Potential changes in Roanoke-area transit have been in the news recently, from rate increases at Valley Metro to route changes in Vinton. Regardless of where you fall on these issues, this is a prime opportunity to become involved in the future of the Valley’s public transportation network. We offer this brief primer on what you need to know and how you can be the most effective.
Understand the benefits of transit
- Robust public transportation impacts almost every part of a community, from job access and workforce development, to environmental protection, to human services and medical access, to local economic impact. Many people do not understand exactly how public transportation is funded and the many sectors of our economy or society it impacts. Becoming familiar with a few of the myths and benefits of how public transportation works can help you make strong arguments for its improvement.
- ACTION: Read the Virginia Transit Association’s Transit Myths and Realities article.
- ACTION: Read the RIDE Solutions blog series on transportation subsidies: Highways are Heavily Subsidized I, II, and III.
- ACTION: Review the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)’s list of Benefits of Public Transportation.
Familiarize yourself with the Roanoke valley transit Vision Plan.
- The Transit Vision Plan is an unconstrained vision of what transit could look like in the valley over the short, mid, and long range. It includes cost estimates and potential route changes, along with a large amount of survey data and other research justifying the possible changes. The plan was adopted by the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) in September of 2016. The TPO is made up of representatives of each member local government: City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, Botetourt County, City of Salem, Town of Vinton, Montgomery County, and Bedford County. Keep in mind this is vision plan, though; no actual dollars are attached to it, nor commitments made to change things in line with it. However, if something you want to see exists in the vision plan, citing that will make your case stronger.
- ACTION: read the Roanoke Valley Transit Vision Plan, especially Parts 5 and 6: Recommendations, and Implementation Plans and Strategies
Follow the progress of the Transit Development Plan (TDP)
- The Transit Development Plan (TDP) is the short-term, specific plan that lays out immediate changes and funding to the public transportation system. The TDP, ideally, will implement ideas laid out in the Transit Vision Plan. The development of the TDP is currently underway – there is no document yet to be viewed and no announced public participation opportunity, but this is a good time to watch for such opportunities. Keep an eye on Valley Metro’s website and the website of the TPO for announcements.
- ACTION: Set a Google Alert or similar notification for announcements concerning the TDP.
- ACTION: Contact Valley Metro for up-to-date information on TDP development.
Contact your local elected officials
- Public transportation operations rely on the support of the jurisdictions which it serves. Program expansion – whether new routes in existing jurisdictions, extended service times, or new routes in new jurisdictions – require the political and financial support of your elected officials. Speaking with your elected officials will communicate your support of changes in the public transportation network, and help you understand what challenges exist on the local level and how you can best get involved in your community to help. While phone calls and emails are great, requesting time to speak during a regular meeting will probably have a greater impact.
- ACTION: Contact Roanoke City Council.
- ACTION: Contact the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors.
- ACTION: Contact Vinton Town Council.
- ACTION: Contact Salem City Council.
- ACTION: Contact Botetourt County Board of Supervisors.
- ACTION: Contact Franklin County Board of Supervisors.
Attend the Greater Roanoke Transit Company (GRTC)’s Board of Directors meetings
- The Greater Roanoke Transit Company is the formal name of Valley Metro. Its board is formed of local elected officials and representatives of various stakeholder groups. The board meets every two months on the 3rd Monday of the month from 1:30 to 2:30 at the City of Roanoke’s municipal building. The meetings are open to the public and are a good opportunity to learn more about GRTC’s operations and to provide input on requested service changes.
- ACTION: Contact the Roanoke City Clerk at (540) 853-2541 for meeting times, agendas, etc. for GRTC Board of Directors meetings.