Citywide Multimodal Transportation Planning

Each city in Washington is required to develop comprehensive plans, including transportation elements, under the Growth Management Act (GMA). The Bellingham Comprehensive Plan includes a Transportation Element that addresses the multimodal transportation needs of the City and the Urban Growth Area (UGA) over a 20-year planning period. Bellingham transportation planners work with Whatcom County, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and the Whatcom Council of Governments Regional Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organization (RTPO/MPO). The Transportation Element (PDF) is updated every 10 years through an extensive public process and sets the transportation goal and policy framework to be followed on a daily basis. City transportation planners are involved in corridor studies on local arterials, state highways, and Interstate 5, Urban Village planning, Neighborhood Plan updates, and UGA annexation proposals to ensure that long-range transportation needs are addressed and that proposals are consistent with the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan.

Complete Networks Program and Policies

Prior to the popular rise of the national "Complete Streets" movement, Bellingham expanded its citywide transportation planning to focus on multiple modes with mode-shift goals, policies, and project recommendations to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, as well as vehicle drivers on all arterial streets. In 2004, Bellingham transportation planners worked directly with Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) to establish a Primary Transit Network and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) to develop the 2006 Bellingham Transportation Element. In 2009, Bellingham created a Multimodal Transportation Concurrency Program, which integrated level of service (LOS) standards for sidewalks, bikeways, transit, and autos with various land use contexts rather than only the traditional auto-oriented LOS standards from the Highway Capacity Manual. In 2010-2011, Bellingham created the Urban Village Transportation Impact Fee (TIF) Reduction Program to provide financial incentives of up to 50% reduction in TIFs for new development in compact, mixed use Urban Villages that are well-served with sidewalks, bicycle facilities, and high-frequency transit service. Since then, Bellingham has created comprehensive Primary Pedestrian and Bicycle Networks detailed in both the 2012 Pedestrian Master Plan and 2014 Bicycle Master Plan. The 2016 Transportation Element of the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan (PDF) repackages the 2006 goals and policies as our nationally-recognized Complete Networks Program (PDF) with a Transportation Modal Hierarchy, updates the Transportation Mode Shift Goals (PDF), retains our innovative 2009 Multimodal Transportation Concurrency Program, and our yearly performance measurements in the Transportation Report on Annual Mobility (TRAM) (PDF).

Complete Networks Ordinance

Bellingham's Complete Network Ordinance (PDF) (Ordinance 2016-09-032) formalizes all of the above, complies with Washington State's Complete Streets legislation (RCW 47.04.320), and requires Mayoral approval for any deviation or exemption from Bellingham's Complete Network Policies. When designing multimodal transportation improvements, Bellingham transportation planners and engineers always consider the safety and mobility needs of all user groups with a priority emphasis placed on the most vulnerable user groups, as illustrated below.

Bellingham Transportation Modal Hierarchy

Bellingham's progressive multimodal transportation planning has evolved into a Complete Networks policy approach which not only incorporates all of the principles of the Complete Streets movement, but also provides a Transportation Report on Annual Mobility (TRAM) (PDF). TRAM is an annual progress report on the completeness of each modal network and how well the multimodal transportation system accommodates new growth and development (concurrency) needs. The TRAM also tracks current mode shares from Census data and suggests strategic adjustments aimed toward achieving the City's long-term transportation mode-shift goals (PDF) to increase active, non-motorized, and high-occupancy trips while decreasing single-occupant automotive trips.

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