Citywide Multimodal Transportation Planning

​​​​Comprehensive Plan Multimodal Transportation Chapter

The Bellingham Comprehensive Plan is consistent with Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA) and includes a Multimodal Transportation Chapter that addresses the needs of all users of all ages and abilities in the City and the Urban Growth Area (UGA) over a 20-year planning period. Bellingham works with Whatcom County, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and the Whatcom Council of Governments (WCOG) Regional Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organization (RTPO/MPO). The Comprehensive Plan is updated every 8-10 years through an extensive public process and sets the transportation goal and policy framework for the City.

Complete Networks Program

As the national “Complete Streets” movement arose in the early-2000’s, Bellingham expanded its citywide transportation planning focus to include multiple modes with mode-shift goals, policies, and projects for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, as well as vehicle drivers on all arterial streets.  Over the past 15 years, Bellingham has infused the complete street ethic into all transportation plans, goals, policies, and projects and the 2016 Multimodal Transportation Chapter repackages the 2006 goals and policies into Bellingham’s nationally-recognized Complete Networks Program (PDF) with a Transportation Modal Hierarchy, Transportation Mode Shift Goals (PDF), the innovative 2009 Multimodal Transportation Concurrency Program, and our yearly transportation system performance measurements in the Transportation Report on Annual Mobility (TRAM).

Click on the graphics below to see examples of Public Works progress in completing the citywide Primary Bicycle Network (2014-2020) in different parts of Bellingham.

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 how to balance 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

Transportation Report on Annual Mobility (TRAM)

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.

Milestones in the Evolution to Complete Networks

Over the past 15 years, Bellingham has engaged citizens in extensive public land use and transportation planning processes that cumulatively have evolved into the Complete Networks Program with major milestones, as follows:

2003-2004, Bellingham transportation planners worked directly with Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) to establish and adopt a WTA Primary Transit Network with high-frequency “Go Lines” serving Bellingham Urban Villages.

2004-2006, Public Works and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) developed multimodal transportation goals and policies, as well as an improvement project list that included over 100 pedestrian and bicycle projects adopted in the 2006 Bellingham Transportation Element.

2007-2008, Bellingham created innovative multimodal metrics and methodology to adopt a Multimodal Transportation Concurrency Program, which integrated level of service (LOS) standards for sidewalks, bikeways, transit, and vehicles with various land use contexts to move beyond traditional auto-oriented LOS standards in the Highway Capacity Manual.

2010, the Bellingham City Council formed Transportation Benefit Di​strict No. 1 (TBD) which voters approved in the November 2010 general election by 58%.  The Bellingham TBD provides dedicated funding for arterial resurfacing, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and supplemental and expanded transit service via contract with WTA.

2010-2011, Bellingham transportation planners created the Urban Village Transportation Impact Fee (TIF) Reduction Program to provide financial incentives of up to 50% reduction in TIFs for development in compact, mixed use Urban Villages well-served with sidewalks, bicycle facilities, and high-frequency transit service.  Since its implementation in March 2011, developers have saved over $750,000 in reduced TIF for constructing infill development in Bellingham’s compact, mixed use Urban Villages served by high-frequency WTA transit.

2012, Bellingham adopted a citywide Primary Pedestrian Network and Pedestr​​ian Master Plan, which includes a prioritized list of 343 individual sidewalk and crossing improvement projects.

2014, Bellingham adopted a citywide Primary Bicycle Network and Bicycle Master Plan, which includes a pri​oritized list of 185 individual bicycle facility improvement projects.

2015, Bellingham transportation planners worked directly with WTA to integrate City land use and transportation plans with the Primary Transit Network in WTA’s Strategic Transit Plan

2016, Bellingham adopted it’s Multimodal Transportation Chapter establishing it’s nationally-recognized Complete Net​works Program with a Transportation Modal Hierarchy, Transp​ortation Mode Sh​ift Goals (PDF)​, the innovative 2009 Multimodal Transportation Concurrency Program, and our yearly transportation system performance measurements in the Trans​​portation Report on Annual Mobility (TRAM).

2018, Bellingham completed work to evolve from vehicle-trip-based to person-trip-based Multimodal Transportatio​n Impact Fees (TIF).  Implementation began January 1, 2019.​