Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

NM: Santa Fe to consider less ‘car-centric’ development plan

Nov 8—Santa Fe City Councilor Jamie Cassutt said a new transportation plan the council is expected to adopt Wednesday is focused largely on one question: “Can you quickly get across town without taking a car?”

The answer, at present, is often “no.” City officials hope to change that with each new development and infrastructure project.

The City Council will vote Wednesday on whether to adopt the new Multimodal Transition Plan, which is meant to influence policy and planning with a goal of “reducing dependency on automobile transportation,” according to a resolution sponsored by Cassutt.

Adoption of the plan will not result in immediate funding allocations or commitments to particular infrastructure projects, but Cassutt said its recommendations will inform how the city builds.

“We are going to try to build the infrastructure for the transportation system that we want instead of building for what we have,” Cassutt said. “It’s built on transportation in individual vehicles.”

Cassutt pointed to health benefits and environmental reasons for traveling by bike, on foot or by public transit. She added driving is often inaccessible and expensive for residents, creating the need for safe alternatives.

The Multimodal Transition Plan consists of a 119-page report with an analysis of the city’s transportation and recommendations that include changes to design standards in the city code, expanded hours and routes for the Santa Fe Trails bus system, and parking prices that change based on demand.

Metropolitan Planning Organization Officer Erick Aune called the plan a “formal recognition that the city is striving to balance the needs of mobility and accessibility.” He said the plan’s recommendations are based on public input as well as hard data on traffic and human behavior.

“Pick any particular corridor in the city, and the majority of that public space is dedicated to traffic,” Aune said. “The plan asks the city to consider pedestrians and bicyclists.”

New Mexico has the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the nation. Aune said pedestrian safety should be considered in the design, or redesign, of roadways.

He pointed to several recent pedestrian fatalities in Santa Fe — including one on Cerrillos Road just weeks ago — that are attributed to “pedestrian error.” He referred to such deaths as “preventable collisions” and said preventive measures, such as those designed to slow traffic, are subtle to many users but can reap huge benefits.

Road redesign projects — such as one planned for St Michael’s Drive and another underway on Bishops Lodge Road — are opportunities to start building a different, safer transportation system in the city, Aune said, adding the city can restripe roads and install bike lanes and high visibility crosswalks.

Much of Santa Fe was developed in line with other cities using standards that give high precedent for the movement of vehicle traffic, he said.

But, he added, the city can shift its transportation priorities. “It’s about learning from the past and saying, statistically and objectively, what can we do with these designs to move the needle away from fatalities, collisions and injuries?”

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