Connectivity? What Does That Mean?

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Take Me to the River… Somehow

During the Lewisburg River Town Planning Public Meeting in late 2014, several focus areas were identified:  Planning (for the Bull Run Greenway and along the entire waterfront), Conservation, Events, and Connectivity.  The last heading refers to enabling bicycle and pedestrian connections from the community to the river, whether that means crossing a curb into a park, crossing a street like Water Street, bringing the Rail Trail to the river along a number of possible routes, or providing safe access across Route 15.  It also refers to creating connections along the river, not just east-west.  So in that category, think of links south to Bucknell and north to Riverwoods and beyond.

At the time of the meeting, it was assumed that the River Town Team would defer to the existing Borough Traffic Advisory Committee, which had been operating since 2003 and simply encourage that group to work with the existing East Buffalo Township Ped/Bike Committee.  However, for a variety of reasons, neither of those groups has proved effective recently.  Both suffered from structural problems, on the one hand constrained by the boundaries of their respective municipalities which limited their ability to address connections across those boundaries and on the other hand struggling without clear lines of communication to municipal officials.  Both were initially better positioned when Jim Buck, then a Township Supervisor, was taking part in the EBT PBC and when Dick McGinnis, founder and chair of the Borough TAC, acted as liaison to Council.

The Borough dissolved the Traffic Advisory Committee this year and that provided an opportunity for a fresh look at the topic.  Just as the River Town Team as a whole is a project of Lewisburg Borough, but is intended to appeal to the public far beyond the municipal boundaries, so the Connectivity Project is naturally of interest to people both in downtown neighborhoods and also those who want to get to those neighborhoods from other places.  With that in mind, as well as with an appreciation of the challenges that caused the previous groups to struggle, a core group interested in moving the Connectivity Project forward started meeting in late summer and doing outreach to build connections and support for the idea.  Sue Auman, an EBT resident with a passion for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety in the community has taken the lead on outreach.  She has met with representatives from East Buffalo Township, Lewisburg Borough, SEDA-COG and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Union County Planning, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, Keystone COG, BVRec, the Miller Center for Wellness, and more.  She is continuing with outreach to Kelly Township, the BVRPD, Geisinger, and the school district.

bike_use_map_winter_2015

Use Intensity Indicator Map — Early 2015

Thanks to the advance work of those earlier efforts, during the Surface Transportation Commission’s 12 Year Program Survey last year, many local proponents of biking and walking weighed in online.  The summary document of the survey results for the 11 county SEDA-COG region were shared with the MPO Board earlier this fall and prove very helpful in making the case for this new organization.  While the local PennDOT District 3-0 and many local municipal officials consider this area to be rural and largely experience it that way in their own lives, the survey results demonstrate a level of interest in and concern for bike and pedestrian issues on par with that shown in the rest of the state.  Walking and Biking had more comments submitted than any other category.  Furthermore, the map showing where problem areas are located, while featuring a cluster in Lewisburg, also highlight the issue throughout the entire SEDA-COG region.  They have been hearing about trends in walking and biking and increasing interest but have been able to dismiss that as happening elsewhere, but the survey shows it to be here, too.   Admittedly, the topic still ranks fairly low among the overall funding priorities component of the survey, but again in line with statewide responses on the topic (5th out of 8) and there is no established mechanism for moving from the list of issues to action projects.  That is where a bike/ped advocacy group comes in.

2P1130893What is the group?  That is still being defined, but it is emerging with the intention to promote walking and biking in the area through awareness, advocacy, and improvements.  It is also clear that it must be multi-municipal and must work cooperatively and collaboratively with many other local entities.  It is not clear whether it will fall under the umbrella of any existing organization (though it is emerging under the auspices of the Lewisburg River Town Team, it is unlikely to remain there in the long run) nor that it is necessary to be housed anywhere.
The group does not yet have a name, but has held a first broadly advertised meeting (on Friday, Dec 4, at 10am, at the Borough Building).  During that meeting, attendees had an opportunity to meet each other and hear about efforts to date and starting doing some initial prioritization of a draft priorities list that was circulated.  The draft list (pre-edits), broken down under three headings, Awareness, Advocacy, and Improvements, is here:

 

AWARENESS

  1. Improve compliance with yield to peds at non-signalized intersections
  2. Increase local awareness of ped/bike importance, value, range of issues
  3. Educate about what the law is and what that translates to in terms of action
  4. Encourage Walk/Bike to School days
  5. Encourage pedestrian safety and bike education in the schools
  6. Provide online maps/tours (images and GIS/apps) to connect trail to campus or trail to river
  7. Submit articles to paper and online
  8. Educate people about options
  9. Keep people informed about local events, issues and relevant national information
  10. Stage additional Road Holidays
  11. Maintain presence at events (health fairs, community festivals)
  12. Reach out to Police, create alliance

ADVOCACY

  1. Reduce speed limit on Market west of 15
  2. Engage Safe Routes to School Program
  3. Advocate with legislators
  4. Designate a Safe Routes to School representative
  5. Attend relevant public meetings: Borough Public Works, MPO, SGP/JGTA? County and Regional?
  6. Nominate person to serve on MPO board
  7. Form alliance with health care community (Geisinger, Evan, etc)
  8. Reach out to School Board(s)
  9. Provide case study of rail trail crossing
  10. Continue networking efforts
  11. Monitor ped-signal function and report issues

IMPROVEMENTS

Intersections with PennDOT involvement:

  1. Rail Trail non-crossing
  2. 15/45
  3. 15/St Mary St
  4. Market St/Water St
  5. 15/192
  6. Rt 45 crosswalk by Linntown/Eichhorn
  7. St Mary St/Fairground Rd
  8. 45/Fairground Rd
  9. 45/15th St

Intersections without PennDOT involvement:

Borough and Township combined:

  1. St Mary St crosswalks from PHC to north side of street

Internal Township locations:

  1. Getting to and from the 15/45 intersection from SW and NW
  2. Jefferson/Stein (safer access to BU field crossing than Monroe would be)
  3. St Mary St/Reitz Blvd (library access from Rail Trail or points east)

Internal Borough locations:

  1. St Anthony/Water St
  2. Rail Trail/St John/5th St

Non-intersection issues:

  1. Ped signal problems, design, function, etc
  2. Bridge at St Anthony/River Rd — sidewalk on wrong side
  3. Removing turning lane coming off the river bridge
  4. Better signage options for pedestrian zone
  5. Connect from Market St to Bucknell Campus to replace the RR bridge trespassing
  6. RR bridge over river
  7. Connection to Northumberland County
  8. Connections beyond the Borough north south on Union County side of river
  9. Former south end of Water St used to extend to Mariah’s Garden site
  10. Creating a marked route along the river within and just beyond the Borough

 

IMG_1658It is clear both from last week’s meeting and past experience that we could spend hours discussing compliance with yield to ped laws at unsignalized crosswalks alone.  The challenge for this group will be to work smart.  We will be working to avoid milling about and echo chamber effects and trying instead to bring all parties to the table to develop and implement meaningful, effective, and lasting changes.  The group was able to make progress with revising and reorganizing the first section on Awareness and generated this revision:

AWARENESS

Goals

  1. Improve compliance with yield to peds at non-signalized intersections
  2. Provide pedestrian and bike education and safety programs in the schools
  3. Increase local awareness of ped/bike importance, value, range of issues
  4. Provide online maps/tours (images and GIS/apps) and physical signage to connect trail to campus or trail to river
  5. Promote Walk/Bike to School days
  6. Stage additional Road Holidays
  7. Organize Bike to Work Day

 

Strategies

 

  1. Reach out to Police, create alliance/shared vision
  2. Work together with School District
  3. Submit articles to paper and online about general topic and relevance
  4. Keep interested people informed about local events/issues as well as national information
  5. Educate about what the law is and what that translates to in terms of action
  6. Educate people about options – where, when, why and how to walk or bike in the area
  7. Maintain presence at events (health fairs, community festivals)
  8. Organize walking (or biking) groups
  9. Offer tours, show people how to use trails, how to get to them

 

XP1130850This is all of course still subject to review and revision, but offered here for general perusal.  If you would like to be part of this conversation, please consider joining us for a River Town Team meeting (2nd Fridays, at 8am, in the Borough Chamber, and 3rd Mondays, at 7pm, in the LNC Office on the 2nd floor of the Borough Building, entrance to the right of the Borough Office door).  Those meetings cover Conservation, Events, and Planning issues in addition to Connectivity, but they are open to all who may be interested.

 

 

Background resources that may be of interest (mostly documents for download):

Surface Transportation Commission Survey Regional Results

Borough Traffic Advisory Committee Goals and Objectives

EBT Ped and Bike Recommendations – 2008

Lewisburg River Town Report – draft

Complete Streets Primer

Lewisburg Safe Routes to School Audit Report

Surgeon General’s Call to Action:  Step It Up (which includes recognizing the importance of the built environment for access to an active healthy lifestyle option)