Author Archives: Bryan Hill

Public Comment Sought on an Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021-2024 Transportation Improvement Program

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) is accepting comments on  the proposed Amendment #2 to its Fiscal Year 2021-2024 Transportation Improvement Program. The amendment seeks to add a new project of $288,000 in federal funds for Roanoke County to operate its CORTRAN service for seniors and people with disabilities next year.

Comments will be accepted until May 19, 2022 and a hearing will be held at 1:00 p.m. on May 26, 2022 at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission offices at 313 Luck Avenue, SW, Roanoke, VA.

We have developed a short survey to gather public input on the proposed amendment. The survey can be taken here.

For more information on the draft amendment, contact Bryan Hill at (540) 343-4417 or by E-mail at bhill@rvarc.org.

Covington Seeks Applications for Small Business Coordinator

The City of Covington seeks a dynamic Small Business Coordinator to lead recovery efforts from pandemic impacts for small businesses in the City.  This emphasis on small business recovery will take place in both Olde Town (downtown) as well as the small businesses located in shopping areas, highway and street corridors, and neighborhood businesses as well.  In addition to this unique job opportunity, our area offers a modest cost of living, numerous quality-of-life features, and exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities.

For more information, click here. The position will remain open until filled.

Request for Applications for Partnership in the RVARC Housing Development Program

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) is soliciting partnership applications from applicants for RVARC’s award of Virginia Housing Planning District Commission housing funds from its member localities and/or non-profit and for-profit affordable housing developers.

SPECIFIC GOALS
Funds awarded through this solicitation of partners must contribute to the development of at least 20 units of housing affordable to individuals/families at or below 80% Area Median Income. All projects awarded funds, whether owner-occupied or renter-occupied units, must be habitable by 6/30/2024. The goals of the RVARC during the administration of this grant are:

  • Increase stock of affordable housing units in underserved areas of the region.
  • Focus on first-time homebuyers.
  • Integrate incomes and housing by providing mixed-use and/or mixed-income rental developments.
  • Create a strategic process for identifying and investing in housing needs with a regional approach
  • Support creative, collaborative projects that meet additional social needs as:
    • Accessibility
    • Aging in Place
    • Mixed housing/income neighborhoods
    • Recovery Housing
    • Universal Design

Sealed proposals will be received until 5:00 p.m., EST on Friday, March 18, 2022. A full copy of the RFA may be obtained here.

Questions, revisions, and corrections to the RFA can be found here.

Contact Bryan Hill at bhill@rvarc.org for more information.

Request for Proposals for Legal Services to the Regional Commission’s Housing Development Program

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is soliciting proposals in order to contract for legal services during the administration of a grant from Virginia Housing for the RVARC Housing Development Program.

Proposals must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. (Eastern) on Friday, December 10, 2021.

The complete RFP can be found here.

Inquiries concerning this RFP should be directed to:

Bryan W. Hill, AICP, CZA, Regional Planner III
Grant Administrator
Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission
P.O. Box 2569
Roanoke, VA  24010
Or e-mailed to: bhill@rvarc.org

Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Housing Market Study Analysis Adopted

At their Thursday, December 10th meeting, the Regional Commission Board adopted the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Housing Market Study Analysis.

This comprehensive study is composed of five individual studies: Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Housing Study; Franklin County Countywide Housing Study; City of Roanoke Citywide Housing Study; Roanoke County Countywide Housing Study; and City of Salem Citywide Housing Study. To view the entire study, click on the image to the right.

The goals and purpose of the Study are to:

  1. Identify housing needs and provide both a region-wide and locality-specific housing market analysis.
  2. Identify housing supply and demand issues and opportunities within the region and within each of the four sub-geographies.
  3. Advance economic development opportunities by addressing housing concerns.
  4. Develop regional and locality-specific recommendations to address housing needs.
  5. Engage stakeholders to help understand housing needs/challenges and create a shared understanding of that need.

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 https://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 https://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.

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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.

How Pokemon Go Can be Used in Urban Planning

It has been almost two months since Pokemon Go was released and I still have not caught a Pikachu. I have walked 84.4 kilometers and caught 539 Pokemon in Roanoke, Blacksburg, and Northern Virginia, but the one Pikachu I encountered ran away from me.

Pokemon Go is the augmented-reality smartphone game from the 20 year-old Pokemon franchise, in which players search for Pokemon in the real world. Pokemania ensued upon the game’s initial release as millions took to the streets wandering aimlessly and gathering in parks at all times of the day and night in pursuit of Eevees, Psyducks, and Squirtles. It is so popular that businesses in Roanoke and across the world have been using it all summer to attract customers. The craze has simmered recently, but how and where people play Pokemon Go has potential to help urban planners identify desirable locations and engage communities.

Because Pokestops, map points where players can collect items to be used in the game, are located at landmarks and public art, they are heavily concentrated in urban environments. Pokemon are also more common and more diverse in denser areas, making it a city-centric game. Downtown Roanoke has a Pokestop around every corner and you are more likely to find a Tangela on Campbell Avenue than you are in Tanglewood Mall.

On any day of the week during lunchtime you can walk into the Elmwood Park Amphitheater and see about 10 people sitting and walking around staring at their phones and every few minutes a new person will walk in or walk out. During the first two weeks of Pokemon Go, this crowd was more than double. Informal gatherings like this are happening elsewhere such as New York’s Central Park and Blacksburg’s Market Square where it can be so crowded at midnight that there is nowhere to sit but the ground.

The game has caused more people to gather in public places than normal, especially at times of the day or night that those places are usually empty. Most planned public gathering spaces or parks are Pokestops, but some of those spaces are attracting large gatherings and others are not. Identifying places where people are gathering and comparing those to where they are not can inform planners about what spaces people want to come to and linger.

For instance, Elmwood Park at lunchtime is a quiet getaway spot from the rush of downtown Roanoke with plenty of green and places to sit. Market Square in Blacksburg at night has good lighting and is only a few steps away from a multitude of food options. Identifying these gathering spots is easy. People collect around Pokestops with lures which attracts more Pokemon than usual to that location. When playing the game, these stops will glow pink, and when a few stops in a small area are all glowing pink at the same time you can be sure that a public space has become an informal gathering spot

The location of these gathering spots may be based more on how many Pokestops are there rather than the place itself. Both Elmwood and Market Square are located at a triangular convergence of three stops making it easier to collect items and, when all three have active lures, are more likely to catch Pokemon. If places with multiple Pokestops in close proximity have the same type of gatherings, regardless of what the space is like, then gatherings are based off the location of the stops. But spaces with multiple stops, such as the Roanoke City Market, that would seem to attract more players don’t have the same effect on Pokemon gatherings that places like Elmwood has. The City Market has two stops close together and, although it could be the premier Poke-spot downtown, it does not seem like Pokemon Go is a significant factor in people gathering there. While these three comparisons–City Market, Elmwood, and Market Square–aren’t enough to base an assumption on, the latter two hint at which spaces are more desirable. Lures, ever present in Elmwood, are not activated at the same rate at City Market, making Elmwood the key spot for Poke-gatherings, and an important location to study.

There is also a potential for increased awareness and engagement for urban planning issues. Of course, Pokemon Go is a game based on players walking around searching for Pokemon. The game actually rewards you for walking–there are eggs which are hatched into Pokemon after you have walked a certain distance, and if you are over a certain speed it won’t calculate the distance you have traveled–you can’t cheat the game by driving. This basic function has brought people out on foot in swarms over the past month, and it has brought up concerns and complaints about player experiences.

The opportunity to play is not equally available to all who want to. Concentrations of Pokestops in cities have shown redlining. Poor neighborhoods with high populations of African-Americans have less Pokestops and gyms, giving these neighborhoods less access to the game. Since Pokestops are located around public art and other landmarks, it is possible that these neighborhoods lack those landmarks to merit a Pokestop. It is more likely that members of those communities did not play Niantic’s earlier game Ingress which gathered points of interest that would later become Pokestops. Either way, planners can use this redlining to study what can be done in these neighborhoods to improve walkability and vitality.

Because Niantic focused the game around walking and landmarks, suburbanites stand in stark contrast to city dwellers. There seems to be plenty of Pokemon Go players in suburbia, but they have been almost completely left out of playing because of the clash between the design of sprawl and the design of the game.  The center of a suburban town is the shopping center, a place with lots of parking and few landmarks. Tanglewood and other strip malls are empty spaces on a Pokemon Go map, with no Pokestops because there are no public destinations, and many times no Pokemon to catch.

Suburban players are inconvenienced because in a game based around walkability those shopping centers are not usually within walking distance of the homes of the people it serves, hence the large parking lots in front. Even when they are, there usually isn’t a safe way for people to walk to these shopping centers, meaning if there is a Pokestop there you are most likely driving and not collecting walking distance or catching wild Pokemon. Some suburban neighborhoods are built without sidewalks giving players no safe way to hunt. The exact reasons the game has worked so well in cities is the same reason it barely works at all in suburbs designed around the car.

Why is this important to planners? The majority of Pokemon Go players are young, the prized millennial generation, who are upset that they can’t play this game in their neighborhoods. They want destinations (and not just for Pokestops) that are within walking distance or only a short (bus, bike, or Uber) ride away, a point especially relevant for players without cars. There is an opportunity to educate and engage this younger generation on the issues of land use. They are interested in how the built environment affects them and they want access to more vibrant places. While this is not necessarily a new trend among this generation, they may be more interested when put in terms of the augmented reality of a game like Pokemon Go. They have become aware to the problems of where they live, and it’s now important for planners to put that awareness to action.

Pokemon1

Sarah’s Place in Roanoke offers Pokemon Go players a place to recharge their phones

Pokemon2

FPS in the Patrick Henry building uses lures to attract lunchtime customers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article written by Ben Wolfenstein, Intern for the Regional Commission.

Provide Input to the Transit Vision Plan Through an Online Meeting

The Roanoke Valley is not like it was 25 years ago, nor will it be like it is today in 25 years.  In order to better meet the needs of citizens today and in the future, a Transit Vision Plan for the Roanoke Valley is under development.  Initial surveys and data analysis have been completed and results are available in the Technical Report to the Transit Vision Plan.

On November 5th, two public workshops were held to gather public input and preferences on the current and future state and use of transit in the Roanoke Valley.  Participants were able to draw preferences for transit on maps, place dots indicating preferences on boards, and complete comment forms as part of the meeting.  Following the two meetings, held at the Campbell Court Transportation Center and the Brambleton Center,

TVP Pub Mtg.--110515For those unable to attend the Public Open House Workshops on November 5, please click here to participate in the online public meeting.  The survey asks for the same input found on the maps and boards at the Open House meetings.

The survey will remain active until Friday, December 11th, at which point all responses received will be analyzed and incorporated into the final Plan.

For more information on the Transit Vision Plan, please visit the page here.