NARP Vice Chair Speaks on Smart Transportation in West Virginia

J. Charles (Chuck) Riecks, NARP's vice chair for government relations, was one of the presenters at the recent 2015 West Virginia Transportation Planning Conference. The conference was sponsored jointly by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the various Metropolitan Planning Organizations in West Virginia.

Riecks' workshop presentation was entitled "Smart Growth and Transportation for West Virginia." It included not only information on the land use concept of Smart Growth, but also its related transportation topic, Transit-Oriented Development.

Smart Growth is the name given to a philosophy of land use planning and zoning that emphasizes healthy communities and neighborhoods, sustainable business development, and reliable low-cost, ecologically sensitive mobility. In promoting mobility, Smart Growth emphasizes the community must follow the precepts of Transit-Oriented Development and provide a variety of public transportation options. In providing these options, Smart Growth places passenger rail, especially commuter rail, light rail, and streetcars, at the center of the planning efforts, as opposed to being considered only after "other transportation systems."

Yet some Smart Growth, Transit-Oriented Developments have struggled, according to a recent University of California study, because the communities they serve continue to orient most of their land planning and zoning efforts to highway users and not to transit users. Mass transit requires mass along the transit, not the highway, corridors. That is why it is so important to keep land use and zoning planners and transportation planners working together.

After the presentation Riecks observed: "To me, advocacy is, by and large, an individual effort. But to experience success, I believe that it must be part of a group effort as well. To me NARP, and the ideas that it presents and promotes, is that group effort."

"NARP has always provided me with the very latest in transportation thinking, especially as it relates to passenger rail. This has been the main reason I have been a member of NARP for more than 10 years. NARP has given me a way to anchor my local, state, and national advocacy efforts around a few key current, relevant, general concepts," said Riecks. "In the present instance, the topic of Smart Growth was first introduced to me at the NARP Fall Council meeting held in Los Angeles. Council meetings, which have always been open to the general membership, newsletter mailings, and the web-based blog posts, and hotline topics, are all NARP communication efforts that I make use of as I promote passenger rail."

Riecks concluded: "In the present instance, I acknowledge the considerable help I received from Sean-Jeans Gail, NARP Vice President, and NARP ally Transportation 4 America Chair, Mayor John Robert Smith of Meridian, Mississippi. Without their willingness to share in the very latest in transportation thinking my presentation would not have come to fruition."