At their last monthly meeting on February 12th, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) Transportation Policy Board (TPB) agenda included adoption of Safety Performance Measure Targets. Farm&City has been working for the last six months with a coalition of nonprofits and citizen activists across the Austin region to provide analysis and best practices to the members of the TPB on the potential benefits of a Regional Vision Zero Action Plan, including a letter-writing campaign just before last month’s TPB meeting.
CAMPO, like all Texas MPOs, had the option to support TXDOT’s statewide safety targets or to pursue their own goal and metrics. Either way, they were federally mandated to adopt a safety performance target by February 27. The Texas Strategic Highway Safety Plan (pdf) calls for a 2% reduction in projected fatalities, which actually translates into an increase in statewide traffic fatalities from 3,773 in 2016 to 4,241 lives lost in traffic in 2022.
Members of the public (including Farm&City staff), spoke during the public comment period to advocate for more ambitious targets in line with a Regional Vision Zero Action Plan. TXDOT itself is nominally committed to the Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic deaths, though they have not set any timelines or official milestones. The TXDOT safety targets continue to project increased year over year traffic fatalities.
The transportation policy board expressed interest in pursuing a Regional Vision Zero Action Plan during discussion. There were several inquiries as to how the 2% figure could be a reduction if it projected an increase in fatalities.
The board ultimately approved the state safety targets after Chair Will Conley emphasized that doing so would not prevent the adoption of more aggressive safety targets. The next item on the agenda began exactly that process.
According to Transportation for America, the greatest factor preventing MPOs nationwide from pursuing safety is the lack of robust and targeted data sources. However, TXDOT has been doing a relatively good job in recent years of making data available to citizens, local jurisdictions, and MPO staff through the CRIS system.
Following the adoption of TXDOT safety targets, Item 9 from the agenda included approval for CAMPO staff to sign and fund a quite remarkable agreement with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) that includes addressing this gap in data and analysis. This item was approved. The four elements of the agreement with TTI include development of: a Regional Crash Database, a Regional State of Safety Report, Development of Safety Performance Measures, and a Regional Traffic Safety Plan. CAMPO Executive Director Ashby Johnson also announced the formation of a Regional Safety Council.
We applaud these courageous and responsible steps. Yet there seems more to be done at the TPB level to get to a Regional Vision Zero Action Plan. Austin Council Member Ann Kitchen asked CAMPO staff during the TPB meeting to report back soon to the TPB with a better understanding of what doing a real Regional Vision Zero Action Plan would entail, to which Johnson simply replied “yes, ma’am.”
[Crash image credit: Ruin Rader, Creative Commons License, via Flickr]