Increasing Regional Economic Vitality through Transportation Performance Measures

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) held its second transportation performance measure workshop on March 13th at the Green Ridge Recreation Center, a follow-up to the first workshop on November 29. Transportation for America (T4America), an alliance of civic and business leaders dedicated to transportation investment solutions, and the Economic Development Research Group, a firm specializing in regional economic evaluation, analysis, and planning, hosted the event as part of the T4America technical assistance grant awarded to the RVTPO.

As state and federal performance measure requirements continue to change over the years, local and regional governments must find innovative ways to remain competitive in terms of jobs creation, economic growth, quality of life, and overall regional viability. In this light, the workshop focused its discussions on the nexus between performance-driven investments in transportation and regional economic vitality and growth.

The workshop specifically focused on the reliance of outcome-based decision-making in regional transportation planning and the ability to detect the outcomes that may or may not result from the direct products of transportation spending. How many jobs will a transportation project create? Are people going to be able to get to work faster? How will transportation spending affect downtown businesses? Will a transportation project promote greater multimodal use? These are just a few of the questions that arise when considering how transportation decisions achieve regional priorities.

There was also discussion on the critical importance of SMART SCALE, a transportation financial mechanism and premier project prioritization rubric for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and its implications on transportation planning within the Roanoke Valley.  Click here for a detailed summary of the March 13th workshop.

A wealth of knowledge and expertise was present at this event. Over 30 local officials, planners, engineers, and transportation specialists from the Roanoke Valley attended. Among the presenters were Chris Zimmerman (Click here for presentation) and Rayla Bellis of T4America, Leigh Holt from the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (Click here for presentation), Chad Tucker, Smart Scale Manager for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Naomi Stein from Economic Development Research Group.

With the T4America technical assistance and input from the two workshops, the RVTPO will be working to incorporate more performance-based, outcome-based solutions to address many of the transportation needs in the Roanoke Valley.

New Public Participation Plan adopted

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) adopted a Public Participation Plan on February 22, 2018, replacing the 2007 Public Participation Plan.

The purpose of public participation is to support transportation planning and promote the integrity and transparency of the transportation planning process.

RVTPO wants public participation to be:

  • Meaningful to the public – People should feel that their comments matter. Public input into a transportation plan should be timely, happen early enough to influence the outcome, and continue as the plan develops. The RVTPO is accountable to the public for their input. RVTPO Policy Board decisions reflect the diversity of viewpoints.
  • High quality – When people understand that transportation planning is complex, regional, and long-term, they can give input that is relevant, thoughtful, and practical. The RVTPO educates and explains transportation planning. Clarity of purpose and clarity of expectation improve the quality of public input.
  • Variety of input – The RVTPO seeks a breadth of representation in public input that is from different points of view, different needs, and different backgrounds.
  • High quantity – The more people who are engaged, the better the RVTPO can understand the transportation needs and priorities of the region. The RVTPO will provide convenient and delightful ways to participate with many options of how to participate, and continue to seek new ways to invite participation.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) fully complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes and regulations in all programs and activities. The RVTPO also complies with ADA requirements. For more information about Title VI and ADA compliance, click here.

Notice of Public Hearing on Public Participation Plan

A public hearing on the proposed “Public Participation Plan” will take place at a meeting of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization Policy Board on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission office, 313 Luck Avenue, SW, Roanoke, VA 24016.  You may view the draft plan online or contact Rachel Ruhlen, Ph: 540-343-4417, or E-mail:  rruhlen@rvarc.org.

The Public Participation Plan development process satisfies the requirements for public participation in the development and adoption of the Transit Program of Projects.  The RVTPO strives to provide reasonable accommodations and services for persons who require special assistance to participate in public involvement opportunities.  Hearing impaired persons can call 711 for access.  The RVTPO fully complies with Title VI of the Civic Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes and regulations in all programs and activities.  For more information, or to obtain a Discrimination Complaint Form, see http://rvarc.org/transportation/title-vi-and-ada-notices/ or call 540-343-4417.

Seeking public input on how we get public input!

The 2016 Federal Certification Review of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) identified the 2007 Public Participation Plan as out of date and recommended developing a new plan. An ad-hoc committee representing diverse transportation issues developed a new Public Participation Plan. The public comment period will be open until Monday, February 19, 2018. A public hearing will be held at the RVTPO Policy Board meeting on Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Please review the draft: Draft Public Participation Plan 2017 12 14. Don’t have time to read a long document? No worries – focus on pages 15 – 31. Thank you!

The 45-day public comment period is now closed. If you have questions or comments, please:

  • Email rruhlen@rvarc.org
  • Call Rachel at (540) 343-4417
  • Stop by our offices at 313 Luck Ave SW, Roanoke VA 24016.

RVARC researches online survey tools

Example of a MetroQuest survey

Choosing the right online survey tool is one of several critical aspects to a successful survey. RVARC staff researched other cities, states, and MPOs to learn which survey tools other agencies are using and for what purposes.

RVARC staff considered several factors in evaluating online survey tools. Online survey tools generally have standard options such as multiple choice, select all that apply, short answer, and long answer. Some survey tools allow image-based questions or skip-logic depending on how the respondent answers a question. Some create mobile-friendly surveys or surveys that can be embedded in a website. Some survey tools limit the survey to a single page. An integrated map tool is an essential feature for transportation-related surveys.

SurveyMonkey is a standard among many agencies, and inexpensive. The RVARC has subscribed to SurveyMonkey for years.

Google Forms is a free option that is easy to use and integrate into a website or email.

MetroQuest surveys can get thousands of responses. MetroQuest specializes in public input for planning. MetroQuest developed a survey tool with the philosophy that public input should be a delightful experience.

Taking a MetroQuest survey is like playing a video game. Respondents drop virtual coins into different buckets representing road maintenance, transit, or sidewalks. They drag topics to the top of a list to indicate their priorities. They experiment with scenarios to modulate trade-offs among their priorities. They move pointers around on a map. MetroQuest is an excellent, though costly, survey tool.

Other survey tools that could be used for public input include PublicInput.com, Snap Surveys, Survey Act, Survey Gizmo, and SoGoSurvey. Tools for interactive forum discussions on individual projects include Mind Mixer, Peak Democracy, and Bang the Table.

You may see some of these tools employed in the next Long-Range Transportation Plan update.

Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee is accepting applications!

The Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, formerly the Bicycle Advisory Committee, is now accepting applications for membership. The purpose of the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) Transportation Technical Committee (TTC), is to facilitate regional collaboration with diverse stakeholders in planning bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the Roanoke Valley.

Committee work includes walking and bicycling around the Valley!

Planners and Engineers Ride

Engineer-guided tour of the Garden City Greenway

The draft Public Participation Plan is in a library near you

To make the draft Public Participation Plan more accessible, we distributed copies to 14 libraries in the urbanized Roanoke Valley. Planner Rachel Ruhlen drove 100 miles to deliver copies to eight of the libraries, as far out as Fincastle, Blue Ridge, Glenvale, and South County. She biked another 10 miles to deliver copies to six of the libraries in the City. The libraries have a delivery service that can be used for distributing copies for public comment, but Ms. Ruhlen enjoyed visiting corners of the region she’d never seen before, meeting librarians, and seeing the draft Public Participation Plan in libraries. You can view and comment on the plan online – or go to the nearest library!

Roanoke Valley libraries in the urbanized area

The Roanoke Valley libraries in the urbanized area are:

  • Vinton (Roanoke County)
  • Fincastle (Botetourt)
  • Blue Ridge (Botetourt)
  • Hollins (Roanoke County)
  • Williamson Road (Roanoke City)
  • Salem
  • Glenvar (Roanoke County)
  • South County (Roanoke County)
  • Mount Pleasant (Roanoke County)
  • Jackson Park (Roanoke City)
  • Raleigh Court (Roanoke City)
  • Melrose (Roanoke City)
  • Gainsboro (Roanoke City)
  • Main (Roanoke City)

Workshop on Performance Measurement of Transportation to Promote Economic Vitality

Workshop attendees discuss economic development and transportation

“We don’t have transportation for the sake of transportation,” Eric Sundquist from Transportation for America (T4America, a program of Smart Growth America) told workshop attendees. “Transportation helps us achieve other goals,” such as getting to a job or moving freight. The link between transportation and the regional economy is strong, but their relationship is changing.

Chris Zimmerman, Vice President for Economic Development Smart Growth America, described this and how investments in transportation help economic growth. In the past decades, economic development was often cheap land near a highway. Mr. Zimmerman explained that the return on investment of that model is declining, and today’s successful economic development efforts will focus on walkability and infill development to attract high wage workers and their employers.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) recently received a technical assistance grant from T4America to incorporate performance measures into transportation planning. At the same time, the RVTPO hired Economic Development Research Group, Inc. (EDR) to identify 5-10 transportation projects that will promote regional economic development. The Regional Study on Transportation Project Prioritization for Economic Development and Growth steering committee directs both efforts.

T4America, EDR, and the RVTPO invited members of the steering committee, the RVTPO Policy Board, the RVTPO Transportation Technical Committee, and other business and economic development stakeholders to a workshop at the Green Ridge Recreation Center on November 29. Over 40 participants discussed:

  • What makes a good transportation performance measure to assess progress toward economic development goals
  • How to use performance measures to select projects, such as in VDOT’s Smart Scale funding process
  • What a transportation need is

View the presentations here.

T4America and EDR will return in 2018 to follow up with a second workshop.

Bike to Work Day!

The Regional Commission Bike Room recently got a facelift. A cleanup and a little paint transformed it from a dank and scary closet into a bright and spacious room. The six (of thirteen) employees who sometimes bike celebrated the improved Bike Room by all biking on the same day! Before the renovation, this would have been a problem– the Bike Room didn’t hold six bicycles.

Before work began, the bike room shared space with janitorial and other supplies.

RIDE Solutions staff Tim and Jeremy painted and laid tile. Renovation cost: $0! They selected paint and tiles from what they had on hand.

The maximum capacity before renovation was 4 bikes. The capacity after is 6 bikes and room to spare!

The parking lot is normally full, unless we’re all at a meeting. Today is was empty– but we were all here!

All 6 bikes in 1 parking space

Each bike in its own parking space

Regional Commission Upcoming Annual Dinner

Please join the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission for its 48th Annual Dinner on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at The Ballast Point Brewing Company (Banquet Room), 555 International Parkway, Daleville, VA (Botetourt Center at Greenfield) 

Reception and Cash Bar at 6:15pm, followed by Dinner at 7:00

Menu: Herb Roasted Chicken Breast with Rosemary,
Potatoes & Seasonal Vegetables and Tarragon Sauce, Caesar Salad
*Vegetarian Dinner Option: Grilled Vegetable Linguini

Guest Speaker: Dwayne Yancey, Editorial Page Editor, The Roanoke Times

RSVP by October 18, 2017 to jpace@rvarc.org or 540-343-4417

The cost is $40.00 per person (excludes Commission board members – see NOTE below). To register and pay online, we ask that you register using this link. NOTE: There is no charge for Commission members to attend the Annual Dinner.  For number count purposes, Commission members attending are asked to RSVP by Oct. 18 directly to jpace@rvarc.org or 540-343-4417. Thank you.