Buses, streets divide council candidates
Genzer alone in opposing more START service; others seek less dependency on cars.
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 17, 2012
Town council candidates Hailey Morton, Phillip Cameron and Jim Stanford said they would support expanding START bus service and accommodating alternate modes of transportation on Jackson’s streets.
Only Jim Genzer, who placed second in the primary election, said he wouldn’t like to see more buses and routes around Jackson Hole.
“I would not support expanding it beyond what we have right now,” Genzer said of START.
It’s sufficient that the town shuttle runs every 30 minutes, he said. Federal funds that he says prop up START could dry up in the near future.
“We don’t want to create a monster we can’t support,” he said. “We need to work at being self-sufficient,” Genzer said.
The four candidates are running for two open seats on the council.
Morton, the top vote getter in the primaries, would support some expansion of services but emphasized the need for efficiency.
“I think that we have good service now, but I’d like to see it used more efficiently,” Morton said. She would like to take a hard look at reducing routes during the shoulder season, she said.
It makes sense to support a general increase in START service if the community’s goal is to reduce traffic, Morton said.
“I think everyone moving forward hopes to have less dependency on single-occupancy vehicles,” she said.
Stanford, who placed fourth in the primaries, said more efficient START service could answer some of town’s transportation problems.
He suggested a direct route that would travel across town, from east Jackson to west Jackson, a move he said could encourage more people to take the bus.
“I know it would increase my ridership,” Stanford said.
He also suggested smaller buses and said he would support comprehensive free START service, which he said would help reduce traffic and dependency on single-occupancy vehicles.
“That’s a goal,” he said. “That’s way out there,” he said.
Cameron, the third-place candidate from the primaries, believes START already does a good job of altering bus schedules to accommodate need.
“I’m supportive of expanding service where there is demand,” Cameron said.
Annual bus ridership is approaching one million passengers, he said, which shows its value to the community. The bus service reduces wildlife-vehicle collisions, he said.
“START really needs to be recognized for the amazing number of vehicles it removes from the roads, which is a huge benefit to our wildlife,” Cameron said.
The candidates similarly diverged on the issue of complete streets and how the town’s transportation system should, or should not, be adjusted to accommodate the density proposed for town in the new comprehensive land-use plan.
Morton agrees with the notion of complete streets and would like to further promote other types of transportation around town.
“But I don’t want to demonize single-occupancy vehicles,” she said. “I have one. It’s hard to get around in the winter.”
Balance is key when officials begin addressing transportation planning, Morton said. She would consider reworking streets in town to mitigate the stresses of traffic.
“It’s a matter of looking at our main thoroughfares,” Morton said.
She also said an increase in Jackson’s population will inherently make it easier for residents to walk, bike or take the bus to work.
Stanford said he supports complete streets and more pathways for pedestrians and bikers, but bulb-outs at crosswalks, like those on Redmond Street, should be reserved for high- density areas, such as Broadway and Pearl Avenue.
Despite the transportation choices of Jackson residents, the community will always have to accommodate the traffic brought in by visitors traveling to the two neighboring national parks, he said.
“We have to look at our road capacity, and we have to consider more connectivity,” Stanford said.
Through traffic is still routed through Town Square, he said.
“That’s 1890s planning,” Stanford said.
Cameron said that the number of vehicles traveling through town may not be all bad.
“We obviously have an issue with seasonal traffic, but it also brings people through town, which supports local businesses,” he said.
Cameron has been a proponent of adding density to Jackson, but he has said he is concerned about the stress the population growth would put on Jackson’s transportation infrastructure.
“There’s no silver bullet for that problem,” He said. “We need to improve a variety of options.”
Cameron said using modified versions of complete streets around town would help.
“I think we need to look at our streets and infrastructure from the perspective of multiple different users,” he said.
Genzer has vehemently opposed complete streets throughout his campaign. He says the solutions to Jackson’s transportation needs are to not force density into town and to not force people out of their vehicles.
“In the town of Jackson, for the better part of 10 years, we have been narrowing streets and eliminating parking,” he said. “That is absolutely foolish. There seems to be an agenda going on that everybody needs to be riding their bikes or walking or taking the START bus.”
The town should preserve as much parking as possible, he said.
General elections take place Nov. 6. Town councilor terms last four years.