The tools and best practices to achieving a better transportation system in La Crosse are divided into six categories:
- Parking Improvements
- Transit Improvements
- Roadway & Automobile Improvements
- Bicycle & Pedestrian Improvements
- Land Use Improvements
- Other Improvements
- Paid Parking Downtown
- Residential Parking Passes
- Unbundle Parking
- Parking Cash-out & Employer Paid Parking
- Eliminate Parking Minimums
- Parking Maximums at Pulse Nodes
- Cap the number of Parking Spaces
- Shared Parking
- Parking Lot Tax
- Stormwater Fee
- Ban Demolition of Buildings for Parking or Roadways
As cars became more prevalent on the streets of La Crosse in the early 20th century, the city implemented paid parking downtown to collect revenue from those driving downtown. This practice of metered parking continued until the 1980’s when the city decided that, in order for downtown to compete with shopping malls, there would have to be free parking. Not only did the city make parking free, but it also mandated that new developments have a minimum number of parking stalls.
These policies and the notion of free, abundant parking warrant reconsideration after dealing with their unintended consequences. It has the effect of worsens air and water quality, by reducing the desirability of less polluting transport. Parking takes up valuable city land and increases rents, yet is frequently underused.
An average parking space costs close to $5 per day in lost revenue by displacing higher tax paying uses. Parking is typically oversupplied in the city by 65 percent, as well. To make up for lost tax revenue and other impacts of parking, an average car should be expected to pay $2,400. The allocation and management of parking must change so that drivers pay for their impact on urban space and the environment.
Below are suggestions to reduce the amount of off-street parking supply. These include the removal of minimum parking regulations and replacing them with maximum parking regulations. The total number of parking spaces could be capped and reduced by, say, 1000 spaces per year, a small percentage of spaces provided. Shared parking could be encouraged between adjacent buildings, parking lot tax or stormwater fee could be implemented, and parking could be further restricted from taking the place of a buildings.
Further, there are suggestions for charging an effective price for parking to reduce demand. Parking meters may return to downtown, residential parking passes can be implemented in the rest of the city, parking could be unbundled from residential leases, and employers can either charge for parking or provide a benefit to those who do not use parking.
Paid Parking Downtown
A Pay-by-space meter in Minneapolis (MinnPost photo by Karen Boros)
Implementing metered parking downtown is one of the most accepted ways to significantly reduce transportation energy consumption. Not only does it discourage single-occupancy vehicle use and decrease congestion, it also supports a vibrant downtown. There are many options for metered parking that are used across the country, although some will be more adaptable and cost effective for La Crosse.
- Location - meters can be located at each parking space, centrally-located on a block, or via a smartphone app or in-vehicle electronic device. Multi space meters are currently in use in Minneapolis and Portland.
- Tracking - for centrally-located meters, drivers can identify where they've parked by numbered signs by each spot or by their license plate number. Paying by license plate could use information from the vehicle's registration to increase rates for more polluting vehicles or reduce rates for city residents, for example. Pay-by-license plate is currently used in Denver and Pittsburgh.
- Pricing - prices can be uniform throughout the day, change according to time of hours, increase for length of occupancy (to encourage quicker customer turnover), or change dynamically based on demand. Optimally, parking spaces should be close to 85% full and should be priced accordingly. In cities that end paid parking after rush hour, congestion has shown to immediately becomes much worse.
- Payment - In addition to accepting credit and debit cards, payment options should include cash for those who don't have a credit or debit card.
Residential Parking Passes
Residential Parking Pass in St. Paul (City of St. Paul)
As outlined in the City’s Transportation Vision from 2015, residential parking passes could be implemented in multiple neighborhoods to reduce the parking in non-metered areas . These neighborhoods, including those near hospitals and universities as well as bordering metered parking areas, could reduce congestion from drivers searching for parking. Residents would be allowed to acquire a specified number of passes for vehicles including guests, but would not allow non-residents to park without a fee. St. Paul has residential parking passes for $15 for residents and visitors of residents as well as a $1 one day pass for anyone to purchase. To successfully promote residential permits, La Crosse could show the benefits using a neighborhood improvement programs funded by the fees.
By unbundling parking from residential leases, those who do not own a car could see a decrease in cost of living. The parking fee also helps make clear the complete cost of car ownership. The added cost associated with parking may even discourage car buying. This policy isn't intended to increase costs for tenants, just separate the cost of parking built into their rent. La Crosse could require all multifamily development to unbundle parking, similar to what Seattle has done.
Parking Cash-Out & Employer Paid Parking
The effects of Parking Cash-out in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times)
Employers could develop cash-out programs which would pay employees who do not drive to work. Employer would share their benefit of saving money from providing less parking, having more developable land, and fewer costs associated with expanding parking. A study of one cash-out program showed a decrease single occupancy vehicle commuting by around 17 percent. While a cash-out program alone would be more palatable for drivers, employers could benefit further by adding a charge for parking to reduce parking demand further. The parking fees could go toward the cash-out program, helping to support alternative commuting modes. The most visible benefits of these programs would be for major employers with large parking lots. A daily charge has been found to be much more effective in reducing car commuting compared to longer-term passes. Employees people will have a choice every day, instead of once a week, month, quarter, or year. A person who has already paid for a month or more will likely not decide to take another mode just for a day. With a daily charge, the mode may differ each day.
Eliminate Parking Minimums
A Result of Parking Minimum Regulations (Strong Towns)
Parking minimums are difficult to quantify and justify - just look at the different regulations between comparable cities. These requirements specify how much parking a use must provide based on the area, number of units, employees, or other factors. In recent decades, cities across the globe have eliminated these requirements and even moved toward parking maximums. Parking minimums can place an undue burden on property owners to incorporate parking in the design. The requirement has the potential increase automobile use and raise rent. These requirements take away valuable land for parking and leads to empty space between buildings, which hinders walkability.
It has been shown that developers would not build as much parking if they were not required to. In New York City, 77% of developments built the exact minimum of spaces required showing that the regulations likely requires more spaces than developers truly want. As a step toward eliminating parking minimums, La Crosse could amend the code to allow developers to count on street and nearby parking ramps towards their minimums.
Parking Maximums at Pulse Nodes
In areas that are dense and have good transit, pedestrian, and cycling facilities, parking maximums would be an option to reduce car use and increase alternative mode use. La Crosse’s 2015 Transportation Vision identified parking maximums for downtown and South Avenue. Parking maximums enforce a policy of allowing no more parking spaces than the City deems necessary. This requirement would reduced the perception and need to drive between building islands in a sea of parking. With multiple transportation options and an average parking oversupply of 65%, parking maximums, La Crosse could see a much more walkable and bikeable environment with increased property value through infill development.
Cap the Number of Parking Spaces
By capping the number of parking spaces, La Crosse can gradually transition toward alternative transportation. A cap would prevent any new developments from building parking spaces unless other spaces are removed. Zurich, Switzerland capped parking spaces at the 1990 level in 1996 and has seen a significant decrease in automobile usage. A cap could start by taking an inventory of the existing number of spots, and then would be limited to that level. When new development builds parking, parking would have to be removed elsewhere, preferably starting with off street spaces. The cap could be gradually reduced to a level that discourages driving alone, and be accompanied by incentives and regulations preventing any new parking from being built. For example, the city could use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) financing for replacing surface lots with new development. TIF allows future property tax revenue generated by the new development to pay for the initial costs of the development, which would otherwise not happen without the additional financing.
Shared Parking can result in a 38% reduction in parking
La Crosse has encouraged shared parking, yet it has not been extensively implemented. Parking oversupply could be reduced by strongly encouraging shared parking and allowing shared parking to be included in minimum parking requirements. Cities with shared parking see a 20-40% reduction in the area used for parking. In order for La Crosse to fully implement shared parking, the city must understand the parking demand in geographically limited areas and educate owners and tenants about parking costs. The city would also have to eliminate or reduce minimum parking requirements and revise zoning codes. Uses that have parking demands at different times of day are good candidates for shared parking, such as residences and an office building. Cities that have been successful in shared parking include Ann Arbor, MI and Indianapolis, IN.
Parking Lot Tax
A nearly empty parking lot in downtown Minneapolis (MinnPost file photo by Marlys Harris)
A parking lot tax could discourage the use of valuable land for parking or encourage businesses to charge for parking. This tax could be based on area used for parking or by the number of spaces. City staff would have to conduct a parking inventory for an accurate count. This tax could focus on businesses with parking, but may also be extended to include multifamily housing. The tax could have a tier for priced parking and one for unpriced parking, with unpriced parking being more expensive. These tiers would likely encourage the conversion to priced parking if it is not removed. Taxed parking would only be off-street and could exclude non-profit and government uses, delivery zones, public service vehicle spaces, and repair vehicle spaces. Exceptions or reductions could be granted for car sales spaces, though these take up a significant amount of land. These parking changes have the potential to reduce off street parking by 5-10% of land area and increase paid parking by 5-10% in the remaining area.
A stormwater fee is a charge applied to impervious surfaces including parking lots and buildings, and used to fund stormwater infrastructure. These fees can be applied to the number of square feet, or could be charged for parking lots by the number of spaces.
Ban Demolition of Buildings for Parking or Roadways
To ensure that no more structures are lost to parking or roadways, La Crosse could ban demolitions of buildings to replace with parking or roadways. By preventing the loss of buildings to more space for cars, La Crosse may retain a larger tax base, prevent blight, and encourage alternative transportation modes. An important first step would be to remove parking minimums. Then, demolition would only be allowed if plans for a replacement structure are provided and owners continue to maintain the building so it is habitable. A further step could be to ban new parking lots outright in general or for only for specific uses or locations.
- Bus Rapid Transit
- Site Design
- Street Improvements
- Safe & Vibrant Streets
- Transit-Oriented Development
- Route Redesign
- Automobile Cost Increases
- Employee Incentives & Disincentives
Soon after La Crosse incorporated, it created a streetcar network to provide citizens with convenient access and help the city to grow. Since the mid-1900’s, the streetcar network has been removed and replaced with a bus service, which continues today. While the La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility (MTU) has gained in ridership up until 2011, it has since declined along with transit systems in other cities. There are some bright spots in transit, such as the addition of the Scenic Mississippi Regional Transit (SMRT), but there are also many factors contributing to the decline in bus ridership that can be addressed with changes to the service.
Many potential changes are small-scale, but can have an impact by speeding up service, reducing delays, and increasing accessibility. Bus Rapid Transit features can be implemented without requiring a new route to improve the existing network. Other improvements focus on getting to and from stops and development surrounding a transit stop. In recent years, some cities have improved ridership by redesigning their network. Many were similar to their streetcar network from 100 years ago, even though the city is very different.
Transit can be an efficient and effective alternative transportation option to move many people across a city. It requires less space than private automobiles, reduces pollution, and provides transportation to those who need it most. Transit has the ability to connect the city and region, expanding the range of those walking and biking. Walking and biking improvements can support transit by providing service to more riders. The cities with the highest quality of life put walking, biking, and transit above cars. These cities are often more equitable, healthy and financially solvent. Any improvement to bus service has the potential to reduce single occupancy vehicle commuting and rush hour congestion.
Bus Rapid Transit
Bus Rapid transit in St. Paul (Pioneer Press photo by Jaime DeLage)
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) treats buses more like light-rail transit, with fewer, fixed stations and greater capacity and reliability. There are several features of BRT that can be implemented independently and incrementally. Off-board fare payment systems accept multiple forms of payment, such as mobile ticketing, and would allow riders to pay beforehand and board at all doors. Dedicated lanes are also a feature that makes for faster travel. Enclosed stations that include either low-floor buses or higher boarding platforms would provide additional comfort for riders. They make clear that the bus will stop there and have many signs giving information about the route, schedule, and more. Buses may be Wi-Fi-equipped to allow commuters to work while on the bus, possibly increasing the number of choice riders. These improvements have the potential to grow ridership due to better reliability, comfort, and ease of access.
A building's placement and relationship to the street and transit stop has a big effect on promoting bus ridership, as well as walking and biking. Rear parking located away from the street can make for a more comfortable pedestrian experience. Other factors, such as height and scale, can impact a building's relationship with transit. Human-scaled architecture tends to make people feel more at ease and likely to walk, bike, or take a bus. A mix of uses can encourage activity throughout the day, especially with higher density closer to the transit stop. Mixed use districts tend to encourage more walking, increase property value, and increase eyes on the street. Parking lots may reduce the attractiveness of mixed use districts, so it is important to improve transit facilities. Likewise, areas served by numerous transit routes have a greater potential to support mixed uses.
A Bus Curb Extension (NACTO)
Cities that have not seen a decrease in ridership typically have invested more in the transit system and have made small changes to improve reliability and speed. Priority traffic signals that detect bus proximity could significantly speed up the routes by holding a green light or shortening a red light. Curb extensions at stops can reduce conflicts and delays due to buses weaving in and out of traffic (cyclists should be taken into consideration so that conflicts between cyclists and transit are minimized as well).
An important aspect in whether someone will take transit as a choice rider is how comfortable they are going to, from, and at transit stops. Well-connected sidewalks and crosswalks help reduce pedestrian interaction with automobile traffic. Street trees provide shade and buffer sidewalks from traffic further. Well-defined public spaces near transit stops can provide a lively place where people want to be, such as parks or plazas. Clear signage including maps and schedules at stops can help set rider expectations. Shelters may improve the rider experience during bad weather. Easy connections to bus transfers or bike sharing contribute to a positive bus-riding experience as well.
Transit Oriented Development in Minneapolis (Transit for Livable Communities)
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is development that maximizes activity around transit stops to increase ridership and reduce automobile use. High-intensity mixed use that combines residences and businesses would fall in that category. Studies have found that the density required to support BRT is about 17 people and jobs per acre which means that much of La Crosse already has the required density to support BRT. Density bonus incentives could bolster redevelopment around transit. Rezoning – or creating a new zoning district – for high-density residential and commercial buildings would likely be necessary. Tax-exempt bonds from the Redevelopment Authority could also encourage TOD.
High Frequency Routes before and after Houston’s Bus Restructuring (Human Transit)
Another way that cities have increased ridership has been by redesigning routes and stops. Decentralized networks have the potential to reduce trip lengths by avoiding the necessity of going through a central hub and connecting directly among activity centers. A focus on ridership rather than coverage could also have the potential of speeding up routes that weave through the city. Stop frequency could be reduced to 2 or 3 blocks to speed up service. By having fast connections that reduce commuting time to activity centers, choice riders – those who are not dependent on transit – will likely begin to use the bus more.
Cost increases for cars have been shown to be the most significant factor in driving choice riders to transit and have more of an influence than an expansion of routes or reductions in fares. If the city made driving more expensive through car registration fees, parking fees, a gas tax or VMT tax, ridership could increase upwards of 20%, while also giving people driving the responsibility of paying for roads and improving air quality.
To encourage employees to commute by walking, biking or transit, the city may require large companies and organizations to adopt plans to reduce commuting by car. These plans can take many different forms, however some common features may include providing free or discounted transit passes and charging for parking. Funding transit passes will encourage transit use by making every ride free, even non-work ones. However, charging employees for parking is most effective due to the fact that a free parking space is a larger subsidy than providing a transit pass.
Roadway & Automobile Improvements
- Oppose New Highways & "Stroads"
- Cap Lane Miles
- Oppose the use of Traffic Studies
- Induced Demand & Reduced Demand
- Vehicle Miles Traveled & Level of Service
- Smart Signals
- Road Funding
- Funding for Dead-End Streets
- Charge Cars for Water and Sewer
- Gas Tax
- Wheel Tax
- Congestion Charge & Toll
- Carbon Tax
- VMT Tax
- Autonomous Electric Vehicles
- Electric Vehicles
- Car Sharing
La Crosse has been faced with the possibility of a new north-south highway since the 90's. This situation is not unique to La Crosse and the results of roadway changes in other cities provides clues as to what policies work to reduce congestion without highway expansion. These alternatives demonstrate the possibility of an improvement in quality of life, an increase in cleaner transportation, and sustained transportation funding.
Increasing the supply of new roads or lanes creates new demand and cannot solve congestion. By opposing this expansion, La Crosse will be able to address congestion by reducing demand, rather creating (inducing) it. To reduce the likelihood of highway expansion, lane miles of major roads and streets must be capped, traffic studies methodologies must be rethought, and the level of service metric must be replaced with those that measure vehicle miles traveled.
To reduce demand and to fund infrastructure, cars must pay their fair share to use the streets. This payment can be done in many ways, including charges for the development patterns that encourage driving.
Strategies must not only address fixing the current transportation, but also reckon with the future of transportation. Ridesharing and car sharing are relatively new services that will lead to changes in how cars are used. Electric autonomous vehicles are quickly becoming a reality, and have the potential to improve or worsen travel depending on whether streets in La Crosse will be in service to automobiles or automobile will fit the needs of the city.
Oppose New Highways and "Stroads"
Lang Drive through the La Crosse River Marsh
The City's 2015 Transportation Vision identifies traffic and obstructing roadways as two of the most disliked aspects of La Crosse, whereas the landscape, marsh, and recreation are why people love it. Therefore, La Crosse should continue to oppose any expansion of existing north-south roadways or the creation of any new roadways through the marsh. An expansion of lane miles will likely cut the city off from the marsh without reducing demand in the long term since more people will drive to fill up empty space on the roads. Any new "stroads" - a multilane street/road hybrid with speeds limits above 25 mph and among residential and commercial uses - should be opposed for similar reasons. These stroads frequently increase congestion, create a placeless environment, and are among the deadliest transportation corridors.
A plan to cap the number of lane miles in the city would signal a shift in focus to improving walking, biking, and transit. However, capping lane miles on all streets may not be the best approach, since adding streets to make smaller blocks or connect a dead end to another street could benefit alternative transportation, too. Therefore, La Crosse may want to only cap lane miles on arterial and collector streets within the city, though. Cities with more highway miles per capita than average tend to be poorer and declining compared to cities that have fewer highways in the urban area. A cap on lane miles for these roadways will likely prevent an increase in driving, rush hour congestion, and investment moving out of the city.
Traffic studies are generally required for most new development or for other projects that could change travel behavior. Often, writers of traffic studies are engineers who have a bias toward the expansion of roadways, which skews their accuracy. The suburban development encouraged by roadway expansions will likely cost the city more in the long run. Since these studies may often do more harm than good for cities, they should be discouraged.
Induced Demand & Reduced Demand
A Result of Induced Demand and using Level of Service as a Metric
State DOT’s, including WisDOT, tend to believe that adding lanes to a road will reduce congestion. However, as the California DOT and Washington DOT have recently admitted, building more roads or expanding roads will likely cause more congestion. This is because of a phenomenon called induced demand, where more people will choose to drive on a wider roadway, leading to more congestion compared to the system's previous state. The opposite effect is also true, where removing or reducing lane miles will likely lead to reduced congestion as people find other modes, alternate routes, or other times to drive on the roadway. The phenomena of reduced demand and induced demand will be more visible in areas with high walkability and transit options. La Crosse should consider induced and reduced demand in all transportation policies.
Vehicle Miles Traveled and Level of Service
Tracking Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a strategy Wisconsin's Green Tier Legacy Communities recommend for a more sustainable in the future. La Crosse is a member of this program and could begin tracking this metric to reduce VMT in the future. VMT is a better metric than Level of Service (LOS) for the performance of a roadway because LOS simply measures roads based on automobile congestion, encouraging more roads and therefore, more pollution. By using VMT instead, the City would instead measure roads based on the number of cars and the distance they travel, and aim for reductions based on those criteria.
To reduce congestion and improve traffic signals for all users, smart signals could be implemented in conjunction with bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Smart signals are able to detect the presence and number of cyclists, pedestrians, and cars and the numbers of people at each part of the intersection to allocate a green signal in the most efficient way. By implementing smart signals, traffic delays could be reduced by up to 22 percent.
A Result of using Level of Service as a metric (Cartoon by Andy Singer)
Have road spending come from those who use the roads could help users better understand the true cost of their impact. Citizens may reconsider the type of development the city should pursue, because of the cost per capita for dispersed development patterns. Options available for funding could include a wheel tax, gas tax, congestion charge, toll or VMT tax. Currently, only a wheel tax and tolls are allowed in Wisconsin, but these policies could change in the coming years.
To discourage dead-end, cul-de-sac development, all or most of the cost of its maintenance could be borne by the residents of that street. If there are no other uses besides housing and there are no sidewalk or trail connections, it would be easy to establish that only the residents (and their guests) are using the street. Impact fees have been used since the 50's to offset a municipality's cost of expanding infrastructure, such as streets, sewer, water, and other utilities.
Aside from using impact fees to fund water and sewer infrastructure, La Crosse could turn to cars. Water and sewer typically go part and parcel with streets and the significant costs of maintaining and constructing these pipes are the result of car-centric development. Those benefiting from this utility extending further out of the central city are also likely to drive further. Whereas in more densely built areas of the city, the cost per capita is low, it is higher in sprawling fringe development. The cars that have led to increased water and sewer costs should be expected to pick up part of the funding shortfall for this infrastructure. This could be done with a gas tax, VMT tax, tolls or wheel tax.
he Congestion Charging Zone in London (Photo by anizza)
A gas tax could have many benefits. It is a reasonably fair rate for those who use the roads, because heavier vehicles that the most damage typically use more gas. It also is a sort of carbon tax, encouraging people to buy cleaner cars, helping the city reduce its carbon footprint. An extra benefit is that anyone buying gas in La Crosse will also be contributing to this source of revenue, unlike a wheel tax. However, as people buy more fuel efficient cars, a gas tax will raise less and less revenue. Regardless, the gas tax must remain in place and be indexed to inflation to continue to discourage wasteful carbon emissions.
A wheel tax has limited benefits, but is still better than continuing to fund roads with existing taxes. Unlike a gas tax, it would only charges residents of La Crosse and would require a larger payment per vehicle. A wheel tax also does not discourage driving, just discourages buying another car. That effect is very limited because it is once a year fee and would likely not change behavior on a day-to-day basis. A wheel tax is already used by many counties and cities in Wisconsin as State aid has declined.
Congestion Charge & Toll
La Crosse could also seek to implement toll roads or congestion pricing to discourage driving during peak times, reduce pollution, and reduce congestion. The charges could be variable - changing every few minutes based on congestion - or fixed - higher charges at peak times and lower ones throughout the rest of the day. Similar to other congestion charges, the City could have no charges for driving on weekends and holidays. The city will have to consider where to implement tolls - whether they should be for all roads leading into the city, just downtown, or specific roads that become congested such as Highway 16. A toll or congestion charge could also gain better acceptance if city residents get free or reduced fare. Congestion charges and tolls have a significant effect on how many people drive and can be varied based on type of vehicle, emissions, income level, or place of residence. While people are usually opposed to congestion pricing initially, support improves as time goes on and the benefits become apparent. To implement tolls or congestion pricing successfully, La Crosse should consider running a trial for 7-12 months, and give city residents a discount.
A carbon tax would help to solve many environmental and transportation challenges at once. It would not only affect transportation, but also the electricity sector and other sources of pollution. In transportation, the added price per ton of carbon would lead to an increase in gas prices, which would encourage more consumers to buy fuel efficient cars or switch to other modes. In British Columbia, the carbon tax of $30/tonne increased gas prices by $.07, led to a 7-17% drop in fuel purchases. Carbon taxes can be revenue neutral, giving rebates back to consumers or reducing other taxes. A carbon tax has the potential to improve air quality, reduce single occupancy vehicle commuting, and help La Crosse reduce its impact on climate change.
A VMT Tax using the Odometer (Photo via MileIQ)
A Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax would likely have to replace the gas tax as a primary funding mechanism of infrastructure as fuel efficiency increases. A VMT tax could be implemented in multiple ways. La Crosse could only have a VMT tax on trucks that are based in the city, similar to a program in Illinois and multiple European countries. Or, the City could begin charging every vehicle based on the miles driven. This tax may have varying rates based on emissions, weight, and potentially the danger it poses for pedestrians. These variable could encourage smaller and safer vehicles. The mileage can be tracked a couple of ways. A GPS unit could only indicate the jurisdiction that the car is in and the effective tax rate. or it could track total mileage via the odometer to alleviate privacy concerns.
La Crosse officials will need to prepare for the arrival of autonomous vehicles. These vehicles will have the chance to make life better or worse, depending on how they are are regulated. There are some basic steps to ensure that these cars have a better chance of improving life in La Crosse. First, all driverless cars could be required to share data on traffic patterns, traffic speeds, etc. in order to provide information on how to make driving more efficient. Autonomous vehicles may be required to detect people walking or biking in all conditions on their own, without them wearing special devices that communicate with autonomous cars. Not all bikes or people may be able to use such equipment, and autonomous vehicles that are potentially causing unsafe conditions. With less on-street space needed for parking and lane widths, the City could narrow streets and reallocate space for biking, walking, and transit. Autonomous vehicles make driving easier, but should not take the place of mass transit. Helping residents with getting to and from transit stops should focus on biking and walking first, but these vehicles could be used to as another option. Speed limits could be reduced to 25 miles per hour in the city and possibly 20 miles per hour on neighborhood streets. When there is a crash, the responsibility should be placed on the autonomous vehicle, until proven otherwise. Certain curbside areas should be designated for drop off zones to prevent double parking. La Crosse could fine cars that travel with no occupants using a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Transportation improvements should be focused on pedestrians and cyclists first, transit second, and cars third. As autonomous cars approach, we must remember to design the car for the city, rather than our city for the cars.
An Electric Vehicle and Charging Station (Photo via Rabble.ca)
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft continually promise to reduce traffic congestion by taking private vehicles off the road. However, TNCs not only do not reduce traffic congestion, they make congestion worse. Solo ride hailing adds 2.8 vehicle miles traveled for every mile of private automobile use and shared rides generate 2.6 miles for every mile eliminated. This added mileage comes from traveling between trips and from riders that would otherwise have walked, biked or taken transit. Current State law prevents La Crosse from regulating raid hailing vehicles, but the City should push for the ability to do so in order to reduce VMT. A multi-tiered approach to charging these services could be used. Tiers could be based on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), whether the trip began or ended at a transit stop, number of passengers, or fuel efficiency. Companies could also be required to share ride data with the City in order to improve transportation planning and equity.
Two shared cars in one parking space
Car sharing, as opposed to ride sharing, allows members to use a fleet of shared cars scattered about the city. They typically have a monthly membership fee and a charge for the time and mileage. Car sharing has been found to reduce the vehicle miles traveled per user by 27 to 43% and generally takes around 10 private cars off the road for each shared car. Car sharing therefore leads to a reduction in air pollution and savings for each member, because of the reduced fees associated with not owning a car. While some users do walk, bike and take transit less, the majority of members report an increase in alternate modes of transportation.
- Dutch Reach
- Bicycle Liability Law
- Idaho Stop
- Removal of Drive-throughs
- Removal of Slip Lanes
- Lane Width
- Brick Narrowing
- Street Trees
- Skinny Streets
- Radii of Street Corners
- Signalized Intersection Timing
- Restricted Left Turn
- Ban Right Turns on Red
- Removing Center Line Markings
- One-Way Streets
- Brick Streets
- Speed Limits
- Speed Cameras
- Street Art
- Raised Crosswalks
- Sidewalk Closure as a Last Resort
- Roundabout Safety
- Prioritize Sidewalks and Bike Lanes
- Bike Share
- Scooter Share
- Ban Bull Bars
- On Street Parking
- Traffic Laws
- Car Free Day
- Linked Payment for Transit and Bike Share
- Adopt NACTO Shared Streets and Traffic Calming Measures
- Commit to Vision Zero
- Ban School Car Drop-offs
La Crosse can encourage walking and biking by improving transportation safety. Safety improvements for streets' most vulnerable users consequently improves safety for drivers as well. These improvements can have the effect of reducing healthcare costs associated with injuries and increasing transit ridership, travel satisfaction, and health.
In recent years, the City has been making some improvements to safety such as installing curb extensions and traffic circles, but there are numerous ways to improve safety. One is to change the laws to better reflect reality, so that people who drive are held responsible for accidents they cause. Another is through design psychology that leads to drivers to slow down and pay attention to others.
The main design changes that can improve safety include narrowing lanes and adding street trees. Curb extensions put pedestrians in plain view and traffic circles require cars to slow down. Both have the potential to increase stormwater absorption. Although off street parking is harmful to the city, on street parking slows cars down when lanes are narrow. Lanes wider than 12 feet may encourage speeding. To calm traffic, lanes must be closer to 10 feet and be combined with other street design elements. The curb radius reductions and narrow neighborhood streets may also aid in improving safety and reducing maintenance costs.
The “Dutch Reach” (Illustration via Wikipedia)
As a requirement to pass one's drivers test, the driver should be required to open the car door using the “Dutch Reach.” This method requires the driver open the door with their far hand, forcing them to look back before fully opening the door. Opening the door this way prevents crashes between people who bike and parked cars. This method was pioneered in the Netherlands and is a requirement there for passing a driving test.
In addition to infrastructure and education improvements, laws can presumed-liability-shrinks-cycling-levels encourage active transportation by protecting vulnerable users. La Crosse could adopt a law that protects people who bike and walk from having to prove that the automobile was at fault in a crash. Around 90% of automobile crashes with cyclists or pedestrians are caused by the automobile. A statute similar to many laws passed in other countries may include:
As used herein, the term “vulnerable road user” includes a pedestrian, including those persons actually engaged in work upon a highway, or in work upon utility facilities along a highway, or engaged in the provision of emergency services within the right-of-way; or a person operating or riding a human powered vehicle including a bicycle, tricycle, skateboard, in-line skates, scooter or wheelchair.
If a driver of a motor vehicle injures any vulnerable road user the driver of such motor vehicle is liable in civil damages to such vulnerable road user for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby, unless the injured person is shown to be the sole proximate cause of his or her own injuries.
The Idaho stop is a law that allows people who bike to treat a stop sign as a yield sign when proceeding slowly and cautiously and a stoplight as a stop sign. This law was originally passed in Idaho, but has been adopted elsewhere, most notably Delaware in 2017. It allows people who bike to conserve energy and even reduces crashes by 14%.
La Crosse could remove and limit drive-thrus and curb cuts where possible to reduce collision points. Not only do they put people walking and biking at risk, they increase potential for automobile crashes. In addition to decreasing safety, drive-throughs and curb cuts take up space that could be used for on street parking and street trees, and create challenging terrain for those with disabilities.
A repurposed Slip Lane (StreetsBlog USA photo by John Greenfield)
Removing slip lanes can improve safety for all road users and creates opportunities for more greenery, bus stop, or other opportunities to make walking and biking more comfortable. These lanes make it easier for drivers to take corners faster and could be redesigned to slow down vehicles. However, if the intersection is replaced with the same number of lanes where the pedestrian must cross all lanes at once, the removal has the potential to make the crossing less safe.
For all arterial and collector streets, a maximum lane width of 10 to 10.5 feet could improve safety for motorists and pedestrians by slowing traffic down. The lane width of a road determines how comfortable a road user is, and thus determines their speed. Narrower lanes means slower traffic due to more cautious driving. Lanes that are too wide account for around 900 additional traffic fatalities a year in the U.S. The lane may be narrowed as part of a road diet, or by painting a new line and hash marks to make the person driving feel as if the lane is narrower. Some engineers continually push for wide lanes, neglecting that road design determines speed, rather than speed determining road design.
One way La Crosse may be able to reduce speeding and make streets more interesting would be to add a brick strip or a strip of an uneven and or colorful material to the edge of the roadway to make it appear as if the roadway is narrower. This will likely lead to a drop in average speed as motorists may not feel as comfortable going fast.
A skinny street with street trees (Headwater Solutions photo by Dan Burden)
Street trees have been shown to have plenty of benefits for cities. They have been linked to reduced crime, air temperature, surface water runoff, and electricity cost. Street trees have also been linked to increased property values, shade, health, and commerce. Street trees on urban arterial streets have the potential to reduce mid-block crashes 5-20% and generally reduce speeding. Overall landscape improvements that include street trees have been found to reduce crash rates by up to 46%. La Crosse should increase the planting of street trees along all its streets.
One more way in which the ity could reduce traffic speeds and improve safety on residential streets is to reduce the width of the street. Current streets have a 60 foot right-of-way, which leads to 36 feet for vehicle traffic and parking on both sides. Allocating just 26 feet for vehicle traffic would still provide for parking on both sides, but would force cars to slow down as they pass because there would be less extra space on the street. Skinny streets can also cost significantly less and provide more taxable land. Some streets could become 18 feet wide one way streets with parking only on one side, freeing up a significant amount of land as green space or to be developed. Because residential streets see very little traffic, yet they are where most citizens live, this change will have little to no impact on overall traffic flow, but will significantly improve safety. La Crosse may make the street narrower when it is reconstructed. The extra space could be used for bioswales to soak up rain water or be sold to adjacent property owners.
By reducing the turning radii of streets to 2-7 feet, turning cars will have to slow down around corners and pedestrians will have a shorter distance to cross. These two factors will likely improve pedestrian safety. Emergency vehicles and trucks pose a challenge for smaller radii, though. To accommodate larger vehicles, the opposite lane may require that cars stop farther back while they wait. In some cases, right turns on red should be restricted to reduce the chance of a collision.
The timing of traffic signals in the city should be adjusted to encourage traveling the speed limit and to reduce waiting times. Signals should last no more than 60 seconds, which inconveniences both people driving or walking and may lead to pedestrians crossing even with the “no walk” signal. Signals may also be timed to encourage driving at 20 miles per hour, where the next signal along the street does not turn green until a car coming from the previous signal has reached it in a time approximating 20 miles per hour. Signalized intersections should always give the walk signal, whether a pedestrian pushes the button or not. Adding a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) can increase safety by up to 60% by giving pedestrians a couple seconds head start.
A dangerous left turn signal (Pioneer Press photo by Holly Peterson)
Banning left turns at some intersections can improve safety and traffic flow. Where a signalized intersection has a dedicated left turn signal, a left turn should not be permitted at any other time. At intersections where left turns are permitted with oncoming traffic, drivers turning left through gaps in oncoming traffic may fail to notice pedestrians, leading to accidents. Turning left without the signal can also be a safety hazard because pedestrians are supposed to have the right of way over cars; allowing dangerous left turns prevents pedestrians from ever having the right of way. As UPS has shown in routing their trucks to avoid left turns, they are rarely necessary.
Right turns on red, while causing relatively few deaths compared to other types of accidents, are significantly more likely to include people who walk or bike. Right turns on red increase pedestrian accidents by 60% and cyclist accidents by 100%. People driving typically only look left to see oncoming traffic, but not right to see if a pedestrian is there. Right turns on red are generally banned in most of the world, except where permitted by a sign. The opposite is true here, and results in needless accidents. The point of a walk signal is to tell the pedestrian that it is safe to cross. However, right turns on red prevent that. Cars are allowed to go on green and on red. Therefore, a pedestrian should be able to go at the very least for the crosswalk signal without the danger of being struck by a motorist who couldn’t be bothered to look. Banning right turns on red should happen in areas with homes or business nearby that may encourage pedestrians, especially downtown and in nearby neighborhoods.
On two way streets, with or without parking and bike lanes, the city should remove the yellow center line marking, but leave the lane markings on the edge for a bike lane. Without the center line, drivers are more cautious and reduce their speed by around 13% compared to the same street with a centerline. The center line signifies to people driving that it is safe to speed and consequently leads to more accidents.
Replacing one-way streets with two-way streets has been shown to increase safety and help businesses along the street. One-ways may allow more traffic than a two way street, but decrease safety as cars travel faster when there is no traffic coming from the opposite direction. One-ways can also hurt businesses such as those located on the streets leading toward downtown, as workers returning home will shop at businesses located on the opposite one-way. Two-ways may also reduce confusion and accidents, and can also make park search driving faster, reducing emissions.
Brick streets reduce speeds (Photo from La Crosse Tribune)
Streets that use brick or concrete pavers have been shown to reduce speeding and add to the placemaking potential of a street. In some cases, using brick or concrete pavers can be less expensive than using concrete or asphalt. Brick or concrete paver streets could be considered for low-traffic streets in the downtown area. Uneven streets can cause more noise and deteriorate faster on high traffic streets and should instead be used for low traffic streets to reduce speeding.
Speed limits across the city could be reduced to improve safety for all street users. A reduction to 20 miles per hour for neighborhood streets and to 25 miles per hour for connector and arterial streets may greatly improve safety. Studies show a one mile per hour difference on a neighborhood street reduces the chance of an accident 4-6% and reductions from 25 to 20 will double the chances of a pedestrian’s survival in a crash. 20 mile per hour speed limits are becoming law in many cities lately, including Portland, OR, and New York City.
Speed cameras only work when they take into consideration average speed and encourage a change in driver behavior. To do this, average speed cameras could be used, which positions two cameras between two points, and calculates speed based on the time it takes to travel between the points. This approach leads to slower speeds through the entire area, not just at a single point, and therefore is less of a trap than a nudge to go slower. These cameras may also be preceded by warning signs signifying that there are cameras ahead. While signs will reduce the fines collected, the signs will likely lead to changed behavior compared to a trap, and reduced speeds will likely remain in the future.
Street Art Traffic Calming in St. Paul (Photo by "Peter")
To encourage both placemaking and safer streets, the City scould encourage painting some streets and intersections with murals or other interesting designs to get drivers to slow down. Other paint-related ways to slow drivers down is to paint 3D potholes or lines that get closer together to make it appear that cars are speeding up.These will lead to drivers slowing down, but should not be overused, causing drivers to ignore real potholes. Programs could be initiated with local schools art classes’ to paint murals at intersections surrounding schools to liven up the area and to educate about how to make streets safer.
Intersections where traffic calming is desired could incorporate raised crosswalks or an entire raised intersection. Raised crosswalks have the potential to create multiple benefits, including a slower speed for cars, more cars yielding to pedestrians, easier accessibility for the disabled, and reduced flooding of the crosswalk. Raised crosswalks should be considered particularly for intersections with a curb extension. A raised intersection will also serve to reduce speeding, but the pedestrian area must clearly be designated from the roadway to prevent cars from going onto the sidewalk.
A rerouted sidewalk in Seattle (Photo from Seattle Department of Transportation)
To improve safety during construction near sidewalks, walkways could be provided continuing on the same side of the street and be accessible to all users. These temporary sidewalks could take up space on a street, possibly narrowing travel lanes or removing parking, but should be protected from traffic, clearly visible, and wide enough for wheelchair users. By providing sidewalks during construction, pedestrians will not be forced to cross mid-block and be put in danger. Sidewalk closure could be a last resort if there are no alternatives.
When the city reconstructs streets, roundabouts and traffic circles should be taken into consideration. A roundabout can improve traffic flow and safety significantly for all users, if designed correctly. A roundabout typically will reduce safety for people who walk or bike if there are multiple lanes or the roundabout allows for higher speeds than necessary. Overall, the roundabout decreases the number of potential conflict points and thus improves overall safety, but roundabouts have been found to increase minor lone vehicle crashes in Wisconsin. The safest type of roundabout, a Dutch roundabout, includes cycle lanes around the circumference and reduces the size of the vehicle lane to make the roundabout safer for people who bike, who are the most vulnerable road users in a roundabout. Crosswalks must be located one car length back to allow space for vehicle turning into and out of traffic to still yield to pedestrians and not block traffic. While roundabouts function better than a signalized intersection, because a roundabout takes up more space, a roundabout may deter pedestrians from using the area as well as demand space that could be used for commercial or residential purposes. Overall, roundabouts should only be considered if they are a single lane, and will be relatively small so as not to take away valuable urban land.
To remain compliant with the Americans with Disabilities act and to encourage cycling and walking, La Crosse should consider prioritizing maintenance of sidewalks and bike lanes over roadways. A possible action would be to clear sidewalks and bike lanes first in the winter, and ensuring snow doesn't block a crosswalk or a bike lane. The number of bicyclists tend to decrease in the winter, but this kind of clearing could encourage some riders to continue riding longer into the season.
A Docked Bike Share Station in Minneapolis (Wikipedia photo)
Bike share systems are on the rise across the country and La Crosse has an opportunity to embrace new technology to encourage more citizens and visitors to explore the city on two wheels in a more sustainable fashion. Bike share systems offer a chance for those who do not own bikes to bike distances that are too short by car, but too long to walk. There are three types of bike share systems available: docked, dockless, and hybrid systems. Docked bike share, as found in Minneapolis and St. Paul, requires users to find a bike docked at a station, unlock it with a code and end the trip locking up at another station. This bike share model is typically more expensive and limits options for where users can ride. A dockless bike share system allows bikes to be parked anywhere within a wide geographical area. This option allows for greater flexibility, but has the potential to block sidewalks and lead to more stolen bikes. To solve this, cities have developed specific zones where dockless bikes may be parked. The third option, a hybrid system, utilizes dockless bikes, but the bikes must be locked up to a regular bike rack or a station to end a trip and therefore do not come with any of the problems of dockless, while also reducing cost and allowing for greater flexibility than a docked bike share system. Including electric assist bikes in the system has been found to encourage more people to ride than solely human powered bikes. Hybrid systems are currently in place in Rochester, NY and Tallahassee, FL. A hybrid system may be the best fit for bike share in La Crosse.
A scooter share system would add another form of alternative transportation that fits with walking and biking. The rise in electric scooter share is a recent phenomenon which leads to an expansion of mobility options. Scooters, unlike bikes, are only dockless and could be required to be parked upright to decrease the likelihood of blocking sidewalks. The introduction of scooters typically leads to an increase in bike ridership, as well as other sustainable modes. Scooters have been found to attract more riders than bike share, yet both modes complement one another.
A Police Bull Bar (Dana Safety Supply photo)
To increase safety for people who walk or bike in the event of a collision, the City could consider banning bull bars. This accessory was initially designed to prevent damage from collisions with large animals in rural areas, but appear on police cars for collision with other vehicles in cities. Bull bars are particularly dangerous for children and have been found to exert 10 to 15 times more force on the pedestrian.
On streets which currently have no parking, the city may benefit from adding parking where there is sufficient width. Parking lanes visually narrow driving lanes and slow down traffic. On neighborhood streets which currently allow parking only on one side, the city could have parking switch the side of the street every 3 to 5 car lengths to force cars to slow down to navigate between the right and left side of the street, and are unable to go in a straight line.
A driver who strikes a vulnerable road user or infringes on those user’s right of way could face stiffer penalties. Fines for any person driving who infringe on pedestrians’ or cyclists' right of way could be increased. These infringements include not stopping at crosswalks, turning right on red, turning left in front of another road user, and parking in a bike lane. Also, penalties to pedestrians could be reduced or eliminated. These laws disproportionately affect minorities and often do not create a danger to the public comparative to that of automobiles to other road users. Accident reports should place the person driving and street design at fault until proven otherwise. Accident reports frequently omit the person driving of blame and instead blame the pedestrian or cyclists for, say, not wearing bright colors, a form of victim blaming.
Car free day is celebrated annually on September 22nd and encourages people to give up driving for a day and to promote walking, biking and mass transit. It could be started in only the downtown area, or expanded to other parts of the city. For certain streets downtown, it could also become a more frequent occurrence (quarterly, monthly, or weekly) to close down one street for people.
Linked Transit and Bike Share in Pittsburgh (PA Environment Digest Blog photo)
When La Crosse implements bike share, ridership of both the bus and bike share program will likely benefit from a linked payment system. For instance, the monthly bus pass could also function for the bike share and the app for bike share and the bus would be the same. One app could provide information on bus routes, schedules, locations to find bike share bikes and more. Bus announcements for stops could include whether there are any bikes nearby for riders to use. Programs such as these with variations have been implemented in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
La Crosse may consider adopting the set of guidelines set forth by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) to make improvements to street design for all users. These guidelines provide many options for constructing bikeways, transit ways, stormwater management, and traffic calming.
La Crosse could commit to Vision Zero and work towards eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries by 2030. Vision Zero has already been adopted by many countries and cities which use tactics outlines above and others to reduce the chance of a serious collision. Vision Zero has had an impact in cities that have adopted it, but progress towards zero fatalities and severe injuries is slow. The first country to adopt Vision Zero was Sweden in 1997 which currently sees 27 fatalities per million people per year compared to 104 fatalities per million people per year in the U.S.
While a blanket ban on school car drop-offs will likely impact those who live outside the city the most, it could be arranged to alleviate concerns and to allow drop-offs in extenuating circumstances. For instance, it could be dependent on how close a student lives to a school bus stop or transit stop, ban drop offs for only a short period at the busiest times of day, or allow for a walking or biking school bus, where chaperons lead multiple students by walking or biking to and from school. School car drop-offs significantly increase pollution around schools leading to many health problems as well as decreased concentration in school.
- Transit Oriented Development & Development Oriented Transit
- Food accessibility
- Form based code
- Reduce Minimum Lot and Yard Regulations
- Accessory Dwelling Units
- Housing Incentives
La Crosse has the potential to increase density with small measures that preserve the urban character while improving walkability and financial stability. When transit is a part of higher density development or development increases around transit stations, bus ridership improves, as cars simply take up too much space for everyone to drive. Mixed-use buildings improve walkability by allowing retail, restaurants, and other shops within a short distance of residences areas. Interesting and human-scaled building form can improve walkability by creating a more enjoyable walking experience. To encourage this form, the city can implement form-based codes which prescribes criteria for a building's appearance more so than use. By allowing accessory dwelling units, homes can maintain their character can be while increasing density. The City can increase housing by providing incentives for using vacant parking lots and replacing single story big box stores with walkable urban neighborhoods. La Crosse has a limited amount of land and must make the most of it.
Transit Oriented Development in Portland, OR
Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and Development Oriented Transit (DOT) are two ways to address density and transit that have the same goal, but different approaches. TOD starts with a rapid transit line and encourages dense development around its stations. DOT on the other hand, is incremental increases in density and development and consequently incremental improvements to transit. Both approaches can work, but for TOD to function efficiently, stations around which development will take place should have some traces of urbanism to start. Both approaches could be incentivized and may warrant new zoning category and strategies.
Food deserts - areas where fresh food is hard to obtain - are problematic because they increase car dependency and add to negative health impacts. La Crosse may consider zoning changes and incentives to reduce food deserts by locating small, local grocers in areas with no other food access. A reduction in food deserts is important to reducing the impact of unhealthy food; education is one of the most important tools to solving the problem as well.
A Form Based Code would encourage Compatible Buildings
La Crosse may consider adopting a form-based code to preserve the character of downtown and older neighborhoods. These codes regulate the form of a building such as building height, setbacks, footprint and frontage whereas traditional zoning only separates the uses of land. Form based codes increase mixed use buildings and inviting storefronts and residences addressing how the building scales and fits in with the surrounding neighborhood. Form based codes are short and simple to understand and result in faster approvals than traditional zoning.
To preserve the character of the older neighborhoods without changing the character of the newer neighborhoods, the City could increase density by changing the zoning code to reduce minimum lot sizes and setbacks. The lot size of many houses in older neighborhoods is often between 2,500 and 5,000 square feet, but the zoning code requires the minimum lot size to be 7,200 square feet today. This could be reduced to 5,000 square feet, as it was before 1966, or smaller. Additionally, the setbacks and minimum lot widths could be reduced to allow for these smaller lots. Parking minimums could also be removed to allow for greater use of the land.
An Accessory Dwelling Unit in Portland, OR
One way to increase density and provide affordable housing without turning the neighborhood into apartments, is to allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). These units are an accessory structure on the homeowners’ property, such as a garage, or an addition onto their house, which can be rented out to family members, caretakers, or others. Many cities, and potentially La Crosse too, already have ADUs that were either built without permission, or before the zoning code prevented them. By granting these units amnesty the ADUs that are already in place will become safer by being restricted as to how they are built and maintained. ADU builders can maintain neighbors privacy through careful placement of windows and doors. For ADUs to become more widely available, the city may need to remove requirements for minimum parking and for owner occupancy for either the ADU or main structure. ADUs may be allowed by right without requiring approval from the common council or approval from neighbors. However, reducing the impact on neighbors is encouraged. An example of policy from Durango, CO requires ADUs to have a minimum floor space of 550 square feet, house no more than 5 unrelated people and an ADU may not be used for short term rentals. Overall, rules regarding ADUs should be similar to those regarding other types of housing, such that short term rentals.
There are multiple options to encourage citizens to live close to work and close to downtown. First, encourage an employer- or City assisted housing program, where those who live closer to work or closer to downtown receive incentives such as help paying off the mortgage. In addition, the City could offer a housing rehabilitation program, to improve houses already in the city and make them more desirable compared to a new development. Other changes to housing could include a density bonus program, which allow developers to increase the density of a property in exchange for a community benefit, such as a plazas, low income housing or recreational trails or simplifying the process for Planned Neighborhood Districts (PND) and Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND), both of which encourage a mix of uses in a non-car oriented pattern.
Based on Washington State's program implemented in 1991, a commute trip reduction program in La Crosse could require major employers or all employers in the city to develop plans to reduce the drive-alone rates of their employees. In putting together a plan, the employers could offer flexible work or telecommuting options, charge the true cost for parking (one of the most effective methods), provide free transit passes, or encourage carpooling. Employers are free to choose the options, but the City could provide assistance and oversight. Other programs include mortgage assistance for homes within walking distance or a cash reward for not driving. In the program, employers with a program reduced single-occupancy vehicle commuting by 3% and every public dollar spent has led to 18 dollars spent by employers to reduce single-occupancy commuting even more. This program would lead to less congestion and more transit users, but would allow employers to make their own decisions about reducing single occupancy vehicle use. To encourage larger decreases, the city could provide incentives if businesses can show a clear decline in single occupancy vehicle use and a switch to other modes. This could be through a reduction in traffic nearby, a reduced need for parking, an increase in bikes or an increase in the transit passes the business gives out. A commute trip reduction program will meet the city’s goals to reducing single occupancy vehicle commuting and reducing the effect of rush hour.
Requiring that financial decisions be based on an accrual accounting method could lead to better decisions about annexations and development at the edge of the city, which could lead to a reduced dependence on automobiles in the long term. Accrual accounting requires the City to account for long-term financial commitments, whereas today the City may only accounts for financial commitments in the short-term. Making commitments for long terms projects based on an annual budget could leave out many financial obligations. As an example, in 2010 Virginia reported a surplus of $50 million dollars based on current cash-flow accounting. Using accrual accounting, Virginia had a $674 million deficit. Accounting for long-term liabilities may show that development at the edge of the city, including already developed land, as a net loss for the city. These areas getting more in services than they provide in taxes. Accrual accounting could lead to reduced development on the edge and increased revitalization of the areas closest to downtown. Accrual accounting is common among private companies and makes sense for Cities to adopt this practice, too.
To discourage development on the edge of the city and to provide equitable water and sewer charges for residents, the city should have added fees for every water and sewer pumping station that is used such that costs at the edge of the city will grow, and likewise costs for those living close to downtown will decrease. Initially, this will not have a large impact, but will serve to deter unsustainable and auto dependent development in the long term. Ideally, this would be based on the length of pipes required to service properties, but due to complexity, a fee based on the number of pumping stations is more feasible.
Before a development is approved, the City should consider preparing a report on the public to private investment ratio of the project as well as the expected number of years it will take the development to pay off the infrastructure built for it. In order for a project to be approved, a private to public investment ratio of at least 25:1 would be good and closer to 40:1 would be great. This will ensure compact development more suitable for walking by encouraging less spread out development, garnering a significant savings in infrastructure costs. The larger the private investment to public investment, the greater the chance of narrow streets, lots of street trees, less off-street parking, and other improvements that reduce auto dependence. Fate, TX is using a similar program to reduce long-term financial obligations that come with auto-oriented development.
Provide incentives to schools and businesses who show a reduction in single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuting. There are multiple ways to show change, such as a decrease in parked autos, an increase in parked bikes, an increase in transit passes to employees, or a decrease in traffic on adjacent streets.
By encouraging telecommuting from home for part of the week, businesses could see productivity gains and reduced turnover, and reduce the impact of rush hour. Telecommuting has been found to increase productivity by 20-40% and reduces job turnover by 50%. Telecommuting has been shown to improve morale, reduces stress, and allow older generations to stay in the workforce longer. Telecommuting can increase willingness to work overtime and can expand the talent pool for businesses. It can also be more cost effective for businesses by reducing traffic-caused delays, reducing the amount of office space a business requires, and saving on electricity and office supplies.
To ensure that the City continues to focus on active transportation and reducing single-occupancy vehicle commuting, a department may be designated to compile, facilitate, and disseminate data on TDM policies and active transportation. In addition, the Mayor could include the progress on TDM in a “State of the City” address.
In addition to the Transportation Demand Management Plan, La Crosse may consider developing a Comprehensive Mobility Plan to include all transportation components including intercity travel, the movement of freight, and emergency evacuation routes .
To encourage alternative active modes other than cycling, Section 44-198 of the Municipal code could be reformed to allow little vehicles on streets as well as public parking lots. These vehicles could include skateboards, roller skates, in line skates, unicycles, sleds, toboggans, toy or play vehicles, coasters, mini-bikes and roller skis. While it is unlikely this law is enforced outside of crashes, there is no basis for a law that criminalizes victims instead of those driving. Additionally, users of these vehicles could be allowed to use the full travel lane. The section of the code that states “Persons using in-line skates upon a public roadway shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of motor vehicle traffic” could be either removed completely or refined to not punish the user of one of these vehicles from simply traveling on a street. Vehicles such as electric bikes, electric scooters or other electric powered little vehicles such as those above could be considered little vehicles as long as they travel under 15 miles per hour and provide less than 250 watts of power.