American Bicyclists Executive Director
(Photos © J. Maus)
Todd Boulanger, a well-known transportation planner and former Alice B. Toeclips award winner (2005), has been laid off by the City of Vancouver.
Citing lower than expected budget numbers, City Transportation Manager Thayer Rorabaugh sent an email to staff on Monday that he had decided to elimate the Neighborhood Traffic Program that Boulanger oversaw.
Here’s a snip from that email (emphasis mine):
“It is with deep regret that I inform you that I have to lay off one of our family…Todd was the one who continued to implement the residual portion of the Neighborhood Traffic Program, however, with REET [Real Estate Excise Tax] dollars drying up and general fund dollars in short supply, this program has been eliminated.
Todd has been an asset to our department through his contribution to the neighborhood and bike programs and has helped us to look at the world a little differently. He and I discussed this last week and I ask that we all help to make his final days with Transportation as gratifying as his past ten years have been.”
Boulanger worked with a traffic engineer to implement a number of neighborhood livability measures, including bike lanes, sidewalks, traffic calming features, and more. Speaking on the phone today, Boulanger told me in years past his program had upwards of $800,000 to spend. This year however, that number had dwindled to just $50,000.
According to Boulanger, the Neighborhood Traffic Program was created after the City of Vancouver annexed a large portion of rural areas that were in need of transportation amenities. “At that time,” he said, “There was political impetus fulfill promises to make people’s lives better.”
Boulanger feels the loss of the program will hurt the city’s ability to respond to neighborhood requests for livability improvements.
Transportation and livability improvements were a top priority for City Council in those days, says Boulanger, but in recent years transportation has fallen down the rung of priorities. These days City Council’s top priorities are waterfront development and police and fire services.
Beyond his official role with the City of Vancouver, Boulanger has been a tireless advocate for bicycling on both sides of the river. His Alice Award in 2005 came on the heels of his successful series of “R U Bridge Curious” rides that helped educate people about how to bike across the I-5 bridge.
While at the City of Vancouver, he helped pioneer a number of innovative programs: He secured an EPA grant to bring electronic, card-access bike lockers to downtown Vancouver; he pioneered use of “speed cushions”, a speed bump design common in Europe that have a cut through for fire-trucks; he installed bike lanes on streets in combination with back-in parking.
Boulanger says one of his last projects will be the completion of the policy and design framework for on-street bike parking facilities (similar to Portland’s bike corrals) for downtown Vancouver.
While he feels the elimination of his position was a bit sudden, Boulanger leaves knowing that the Vancouver bike scene is in much better shape then when he first arrived from Hawaii nearly ten years ago.
During his tenure, Vancouver went from zero bike lane miles to over 70. A new grassroots bike advocacy organization (which Boulanger helped spark) is just getting off the ground, and a few weeks ago The Oregonian published a big story about how biking in Vancouver is on the rise
Boulanger’s last day is June 1st. He told me he plans to do some traveling, visit family, and then start looking for work. The sudden change in career plans has Boulanger thinking about possibly moving to Portland to work for a private firm. With his track record in Vancouver and his popularity in the Portland scene, I don’t think he’ll be unemployed for long.
The vision, expertise, and dedication Boulanger brought to his work had an immeasurable impact on the quality of life of many Vancouver residents and there is no doubt that he and his program will be sorely missed.