Job Opportunity

Transportation Planner (Part-Time)

The Transportation Planner, under the direct supervision of the Director of Transportation, is responsible for performing transportation-related professional and technical work independently and in teams.  Such work may include preparing and developing plans and reports, creating maps, conducting field work, maintaining databases, analyzing and interpreting transportation information, presenting information to stakeholders, and representing the Commission to local or state organizations.  The Transportation Planner needs to maintain current knowledge on federal and state transportation legislation, technical transportation analysis methods, and software skills such as those related to MS Office and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The ideal candidate will possess knowledge of regional multimodal transportation planning theories, principles, practices and techniques, and be dedicated to further developing a career in transportation planning.

Preferred candidate will have or be pursuing a degree from an accredited college or university in transportation planning, transportation policy/administration, transportation or civil engineering (or a closely related field), and the interest and motivation to further a career in transportation planning.

This position will be part-time at 20 hours/week.  Salary will be negotiated depending on qualifications.

Cover letter and resume should be submitted to Sherry Dean, Director of Finance, at sdean@rvarc.org. Click here for the full job description.

Submissions are requested by Friday, September 13.

Position is open until filled.  EEOC

Guide to Getting Around Roanoke Valley

There are many ways to get around the Roanoke Valley without a car. This guide explores  independent transportation options including buses and trolleys, transportation for people with disabilities, taxis, rideshare (Uber & Lyft), bikeshare (Zagster), rental bikes, and rental cars. Intercity bus, passenger rail, and air passenger services provide longer distance options.

Download the Guide To Getting Around Roanoke or visit 313 Luck Ave SW and get your copy today!

Public Right-of-Way Accessibility

People with certificates

Left to right: Tiffany, Dr. Eck, Rachel, and Garrett

RVARC staff and volunteers learned about the Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) during a workshop from the University of Virginia Transportation Technical Academy. PROWAG ensure that all people can navigate safely on foot in the public right-of-way.

Rachel Ruhlen felt the training would enhance the bike/walk/disability audits that the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee has been doing with locality staff. During these audits, locality staff are always impressed watching Garrett Brumfield, a committee member, or Tiffany Lee, a volunteer, navigate the sidewalk and streets in their wheelchairs, or blind volunteers find their way around using sound and touch. The audits often turn up simple repairs that can make a big difference to a person with vision or mobility impairment.

RVARC sent Rachel, Garrett, and Tiffany to the workshop to learn PROWAG, the best practices for accessibility, developed by the US Department of Justice Access Board.

RVTPO brings Title VI Training to Roanoke

Mohamed Dumbuya, Title VI Coordinator and Civil Rights Program Manager for the Virginia Division of the Federal Highway Administration, gave a Title VI training to 23 people representing 12 agencies on February 27, 2019. Metropolitan planning organizations like the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) that receive federal transportation funds and must have a Title VI process to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its related authorities (executive orders, related legislation, court decisions, and other regulations).

Roanoke, like many cities, used urban renewal in an unfair and discriminatory manner, with consequences that are still felt today. These practices prompted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation throughout the decades. Another change since the days of urban renewal is the creation of metropolitan planning organizations which coordinate transportation planning between localities throughout the region. Abiding by Title VI and its related authorities at all steps of transportation planning ensures that the benefits and burdens of transportation projects are shared equitably.

RVTPO worked with FHWA and VDOT to bring Mohamed Dumbuya to Roanoke. Staff from RVTPO, VDOT, localities, and other MPOs took advantage of the Title VI training opportunity.

Title VI and its related authorities prohibit discrimination, intentional or unintentional, on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age. The related authorities protect minorities, people of low income, handicapped persons, and people with limited English proficiency and mandate fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced as a result of programs and projects receiving federal funds.

For the RVTPO, Title VI means:

  • Ensuring that all stakeholders have opportunity to comment on plans, programs, and projects,
  • Making sure that the benefits and burdens of plans, programs, and projects are shared equitably,
  • Documenting the methods of administration, and
  • Documenting Title VI data.

RVTPO will be updating its Title VI Implementation Process in the coming months.

Congestion Question

The last time you experienced traffic congestion, where were you trying to go? Tell us with our first ever crowdsourcing map app!

Report congestion here. Use the buttons in the upper left to get help, add a point or a line with a comment, or view the legend.

Having trouble getting started? Click the help button in the upper left corner of the map: 

Still not sure what to do? Use the mouse to pan and the mouse wheel or the “+” and “-” buttons  to zoom in until you see the place where you experience traffic congestion. Use the search box to quickly find an address or street.

Click the “Edit” button and select “New Feature” to add a point or a line. For example, you might add a point at an intersection or specific address. Or you might draw a line along a longer segment where you experience congestion.

If adding a line, double-click to the end the line.

After adding a point or line, you can enter a comment. Tell us where you were going when you experienced traffic congestion.

The comment will be saved when you click “Close”.

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.

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.

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.

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!