We asked each candidate running for office three questions about access to affordable transportation. Our incoming elected officials will play a large role in shaping the future of mobility in Durham. This is a chance for them to explain how they think about those issues. The questionnaire was sent to every running candidate, below are the responses we have received.
A few givens
All kinds of people in Durham bicycle and walk to commute, to spend money, and for pleasure.
Induced demand is a well-known truth in planning that describes the following phenomenon: infrastructure such as an added lane on a highway eases traffic congestion for a short time but ultimately increases road usage and multiplies congestion in the long term. This can apply to other infrastructure such a parking spaces, sidewalk networks, or protected bicycle lanes.   
Will you commit to making affordable transportation safer by funding the Bike/Walk Plan developed by the city?
Biking has boomed in Durham over the last few years. Today, five times as many Durhamites get around on two wheels as did a decade ago. We have twice the national average of bike commuters and the second highest rate in the state, after only Carrboro. Safe infrastructure is the single biggest factor for the safety and growth of bicycle ridership.
I am a cyclist myself, and I agree that a huge barrier to people cycling more in Durham is the lack of safe infrastructure. That is certainly a barrier for me when I think about where I'm willing to bike. YES, I absolutely support full funding of the Bike/Walk Plan and I've been a vocal supporter of the plan and for funding it. I will continue to make that a very high priority for the council.
(ward 1 candidate)
Yes, I will absolutely commit to making pedestrian and bicycling transportation safer by funding the Bike/Walk Plan. As an avid bicyclist myself (including five years of car-free living in the Triangle) and as a transportation planner by education (UNC DCRP '10), I am keenly aware of the importance of not only having a robust bike/ped plan in place to identify infrastructure needs but also having the funding allocated to actually close gaps in our networks. Further, I support fully funding the "Twenty for Trails" plan from the Durham Open Space and Trails (DOST) Commission that calls for $20 million of trail funding within the next 10 years. Trails provide much needed low-stress bicycle and pedestrian networks within our community that offer very low barriers of entry that can introduce new commuters and recreational users to the joys of alternative transportation. I have over 8,000 miles of bicycle touring experience (including a self-supported cross-country tour in 2008) and likely three times that in cumulative bicycle commuting experience, so I will be eager to interject the perspectives and concerns of a bicyclist into many council discussions, especially those that regard the funding of bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
(Ward 2 candidate)
As one of the Durhamites who gets around on two wheels, I will commit to funding the Bike/Walk Plan. I was a recreational cyclist when I moved to NC 10 years ago. Since then, my involvement in the cycling community for recreation and fitness, as a bicycle commuter, and as a member of the Durham Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee have given me a more well rounded perspective on the transportation needs of Durham's community; cycling facilities and amenities are a part of our growth and should be accounted for in our plans for the future.
Do you support Complete Streets and what will you do to institutionalize this policy?
"Complete Streets" is a road design philosophy which holds that streets should be built for all users, not just motorists but pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. Durham adopted Complete Streets as a policy in the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, but to date, little has been done to implement that promise. It takes more than a policy to create Complete Streets, it takes training, guidelines, milestones, and financing. None of this has happened yet in Durham.
I support the Complete Streets philosophy totally. I disagree that "little has been done to implement its promise" in Durham. I keep a heavy focus on bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and other council members do as well. We are getting results. Here are some of the things we have done just in my time on the council in the past six years: (1) Added 40 miles of bike lanes, with 12 more as the goal for the next two years; (2) Budgeted for $20 million in local funding of sidewalks (new and repairs) over the next five years as our first capital improvement priority; (3) Adopted the Bike/Walk Plan which tells us how to spend that sidewalk money on 75 new, larger projects and 75 smaller projects which will make important connections; (4) Begun work on four new corridors with bike lanes and sidewalks: Morreene Rd., Cornwallis Rd., Carpenter-Fletcher Rd., Hillandale Rd., at cost of millions; (5) Delayed construction of the new Alston Ave. until we could get NC DOT to agree to some significant bike/ped improvements, which are soon to get underway; (6) Required that any new road project must have bike lanes and sidewalks; (7) Putting bike/ped facilities on the new Carver St. Extension; (8) Begun construction of the bike/ped facilities on Old Durham-Chapel Hill Rd., another expensive project.
There is a lot more to do, but I'm impressed with our Durham Transportation Department's pro-active work in this area. For example, we have recently receive CMAQ funding for bicycle boulevards (8 miles next year, 17 in the next five years) as well as a smart-dock bike sharing program. In addition, the department just brought to council for our approval a policy regulating and inviting smart-bike bike sharing programs to the City, which is happening now.
I also think bus transit is a critical component of a Complete Streets program. We have recently increased our bus headway times significantly, added a second hub at The Village, and added several new routes.
We are still not where we want to be in any of these areas. My own commitment is to take a strong stance in favor of all the elements of a Complete Streets policy and to put that policy into practice. I think we are making good strides in that way.
I also want to say that I am very interested in talking to Bike Durham folks after Nov. 7 about your ideas on this.
(ward 1 candidate)
I do support Complete Streets, which will become more important as the role of transit in our community deservedly continues to grow. Not only will there be opportunities for total redesign of many streets within our urban core, but light rail and a more extensive transit system will give even more reason to improve multi-modal access to corridors throughout our community. Complete Streets designs grant inalienable spatial rights to all modes of street users, which helps upend the unsustainable dominance that automobiles have assumed over other street uses. NCDOT can certainly be a roadblock as far as incorporating a community's desires within state-owned roads, but I will work diligently with the city's transportation planning staff, our MPO and advocacy groups to strive to accomplish Complete Streets on future city transportation projects.
(Ward 2 candidate)
I've served on the Durham Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission for the past 2 years, where the Complete Streets initiative was beginning to take shape. BPAC has written letters of support to the Mayor, and City Council to support this effort and has continued to advise developers on site plans on making their projects suitable for all users. The existing Bike + Walk Implementation and Comprehensive Bicycle Transportation plans both recommend adoption of a Complete Streets policy. The next steps have been identified and as a member of City Council I would hold us accountable to the actions laid out in these plans and ensure the Durham community is well informed of the progress. For example, Durham has yet to adopt a Complete Streets policy. I would work with local advocacy groups such as Bike Durham and community members to help draft the policy.
How does affordable transportation fit into your vision of a more equitable Durham? What can we do now to accommodate Durham's new growth and density?
Affordable, non-car, transportation is critically important in Durham. We are either going to move towards alternative means of transportation in Durham or we are going to be stuck in auto gridlock for the rest of our lives--especially when our population doubles in the next 30 years.
As noted above, I am totally committed to sidewalk and bicycle infrastructure construction at a rapid pace. I work to drive this forward consistently.
In addition, I am the chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the three-county regional transportation policy board. In this capacity, I work to champion the light rail and to push it across the finish line for federal funding--which we have accomplished as long as we do our work well. We are in line for $1.2 billion in federal funding to complete this 18-mile, 18-stop line from NCCU to downtown Durham to Duke to UNC Hospital. This is critical to our shared future. In addition. We are now working with Wake County on the commuter rail between our two cities. In 12 years, we should have the light rail done, and not long after, the commuter rail. We must do this, and it must be affordable to all.
We also must work to continue to expand our bus system and make it affordable to all. 20,000 people board our buses each day in Durham. This is a huge ridership. We keep the fares low--an average of about 40 cents per ride now. But we need to work towards making the buses free so that we can expand ridership and help out our current riders, many of who are poor, elderly and disabled. We can't get to free ridership overnight, but we should work with Duke University to assist us with this as UNC-CH funds the free ridership in Chapel Hill. This is an important goal for our bus system and the future of affordable transportation in Durham.
(ward 1 candidate)
The automobile came to dominate the 20th century, but that dominance has come at a high price: unsustainable suburban sprawl, high household costs of car ownership, a less physically active and less healthy population, and deepening global climate impacts. If equity is a value we aspire to, then the monopoly of the automobile within our transportation systems must end. Durham needs to begin now to implement an urban design that is forward thinking and ready for the 21st century. Affordable transportation must be that future. Even beyond an equity lens, if we expect to continue to add density to downtown while we maintain the same car ownership and usage rates, we must realize that our existing infrastructure will simply fail. We cannot feasibly add lanes to any of our downtown streets or highway systems. Do we want a downtown fabric that is filled with parking garages and congestion or do we want a downtown that is a pleasing place to be and is both bikeable and walkable? We need to start making a transition away from automobile-centered design. As a starting point, I support relaxing minimum parking requirements on downtown development to foster the viability of alternative transportation options. Forcing new development to subsidize a car-centered lifestyle by providing parking drives up the cost of living downtown and is a contributing factor as to why so many Durham residents are priced out of the newest downtown development. Location efficiency can help control both the initial costs of new housing units as well as the ongoing transportation costs. There is no silver bullet to this issue, but abolishing minimum parking requirements is a good starting point to at least enable the market to provide convenient spaces for those that choose a car-free existence.
(Ward 2 candidate)
One of the main focuses of the Hall4Durham vision is on poverty and how equitable, well-planned transportation plays a part in that. Our city and its partners are already examining our public transit options and how they can better serve our existing residents, but also how they can serve our expansion. Even the Durham Chapel-Hill Carrboro MPO is proposing a light rail system to help accommodate our expected growth. My suggestion for what we can do now to accommodate Durham's new growth and density is to focus on the implementation phases of our Bike + Walk Implementation and Comprehensive Bicycle Transportation plans in conjunction with the GoDurham, GoTriangle, and MPO transportation plans but ensuring the underlying theme of these actions stem from equitable and just policies that not only encourage less one-car trips, but provide quality, convenient, and economical service to those who are transit dependent and those who have the option to use transit.