Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023
After moving to town, Ryan Schuchard jumped right into Boulder politics. His first foray was an attempt to get a crosswalk on Broadway near Iris Avenue to increase pedestrian safety.
Schuchard, 46, applied for and was appointed to Boulder’s Transportation Advisory Board in 2021. Unsatisfied with the slow pace of progress, he decided to run for City Council.
His mission is the same: improve people’s lives through transportation. His platform has expanded to include housing and climate, which are interrelated.
“Climate, housing, transportation, livability, safety and inclusion — each of those are things that climate, transportation and housing action help to advance,” he said.
The still-unbuilt Broadway crosswalk is emblematic of the shift he’d like to see. To consider the project as a priority, the city would need data proving how dangerous the crossing is: collisions with cars, likely resulting in serious injury or death, would move it up the list.
Schuchard believes that’s the wrong way to think about transportation improvements. Built correctly, a transportation system can do more than minimize destruction. It can create a healthier, more vibrant community.
“Most people in America, they don’t know what’s on the table with transportation and housing,” he said. “You could live a wonderful life with great transit you can take spontaneously,” save money and be safer.
Americans “pay so much more per household for transportation than Europeans or Canadians, especially people [with] middle and lower incomes,” Schuchard said. “We are more likely” to die in traffic collisions.
“Transportation is one of the biggest things that determine our quality of life as residents.”
“If you say you really care about climate action,” Schuchard said, “then you should care about having an ecosystem of transportation that allows people to move freely in a way that is the most resource-efficient.”
Since his time in the Peace Corps, Schuchard’s career has been focused on climate action, with an additional focus on transportation for the past four years. He is the only candidate to earn an endorsement from Run on Climate, a national organization supporting “climate champion” candidates for local office.
Schuchard shares the organization’s belief that local governments — smaller and more nimble than federal bureaucracies — are the best place to do “the most ambitious stuff possible.” In an interview, he used the word “exciting” no fewer than 14 times in talking about the possibilities of reducing Boulderites’ carbon footprints through housing and transportation.
“This is where it happens,” he said. “This is where we have a chance to create big things.”
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Top work plan priorities
- Establish a climate action leadership and accountability initiative for City Council to ensure it is considering climate risks and opportunities in its daily work and managing climate issues for Boulder in its work strategically.
- Reform city code to reduce traffic while creating more affordable good transportation and housing options.
- Create a public-facing safety dashboard to communicate an integrated view of Boulder’s comprehensive objective health and safety risks with mitigation measures for both residents and the city in the near and long term.
Why you might want to vote for Schuchard
Schuchard is extremely knowledgeable about transportation, one of the wonkiest and most technical aspects of running a city. His public appearances and interviews are packed with data and study results, and he is familiar with policy on the local, state, federal and global levels.
Transportation is arguably a weak spot for the City Council. Aside from serving on the Denver Regional Council of Governments, none of the remaining members have had much to do with transportation, nor did most other candidates have solid policy proposals.
Schuchard’s professional and volunteer experience, including the city’s Transportation Advisory Board, will be a welcome addition, particularly as the city attempts to reach its emissions reductions goals. His TAB stint also gives Schuchard valuable experience on working with the city’s systems and staff.
Why you might not want to vote for Schuchard
Schuchard’s passion and strident belief in his approach could work against him on a council of nine people, where compromise is often essential to success.
It’s not clear how he will handle conflicting opinions or opposition to his ideas. His initial responses to those criticisms focused on working with like-minded people (“Who is going to be on council? Is there going to be a majority who cares about this or not?”) and insistence that most Boulderites want the same things as he does (“If we would provide a vision, I think people are ready to rock on this stuff.”)
Schuchard draws on his professional background in policy work as proof that he can compromise, weather criticism and ultimately achieve results.
“I have worked in the policy world for years now,” he said. “I have an ability to build bridges and unite.”
Although transportation is important, it’s only a fraction of what the City Council is responsible for. Schuchard’s hyper focus — he somehow ties every question back to transportation — could leave him struggling when it comes to the range of issues facing the city.
He disagrees. Transportation (like climate and housing, the other planks of his platform) is relevant to so many of Boulder’s values and goals, he said.
“We are leaving so much on the table by not having real champions of climate action, and of giving people better transportation options and more housing options,” he said. “I want to help make those things happen.”
Schuchard on the Issues
Housing + Development
“If you want to understand what our housing policy is,” Schuchard said, “go to Foothills Parkway and watch the tens of thousands of cars coming in because we don’t let people live here. Our refusal to let people live here is rooted in the idea of controlling growth. The effect of that policy is that we’re creating more sprawl.”
Schuchard supports “a diversity of housing,” including condos, small apartment buildings and other attached housing, cottage courts and co-ops to create more walkable, bikeable neighborhoods and make transit more feasible.
Do you support rent stabilization? Yes
Do you support the City Council’s recent vote to increase occupancy limits? Yes
Did you support SB213 (the failed state bill requiring cities to allow certain types and amounts of housing, overriding local control)? Yes
Increased housing options and affordability will alleviate homelessness, Schuchard believes, as the lack of affordable housing is the root cause of homelessness. Given that progress is slow and the ranks of the unhoused ever-growing, he is in favor of more services in the interim, and skeptical of ongoing encampment removals.
During his daily eight-mile bike route to drop his kids off at school, “I see the same people out there every day,” Schuchard said. After removals, “I see them somewhere else. We’re scattering people.”
He sympathizes with residents and business owners advocating for removals, but urges them to see the bigger picture. The only way to truly reduce unsheltered homelessness, he believes, is to give people more places to be legally. He mentions safe parking and sanctioned encampments as possible options.
“Somebody living under a bridge, it’s 40 degrees and raining, and they’re gonna take a bus, leave their space and go out in the cold, not knowing if they’ll get a space [at the shelter] or not? If it was really clear we had enough places for people to go, then we could expect being active with sweeps to work. That’s not the case.”
Boulder should build capacity and diversity of services with an eye on the climate crisis, too, Schuchard said, given the increased displacement globally due to “increasingly erratic weather events” disproportionately impacting lower-income individuals.
Do you support the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure? No
Should the city dedicate more of its own money to services and solutions for homelessness? Yes
Would you continue the city’s current encampment removal strategy? Yes, “for now.”
Are encampment removals an effective use of resources to address homelessness? No
Public Safety, Policing + Oversight
“First responders are doing the most important work we have in the city,” Schuchard said, “and we need to give them as much support and leverage as possible.”
The way to do that, he said, is by strengthening responses to much of what police deal with: mental health, homelessness, etc.
“We should have police doing the crucial work of preventing violent crime and keeping us physically safe and keeping them safe, but that means giving them the cover of designing things to work well in the first place.”
Again, Schuchard looks to transportation for inspiration.
“One of the things transportation teaches us is we have an enforcement-led system,” he said. “We make these roads designed to go super fast, and then we have cops who sit behind bushes and wait to catch people.”
Should the Police Oversight Panel have more say over officer discipline in the case of misconduct? Yes
Do you support the City Council’s decision to remove Lisa Sweeney-Miran from the Police Oversight Panel over her public criticism of the police? No
Do you think the police budget is too high? No. (Note: At the Raucous Caucus candidate forum, Schuchard answered “yes” to this question. That event was held prior to the release of the 2024 recommended budget. Police spending in terms of actual dollars did not decrease between 2023 and 2024, but its share of overall spending did decrease slightly.)
Aside from being “excited about moving toward outcome-based budgeting,” Schuchard’s take on city spending revolves, unsurprisingly, around transportation.
Bicycling infrastructure and public transit are considered “negative cost” interventions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, defined as “investments that pay us back.”
“We could spend triple the money on transportation, and it would come back as a positive return” in the form of decreased spending on health, police and emergency services, Schuchard said. “There’s so much value to the community if you spend money well on transportation.”
Boulder could also bring in money by charging appropriately for parking. Schuchard told City Council in 2021 that parking permits should cost $1,000 a year (currently, they’re $50 for residents and $420 for commuters), and he stands by that.
“I don’t think we should let a budgeting process get by without acknowledging the subsidies we’re providing when we give away under-market-price parking everywhere,” he said. “If you socialize the cost of parking, then we pay for it societally with this incredibly dangerous and energy-intensive system.
“We think of parking as free, but of course it’s incredibly expensive. If you believe the climate is becoming more volatile and it’s going to threaten the foundations of our biosphere, that rises to the level where we should have some accounting for that stuff.”
Do you support the sales tax extension and arts funding bill on this year’s ballot? Yes
Transportation + Parking
Schuchard’s first policy proposal for a “people-first, transit-rich, car-option system” is actually a housing one.
“Allow people to live where they need to go,” he said. “People exist no matter what: you either get a sprawl pattern or an urban pattern” in cities.
When it comes to the transportation side of transportation policy, Schuchard would focus on increasing bike and bus infrastructure and services. His vision is for every Boulderite to have a bus line within a quarter-mile of their home that comes every 10 to 15 minutes (“so you don’t need to check the schedule”) and deposits riders within a quarter-mile of their destination.
Boulderites need options to take buses outside the city, too — to Denver and other cities, but also to “Rocky Mountain National Park, Eldora, Brainard Lake.” Schuchard sees regional collaboration as the best path forward.
“An update to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan is coming up; the county’s transit plan update is coming up,” he said. “We need to directly partner with the county and others to develop a coalition that wants to get this done. Maybe we try to raise tax dollars; maybe we go to the Federal Transit Administration directly.
“The big idea is we are gonna take control of our transit destiny and make sure that transit funding is robust and secure and we’re not just begging for table scraps.”
He envisions a network of protected bike lanes and multi-use paths that “goes from home to exactly where you need to go.” At the end of your journey is abundant and secure bike parking.
“The number of complete systems we have for cars is one. The number of complete systems for bikes and transit is zero,” he said. “We should be really firm in making as much engineered, physical protection in this bike system as possible.”
Completing his vision is “transportation demand management” — “carrots and sticks” built into new developments to discourage car ownership and provide alternatives. Part of that is parking, but it could also be providing bus passes for residents and workers (something Boulder already requires for certain projects) or cash incentives to not have a car.
Schuchard would not only increase the cost of parking citywide, he would also remove Boulder’s rules requiring that a certain number of parking spots accompany certain types of development and let developers decide how much parking gets built. Such requirements take up valuable and limited space that could be used for more housing and add to the cost of projects, he said.
“What we need to do is give people options other than cars so we’re not socializing these cars and a system that is so bad for our planet,” he said. “We need to make sure our plans and codes are consistent with this vision.”
Would you support a tax or fee to increase public transit frequency and services? Yes
Do you support eliminating minimum parking requirements for new housing developments? Yes
These profiles take hours of work: interviews, attending public events, fact-checking candidate claims. If you value this in-depth information, please consider paying for it.
— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle
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