people under 18 (years old), who comprise 20% of our population, also meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities.”

Travel Planning