Promoting a Stronger Regional Economy Through Multimodal Districts and Centers

On January 22nd, the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) Policy Board approved the designation of Multimodal Centers and Districts through a draft map.  This concept originates from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s Multimodal System Design Guidelines which encourages the planning and implementation of an integrated transportation system including automobiles, public transit, bicycles, and walking.  As recommended in the Guidelines, TPO staff have engaged local government staff to develop multimodal centers and districts, which can be generally described as follows:

Chapter 5 - City Market CaptionMM Corridors MapMultimodal District:  A portion of a city or region with land use characteristics that support multimodal travel, such as higher densities and mixed uses, and where it is relatively easy to make trips without needing a car as gauged by the number of bus routes available, and safe walking or biking paths – either currently or proposed in the future.

Multimodal Center:  Compared to a multimodal district, a multimodal center is a smaller area of even higher multimodal connectivity and more intense activity, roughly equivalent to a 10-minute walk or a one-mile area.

The combination of population and employment density per acre is described in the Multimodal Design Guidelines as activity density.  Activity density can be used to identify multimodal centers and distinguish between land use intensities (urban to rural).

The Roanoke region’s economy is greatly supported by the economic activity that occurs in multimodal centers and districts.  Strengthening these areas, and connecting them with good transportation options bolsters the economy, allows for growth and the use of land more wisely, and creates numerous opportunities to move people and goods more efficiently.

By pursuing transportation projects that aim to better connect regional multimodal centers and districts, as a planning tool, the multimodal centers and districts will continue to be useful in local and regional land use and transportation planning.  The RVTPO has employed the use of the Multimodal Centers and Districts in its recently adopted Regional Pedestrian Vision Plan and will be incorporated in the upcoming Constrained Long-Range Multimodal Transportation Plan.

Introducing the “Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization” (RVTPO)

TPO Name Change Resolution 09-25-2014 – small (Resolution establishing that the RVAMPO should be commonly referred to as the RVTPO)

It has been observed that the term Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) does not directly communicate the transportation planning focus and role of the MPO to the public at large.  Therefore, the RVAMPO Policy Board decided that henceforth the RVAMPO should be commonly referred to as the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO).  The use of RVTPO more clearly communicates the purpose and role of the body.  The official name for contracts, agreements and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) will remain the RVAMPO.  For day-to-day planning activities, plans and routine matters facing the public, we will henceforth refer to ourselves as the RVTPO.  Please bear with us as we make the transition over the next several months.  The Policy Board did not want us to go through undue extra expense in this transition.  So we will be gradually transitioning letterhead and other items as our stock is used up and replaced.

You can think of RVTPO as a friendly nickname that makes us more personable.  Instead of going by William we are now going by Bill by way of analogy.

The Roanoke River Blueway is Under Development

blueway-photo6The Regional Commission is working with a stakeholder committee composed of local governments, non-profits, paddlers, fishermen, local outfitters and watershed groups to develop the Roanoke River Blueway, a 45-mile water trail on the upper Roanoke River.  A blueway (also known as a water trail, paddle trail, or float trail) is a navigable waterway with sufficient capacity (flow, depth, and width) for successful progress of canoes, kayaks and other non-motorized vessels, with sufficient access and amenities to facilitate other recreational uses of the waterway.  The Roanoke River Blueway flows through or borders the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, the Counties of Montgomery, Roanoke, Bedford, and Franklin, and the Town of Vinton, providing river access for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, wading, wildlife viewing, and other recreational opportunities. The Blueway also connects to numerous local parks; Roanoke River Greenway, Tinker Creek Greenway and Mill Mountain Greenway; Blue Ridge Parkway; Explore Park;  Smith Mountain Lake; and businesses proximate to the river.

The overall goal of the Roanoke River Blueway project is to facilitate and encourage recreational use of the Upper Roanoke River and tributaries by residents and visitors. Additionally, the project seeks to encourage watershed awareness and sustainable stewardship of the region’s water resources. To date, the Roanoke River Blueway stakeholder group has developed a website, interactive and printable maps, brochure, and other information to facilitate the safe and enjoyable use of the blueway including river access descriptions, hazards and portages, recommended minimum and maximum streamflow levels, contact information, and links to useful websites.

Moving forward, the Regional Commission, local governments, and the Roanoke River Blueway stakeholder group will work to improve and promote the blueway; seek grant funding and other financial support; work with local outfitters, businesses, and other entities to promote the blueway and increase river related recreation and tourism; and increase watershed awareness.

Would a Clay Tinted Shoulder Work Here?

Hard Shoulder Lane on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia

Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia has recently added clay colored surface treatment to the shoulder to allow traffic to use the shoulder during rush hour.  It is difficult to explain how this works in words so here is a video from a TV station in the area.

Do you think that such an approach would work in the Roanoke Valley?

  • Would it work in the future when there is more traffic?
  • Would it work on I-81?
  • Would it work on I-581?
  • Would it introduce safety issues our area?
  • Would it provide any spillover benefits such as saving money, or making the area look more urban and advanced to visitors and economic development prospects?

Please answer these questions and provide your own ideas in the comment boxes below.  Let’s get a conversation going.

The Livable Roanoke Valley Summit- Unveiling our regional plan and our Community Champions

k_konrad_train station rkeROANOKE, VA (June, 23, 2013) –The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission will host a Livable Roanoke Valley Summit on June 25, 2014.  The media are invited to the half-day Summit where the final Livable Roanoke Valley Plan will be presented to the community.  The Summit will feature a keynote address by Bill Shelton, the Director of the VA Dept. of Housing & Community Development and community leaders that have agreed to champion initiatives in the areas economic development, workforce, health, and natural assets.  The Summit will be held on:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 – 7:30AM to 1:30PM

Salem Civic Center

1001 Roanoke Boulevard

Salem, VA 24153

The Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley (Livable Roanoke Valley) is an initiative of The Regional Commission, seven local governments, and more than 60 organizations in the Roanoke Valley. The initiative seeks to promote economic opportunity and a greater quality of life for all Roanoke Valley residents through the development of the Valley’s first regional plan for livability.

Livable Roanoke Valley has taken a straight-forward approach to understanding and addressing key issues affecting the region.  We engaged partners, organizations, and over 1,200 citizens to gain a strong understanding of our region’s values, vision, and priorities.  Based on these, we developed 11 strategic initiatives to achieve goals in the areas of economic development, workforce development, health, and natural assets.  These initiatives include efforts such as “investing in regional infrastructure”, “preparing students for high-demand fields”, “improving access to healthcare services”, and preserving scenic and rural land”. We have also concentrated on ways to improve opportunity and access for low-income and underserved communities within our region.

For more information on the Summit and the plan, click here

 

 

The client, citizen and stakeholder – a larger context for transportation planning

Business books and business classes at universities focus on the importance of providing value to external customers and clients.  Without customer value there is no business.  In the transportation planning context providing value means focusing on transportation systems that get people to work, appointments and play.  Economists call transportation a “derived demand” meaning that people use transportaChapter 1 - Smart Waytion to accomplish a primary activity such as showing up to work.  In that sense, the transportation system’s ability to provide value to citizens rests in part on the Roanoke Valley continuously improving as a livable and dynamic place to work, do business and enjoy life.

In a separate and complementary planning effort, the Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley contracted with Virginia Tech to perform a statistically valid telephone survey of 1,030 citizens of the greater region.  “Economic development, job creation and keeping jobs in the area” was the top priority of survey respondents with 92% of the 1030 respondents rating this as a regional top priority.  The Livable Roanoke Valley survey a good proxy for estimating what citizens and stakeholders in our region value.  In our development of the next regional long-range transportation plan, this means planning for transportation facilities and systems that:

  • promote economic development – such as freight facilities improve business logistics and supply chain connections or bicycle and pedestrian facilities that are valued by knowledge workers;
  • promote job creation – such at public transit services that expand the available workforce for businesses by providing access to employees who may not have been available without the service; and,
  • keep jobs in the area – such as passenger rail facilities and services that expand access to customers outside of the region.

In short, transportation planning should focus on the concept of “Ladders of Opportunity” for individuals to access employment and services.

The Livable Roanoke Valley will have a summit on June 25, 2014 to capstone the multi-year planning process.  Please plan on attending, more information can be found here:  http://rvarc.org/attend-the-livable-roanoke-valley-summit-on-june-25th/

Attend the Livable Roanoke Valley Summit on June 25th

vision-valley

Please join us for a half day Summit to unveil the final Livable Roanoke Valley Plan.  The Summit will feature a keynote address by Bill Shelton, the Director of the VA Dept. of Housing & Community Development and community leaders that have agreed to champion initiatives in the areas economic development, workforce, health, and natural assets. By attending to the event you will receive a bound copy of the plan, as well as a networking breakfast and lunch.  You can view the completed plan and supporting information at www.livableroanoke.org.

Register Here

 

PROGRAM

7:30AM   Networking Breakfast

8:30AM   Welcome and Opening Remarks
Wayne Strickland, Executive Director of the Regional Commission

8:45AM   Keynote Address
Bill Shelton, Director of the Virginia Dept. of Housing & Community Development

9:15AM   Livable Roanoke Valley Plan – Strategies and Champions
Lisa Garst, Chair of The Partnership for Livable Roanoke Valley

10:00AM   Break

10:15AM   Featured Economic and Workforces Development Initiatives
High Speed Broadband – Kevin Boggess
Regional STEM-H Programs – Jonathan Whitt
Xperience – Thomas Becher
Industry Sector Partnerships – Zenith Hamilton

11:15AM   Featured Health and Natural Asset Initiatives
Stormwater Banking Program – Mike McEvoy
Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program – Brent Cochran
Alternative Transportation – Jeremy Holmes
Community Dental Clinic – Eileen Lepro

12:30PM   Networking Lunch
Meet the Champions 

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. 

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