Part of the process of updating plans likely to affect citizens of a community or region in some way involves obtaining public input into these documents. The Danville Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which coordinates transportation planning in the City of Danville and the adjacent portion of Pittsylvania County, faced challenges drumming up enthusiasm among residents of the region regarding input into its Long-Range Transportation Plan update. In June, the MPO, along with its partner on this initiative, EPR consultants of Charlottesville, held an open house in Danville’s River District to solicit input into the plan, however, public participation proved disappointing. Then EPR staff had an idea to solicit public input at Danville’s Food Truck Rodeo, a local event in Danville’s River District which involves food trucks selling a variety of cuisines to the general public.
On Saturday, November 2nd, staff set up a tent and table along with promotional items labeled “Danville Metropolitan Planning Organization” at the event, which was scheduled from 12 – 6 p.m. In addition, various poster boards were included to gather respondents’ transportation priorities and other information. The primary means of input involved display boards with six categories of transportation improvements including:
- Roadway Safety Improvements
- New Road Projects
- Bicycle and Pedestrian
- Inter-City Passenger Rail
- Air Service
Members of the public were asked to indicate the top three priorities included within the six categories above by placing a sticker on a display board under each. A map of the MPO was also available on which participants were asked to indicate where they were interested in walking or bicycling to. Lastly, general comments were received from the public regarding transportation-related issues in the MPO area.
The staff presence at the Food Truck Rodeo was very successful, as it was estimated that at least 80 members of the public – representing a broad cross-section of the MPO – participated, which was significantly greater than the open house event held in June. Participants indicated a need for all six transportation categories, with the roadway safety improvements, transit, bicycle and pedestrian, and inter-city passenger rail categories appearing to be the most important investments for area residents.
General comments were varied, and many pertained to improved walkability via sidewalks, bicycle safety, vehicle safety, downtown residential parking needs, and better connections to nearby metro areas for the purposes of commuting, among others.
The MPO Long-Range Transportation Plan is a document required by MPOs in order to receive federal funding for transportation projects; it is required to be updated on a five-year basis. This plan serves as a blueprint for transportation investments in the MPO area over the subsequent 25 years. It contains a constrained element, comprising an anticipated funding amount over the life of the plan, which is anticipated to fund a variety of projects. The plan also contains a vision element, which comprises a variety of other potential transportation projects which could be funded if additional money becomes available. The plan is anticipated to be completed in August 2020, and will have a horizon year (be effective until) of 2045.
The general public can learn more about the Danville MPO 2045 Long-Range Transportation Plan, and provide input at https://www.danvillempo2045.com/.