Citing a change in the demands and needs of northern Nevada’s population, the RTC has scheduled a full day of workshop sessions led by local, regional and out-of-state speakers designed to display current transportation innovations and also channel the region’s future transportation plans.
Lee Gibson, executive director of the RTC, said the conference will focus on multi-modal transportation for vehicles, bikes, pedestrians and the public transit system. He said public engagement is vital for the future of these services in the Truckee Meadows.
“We know there are people in this community who have concerns about the effectiveness of public transit,” Gibson said. “We have people in this community who are champions for public transit and we want to bring them together and find common ground and understand each other.
“This type of picture we are painting with a multi-modal transportation system and the role public transit plays, it is something that invests back in the community because you will pay less insurance costs, and as a result, you will have more disposable income to spend. These are clear pocketbook issues, but I am not sure people really think of (RTC services) in that way.”
The event begins at 8 a.m. and Sen. Harry Reid will deliver the keynote speech at noon at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Speakers like Utah representative Greg Hughes and the Utah Department of Transportation’s Arthur Nelson will highlight projects and strategies used in their state, which Gibson said reaped close to $2 billion in federal transit funding through long-term investments in its metro and rural areas.
Washoe County’s own Grady Tarbutton will discuss emerging trends of senior citizens and their potential needs in the 21st century. Members from Nevada’s Department of Transportation Board of Directors will speak as well.
Todd Litman, executive director of the Canada-based transportation research firm Victoria Transport Policy Institute, will discuss northern Nevada’s vision for the future and why it is much different than the past 50 years.
“If your community lacks good bicycling, walking and public transit, I can pretty much guarantee that people in that community are going to be spending more money on transportation per capita, are going to have higher traffic fatality rates and will be less likely to get physical activity because they spend so much time driving,” Litman said after meeting with RTC executives Thursday.
Litman said he has studied national, generic research, suggesting driving rates peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s after a 40-year stretch of public demand for more roads to drive personal vehicles on. He said because that infrastructure is in place, it is time to think about ‘complete streets’ offering multiple modes of transport.
“The national research shows the business case for more roads does not give you an economic return,” Litman said. “The return comes from diversifying our transportation system. We are finding more and more people who actually wish to drive less.
“Communities who create high quality walking, bicycling and public transit options have people who choose to use them. We see the driving rates decrease and an increase in the amount of people using the multi-modal streets.”
Litman is just one of many who will be aiding the RTC and the local community in understanding and embracing the future of transportation in the area at Transit Connections. Those who have seen or used the complete streets around the Sparks Marina can see the value of them, and Gibson said Prater Way will soon be added to the list of multi-modal streets in Sparks.
Following the summit, Gibson said the RTC will create a narrative and graphical presentation for the RTC 2035 Regional Plan and it will form a new committee designed to accomplish objectives comprised by local business, education and other leaders.
“We need to be looking at how we are going to do this and why we want to do this,” Gibson said. “My gauge of the public is that we really don’t ever want to go through (a recession like) we just went through again. We never want to face that kind of economic challenge to see the businesses shut down, migration out of the city, withering of public services and loss of retail and business opportunities.
“The way to do that is to carefully look at how we develop our built environment and make sure it meets the future market needs of millenials, seniors, supporting education and making sure that we as a community will be ready to grow.”
Registration for the 2013 Transit Connections on Dec. 6 is open and available at www.rtcwashoe.com. The event is free to the public and all RTC public transit services will be free citywide aiding anyone looking to learn more about public transportation.