Transit Development Plans aka Evaluate and Improve the Region’s Transit

The three public bus systems in the New River Valley have announced workshop dates where you can participate in improving the region’s transit systems. This is part of the Transit Development Plan that will look at current service and future needs.

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Blacksburg Transit’s New Commuter Service — Christiansburg to Blacksburg

Launched on January 3, Blacksburg Transit (BT) now has a commuter service between Christiansburg and Blacksburg. Each morning, Monday through Friday, the bus picks commuters up at several locations in Christiansburg and drops off in Blacksburg. Each evening, the route reverses to get you home. The service times match up to usual office hours.

The service will begin in downtown Christiansburg making pickups in the downtown area between 7 a.m. and 7:15 a.m.  A second set of pickups will take place in the North Franklin/Cambria area between 7:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.  At 7:45 a.m. drop offs will begin in the Blacksburg area.

Enjoy your commute. Using public transit is an excellent way to save money. Riding the bus gives you a chance to catch up on your reading, play a game on your laptop, or enjoy your iPod instead of dealing with the hassles of your daily commute.

Get peace of mind with the Guaranteed Ride Home program. If you participate in BT’s Commuter Service, signing up for the RIDE Solutions Guaranteed Ride Home benefit is free, and provides you with up to four FREE emergency rides per year if you need to get home before or after the regularly scheduled evening bus! If you are a VT Student, Staff or Faculty member don’t forget to also register for the Bike, Bus and Walk program, where you get 15 daily hang-tags per semester for only $15!

Get green. On the green side, a study by the American Public Transportation Authority suggests that using transit can be one of the most effective ways an commuter can reduce his or her carbon footprint:

“A solo commuter switching his or her commute to existing public transportation a single day can reduce their CO2 emissions by 20 pounds or more than 4,800 pounds in a year, about ten percent of a two-car family household’s carbon footprint of 22 metric tonnes per year.”

Todd Davis & Monica Hale,
Public Transportation’s Contribution to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Get on board. You do have to register with BT to use the service. To learn more about the commuter service or to become a commuter rider, please call 540.961.1185. You’ll be connected to a BT representative who can tell you more and get you registered.

It’s Not All About the Bike

It’s not entirely surprising that we’ve been talking a lot about bicycles and bicycle culture in the Roanoke region in the past few months.  After all, a lot has been going on.  River Laker’s Car Less Brit experiment has, not unsurprisingly, ended up being centered on the bicycle as his main means of transportation, and has bled over into cultural and political expressions of bicycling.  The region’s connection with outdoor recreation has made talk of the Greenways and trails, and taking bicycles to both, natural and appropriate.  And, let’s face it, people on bicycles – particularly if they’re not wearing The Uniform – stand out as unusual.  It’s a visible sign of something strange happening, particularly since they often look like they’re having more fun than you.  There’s something of a counterculture feel to it that garners attention.

For River, and the other bike advocates, artists, shops and enthusiasts, improving bike accommodations and increasing awareness of cyclists is an end unto itself.  I have a broader view, though, and I wanted to take a moment to point out that, for the work RIDE Solutions does, it’s not all about the bicycle, or even mainly about the bicycle.  After all, the primary service we offer is and has been carpool matching; bicycle commuting and bicycle transportation is relatively new for us, too.  Rather, the remarkable growth of cycling in Roanoke is symptomatic of a general change in attitude and decision making about transportation, and an acceptance to adopting alternatives.

For example, it suggests that folks are looking at things like convenience in a new light.  The talk about the need for bike racks (and what they should look like) indicates that convenience has gone beyond thinking about the best parking spot for your car, but the best way to get to work or go shopping to begin with.  It suggests that a certain number of people thinks it’s less convenient to drive, and more convenient to hop on their bike, so they want a safe way to lock it up once they get there.  Once you’ve got someone thinking like this, it’s an easy leap to convince them that some trips may be more convenient on foot (you don’t need to worry about where you’re going to lock your bike!) and others would be better taken by bus (no helmet head or sweat issues when you get to work in the morning!).

Let’s face it – bicycling is great, but it’s not for everyone.  It can be hard work navigating Roanoke’s notoriously hilly terrain.  Many people work jobs that make bicycling an impossible option, or live too far out from shopping and activity centers to make it reasonable.  Some folks aren’t physically able to do it.  Others don’t have the time, or have to haul around kids.  And some people just have absolutely no interest in getting on a bike.  All of these are fair objections.  These people – who might have been made aware of the issues that drive the growth in cycling (health considerations, costs of commuting, environmental reasons) – should get connected to the options that make sense for them.

In Roanoke, as in other regions, growth in cycling would seem to track against a growth in other alternative modes, as well as growth in a general awareness of issues of sustainability, smart growth, healthy air, and related issues.  I see the growth in bicycling and bicycle culture as one aspect of a Roanoke that is growing steadily more progressive in its views of transportation and urban living.

In that light, RIDE Solutions wants to take the spotlight off cycling for a little while and pay attention to other options.  On September 22nd, localities and organizations all over the world will recognize World Carfree Day, encouraging people to spend at least one day going without a car.  RIDE Solutions is part of a consortium of folks – including the Car Less Brit, Star City Harbinger, and the MyScoper girls – encouraging folks in the Roanoke and New River Valleys to participate.

We here at RIDE Solutions are encouraging you to leave your car – and, maybe your bicycle! – at home on that day and take advantage of another great option:  the bus.  You may not have known there is a extraordinarily useful tool, available for free, that will tell you exactly how to get where you’re going in the region, all by bus (even across the region’s three main systems – Valley Metro, the Smart Way, and Blacksburg Transit):  Google Transit. So, to help novice riders go carfree by bus this September 22nd, RIDE Solutions is offering the following:  Go to our Google Your Ride page on www.ridesolutions.org, plan your bus trip with Google Transit, submit it to us via the form provided, and we’ll send you two trip passes to get you there and back again, wherever you’re going.

Keep an eye out on our World Carfree Day site – we’ve got more events planned, including some incentives to get you out and walking.  We won’t stop you if you want to ride your bike, though.