Friday, April 30, 2010

Transit is Part of Healthy Community Design

“Complete Streets” are designed and operated for all users - pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders, serving people of all ages and abilities. This week I joined the City of Marysville contingent at a national Complete Streets workshop in Mount Vernon.

Marysville city staff and leaders have been committed to improving walking, biking and nutrition as part of the Marysville Healthy Communities Project for several years. Moving forward with more formal policies and standards in support of better and safer roads is a logical next step, workshop attendees agreed.

Community Transit has been part of Healthy Communities efforts in Marysville, Everett and Lynnwood. About half of Community Transit’s riders don’t own a car, and more than 57 percent walk to or from their bus stop each day. Bicycling extends the “reach” of transit beyond a healthy 1 mile, 20 minute walk to up to 3 miles - the distance of 50 percent of all trips made by Americans, and a distance that can be biked in 30 minutes at a “no sweat” pace.

Street designs, speeds and intersections are safe for biking and walking are very important for transit. Riders who board the bus on one side of the street usually have to cross to the other side to return home. Standing at a bus stop next to a busy road can be unpleasant - but much better if there’s a bike lane or landscaped buffer, a slower speed limit for the cars and a bus shelter and bench for the waiting passengers. That’s what “complete streets” offer to transit users. Community Transit, Island Transit and Skagit Transit were all at this week’s workshop along with our respective communities

A bonus of carpooling to the workshop with the City of Marysville traffic engineer was his realization that the city regularly makes sure it has extra room near roads for mailboxes and fire hydrants. But Community Transit can’t put a bus stop or shelter in some places (like State Avenue & Grove Street in Marysville) because there’s not enough public right of way there. He plans to add five feet for transit to his new ask list.

I am proud to be a citizen of Marsyville because city staff and leaders are open to such ideas. According to a Snohomish Health Dsitrict study, we need to do everything we can to make our city more active because Marysville has the highest obesity rate of any zip code in Snohomish County. It's that kind of data that makes it clear why complete streets are so critical.

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