An ongoing story at Planning Commission meetings in the second half of 2013 was information secured by commissioners that discloses weaknesses in the city’s efforts to mitigate the effects of additional traffic generated by new developments. Most recently, Commissioner Jim Ries appears to have succeeded in persuading fellow commissioners to raise to $150,000 the sum recommended to be required of one developer for efforts to mitigate traffic congestion associated with a new project (the Planning Department had recommended a payment of $15,000). It is obvious that a more robust program of traffic mitigation will be required if city streets are to absorb the new traffic associated with current development proposals.
In a front page article of Friday, Jan. 24, (“City Hall says all but one development in compliance”), the SMDP reports that the city is meeting its targets for traffic mitigation associated with new development agreements in the city. Only one party, the new Agensys campus on Stewart Street, was found to have failed to meet its target of reducing vehicle traffic among employees by 50 percent. Instead, Agensys’ reduction was found to be closer to 30 percent. Doubtless, this helps.
One reason for the good news is the fact that prior development agreements do not require parties actually to achieve the targets for reductions set by the city. By definition, then, projects that fail to meet these targets such as Saint John’s Health Center and the Colorado Center are not in violation of code since there is no requirement in place.
Experience to date indicates that the most promising way to reduce new commuter traffic is to levy a fee for each day that a particular vehicle travels into and out of the city during morning and late-day rush hours. The city is slowly moving in this direction although the fees currently proposed for the new Hines project between 26th and 28th Streets at Olympic Boulevard are likely to prove an insufficient deterrent.