PLATTSBURGH — The importance of transportation was stressed during the third of four Vision2Action public forums.
Jeff Olson of the Saratoga Springs office of Alta Planning and Design gave a presentation on the Complete Streets initiative, calling it “the single biggest change that is happening in transportation infrastructure in this country.”
SHARING THE ROAD
Complete Streets calls for roads to be designed with all potential users in mind. That includes pedestrians, bicyclists, the elderly, children, people with disabilities, mass-transit riders and motorists.
Olson told those gathered at the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum that New York law requires all state, county and local transportation agencies to consider Complete Streets design principles for all future projects that receive state and federal funds.
The design ideas can even help with economic development, he said. After the City of Raleigh, N.C., found that the new streets resulted in increased pedestrian traffic, he said, that information was used to attract businesses to those areas.
Olson said municipalities should look at using Complete Streets principles for any projects to be built. The goal is not to get rid of motor-vehicle traffic, he said, but to achieve a better balance with other forms of transportation.
Laurie Williams, coordinator of health and education for the Clinton County Health Department talked about how the varied forms of transportation can lead to healthier communities.
The transportation network should serve the population’s need to get around in a way that enhances health, she said. It should offer balanced and affordable modes of transportation and decrease the reliance on automobiles, where possible. That could be done by building or modifying communities to connect opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists and provide access to public transit without the need to drive to it.
“Transportation is access; thus, transportation is opportunity,” Williams said.
A recent trend is to require sidewalks in new developments, she said, noting sidewalks and streetlights promote safe exercise and more social interaction.
PETITION FOR CHANGE
She has even been approached by people who would like to change the configuration of Margaret Street between Georgia-Pacific and Scomotion Creek in the City of Plattsburgh.
Judy Bechard would like to see a single lane of traffic in each direction, with a left-turn lane in the center and a bike lane to connect the lane on Cumberland Avenue and the Karen Fleury Bike Path. She collected 190 signatures of people riding or walking in that area, as well as local businesses, in support of that idea.
Clinton County Planning Technician James Bosley presented information about Clinton County Public Transit, which provides about 200,000 rides a year in the City of Plattsburgh and outlying municipalities.
“The biggest obstacle our bus system faces right now is people don’t think of us,” he said.
It is important that people use the system because state funding is based on ridership, Bosley said.
The system has three types of services: Fixed Route, Senior Bus and Paratransit Service.
The Fixed Route system runs Monday through Saturday. A recent transit study showed a need for more signs, more schedule booklets and more shelters to increase awareness of the system.
Clinton County Public Transit also has a Senior Bus system, which offers service to rural areas of the county every other week.
The Clinton County Office for the Aging, which sponsors the bus, makes it available to those 60 or older free of charge. Bosley said anyone can ride it, with those younger than 60 charged $10 each way. Those needing transport have to make an appointment with the Public Transit Dispatch Office at 561-1452.
The Paratransit Service is available to eligible people with disabilities who complete an application. Appointments must be made 24 hours in advance.
PROMOTING BIKE USE
Information about a new website, NYBikeRack.com, was also presented at the lengthy session. Bruce Carlin of Media Central said people can enter information about bike-rack locations on the interactive Google map on the site.
David Coryer of ETS said bike racks are needed if the community is going to promote cycling.
“We’re looking for businesses to sponsor a bike rack,” he said.
Jeffords Steel has provided designs for a four-bike rack that costs $910 and an eight-bike rack that costs $1,125.
Carlin said the racks are more expensive than usual because they are built to support a design element on top.
To that end, Vision2Action is holding a design contest. Entries are due by Oct. 15 and should feature some aspect of life in the North Country.
There are three age groups: 11 and younger, 12 to 17, and 18 or older.
“We hope to get the design contest into the schools,” Carlin said.
GOOD AND BAD
Town of Plattsburgh Planning Department head Philip Von Bargen then led a bus tour to highlight examples of good and bad transportation infrastructure. He said the roundabout on Route 9 and New York Road is friendly for pedestrians and slows traffic down.
The four-way stop signs in the City of Plattsburgh are also good at slowing traffic at intersections, Von Bargen said.
The two-lane section of Arizona Avenue will need improvement to support future development at Plattsburgh International Airport and PARC, he said.
Route 9 in the southern part of the Town of Plattsburgh has wide shoulders that are good for cyclists, Von Bargen said, and is part of the New York State Bikeway.
The combination bike-and-pedestrian path it connects with is a good example of proper planning, he said, as is the bridge on Tom Miller Road that crosses Interstate 87.
“You have to get to (ideas like) that in the planning stages,” Von Bargen said.
Email Dan Heath