APA Virginia Chapter Annual Conference

RVARC staff were delighted to participate in APA Virginia Chapter’s annual statewide conference here in Roanoke this week. Staff coordinated the Local Food Mobile Tour in conjunction with City of Roanoke, Virginia – Government staff. This tour showcased the West End neighborhood revitalization efforts. Special thanks to LEAP for Local FoodRoanoke Community Garden Association, Freedom First Credit Union and Carilion, among other speakers!

Fresh produce on the Local Food Mobile Tour

Staff assisted RIDE Solutions with the “Where the Sidewalk Ends” mobile tour and scavenger hunt. Participants competed to complete tasks in three regions– Downtown, Crystal Springs, and The Towers– with limited transportation resources.

“Where the sidewalk ends” scavenger hunt required participants to navigate obstructions.

What do YOU think about public participation?

Staff listen and talk to visitors at the Regional Commission Open House

Tell us what you think about public participation in transportation planning.

The following names are changed, but based on real people.

Keith drives by himself to work every day. His commute used to be an easy 15 minutes but now takes twice that or more because of congestion.

Michelle is disabled. She rides the bus to the grocery store, and schedules paratransit to the doctor. She would like to get a job at the mall, but the bus doesn’t run that late.

Carrie has a salon in a little commercial area. The truck carrying her order of hair product couldn’t get through the construction detour last week. Her customers are ordering it online instead—and she’s losing profits.

Jeff got rid of his car after one too many traffic tickets. He walks or bikes everywhere, occasionally calling Uber. Visiting his parents on the other side of the steepest hill in town is not easy!

Sarah is a Millennial who hasn’t learned to drive or ride a bicycle. Uber eats up a lot of her part-time, minimum wage job. She’s scared to walk the 1 mile or to try the bus.

Transportation is complex. Expert traffic engineers and planners are essential, but that’s not enough to design a good transportation system. A good transportation system requires YOU. Planners and engineers have training and expertise, but YOU help provide the comprehensive perspective of the entire community.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization’s (RVTPO) Public Participation Plan is being updated, and the committee developing the new plan drafted the plan’s purpose and goals.

Why does the RVTPO want public participation?

What is important about public participation?

Share your thoughts! Take this short survey, and encourage your friends and colleagues to take the survey too!

Public Comment Period – Vision 2040: Roanoke Valley Transportation

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) extends an opportunity for public review and comment on the plan for the future of transportation in the Roanoke Valley.  The region’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Vision 2040: Roanoke Valley Transportation, is available at http://rvarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Vision-2040-plan-draft-6-14-17.pdf. The public comment period will be in effect for no fewer than 45 days from the publication of this notice.  An official “Public Hearing” will be held after the public comment period has elapsed.  Said “Public Hearing” will be duly advertised according to applicable laws. The LRTP development process includes a program of projects (POP) for transit. Public notice of public participation activities and time established for public review of and comments on the LRTP satisfy the transit POP requirements. The RVTPO strives to provide reasonable accommodations and services for persons who require special assistance to participate in public involvement opportunities.

To submit comments in writing or by phone, please contact Cristina Finch at 540-343-4417 or at:

Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission
P.O. Box 2569
Roanoke, VA  24010

For special accommodations or further information, contact Cristina Finch (Ph: 540-343-4417, Fax: 540-343-4416 or E-mail: cfinch@rvarc.org). 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.

To submit your comments on the Long-Range Transportation Plan, please complete the form below.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) extends an opportunity for public review and comment on the plan for the future of transportation in the Roanoke Valley.

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Garden City Greenway

The first time I saw the Garden City Greenway I stopped and stared. It is one of the most unusual multiuse trails I’ve ever seen. The alternating white concrete and black asphalt brings to mind a chess board. I thought the contrast was to draw attention to the many driveways that cross the greenway. I invited Priscilla Cygielnik to chat about the unusual greenway she designed with the Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee.

The Garden City Greenway was initiated through a Safe Routes to School grant and completed with local and state revenue sharing funds. Therefore, its purpose is to provide a way for kids to walk and bike to school. Priscilla had many constraints when designing the trail. It was built as much as possible within the existing right-of-way of the Garden City Blvd. That makes it different from most greenways, which do not follow a road. Most greenways in Roanoke follow waterways: the Roanoke River Greenway, the Tinker Creek Greenway, and the Lick Run Greenway.

To keep it within the right-of-way of the road, it is mostly 8 feet wide, which is the minimum width for a two-way multiuse path. Bicyclists are more comfortable with 10 or 12 feet. For context, modern sidewalks are 5 feet, and most roads are at least 28 feet.

The narrowness and its location within the road’s right-of-way make it feel more like a glorified sidewalk than a bike path. But don’t take that as a criticism. Keep in mind the purpose of providing a way for kids to walk and bike to school. It serves that function very well. Other greenways have a more recreational purpose. The Garden City Greenway is not a great recreational greenway.

Even keeping it as much as possible within the road’s right-of-way, they still had to acquire some additional right-of-way. Acquiring right-of-way is the greatest expense and obstacle of most trails. In the original design, a portion of the greenway fronting one property would shrink to 5 feet because the landowner absolutely refused to sell or give up any land. However, during construction he approved of the improvements being made and agreed to sell the additional 3 feet necessary to make the improvement in front of his property.

Priscilla pointed out the driveway improvements have to do with the steep slopes downhill of the existing road.  To be able to navigate a vehicle in and out of a driveway, the entrances were specially designed to ensure proper drainage but reduce the pitch typical of standard entrances. Luckily, it was pouring rain as we walked, so we could see the drainage improvements in action.

Another landowner, this one a business, strongly opposed the project. He conceded the right-of-way needed but negotiated for having his parking lot repaved. But after the greenway was built, he called Priscilla. “I didn’t think this greenway was any good,” he told her, “but it turned out really nice.” He has new customers who walk and bike to his store.

The greatest weakness of this project, in my opinion, is the number of driveways that cross the greenway. I’ve heard more than one kid describe an experience someone backing out of their driveway hit the kid walking, biking, or roller skating down the sidewalk. Regardless of whose fault you think that is, we can reduce these incidents by reducing the potential conflicts. Priscilla said the contrasting concrete & asphalt that caught my eye was coincidence, but it is does draw attention to the driveways.

The location of the school on a busy road with lots of driveways was a decision made long ago when engineers, developers, and planners were only building for cars. Retrofitting our autocentric world to accommodate other types of travel is a long and expensive process. Many projects, like the Garden City Greenway, will just have to do the best they can, fixing the problems we can fix and living with the problems we can’t fix yet.

 

RIDE Solutions, Zagster, and Local Sponsors Debut Bike Share System

Roanoke’s new bike share debuted May 24th with a kickoff ceremony at Norfolk Southern Plaza, made possible by RIDE Solutions, Zagster, and a host of generous sponsors. The bike share program bolsters Roanoke’s overall transportation network, solves for last-mile trips, and makes Roanoke a healthier, more sustainable, and more bike-friendly community. Zagster spokesperson Keli Hoyt-Rupert said their users in other cities cite bike share as making possible access to parks and recreation opportunities they didn’t have previously.

Notable participants in the event included:

* RIDE Solutions Director Jeremy Holmes
* Roanoke City Councilman Dr. David Trinkle
* Aaron Garland and John Garland, Garland Properties
* Zagster Account Manager Keli Hoyt-Rupert

Bike sharing, long considered exclusively a big-city amenity, is now possible in smaller communities thanks to a novel model pioneered by Zagster. Unlike big-city systems, in which riders must drop off bikes at designated stations for every stop, the built-in lock on every Zagster bike gives users the freedom to ride as long as they want, wherever they want. This hybrid model, which blends dockless locking for mid-trip stops with fixed station locations for beginning and ending rides, allows users to plan their trips around their destinations – and not around station locations. As a result, the bike share promises to not only ease commutes, but to also unlock vast recreational opportunities for exercise and fun.

RVARC Awarded Technical Assistance Grant

We are proud to announce we will receive technical assistance from Transportation For America (T4America) to support our performance measures. The T4America announcement explains:

Through the support of the Kresge Foundation, T4America will be working with six metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) over the coming year to help them better measure and assess their transportation spending to bring the greatest return possible for citizens. After a competitive process conducted last month, T4America is awarding assistance on performance measures to these six MPOs across the country:

  • The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization in Des Moines, IA
  • The Michiana Area Council of Governments in South Bend-Elkhart, IN
  • The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization in Southeast Florida
  • The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission in Roanoke Valley, VA
  • The Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development Commission in Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana
  • The Rapides Area Planning Commission in Alexandria/Pineville, LA

Why performance measures? To the general public, the perception is that the decisions about what to build, where and how are made in a murky, mysterious, political process. And once we do build new transportation projects, there’s little confidence that we ever go back and determine if it brought the benefits that were promised. Performance measurement is a way to start to change this perception and make spending more focused on accomplishing tangible goals.

As the survey we released earlier this year shows, the vast majority of MPOs want to find ways to do more with performance measurement, but they’re eager for some help. This new assistance program is specifically designed to help MPOs successfully respond to federal, state and local requirements — or go beyond them.

Over the next year, these six MPOs will receive hands-on technical support in meeting the new federal requirements and also with developing measures that address other goals for their regions, like increasing access to jobs and other services, supporting community-driven creative placemaking, improving public health, and supporting social equity, among others

“There will never be enough transportation dollars to get to every project idea — everyone has to do a better job of identifying the most beneficial projects. These six MPOs share a commitment to using performance measures to better serve their region’s goals and improve the accountability and effectiveness of their transportation programs,” said Beth Osborne. “They are already looking for ways to integrate these goals more directly into the decisions they make about which transportation investments to prioritize. With the support of the Kresge Foundation, T4America is excited to be able to help them do so.”

Congratulations to these six regions. T4America and our team of experts look forward to working with you over the coming year.

Join us for the 10-year Greenway Plan Update

Greenways are a great asset to the Roanoke Valley. Our community loves walking, biking, and skating on greenways throughout the valley. These trails range from the heavily used Roanoke River Greenway, which extends past Roanoke Memorial Hospital in the City of Roanoke and also contains sections in Salem and Roanoke County, to the winding cinder path of Wolf Creek Greenway in the Town of Vinton. While the size and shape of greenways may vary, all of them are part of a conceptual network for the broader Roanoke Valley which was created with the 2007 Greenway Plan Update.

Now the Greenway Commission and its member localities, with help from RVARC, are ready to revisit that vision. You can participate in shaping that vision by attending one of the meetings below.

Meetings will be broken into two types for this update. Regional Meetings, which focus on the broader regional vision, will be held on March 21st at the Greenfield Education and Training Center in Daleville, and on March 30th at Fishburn Elementary School in Roanoke.

Additional local meetings will drill down into specific, local greenway networks. One will be at Mountain View Elementary in the Hollins area, and will focus on Tinker Creek Greenway. That meeting takes place on March 27th. Two other meetings in Roanoke County will take place at the Glenvar Middle School on April 6th and South County Library on April 3rd. The Town of Vinton will also hold an input meeting in conjunction with Roanoke County at the Vinton War Memorial on April 10th. Additional local meetings may be scheduled by Botetourt County and the City of Salem.

Attendees of all meetings will have a chance to speak to new regional connections and priorities for greenway construction. All meetings will be held at 6:30 pm.

If you cannot make one of these meetings, we encourage you to take the online survey. It should take you about 10-15 minutes on a computer, and a bit longer on a smartphone.

 

 

Region Designated an Economic Development District (EDD) by the Economic Development Administration

In January, the U.S. Economic Development Administration designated the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany region an Economic Development District (EDD). This designation enhances our ability to obtain grants from EDA. A key function of EDDs is to develop, maintain and assist in implementing a regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and support local governments in short-term planning activities.

The EDD area will be comprised of the counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, and Roanoke; and the cities of Covington, Roanoke and Salem.

Commenting on EDD designation, Congressman Bob Goodlatte said “The ability to attract new economic development, and with the jobs, educational opportunities, and innovation, is key to the growth of any community. This Economic Development District designation is encouraging news for the Roanoke and Alleghany region! I am pleased that the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission’s hard work and perseverance has brought this great opportunity to fruition to help strengthen local economies. I look forward to seeing how our part of the Commonwealth continues to grow.”

Wayne Strickland, Executive Director of the Regional Commission, stated “The Commission recognized the benefits of our region in being designated an EDD. The designation process took several years to complete, but the time and effort put into obtaining EDD status will result in expanding opportunities for funding important economic development projects in the region.”

See the coverage on WSLS TV-10.

Notice of Public Comment Period for Fiscal Year 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program

Today begins a 45-day public comment period for the Draft Fiscal Year 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program for the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO).  The Transportation improvement Program (TIP) is a four-year capital improvements program for all regional transportation projects receiving federal funding.

The draft TIP document is being made available for public comment by accessing the following link.  Comments may be made by contacting Bryan Hill at 540-343-4417 or bhill@rvarc.org.  Public comment on the draft TIP will be open until Friday, March 24, 2017.  Additionally, on April 27, 2017, a public hearing will be held by the RVTPO Policy Board to consider adoption of the TIP.

Safety Is the New Level of Service

Traffic fatalities (red) and injuries (yellow) in 2015

I attended the Safety Performance Measures Target Setting Workshop in Richmond, VA. That lengthy title might not mean much to you. I’ll try to explain why I was excited.

The U.S. Congress requires cities and states to report Performance Measures to the Federal Highway Administration every year, such as bridge conditions, freight movement, and traffic congestion.

The five required Safety Performance Measures are:

  • Number of fatalities
  • Number of serious injuries
  • Rate of fatalities per vehicle mile traveled
  • Rate of serious injuries per vehicle mile traveled
  • Number of bike/ped fatalities and serious injuries

Recently, Congress also required cities and states to set targets for their Safety Performance Measures. This requirement confused me. What possible fatality target can you choose other than ZERO?

I learned that “setting targets” means to calculate evidence-based “targets”, or forecast. We forecast the number of fatalities we think we’ll have based on the numbers of fatalities we’ve had over the past several years. In Virginia, it’s been declining by about 2%, so Virginia’s target is a 2% decrease.

Congress next directed the Federal Highway Administration to assess whether cities and states are meeting their targets. If Virginia’s traffic fatalities decrease by 2%, we pass! But if we see less than a 2% decrease, we don’t necessarily fail. The Federal Highway Administration will determine if we had any decrease at all. If so, we pass! If not—we fail.

The challenge doesn’t seem to be particularly stringent at first glance. If the trend of the past few years continues, we pass. Sounds like we can do nothing and get an A+!

But that’s not true. We hope that recent efforts to improve traffic safety is one of the factors causing the decline in fatalities (although we know that there are many factors). To pass, we must at least keep doing what we’ve been doing.

What are the consequences for failure? Well, nothing really. I wonder if the original legislation did include consequences, and it was watered down. Still, I’m happy with the outcome, because what elected officials wants their city or state to be the one that had too many traffic fatalities? “What gets measured, gets managed”, and we are moving away from measuring Level of Service—how many cars we can move—and moving toward measuring Safety. What Congress has done is initiated a change in culture.

With 40,000 people dying every year on US roads, it is high time.