To Mayor Brown and the Common Council on the Green Code
by Justin Booth
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board wishes to express its unanimous support for the passage of the Unified Development Ordinance, the key element of the Buffalo Green Code. This comprehensive rewrite of the city’s outdated, 61-year-old zoning policies is a major leap forward for Buffalo, and has earned the support and enthusiasm of transportation advocates who have long sought such an important change.
As the ordinance nears the adoption phase, the Board would like to express its specific support for elements of the project that are key to its success. These include:
• Pedestrian connectivity standards. The new ordinance includes the City’s first-ever detailed criteria for pedestrian facilities in new developments, ensuring that the pedestrian safety and convenience is prioritized. This will ensure that designers take into account pedestrian connectivity between buildings entrances and parking, streets, transit stops, and all uses on a site that allow for public access.
• Bicycle parking update. The new ordinance updates and clarifies bicycle parking criteria to be consistent with best practice, and are derived from reasonable standards that have proven effective in other communities. Rather than key bicycle parking requirements to the amount of parking required for automobiles, which is the approach of the current City Code, the new code keys bicycle parking criteria to a mode shift goal of five percent of trips being made by bicycle.
• Elimination of minimum parking requirements. The new ordinance focuses on the design, rather than the amount, of off-street spaces provided by homeowners and businesspeople. This will help the market, not one-size-fits-all mandates, determine the proper balance of transportation alternatives that are available in the community. As an added benefit, this approach will give more flexibility to investors who wish to pursue adaptive reuse and infill development projects critical to restoring our compact, walkable neighborhoods.
• Transportation demand management. Rather than simply imposing an off-street automobile parking mandate, the new ordinance will require proposed large-scale developments to think through the anticipated travel demand and propose ways to minimize single-occupancy vehicle trips and promote transportation alternatives, which will help maximize overall transportation efficiency. As downtown, neighborhood centers, and employment centers such as RiverBend and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) continue to grow, this tool will help provide flexibility for new development while allowing for growth that takes advantage of the opportunities created by being in a city location.
• Street design guidelines. The new ordinance includes the City’s first-ever design guidelines for public rights-of-way, designed to be consistent with the City’s complete streets policy and derived from the ITE Walkable Urban Thoroughfares Manual and NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. These guidelines will play an important role in making our streets more safe and comfortable for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and the mobility-impaired.
• Walkable, mixed-use development. Restoring walkable neighborhoods cannot happen by providing transportation alternatives alone. These transportation alternatives must be supported by dense, mixed-use neighborhoods and employment centers, particularly along transit routes. While the 61-year-old zoning ordinance attempts to impose a suburban formula on our historic neighborhoods, the new ordinance will allow for historic neighborhoods to be restored—and even emulated as new development takes place. This will help support walking, cycling, and transit, while reducing car-dependency.
The Green Code has included one of the most exhaustive and inclusive public input process that has been seen in Buffalo. It is clear that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists have been priorities, and that Buffalo will soon have one of the most forward-thinking and community-driven zoning ordinances ever adopted in the United States.
We congratulate the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown and every member of the Common Council for their leadership on this vital, long-awaited initiative, and look forward to its speedy adoption. The finalization of the City’s Unified Development Ordinance will be a cause for celebration for all Buffalonians. Thank you for your consideration.
> Justin Booth, Chair, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board
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