Photo by Karin Morris, DVRPC

DVRPC News: May 2021

Volume 42, Issue 11

 

DVRPC’s Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report: A Year of Challenges and Change

Zoom pictures of DVRPC staff

For the last part of Fiscal Year 2020, while working remotely, DVRPC staff were able to adapt, pivot, and respond to the challenges of the pandemic, while finding new and creative ways to engage the public and work with our partners to meet the region’s needs. Now you can browse through DVRPC’s Annual Report, released as an Interactive Story, to see some recent project and program highlights. 

DVRPC is proud of what we accomplished together and looks forward to serving Greater Philadelphia in the years to come. The future will undoubtedly bring new challenges and more opportunities for meaningful change.

Read the Annual Report to learn more.

 

DVRPC’s 2021 Breaking Ground Webinar Series 

Breaking Ground 2021: Incorporating Equity into Regional Recovery

The upcoming Breaking Ground conference series will take place from Monday, May 17th to Monday, June 14, 2021 as a six-part webinar series. Several DVRPC Board members are moderating sessions with Commission staff, local officials, and professionals working at various levels of the government to learn about recovery strategies that integrate or center equity.

Topics range from strategies to aid communities in recovering financially from the pandemic to rethinking street usage for various types of users, and from extreme heat’s impact on vulnerable populations to ensuring equitable broadband access.
Information on the full agenda, webinar descriptions, registration links, moderators, and panelists, can be found at the Breaking Ground webpage.

 

Air Quality Awareness Week is May 3-7

Lake and cloud-filled sky
Photo by Kimberly Dean, DVRPC

National Air Quality Awareness Week is May 3-7, 2021. It marks the beginning of the “ozone” season, when Greater Philadelphia typically begins to experience poor air quality from high levels of ground-level ozone.

Lung health has been more important than ever this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ground-level ozone damages healthy lungs, makes people more susceptible to lung infections, and makes it even harder for people with lung disease to breathe. The good news is that preventing air pollution is a positive step that everyone can take to help protect your community’s health.

To reduce air pollution, rethink how you travel and try other modes of transportation. Active transportation, like walking or biking, is good for the air and your health. If you must drive, small changes - like combining errands - can make a big impact. To get more tips, see the daily air quality forecast, and sign up for alerts, visit www.AirQualityPartnership.org.

 

DVRPC Approves $2.6 Million for 14 Regional Trails Program Grants

Trail in park surrounded by trees
Photo by Karin Morris, DVRPC

At the April meeting, DVRPC Board approved $2.6 million in grants for 14 Circuit Trail projects throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. After being assessed and prioritized by numerous factors such as project readiness, quality, and the condition of transportation and/or recreational opportunities to underserved populations, the grants will be issued across several regional counties for Circuit Trail expansion.

Projects include design of: 

  • Enola Low Grade Segment on the Chester Valley Trail (Chester County), 
  • Camden County Link Bike/Ped Bridge over NJ 130 (Camden County), 
  • Wissahickon Gateway Trail (Montgomery County), 
  • Rancocas Creek Greenway, 
  • Laurel Run (Burlington County), among other projects. 

Funding was provided by the William Penn Foundation and in collaboration with DVRPC’s Regional Trails Program. Since 2010, the program has invested nearly $22 million in over 100 trail segments, supporting right-of-way acquisition, planning, design, and construction. 

View the full list of projects and learn more about the Regional Trails Program.

 

$2 Million for Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Streetscape Projects in NJ

Cooper River Park at sunset
Photo by Joe Flood, DVRPC

At its April meeting, the DVRPC Board approved $1.959 million toward three projects in southern New Jersey through the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program. The program distributes federal transportation funds towards community-based, “nontraditional” forms of transportation such as walking and biking. Projects include Edgewater Park Township’s Heritage Trail in Burlington County ($440,000), Cooper River Bike/Ped Bridge Project in Camden County ($1 million), and City of Trenton Greenwood Avenue Streetscape Project in Mercer County ($519,000).

This competitive grant program provides federal funds for community-based “nontraditional” surface transportation projects designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of the nation’s transportation system. New this year, was an equity component to the program. Projects in eligible communities received additional technical assistance with the grant application, as well as additional points during the scoring process. Visit the DVRPC Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program website to learn more.

 

New Tool to Help Riders Find Bike Routes with Less Car Traffic 

Ruti Logo

Ruti is a new, text-message-based, trip planning tool that finds the bike route with the least amount of car traffic, or traffic stress. 

The text-message-based conversational app, developed by AG Strategic Design, uses Google Maps routing information and DVRPC’s Bike Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) data analysis to find the most comfortable bike route between two destinations. The route map sent by text, depicts the “stress level” of each part of a bike route so riders can see where traffic is highest, what streets have bike lanes, and whether there are sidewalks where they can walk their bike to avoid uncomfortable or stressful conditions. 

With Ruti, a casual bike rider might find the most comfortable route, avoiding roads with lots of car traffic, to get to a farmers market, grocery store, or park by bike.

To register and use Ruti, please visit: ruti.bike/dvrpc/register.

 

Upcoming Public Meetings for Pottstown Area’s High Street Corridor

High Street Corridor Study logo

DVRPC partnered with the Montgomery County Planning Commission and the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee (PMRPC) to study the Pottstown Area’s High Street Corridor. The High Street commercial corridor is the area’s primary main street, serving many different users via all modes of transportation. 

Previously, a community survey collected input from users in the area about local issues and goals for the corridor. Now you can attend either of two upcoming meetings to learn about multimodal recommendations and opportunities along the High Street corridor. Due to current restrictions on public gatherings and indoor meetings, DVRPC is conducting two virtual meetings on Thursday, May 27th; Meeting #1 at 2:00 PM and Meeting #2 at 7:00 PM.

 

Join DVRPC's PPTF & The Enterprise Center's USDOT Small Business Transportation Resource Center

Construction workers and construction equipment

Want to learn more about regional transportation projects and get involved? Come take part in the Public Participation Task Force’s (PPTF) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) public meeting on May 6th!

DVRPC’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is the agreed-upon list of specific priority projects and is required for the region to receive and spend federal transportation funds. The TIP lists all projects that intend to use federal funds, along with non-federally funded projects that are regionally significant. The Public Participation Task Force provides a public forum for attendees to stay informed and engage with the regional planning and decision-making process. Through PPTF’s meeting, you will have the opportunity to learn more about TIP and how you can participate at different stages. 

This meeting will also give DBEs an insight into understanding the TIP funding and implementation process. DBE advocates and organizations are encouraged to attend and share with members alike. This meeting is hosted in collaboration with US DOT Mid-Atlantic Region Small Business Transportation Resource Center (MA-SBTRC) operated by The Enterprise Center.

Join us at the next PPTF meeting on May 6th to learn more about the TIP. RSVP via Meeting Registration page.

 

New Study Examines Access to Devon Station

Cover of report

DVRPC, in collaboration with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC), and Easttown Township coordinated the Devon Station Multimodal Access Study. Located on SEPTA Regional Rail’s Paoli/Thorndale line, Devon Station links Easttown Township to Center City Philadelphia and other suburban communities in Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. 

The study, which focuses on the station and its surrounding commercial and residential properties, aims to develop concepts that improve safe pedestrian and biking access to the station while recommending land use strategies that complement the rail facility through a thorough analysis of the area. Through ongoing coordination between partners, recommendations within close proximity to the station include better organization of vehicle paths, safe pedestrian and bicycle paths, and preservation of the historic building. 

Read the Devon Station Multimodal Access Study to learn more.

 

Staff Profile: John Ward, Deputy Executive Director

Headshot of John Ward

What did you want to be growing up? A major league baseball player. I liked sports, and my dad was a big time local athlete - his jersey # was retired from his high school team - and I wanted to be like my dad.

What was the most fun job you’ve had? I worked on the Phillies’ grounds crew at Vet Stadium for three seasons during college. I got to meet the players, watched 450 games, and loved hanging around the players that I was reading about in the papers. I never tired of it! 

What did you study in college? I took a geography course freshman year, and liked it. The geography department at West Chester State College merged with the political science department to become government and planning, and that became my major. 

How did you end up at DVRPC? Senior year I went to my advisor, Bob Bielski, seeking an internship, and he lined one up for me at Chester County Planning Commission where he worked. I stayed on for two years after graduation, occasionally taking the train to work in West Chester. Then I moved to the Delaware County Planning Department for the next two years. In 1985 I landed at DVRPC, working PennDOT’s ECONS Program doing intersection improvements and traffic signal optimization, in the corridor planning unit.

You’ve been at DVRPC now for 36 years and worked on so many projects - do you have a favorite or one you’re most proud of? Yes, the ITS and Incident Management work we did was a highlight, because we were creating something brand new when we helped bring emergency responders together to coordinate and build relationships, to better prepare for incidents on our roadways. It was groundbreaking work that no other MPOs were doing. After showing the value and success of the effort, FHWA even paid for us to go around the country and share our experiences, to help other MPOs and DOTs start up their own programs. 

What’s changed at DVRPC over the decades? Many things have changed - work habits, technology, office culture. For example: there were ashtrays on the meeting tables when I started! We did work on “dumb terminals” and then walked down the hall to the mainframe computer to pick up dot matrix print-outs. Decision making was top down. Now, besides the obvious absence of ashtrays and presence of PCs with multiple monitors, collaboration among staff is a given. There is a lot more communication between all levels and units of staff, and we have staff-led committees, like the Employee Council, that focus on representing and conveying staff input. 

Which three words best describe you? Organized, conscientious, blessed.

Do you have a life or work motto? The Golden Rule - treat others the way you’d want them to treat you.

If you could be King for a day, what would you declare? All four Philly sports teams would win championships, and we’d have a celebratory parade down Broad Street every season.

What habits have you picked up during the pandemic? Working in the basement. And without a commute, most days I can go for a run on the trail behind my house right after work.

Besides jogging, where might we find you after working hours? Sitting on the bleachers with my wife watching our daughter’s volleyball, softball and basketball games.

What is the last book you read? Danny and Mickey - Ordinary Heroes. It's about two poor kids who grew up in the City of Chester and Marcus Hook, lived through the depression, fought in WWII, and came back to careers in major league baseball. I actually knew Danny Murtaugh, who lived down the street from us, and he won two World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I sense a theme here - if you were not a planner, do you have a fantasy career? Baseball player!

You are retiring after 40 years of planning work, 36 years spent at DVRPC. Congratulations! What are your plans? We are going to move to Wildwood Crest full time, sit on the beach a lot, do some home improvements, and then hope to travel to warm places every winter. I've had a great run at DVRPC. I’m especially thankful for Barry’s support and guidance, and all the help I've gotten from this awesome staff.

 

Elise TurnerAssociate Manager, Office of Communications and Engagement
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