Make Blacksburg transportation a major priority

The following letter to the editor originally appeared in the Collegiate Times on Sept. 16, 2009:

Today, the Active Commute Celebration on the Drillfield marks the middle of Virginia Cycling and Pedestrian Awareness Week. Cyclists are learning about bike registration and safety, Blacksburg Transit riders are picking up copies of the latest schedule, and U Car Share members are finding out how to register and unlock a vehicle.

In an era with more students bringing their cars and trucks to campus and parking spaces moving farther from academic and residential buildings, we need to do all that we can to reduce traffic and ensure that everyone can find a way to campus and downtown Blacksburg. Not everyone can take a bus to work or ride a bike to school, but we must increase opportunities for those who can and do.

In 2008, the American Public Transportation Association found that a person who forgoes a personal vehicle in favor of a bus or metro pass saves an estimated $8,700 each year. If more Blacksburg residents ride the bus, fewer vehicles will be on the road, reducing the town’s carbon footprint. What’s more, a community that promotes walking and cycling is a healthy one.

Blacksburg already has an extensive network of sidewalks and greenways, but we can always do more to expand them and create pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. Bike lanes cover much of Blacksburg, but we still lack a fully connected bike path and “share the road” loop in our historic downtown. Our local elected officials must not only continue public support of BT but also expand service in selected areas, including our commercial centers and student neighborhoods where service nears capacity.

As with any type of growth, Blacksburg must take long-range planning into consideration. Many of my colleagues at Virginia Tech commute from Roanoke, Floyd and Giles. Some take the SmartWay bus as a low-cost way to travel to and from Roanoke, and others search for carpool and vanpool opportunities. They also benefit from RIDE Solutions, a regional ridesharing program developed by the New River Valley Planning District Commission and the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission. Recognizing that the town’s workforce lives throughout Southwest Virginia, Blacksburg should also support the expansion of regional Park-and-Rides.

In 1904, the Huckleberry line first connected Blacksburg and Christiansburg by rail. Designed and built in part by an engineering professor and his students, the railroad revolutionized travel in and out of Blacksburg. Although our community has grown, our technology has changed, and our understanding of how this technology impacts our environment has improved, the university and the town still have the talent to find transportation solutions for a new century.

Michael Sutphin

Town Council candidate

’06 alumnus, communication

Reprinted with permission.

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