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.

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.

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.

Notice of Design Public Hearing for I-81 Northbound & Southbound Auxiliary Lane Project

Design Public Hearing
Tuesday, November 14, 2017, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Inclement Weather Date:
Tuesday, November 21,2017, 4:30 -6:30 p.m.
Northside High School
6758 Northside High School Road
Roanoke, VA 24019

Find out about a project to add an additional lane along northbound and southbound 1-81 between exit 141 (Salem) and exit 143 (Roanoke) in Roanoke County. Adding a two-mile auxiliary lane in both directions will alleviate congestion and provide for safer traffic movements at these exits. As part of the project, sound walls will be considered along northbound 1-81.

The hearing will be held in an “open-house” format and VDOT representatives will be present to answer questions.

Review the project information and the National Environmental Policy Act document in the form of a Categorical Exclusion at the public hearing or after the hearing at VDOT’s Salem District Office located at 731 Harrison Ave, Salem VA, (540) 387-5353, (800) 367-7623, TTY/TDD 711. Please call ahead to ensure the availability of appropriate personnel to answer your questions.

Property impact information, relocation assistance policies and tentative construction schedules are available for your review at the above address and will be available at the public hearing.

Give your written or oral comments at the hearing or submit them by November 24, 2017, to Mr. Kelly Dunn, P .E., Project Manager, 731 Harrison Avenue, Salem, VA 24153. Comments also can be emailed to Kelly.Dunn@vdot.virginia.gov. Please reference “1-81 Auxiliary Lanes – Roanoke
County” in the subject heading.

VDOT ensures nondiscrimination and equal employment in all programs and activities in accordance with Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you need more information in regards to your civil rights on this project or need special assistance for persons with disabilities or limited English proficiency, contact Kelly Dunn at the phone numbers listed above.

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

How do you get your baby to the WIC office up the hill?

A steep hill to push a stroller on a hot day

“The bus doesn’t stop in front of the WIC office in the Northwest. Mothers have to walk two blocks to get there with babies and toddlers.”

This comment was a response to a survey question about long range transportation planning. The Northwest WIC clinic is at the First Church of the Brethren on Carroll Ave NW on top of the ridge. The nearest bus stop is only a quarter-mile away, but no one wants to push a stroller up that steep and treeless climb.

Betty at the WIC clinic gets off the bus four blocks away to avoid the arduous hill. The WIC clinic sees fewer clients than expected because of the hill. Mothers arrive hot and sweaty and asking for water.

The Public Participation Plan ad-hoc committee, tasked with developing a new public participation plan for the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization, reviewed the survey responses. After we read that comment, a member observed, “A mother trying to get her baby to the WIC office isn’t interested in a 20-year transportation plan.”

Does your long-range transportation vision include easy access to the WIC office for everyone? How would you solve this problem? What other problems would your solutions introduce?

Solution Feasibility issues Introduced problems
Reroute the bus Affects the rest of the route
Move the WIC office Inferior office space, cost
Run a van to the bus stop Expensive insurance, child seats, staff time
Call Uber for the last block Expensive at $7.70, and no child seats Introduce traffic congestion
Automated vehicles Don’t exist yet Introduce traffic congestion

 

Over the past decades, the region and the nation has done an excellent job of making it easy for most people to get anywhere. The Roanoke Valley has lots of cars, lots of roads, and lots of parking places. Roanoke’s collective mobility is better than ever.

In making it so easy for most people to get everywhere, it’s become very difficult for some people to get anywhere. Over 13% of the Roanoke City households don’t have a car, but nearly all destinations can only be accessed by a car. More than 1 in every 10 people are virtually excluded from daily life: having a job, shopping, visiting the doctor, or going to church, just so that the other 9 of us can do all these things so easily.

This situation has been decades in the making, and will not change overnight. The long-range transportation plan, updated every 5 years, is about getting the balance right, keeping it easy for most people to get most places without putting a great transportation burden on the most disadvantaged.

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.

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.

RVARC Executive Director, Wayne Strickland has been Elected to the National Association of Development Organizations Board of Directors

Wayne_nadoWashington, DC – Wayne Strickland, Executive Director of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission in Roanoke, VA, was elected to the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) 2016 – 2018 Board of Directors on April 13, 2016.  Founded in 1967, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 540 regional development organizations.

NADO member organizations serve local governments and the public within their regions through various programs focused on diversifying local economies, assisting businesses, creating jobs, and providing community services.  The NADO Board of Directors oversees the association’s budget and operations and develops policy on issues affecting regional development organizations.

“We are honored to have Wayne serve on NADO’s Board of Directors.  Wayne brings a wealth of expertise, knowledge, and leadership on regional community and economic development issues to the national level,” stated Joe McKinney, NADO Executive Director.  “Most importantly, Wayne is focused on helping our nation’s local communities pursue comprehensive regional strategies for remaining economically competitive in today’s rapidly changing global environment.”

NADO’s Board of Directors includes member organizations that represent a broad section of the United States including the Central, Eastern, Midwestern, Southeastern, Southwestern, and Western regions.  The two-year term for Board members begins on May 1, 2016 and runs through April 30, 2018.