San Antonio region envisions zero traffic deaths

Of the 10 largest Texas MPOs Farm&City investigated, the Alamo Area MPO (AAMPO), which covers the San Antonio region, seems to be most seriously pursuing Vision Zero – a deliberate approach to end traffic deaths.

Along with every other Texas MPO, AAMPO adopted the TxDOT safety targets that assume a continuous increase in the total number of fatalities on Texas roads. But the devil is in the details.

The City of San Antonio has a Vision Zero Initiative with a holistic, multimodal approach to eliminating traffic deaths. The staff presentation (beginning on page 45) to AAMPO is remarkably forward-thinking in outlining such a path.
AAMPO’s Technical Advisory Committee and Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee recommended adoption of the state guidelines, but the Pedestrian Mobility Advisory Committee recommended a target of zero traffic fatalities by 2040, 470 fewer overall deaths than the other plan.

The Alamo Area MPO spent 51 minutes at their January meeting presenting and discussing transportation safety before adopting safety targets. Other major Texas MPOs spent about 5 minutes on these goals.

A culture of safety
This ambitious proposal – zero deaths – is a reflection of the local safety culture. Most Texas MPOs held a short staff presentation on the TXDOT safety targets, followed by no discussion, and unanimous adoption of the TXDOT targets, although Austin’s CAMPO had a very meaningful, yet shorter discussion. The AAMPO Transportation Policy Board, however, spent over two hours between their December and January meetings.

San Antonio Councilmember Shirley Gonzales led a productive discussion on the need for safety to be the top consideration in all transportation policy decisions. The body also reflected on the fundamental multimodal approach to transportation that exists in safer cities abroad.

In discussion before voting to adopt the weaker TXDOT measures, AAMPO Transportation Policy Board members expressed their desires to actually achieve a meaningful reduction in road fatalities while balancing concerns that such ambitious targets would limit further funding.

Regional transportation planner Allison Blazosky lamented the “apprehension” that is felt state-wide. Fear of future funding restrictions is a ubiquitous deterrent perceived by various elected officials on Texas MPO decision making bodies – even where there is general agreement on a desire to pursue safety more strongly, such as adopting a Regional Vision Zero Action Plan. Blazosky reports on her analysis of current federal transportation policy that “there is no evidence that this is a concern under the present method of federal funding administration through state agencies.”

Perhaps Texas transportation officials could reconsider their weighting of the perceived risks of potentially not meeting ambitious safety targets versus the ongoing daily carnage of traffic deaths on our streets.

[Riverwalk image credit: Pedro Szekely, Creative Commons License, via Flickr]