Author Archives: admin

Can we re-think the sidewalk and the bike lane?

Bicycle Lanes retrofitted into grocery store parking lot-small Bike and Pedestrian Lanes Mulhouse #3

I have placed these two images from Europe in several social media channels, in order to stoke discussion about whether similar approaches could work here.  For the sake of discussion let’s defer on whether the differences between European and American engineering design, safety standards and/or laws-ordinances would allow these or similar designs in the Roanoke Valley.  Instead, let’s assume that developers could re-purpose a portion of a mall or grocery store parking lot to contain pedestrian paths and/or bike lanes; or that local governments could re-configure the concept of a sidewalk as a multi-user path.

Do you think it would work here?  Would developers be interested in participating?  Would a different approach to the concept of a sidewalk help increase our “amenities” from economic development and transportation perspectives?  Do you have new and different ideas on non-motorized transportation?  Do you have your own pictures of non-motorized transportation infrastructure that you can share via a link in the comment box?

We would like your feedback and discussion.  Please use the comment boxes below to add your ideas. 

Join Us and Others in Celebrating Bike Month

CCC_facebook-eventThe Regional Commission’s alternative transportation program, RIDE Solutions is celebrating Bike Month 2014!  All May, they will be hosting events for every interest and every skill level, from greenway rides to film screenings, concerts to safety clinics, making it easy for you to get out and ride this spring. The individual rewards are bigger than ever this year, with weekly drawings and prizes given to Clean Commuters throughout SW VA.

Every May, The Regional Commission’s staff forms a team and takes the Clean Commute Challenge, where we pledge to get to work using transit, carpools, bikes, our feet, and even teleworking to reduce our impacts on the air we breath and the roads we travel. Forming a team is easy and we encourage you to join us and dozens of other local organizations, companies, and local governments in promoting a healthy region to work, live, and play. 

What are your ideas for Goals and Objectives?

Planners are often unfairly characterized as waiting to the last minute to seek input from the public.  This perception is driven by the public hearing and open meeting laws that require a public hearing be advertised in the newspaper a certain number of times/days before the hearing.  In our case, these laws apply to the RVAMPO’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  However, these laws have the unintended consequence of giving off the impression that planners wait until the last minute before seeking feedback through a “public hearing.”  In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.  We planners need good constructive input and feedback from citizens to help us develop plans in the first place.  Gone are the days of the 1950’s and 60’s in which planners believed that there was one rational and comprehensive planning model that applies to all situations.  Now, the vast majority of planners see their role as using professionalism and tools to have a conversation with citizens (“the public”) and to facilitate joint creation of plans that reflect the values and aspirations of a community.  This new role redefines the way planners view the public involvement process, which was previously mechanical and primarily benchmark driven.

With the above in mind, many plans often begin with “Goals” and “Objectives.”  The next LRTP – due in the summer of 2015 – will be no exception.  So, we are asking – even imploring – you for your early input to help us develop the “Goals” and “Objectives” of the next Long-Range Transportation Plan.  We are not waiting for a “public hearing,” we crave your input and feedback now!  Please put your ideas for goals and objectives in the comment box below.  Let’s get a conversation going.

Here is a convenient and concise definition of Goals and Objectives – courtesy of the State of Michigan http://www.michigan.gov/documents/8-pub207_60743_7.pdf   – to help get you started:

 Goals and Objectives

Our High-Tech Future?

visualizationfinal_Page_09

Does this conceptual reversible lane system represent part of our high tech future? Comment below with your ideas.

When I was growing up, movies and TV shows depicted a high-tech future (now) of automated transportation and fast mag-lev trains.  It seemed that the high-tech future was always around the corner.  Some of these images were artistic license in order to make movies look interesting.  Other predictions were overly optimistic concerning the technical challenges involved.

However, due to real advances in automated systems, Google’s forays into self driving and driver assist vehicles are just one example, some version of the high-tech future for transportation may actually arrive within the next 20 years.  As we are developing the next regional Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), we would like to hear from you.  Which technologies do you think will impact transportation and travel in the next 20 years.  What are the “game changers” in your opinion.  Use the comment boxes to put forth your ideas.

Beginning with the End in Mind!

http://in-the-flow.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Begin-with-the-end-in-mind.png

Image courtesy of the following blog: http://in-the-flow.com/beginning-mind/ Fair use standard assumed for informational and educational purposes.

I am a book on CD fan.  I mainly listen to business, leadership or other “nerdy” books.  In several leadership and self-improvement titles the concept of “beginning with the end in mind” is wholeheartedly advocated.  To give credit where it is due, this concept is especially prevalent in the late Stephen Covey’s work.

Let’s try a version of “beginning with the end in mind” with regards to the next regional long-range transportation plan (LRTP 2040), which will be completed in the summer of 2015.  In planning “beginning with the end in mind” does not mean deciding plan recommendations ahead of time. Plan recommendations are developed throughout the process with public and stakeholder involvement.  However, “beginning with the end in mind” can mean thinking through the structure and form of the final end product – the plan itself.  In that spirit, below is a screenshot of the draft table of contents for the plan.  Please comment with your own feedback and suggestions in the comment boxes below.

Why do we have a long-range transportation plan?

We are about to kick off a process that will update the regional long-range transportation plan (LRTP) for the urban area.  The updated LRTP will be completed by the end of summer 2015.  This begs the question “Why do we have a regional LRTP in the first place?”  There are two good, straightforward answers to this question:

1) Every urbanized area with a population over 50,000 in the US must have a regional LRTP in order to get federal transportation funds

2) The process of planning itself brings forth the questions, discussions and tradeoffs necessary to make better decisions.

According to the website Wikiquote, President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the following assertion in a 1957 speech:

I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

Although this quote states that plans are worthless, it makes the point that the planning process that leads to the plan is absolutely necessary and extremely valuable.  I suspect that the plans are worthless part of the quote was probably said for effect, and it is unlikely that Eisenhower only valued the process and not the outcome.  Rather, I think that Eisenhower wanted to emphasize that extremely important decisions, such as where durable long-lasting transportation infrastructure is built, should not be the subject of arbitrary, knee-jerk, go-with-the-gut, or spur-of-the-moment decisions.  And, we should not expect planners to predict the future with infallible accuracy and precision. 

After all, few of us would actually expect private sector Wall Street Analysts to predict exact stock prices for individual stocks 20 years from now.  Rather, we should expect planners to anticipate scenarios, envision possible trends in the future, and to lead us through a process that helps us make the best decisions we can today given uncertainty and limited resources. It is just such a process that we are kicking off from now through the summer of 2015.  We will need your participation and feedback, in order to, advise our local elected officials on wise and prudent decisions regarding transportation funding.  Please stay tuned and stay engaged.

Wayne Strickland Receives VAPDC President’s Award

Wayne Strickland was recently honored to receive the Virginia Wayne StricklandPlanning District Commission’s first ever President’s Award during the VAPDC’s 2014 Winter Conference in Richmond, VA. The award recognizes an individual for:

‘exemplifying with distinction, the ideals of regional cooperation, planning, and development within the Commonwealth of Virginia.’

For over 25 years, Mr. Strickland has served the Roanoke Valley and Alleghany Highlands as the Executive Director of the Regional Commission. He is currently the longest tenured Planning District Commission Executive Director in the state, further solidifying his track record in creating, supporting, and sustaining a spirit of collaboration and cooperation throughout our region. 

The VAPDC represents the 21 planning districts throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and works to bring diverse resources together at the regional level in partnership with local, state, and federal entities to strengthen all regions and the Commonwealth. 

 

2014 Bike, Hike, & Bus Maps Now Available

BBH CoverThe Regional Commission has released its all new Bike, Hike, & Bus Map. Explore every section of the region’s numerous greenways, in addition to the Carvin’s Cove trail system and more. Find information for all of Valley Metro’s route system, including an all new Smartway Schedule. Please acknowledge and support the sponsors that help us bring these maps to the region: NovozymesRide SolutionsRoanoke City Parks and Rec., Roanoke County Parks and Rec., the Roanoke Valley Greenways, Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, Underdog Bikes.

Click here to request a free map from RIDE Solutions. 

For bulk requests, email tgodsey@rvarc.org

 

Save-A-Ton Alerts Regional Consumers

Last week, Save-a-Ton, the regional energy conservation education and awareness program, encourages citizens to be wary of a number of high-pressure home audit sales efforts being undertaken in the Roanoke and New River Valleys.  Postcards have been mailed to the region from two separate companies – EnergE Squad and American Home Energy Audit.  In each case, the cards have advertised free dinners for two in exchange for sitting through presentations on audit services and energy conservation technologies.  While on their own the technologies the companies are offering can be helpful in limited applications, their usefulness to homeowners in the climate of Southwest Virginia is minor. (Read full press release here)

Read the follow up story by the Roanoke Times and see how Save-A-Ton and others are working to help consumers make smart, informed choices about energy efficiency and conservation.