By Nicole Calbreath
DAVIS, CA – As a regular winner of the most “bicycle friendly” town in the United States by the League of American Bicyclists, the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) is of utmost importance to the Davis community.
The Bicycle Advisory and Safety and Parking Advisory Commissions were combined in 2014 to become the BTSSC with Resolution 14-033. During their most recent meeting on Feb. 9, staff proposed the disbanding of subcommittees whose purposes were completed. They also proposed the creation of a new public engagement subcommittee. Committee chair, Jessica Jacobson, was reinstated without opposition, and despite Commissioner Kumar’s desire for the position of Vice Chair, he deferred to Brook Ostrom to be reinstated due to Ostrom’s continued interest.
Staff liaison, Jennifer Donofrio, introduced the outline for the Moving Transportation Forward Plan. The plan included various ideas for improving transportation safety, performance evaluation, traffic signal technology, and new policy development. Donofrio noted that this is a 5-year plan that she and Commissioner Chapman worked with the district to create. All means of transportation were addressed, but the history of Davis as a biking community was recognized as highly influential in the plan’s construction.
This presentation stirred a great deal of excitement among the committee for various reasons. Specifically, Commissioner Jessica Jacobson emphasized the goal to expand education programs so that all K-12 students may have access to safer transportation.
A common theme during the clarifying questions and discussion was the conflict between putting resources towards maintenance and innovation. Vice Chair Brooke Ostrom expressed his concern for facility evaluation and “the maintenance of shared paths and multi-use trails.” He wanted these to be explicitly stated within the document’s goals.
Commissioner Chapman countered that the goals regarding intelligent transportation systems and data collection will allow the city to “start prioritizing maintenance projects in a way that is more beneficial to the community.”
The power of the plan lay in its ability to help the committee prioritize projects and clearly state goals in preparation for public and private funding opportunities.
Commissioner Jackson Mills expressed excitement over the further development of the plan but voiced his hopes for putting public transit before all else. An example he offered was bus-only lanes, but staff liaison Donofrio mentioned that they do not have control over transit agencies. As a reminder of the role the City of Davis plays within transit efficiency, she stated examples such as improving bus stops and light signals as what is within their “spheres of influence.”
The Moving Transportation Forward Plan will, in the words of Commissioner Chapman, function as an “umbrella document that identifies everything [the committee is] trying to accomplish.” There was concern amongst committee members regarding the finality of the document and their desire to make modifications, but Chapman assured them that the document would go back to the city council periodically, allowing for plenty of opportunities for updates. He elaborated on this document’s need to adapt:
“Just looking at the seismic changes in transportation over the last five years, and not just covid…the adaptation of the beginning of seeing autonomous vehicles, the expansion of available user data…and just how this can change what’s going on in decision-making. I expect that change to stay the same or even accelerate moving forward…this plan will have to change to keep up.”
The future of Davis transportation and street safety is still being decided, but the committee is prepared to use this plan to further develop potential projects.