An efficient transportation system can be compared to the circulation system in human beings. Both are important aspects of human life. Transportation routes just like arteries and veins are the life lines of economies. The economic growth is directly proportional to efficiency of its transportation infrastructure. Many local governments are creating ambitious plans to improve, maintain and expand their transportation infrastructure. In the process, some have overestimated the benefits of such projects causing huge expenses to tax payers without comparable benefits.
The purpose of this paper will be to look at the viability of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan 2035 for Pocatello. I will examine the contents of the plan and compare them with the facts on population growth, present and future transportation needs. From this I will determine whether the plan is too ambitious or within the best interest of the people of Pocatello
The city of Pocatello put in place a long range transportation plan to be implemented by 2035. The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP 2035) was designed to meet the needs of the Pocatello metropolitan community as it advances into the future (Bannock Transportation Planning Organization 2). The plan is adjusted after every four years to ensure that it meets the emerging transportation requirements of the city.
MTP is a good roadmap for the transportation system in Pocatello. The plan sets the goals for the future by building a vision for the transportation system. Additionally, the plan has procedures that detect and solves present transportation problems. Finally, MTP identifies good strategies that should be done to improve the transport system.
Pocatello is a city located in the South East of Idaho, USA. It is the largest city in Bannock County and is ranked fifth largest in the state after Idaho Falls. The city is home to Idaho State University and a factory for ON Semiconductors. According to the census conducted in 2010, Pocatello has a population of 54,255(City Data). The population in 51,466 in 2000. This means that in 10 years, the population of the city had grown at an average rate of 278.9 people per year.Pocatello has a thriving business community and was ranked by Forbes as one of the best places to conduct business. The population is made up of white people at 92.32%. The rest of the population is composed of 1.35% Native Americans, 1.15% Asians, and 0.72% African Americans and 4.46% as other races(City Data).
Population growth is the key indicator of the importance of MTP. The population of Bannock County is expected to grow from 74,674 in 2010 to about 100,523 in 2035(Bannock Transportation Planning Organization). This population increase will lead to more human, bicycle and vehicle traffic. If the present transportation system is not improved gradually, there will be too much traffic in transport system. This will affect the economy by slowing movement of labor, goods and services.
The plan is to improve the highways and other non-motorized ways by focusing all community initiatives to improving the system. The plan will make the local communities able to handle the impact of economic growth and population increase without affecting mobility. Communities will be involved in the process of maintaining and creating transit routes. The biggest challenge to this plan will be to ensure that the implemented projects do not become useless. All the projects are created based on projected future population growth which might not occur. Pocatello recorded a negative population growth of -0.6% in 1990; it is possible that the population might not grow in the future. This means that the existing transportation systems may still be usable longer into the future.
The economy has also been affected by the global recession which started in 2007. Households are affected by dwindling savings, high loan interests and increased unemployment. The average annual household income in Pocatello is $34,326 (City Data). The average family earns $41,884 which is low compared to other states. As the economy recover slowly, it may take a while before families are able to have enough to spare on additional family cars .Despite these uncertain projections, the MTP is well developed roadmap that if implemented properly will improve the transportation system of Pocatello. The plan focuses on 5 main areas of action. These are community development, transportation preservation and efficiency, environmental protection, increasing mobility choices and creating livable communities. The plan intendeds to create and maintain excellent transportation infrastructure while protecting the community and the environment.
The plan includes service standards which will be used to measure the performance of the transport system. The standards will be used to identify problems areas and determine sections that require improvements. These standards are available for highways, transit routes, bicycles and all pedestrian routes. Highway standards should be above level D of service while transit routes will serve a maximum population density of 3000 per square mile. All bicycle and pedestrian routes should be accessible to sidewalks with direct connections to public areas such as schools, parks.
Communities will be involved in deciding the priority of projects. A series of public meetings will be used to collect public opinion for which projects to undertake. This is because there is limited financial resource available for the project compared to the total number of 81 projects identified. The cost of upgrading the transportation system to the recommended service standard is $126 million(Bannock Transportation Planning Organization). To handle this financial hurdle, only 10 projects were identified and listed in order of priority and implementation timeline.The project will use the services of professional city planners and land developers to make the best routes to supplement the existing ones. This will reduce land wastage and increase linkages between areas such as residential areas, public amenities and commercial hubs.
Environmental conservation is part of the concerns dealt with in the plan. Improvement of the bicycle and pedestrian routes will encourage more residents of the city to cycle and walk (Imran 506). This will reduce the number of people using vehicles to run such small errands such as a visit to buy vegetables. This transportation system will improve mobility by increasing transport options and reducing time wasted in traffic jams. This will increase environmental conservation by reducing air pollution which caused by car exhaust gas emissions.
The future of Pocatello is dependent on its ability to adapt to changes that will occur in the future. Population growth is an integral part of urban area development. Economic growth is one of the biggest catalysts of population growth. As more opportunities for employment arise, more people move into urban areas to take up jobs. This influx of people puts pressure on social amenities and infrastructure. Transportation is just one of the first systems to collapse. To counter this, many metropolitan cities have put in place mechanisms for maintaining, upgrading and constructing new transportation systems. The MTP is an example of a plan that is set as a futuristic goal for Pocatello’s transport system.
As indicated in this paper, it is important to ensure that the plans are set on realistic projections of future transportation needs. The planners should include all stakeholders during the planning process. They should also conduct a feasibility study on each project to determine its viability. Another critical consideration is the environment. All projects should be analyzed for their affect on the environment. The goal is to create transportation systems that will use eco-friendly materials which will leave a small carbon footprint.
The Metropolitan Transport Plan 2035 has all the parts of a god plan. The four year time space put in place for validating the projects will be used to correct any projection errors that were made earlier. In my own assessment, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan 2035 is an excellent plan for Pocatello.
Bannock Transportation Planning Organization. 2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan
Amendment. 5 December, 2011. Web. 24 September 2012
City Data. Pocatello, Idaho. 2010. Web. 24 September 2012
Imran, Muhammad, and Low, Nicholas. "Sustainable urban transport in Pakistan:
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International Journal, 16. 5 (2005): 505 – 529