This Guest Column was published in the Greenville News on Sunday July 22, 2012
Transportation has been in the news a good bit recently and rightly so. The ability to get places is a fundamental element of our quality of life and one that we must consider as Greenville County continues to grow.
Articles in the Greenville News cite once rural roads that have become busy corridors with schools and neighborhoods. Two recent stories, one highlighting Five Forks Road and one Old Buncombe Road, point to the increased need to address our ability to safely get places by walking and cycling .
Greenville County has become increasingly urban, yet we have only 35 miles of sidewalks on the 1700 miles of County roads. Like most places that have grown through suburban sprawl, our transportation spending has almost entirely been focused on motorists.
- Economic development – as evidenced by Travelers Rest, with a combination of the Swamp Rabbit Trail and a reconfiguration of South Main Street for improved walkability has boosted the local economy. Growing corporations and young professionals are increasingly seeking communities that offer connectivity and green transportation options.
- Increased property values –”How Walkability Raises Home Values in U.S. Cities” published by CEOs for Cities in 2009, showed higher property values for walkable neighborhoods.
- Transportation equity – supports individuals who can’t afford a car to get to work, the grocery store. Over 10,800 households in Greenville County do not have a car available for use.
- Improved health –Walking or cycling to school, work and to other places of interest supports health and well-being, allowing for increased physical activity, reducing chronic disease, which ultimately can reduce health care costs.
- Walking and biking help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles.
- Safer routes to school offer more time for children outdoors and frees up time for parents waiting in long car lines.
Vision 2025 as published by Greenville Forward states: “In 2025 Greenville has created and inspired a multi-modal, vibrant, and inclusive transportation system, including a series of bus and train links, walking and bike trails, pedestrian corridors, and transportation choices that minimize the need for vehicles”
We have made progress towards these goals:
- The Swamp Rabbit Trail is an overwhelming success, however it is used primarily for recreation, as only 8.8% of use is for transportation.
- The City of Greenville has implemented several projects that allow residents to get from neighborhood streets to local schools and parks more safely. Residents of North Main now have safer access to McPherson Park without getting in their car. Residents around East North Street can get to elementary and middle school more safely.
- Master plans address connectivity, trails and bikeways do exist. The City of Greenville has both a greenways plan and a bike master plan and the County has a Comprehensive Greenway Plan. These plans will serve us well as we grow, but we need to commit, as a community, to implementation.
There is much work to do and many opportunities for all of us to get involved in supporting safe transportation for all residents. Ideally,
- Developers can keep the above benefits in mind when planning both commercial and residential projects.
- PTAs can actively support safe routes to school programs and lobby for the required infrastructure.
- Elected leaders can support funding for pedestrian and cycling projects.
- Residents can get involved by asking for safer corridors for all – motorists, walkers and cyclists alike – while also seeking to be knowledgeable, courteous and respectful of those going places by bus, car, bike or on foot.
We can achieve a safer, more accessible transportation system for all users. It is an economic driver, a recruitment tool, an avenue for improved health and lower health care costs and a boost to quality of life. Progress will take time and resources, but must begin with community involvement and political will.
Frank Mansbach is a Project Director at Fluor and is 2012 Advocacy Chair for the Greenville Spinners Bicycle Club. He has previously served as a Greenville County Planning Commissioner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org