About eight weeks ago staff announced a town-wide project to improve our ability to walk, bike and ride a bus all over Chapel Hill. The objectives are to reduce vehicle traffic and enhance safety of pedestrians. Stewart Inc. a consultant with offices in Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh will conduct the project under David Bonk, the town transportation planning manager.
One or two members of each town advisory board was asked to provide input about where each person currently travels by one of the above methods. This group was named to the project steering committee, but it remains unclear what exactly will be expected of this committee. The information was mapped and each person completed a survey. About a week later, all Chapel Hill residents were encouraged to do the same at two sessions in the public library.
Several who attended the public meetings left frustrated. The consultants did not adequately explain the process they will use. Surely, they do not believe that a few small and poorly publicized sessions where citizens write on maps and complete the survey is sufficient to provide the information needed to do this well.
This data collection phase will continue throughout summer and everyone is able to complete the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/chmobility. There does not seem to be a systematic plan to reach out to hundreds (if not thousands) of walkers, bikers, and bus riders who should provide input if Stewart is to accurately determine town connectivity priorities.
I personally feel the maps were hard to use and disjointed. The dots process we were asked to use took a long time because we had to find the beginning and ending spots for each trip, and that meant moving all over the small room to find the right map. I wish they had shown all bus routes on the maps, and maybe even proposed rail stops.
In my opinion, an effective way to inform Stewart about where you wish to travel safely by bike, bus or walking is to email Randi Gates, planner, at email@example.com. Tell her where you begin your trips, each route you take now, and where each trip ends. The most used and desired routes and destinations will take top priority when data analysis starts.
Stewart has the town’s Greenways Master Plan, the Bicycle Plan, and is collecting information about bus routes and also light rail. It would seem appropriate for our own staff to do this project because they know the streets, greenways, etc., but we are told that their workload is too heavy to get to this in a timely manner, so Stewart has been hired.
Because a consulting firm that does not know Chapel Hill the way staff knows it is collecting the data, it is critically important that citizens provide lots of trip information. Please write to Randi and list each route you currently take and where there are problem spots. Then also list routes you would take if you could do so safely. Ask your friends to do the same. Thank you for helping make our needs known.
If you have questions, call or email David at 919-969- 5064, firstname.lastname@example.org
Joan Guilkey is a member of the project steering committee.