Transportation – Unedited Q&A

This is my unedited Q&A with John Spina that formed the basis for his Council Candidates Champion START article in the 7/6/16 issue of the Jackson Hole News and Guide:

John Spina:  What about the transportation system is currently working? How can it be improved?

Judd Grossman: Unfortunately we have outgrown our roadway system so that at peak rush hour, or when there is any kind of accident the road system fails. We are like a middle aged man trying to get into his high school prom tux – our vision of ourselves and reality are not jiving. For years we have had our heads in the sand regarding our roads and have managed them for rural charm, and to maximize the funneling of commercial traffic into Town without proper planning for the inevitable growth in population that we have experienced. Now traffic jams are causing our quality of life, and that of our visitors to suffer. Two lane roads are not very charming when you are backed up in miles of stop and go traffic.

Multimodal is part of the solution, but we have to be realistic. Alternative modes handle a very small percentage of our trips: Pathways are a useful recreational amenity, but don’t take many cars off the road; START is useful and will be an important tool in relaxing the parking requirements in the urban core, but even with it’s very large budget and ubiquitous buses START only handles about 1% of our traffic.

In order to slow the growth of our traffic problem we need to refrain from encouraging employment growth, focus future development into the walkable urban core of Jackson, and remove parking requirements from deed restricted housing that falls within the Workforce Housing Overlay I’m proposing.

The elephant in the room is that in order to effectively deal with our steadily worsening traffic problem the real solution is to optimize, expand and connect our roadways. In other words, we need to quit micromanaging the traffic engineers and let them do their job. 

John Spina:  What is your position on the integrated transportation plan?

Judd Grossman: The Integrated Transportation Plan is fatally flawed. It is completely delusional in it’s call for quadrupling START ridership in the next 20 years, and it’s request for funding for that chimera has led to the General Excise Tax increase ballot question which we must defeat in November. START ridership has been essentially flat for 10 years. START staff has no idea how it will be able to double let alone quadruple ridership. Even if at the cost of over one hundred millions dollars the completely unrealistic goal of quadrupling ridership is reached START will still only handle 3% of our trips. That’s not a solution to our traffic problems, and it’s a terrible rip-off for hardworking taxpayers who are already struggling to make ends meet.

 John Spina: How do you increase ridership on the START bus?

Judd Grossman: START can become more efficient and more effective. Smart land use planning is the key. By avoiding suburban sprawl we can create critical mass for START service in the urban commercial core of Jackson and to Teton Village. START can also be a useful component of our workforce housing efforts. I’m proposing a Workforce Housing Overlay that will encourage employment based deed restricted housing in the walkable urban core of Jackson while removing parking requirements for those units. Intelligently targeted START service in the urban core of Jackson will allow those residents to avoid the expense of owning a car.

John Spina: Should START be used to “bus in” workers from Alpine, Driggs, Victor etc? Should it be expanded?

Judd Grossman: It is reasonable for START to provide commuter service to Alpine, Driggs and Victor, but any expansion of START service should be in response to demand. The current “build it and they will ride” policy has led to empty buses and wasted taxpayer dollars. We also need to make sure that employees and employers contribute to the costs of maintaining these routes, so that this doesn’t become a de facto subsidy of private business.

 John Spina: How you do increase non-motorized transportation throughout town? 

Judd Grossman: We can increase the use of non-motorized transportation throughout town by focusing development into the walkable urban core, so that residents will be in close proximity to work, services and shopping; and by implementing a Workforce Housing Overlay which will remove the parking requirement for new employment based deed restricted units.

John Spina: How does Jackson fund capital improvements to streets and public transportation facilities?  

Judd Grossman: The Town of Jackson currently funds capital improvements to streets and public transportation facilities through the 5th cent of General Excise Tax and through the Specific Purpose Excise Tax. SPET has been a very useful and transparent way for the public to examine and vote on big ticket items individually. Why are the Town and County killing SPET and replacing it with a blank check General Excise Tax increase? It seems like their track record of managing funds is sketchy at best – reference The Grove. Now they are asking us to trust them with a tax increase that will generate over 200 million dollars over the life of the ITP with no evidence that the money will move our transportation needle by more than a few percentage points. Our elected officials are once again on the wrong track.

 John Spina: Ridesharing App? 

Judd Grossman: It is appalling that the ITP fails to even mention or take into account in any way the current transportation game changer: ride sharing; or the future game changer: autonomous vehicles. Ride sharing and autonomous vehicles have the potential significantly reduce our traffic and parking problems. How much did that consultant charge us to put together the Integrated Transportation Plan? Can we get our money back?

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