20 September 2016

Why I support CV Link

© Thomas Kohn, 2016
Updated 20160921, 20161006

I'm a relatively new resident of the Coachella Valley, although I've been a constant visitor to Palm Springs since 1986, and. I've long recognized it as my "soul home." Now, finally, I have been able to retire here.

I've been a bicycle rider since age 9, when my father attached training wheels to a small bike and watched me coast downhill. I biked to school, to deliver newspapers, to play with friends, to attend boy scout meetings. I biked even when my classmates started driving second-hand cars to school. I biked to my work station near the flight line when I was in the Air Force. I biked to the supermarket and to the coffee shop. I biked sometimes just for the joy of it or to explore some new part of town.

For many years, I biked to work as a technical writer. In California, I bike-commuted in Los Angeles and Anaheim, in Lompoc and Fullerton. When I moved to Ohio, I bike-commuted across town to my workplace, almost a dozen miles away. I did this four days a week, 40 weeks a year. And I always aimed for more, feeling antsy if the day started with rain or if a snowstorm passed through the night before.

The Great Miami River Trail

Dayton bike and pedestrian trails (in green) along the Great Miami River,
Stillwater River, Mad River, and Wolf Creek
I moved to Palm Springs from Dayton, Ohio. I met my husband-to-be there after I biked downtown from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I lived in Dayton 35 years. And I miss on a daily basis one amenity that my former home in Ohio provided: 350 miles of dedicated bikeway that connects some 30 cities surrounding Dayton. That bikeway is complex, though in its central part it follows a group of parks along the Great Miami River and four primary tributaries (Twin Creek, Wolf Creek, Mad River, and Stillwater River). Parks along the Mad River, which flows into the Great Miami from the east, host an important feeder of the bikeway, a connector that leads to Xenia, Ohio over 16 miles of dedicated pathway. From Xenia, other bikeways connect to the major Ohio cities of Columbus, Springfield, and Cincinnati.

Trails that connect Dayton (in the pink county), Columbus, and Cincinnati
From north to south, a pedestrian or cyclist can traverse 53 miles without using streets or highways; from east to west, 64 miles; from northeast to southwest, 97 miles.

And each year, more segments are added to connect outlying towns to the full network or to fill in gaps that connect existing, but isolated, trail segments. The Great Miami Trail started around 1992 with a loop of paths that totaled 7 miles. Within a few years, the Mad River Trail extended to Xenia, which is both the seat of Green County and the north-most end of the Little Miami Trail. The Little Miami Trail, also started about 1992, more quickly grew to connect Xenia to northeast suburbs of Cincinnati. Connections into Cincinnati and Columbus were completed much later, between 2010 and 2015.

Except for periods of flooding in the spring and ice in the winter, the trails around Dayton are used year-round by hundreds or even thousands daily. In 2009, a trail user survey estimated year-round use at 1,503,000 visits. The same survey estimated the economic impact: $13.5 million to $14.9 million, region-wide. In 2013, another trail user survey, using different methods, counted actual visits over about half the entire trail system. And in 2014, infrared counters were installed at key trail locations to enable on-going information gathering.

It does take some amount of public education to encourage the first use of the bikeways. In Southwest Ohio, this education is a multi-agency activity. But after a person has the first good experience, uses become more frequent and self-encouraging.

Operations and maintenance (O&M) is shared among several agencies, although the primary constituents are the Five Rivers Metroparks and the Miami Conservancy District. Because the 350 miles travel through six counties and 30 towns or cities, each jurisdiction pulls its share in management, security, and maintenance. Matt Lindsay, Manager of Environmental Planning of MVRP, describes this shared funding: "Trails in the Miami Valley are managed by park districts as park facilities. They use their operating funds to maintain the trails. All of the park districts around here have a property tax levy from which they derive most (if not all) of their operating funds. In Greene County there is a very effective cooperative effort by which all of the jurisdictions through with the trails pass participate (and fund) the maintenance of the trails by Greene County Parks & Trails. I do not know what % of the total maintenance cost is covered by this cooperative arrangement." One central website posts significant maintenance work on the bikeway to guide users.

Continuing development of other transportation systems and cityscapes offers occasional challenges to the existing bike pathways. At least one advocacy group, Bike Miami Valley, publishes reports about necessary advocacy issues. Development of the bikeway system continues, too. For the most part, added connectors and intersection upgrades are guided by a 25-year planning cycle (see also the 2040 Long Range Plan) managed by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC). In 2016, all transportation spending reached $25.5 million, and the funding resulted from collaboration between the Ohio Department of Transportation, MVRPC, and other constituent jurisdictions. Lindsay: "The total TAP (Transportation Alternatives Program) [funding] from that year was $871,739 or 3.4%. Other (non-TAP) spending on bikeway projects totaled $1,374,081 or 5.35%. So the total was about 8.75% . Total encumbrances were $25,678,939."

The bikeways in southwest Ohio still have challenges to overcome, for instance: 1) The bikeways fail to serve the poorer, more African-American population of west Dayton or enough of the rural communities outside the metroplexes. 2) Although the bikeway system has pushed north to Piqua, another goal should be to connect to bikeways in Toledo. 3) Another connection should be made to the west, to reach bikeways in Richmond, Indiana and eventually Indianapolis. 4) Although the freeways that surround Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus present infrastructure obstacles, solutions to making ever more convenient connections between the city centers and the extended suburbs/exurbs need to be found. But these challenges and future goals truly indicate that Ohio is always aiming for improvement, unwilling to settle for the excellent system already in place.

Hope for the CV Link

Over a decade and a half, I have watched with hope—and frustration—the developing plans for a regional bikeway in the Coachella Valley.
  • With the publication of Whitewater River, All American Canal and Dillon Road Regional Trails Corridor Study at the end of 2009, I hoped that the Coachella Valley might begin to address the lack I felt.

  • After another set of publications followed, Parkway 1e11 Executive Summary and Whitewater River/Parkway 1e11 NEV/Bike/Pedestrian Corridor Preliminary Study Report, both in early 2012, and Parkway 1e11 FAQ in late 2013, I felt that the planning had progressed toward actual routing.

  • With the more recent publication of the CV/Link Conceptual Master Plan in its three volumes in January 2016, I felt that waiting a year or so for a valley-wide, multi-use trail would seem to be a short time.

However, the Rancho Mirage city commission has been carrying out a multi-pronged campaign to slow down implementation, object to any proposed routing through their community, fret about whether arranged funding is legal, and quibble about the costs to maintain any constructed trail. They have obstructed the CV Link by asking for city-wide votes on the project, when never have they placed other transportation issues before their voters. For that matter, the city erected a new library, developed a park and amphitheater complex, opened a dog park, and planned an astronomy observatory without placing those expenditures to a vote.

Over the last year, the Rancho Mirage city commissioners have sought to sow discord in the Coachella Valley Association of Governments and to incite similar obstruction in other cities. At this point, they have been successful in encouraging the opposition of only one other CVAG constituent, the City of Indian Wells.

Ultimately, the contrast presented in this essay between Southwest Ohio and the Coachella Valley rests on an obvious point. California has long been known as the Golden West, the originator of sentinel trends, innovations, new technologies, and progress. Ohio proves to be the innovator in transportation infrastructure for pedestrians and self-propelled vehicles, and ecological and community benefits follow from these very projects. What does this say about the laggard, negative instinct of retrograde naysayers? California should be better: the Coachella Valley should be leading the way, not obstructing it.

In an attempt to determine possible, underlying reasons for the entrenched objections to CV Link from some, I've been reviewing City Commission materials from the past several years. Links to a variety of documents from the Rancho Mirage trails commission, parks and recreation committee, and the city council are in another blog post.

1 comment:

Gary Lueders said...

Excellent presentation of historical documents done by transportation professionals and forward thinking community leaders. Some ‘johnny-come-lately’ naysayers think CVAG just recently came up CV Link. Many years of planning, citizen committees, public workshops/input, and information transparency/distribution has gone into this transportation project. Like Dayton, many communities across the nation know the benefits of off-street multi-use corridors. The Coachella Valley will too.