On Tuesday, the Columbia City Council will approve an infrastructure budget for GetAbout Columbia, the federally funded project to encourage people to use active modes (walking, bicycling, etc.) instead of driving.
Projects can be evaluated by their potential to create a mode shift, relative to their cost. Two projects that represent an excellent return-on-investment are:
- The “East Side trail connector” linking the Bluffdale neighborhood with the Rock Hill Park trail;
- The “Library trail connector” between the South Garth neighborhood and the MKT Trail.
In each case, a short, inexpensive trail segment will provide excellent access to the citywide trail system for thousands of residents who currently have inconvenient, unsafe or non-existent access. These projects will also enable schoolchildren to walk safely to Grant School and the library, and college students to cycle to campus.
Both projects are opposed by a small group of residents who fear an increase in crime and vandalism, an influx of homeless people, and a reduction in property values. However, according to a Colorado study, 93 percent of residents living close to a trail felt the trail made it easier to sell their home; and an Oregon study reported that homes bordering the Oregon Trail had lower rates of burglary and vandalism than the neighborhood average.
These trail connections are fundamental to the concept of a comprehensive non-motorized transportation network, which will bring enormous health, environmental, economic, and quality-of-life benefits to Columbia. It is important they are not scuttled by the unfounded fears of a few individuals.