Filed under: Transportation
Are you ready for a terrific New Year’s resolution? Beginning January 4, Asheville Redefines Transit will offer bus service on Sundays, significantly expanding availability and access to riders in Asheville.
In Rider surveys conducted in 2008 and 2013, Sunday service was the most-requested upgrade to Asheville’s transit system, and it has remained a top priority in the city’s Transit Master Plan.
“Having a successful and thriving transit network means providing service where and when people need it,” said Transportation Manager Mariate Echeverry. “Sunday service makes it easier to get to jobs, run errands and visit family and friends.”
Asheville City Council approved funding for the change in the 2014/2015 budget and the step meets Council’s Strategic Goals of supporting multimodal transportation, affordability, community development and sustainability.
Sunday’s routes and schedules will resemble the system’s holiday service launched in 2013, with most routes operating between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday routes and schedules were developed with the help of input collected from an August public meeting, online and on-bus surveys, and neighborhood outreach. From Dec. 15th to Dec. 19th, riders can find information tables staffed with volunteers during peak hours the ART Station on Coxe Avenue. See more route and schedule details at ridetheart.com.
The New Year will also see improved access to the Emma and Oakley sections of Asheville, with the new S5 and W5 route, as well as the discontinuation of the C-route.
Earlier this year, the city unveiled the NextBus system in which riders can use their cell phones, smart phones or computers to find out exactly when the next bus will arrive at their stop. Find out all about these enhancements at ridetheart.com.
The City of Asheville continues to expand and develop its multi-modal transportation model and recently launched the Asheville In Motion initiative with an event drawing public input on walking, biking, transit and automobile accessibility. The public will have more opportunities to engage in the next months. You can find more information in the project page at ashevillenc.gov/projects.
December 2, 2014
Engaging with City government should be easy as 1-2-3, so the City of Asheville is always looking for ways that tech can help keep up the connection, make life easier and create community opportunity.
Here are 10 ways you can use tech to connect with your city government:
Pay-by-phone parking – Launched as a pilot program in 2012 and expanded to all city metered spaces the next year, Pay-By-Phone parking continues to provide convenient and change-free parking options on the streets of Asheville. Thousands of people use the service each month, 7,000 in October alone! To try it out, just follow the instructions on the parking meter!
NextBus – When’s the next bus coming to your stop? That question has gotten easier to answer since the city’s Transit Division launched the NextBus service over the summer. From your phone, just text “nextART” and the number on your bus stop to “41411” or go to www.nextbus.com/art on your smart phone to find out just when the next bus will be there. You can also call (828) 253-5691 x5 and enter the number on your bus stop to hear when your bus will arrive. Signs are at all Ride the ART stops; look for the green and blue circle. Or use your home computer if you already know your stop number and avoid a long wait at the stop!
Asheville App – The Asheville App works on the idea that, when it comes to spotting areas of the city that need attention, more eyes are better than few. You spot it, we fix it. From potholes to overgrown lots to damaged street signs, the app allows residents to report problems, upload pictures and track our progress on fixing the issue. Users can access the Asheville App from their computer or smartphone, and anyone can see what is being reported and how city personnel respond.
Online Development Portal – Time equals money, especially in the world of development, and this online tool is a real time saver. Pull construction related permits, make payments and track permit progress all online. For many basic permit types, no more in-person visits are needed. You can use the portal to schedule inspections 24 hours a day, receive confirmation of scheduling and see inspections results.
Online City Council meetings, both live and on-demand (psst…you can also search Council minutes here)
Graffiti Dashboard – When the City of Asheville began its 123 Graffiti Free removal assistance program, we knew it would be important for the public to track our progress. The dashboard shows the number of requests for cleanup assistance, how many have been completed, and how much of the money allocated by City Council has been spent. The dashboard’s design and ease of use earned it a place among the finalists for the North Carolina Technology Association’s 2014 Tech Awards.
Crime Mapper – Safety and quality of life means knowing what is going on in your neighborhood. The Crime Mapper on mapAsheville is updated with current calls for service from both the Asheville Police Department and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office and can zoom in on specific areas or sort crime info by neighborhood.
TreeMapper – Crowd-sourced tree info! Customized by the city’s Information Technology Services and the Tree Commission from open source software, the online map is designed to increase knowledge of trees in the area, highlight their benefits to the community and enhance the way we think about trees.
Online picnic shelter reservations and recreation program registration. – You don’t have to jump through hoops to sign up for one of Asheville Parks and Recreation’s many programs, or to reserve a picnic shelter for that birthday party or family reunion. Just sign up online!
Email utility bills and automatic bill payment – Green and easy! You don’t need to get a paper utility bill. By signing up, you can receive your bill by email and even choose to have an automatic draft when the bills come out.
November 18, 2014
Interactive events and a great turnout made for a successful Asheville In Motion event on Saturday, October 25. The combination workshop, input session and panel discussion served as the launch for the formation of a city-wide mobility plan- a vision that consolidates all forms of travel and transport into one idea: we all need to get somewhere. Whether using sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle infrastructure, transit or streets, mobility is important for everyone.
“We were so pleased with the turnout and the enthusiasm of the participants,” said Mariate Echeverry, the city’s Transportation Planning Manager. “Everyone provided us with so much information on their wants and needs for mobility.”
The event at the U.S. Cellular Center included a mapping exercise where participants pinpointed areas of concern, a streetscape design lab, a touch-screen survey and an idea wall to catch any great thoughts that were not being addressed.
“The success of the mobility plan depends on us getting as much information as possible from people in the community. They know where their needs lie,” Echeverry said.
The survey is online at ashevilleinmotion.metroquest.com for anyone who did not make it to the workshop.
Information gleaned from the survey, the AIM event and upcoming visits to neighborhoods where transportation options are critical will be used by consultants to produce a report to inform the mobility plan.
“All of the moving parts in a holistic mobility plan are complex and intricate, and I think a lot of people left Saturday’s workshop informed of what it takes,” Echeverry said.
She also expressed thanks to all the volunteers that helped make the Asheville In Motion event a success.
Follow progress on the Asheville Mobility Plan at the city’s projects page.
October 29, 2014
The announcement that the City of Asheville won $14.6 million in federal funding for transportation improvements in and around the River Arts District and adjacent neighborhoods advances the hard work and planning that has gone into that area. The TIGER VI award was announced September 12 during a visit by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who called the East of the Riverway Multimodal Network Project a “ladder of opportunity in the area.”
Transportation Secretary Foxx (left) with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer at the Sept. 12 announcement at Jean Webb Park.
“These improvements will connect low and moderate income neighborhoods with jobs, neighborhood services and community assets in Asheville’s rapidly developing riverfront,” Foxx said. “With the help of TIGER, Asheville residents and visitors will soon have even greater access to their community, with the ability to bike and walk the city’s streets more safely and securely than before.” See all of Secretary Foxx’s comments here.
The grant award, and a one-to-one match from the city, means that a total of $29.2 million will go into pedestrian and bicycle improvements, traffic flow enhancements, connections to surrounding neighborhoods, greenways and an all around safer transportation experience in the river district, and in adjacent Southside, WECAN and East-West Asheville neighborhoods. Those goals are in line with national visions for enhanced, safe, multimodal transportation options.
The City of Asheville Department of Community and Economic Development and Transportation Department have worked closely with community stakeholders, residents and regulatory officials to coordinate efforts and resources in the riverway, and in 2010 secured a TIGER II grant. That money allowed the city to push forward with planning that was integral to bringing the TIGER VI funding to Asheville.
“We are still celebrating,” said Riverfront Coordinator Stephanie Monson Dahl. “This is a huge piece of the puzzle in the future of Asheville’s riverfront. A lot of people have put in a lot of time and energy into crafting visions for the riverfront and East of the Riverway Neighborhoods, and this award solidifies that effort.”
The East of the Riverway Multimodal Network Project, alongside the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Plan (RADTIP) the Craven Street Improvement Project, and the construction of the New Belgium brewing facility, all play a part in the transformation of Asheville’s river district and creating needed transportation connections there.
“This is a huge win or Asheville,” Mayor Esther Manheimer said at the announcement. “These funds will provide for the continued revitalization of our River Arts District, creating a shared community vision of expanded greenways, street and sidewalk improvements and development opportunities that will continue to generate economic growth for Asheville.”
Groundbreaking on several projects in the East of the Riverway Multimodal Network Project is anticipated to begin in 2015. Watch ashevillenc.gov/projects for updates.
September 15, 2014
A stretch of Haywood Road leading from the French Broad River into West Asheville will get a new look beginning Thursday August 21, as crews relocate the center yellow line and add a climbing bicycle lane.
The work is being conducted ahead of the August 28 closing of Craven Street between Haywood Road and Waynesville Avenue, part of the Craven Street Improvement Project.
Because of the relocation of the center line, the downhill lane from West Asheville will become a shared lane for both bicycles and vehicles. “Sharrow” markings will be installed as well to indicate that bicycles should ride the lane and vehicles should share the roadway.
“We recognize that Haywood Road and Craven Street are commuter routes for bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles alike,” said Senior Project Engineer John Gavin.“With Craven Street closed over the next six weeks, we wanted to make sure that everyone has a safe route as more traffic moves onto Haywood Road.”
During this portion of the Craven Street closure, commuters can also access Waynesville Avenue via the bridge from Riverside Drive to Craven Street.
The restriping and signage is anticipated to be complete by the end of Friday, Aug. 22.
Increased bicycle access is part of the Haywood Road Multimodal Project, and more enhancements will take place in the spring of 2015, after the completion of the Craven Street improvement project.
August 20, 2014
Beginning January 1, 2015, Asheville Redefines Transit will begin offering service on Sundays and improved service to the Emma and Oakley sections of Asheville.
“Sunday service is at the top of our list for enhancements to the system, and was included as a high priority in the Transit Master Plan,” said Transportation Manager Mariate Echeverry. “This will provide riders more options to get to their workplace and to make needed trips on Sunday.”
Sunday service earned the highest scores in a 2008 Rider Survey and in a follow up survey conducted in 2013. The addition of Sunday service means that ART will operate every day of the year except Christmas, Thanksgiving Day and Easter.
Asheville City Council approved funding for the change in the 2014/2015 budget and the step meets the city’s goals of constant improvement and excellent service as well as Council’s Strategic Goal of supporting multimodal transportation.
“The City’s commitment to increased service will make a major impact on the daily lives of thousands of people,” said Adam Charnack, Vice-Chair of Asheville’s Transit Committee. “Investments like these attract even more riders and we look forward to building on this momentum.”
As part of the implementation of these changes, the City of Asheville will host a public meeting to receive comments and feedback on Wednesday, August 20 from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. in the 4th Floor Training Room of the Municipal Building, 100 Court Plaza. The meeting will be a drop-in format to take public comment on the most effective times and routes for these improvements.
The meeting will also address changes in response to rider requests that the ART operate direct routes from downtown to the Oakley and Emma areas.
The public can weigh in on changes to the ART system at this online survey or submit comments by August 25, 2014, to email@example.com or mail to Mariate Echeverry, Transportation Planning Manager, City of Asheville, P.O. Box 7148, Asheville NC 28802.
Paper surveys are also being distributed and collected at the ART Station and in the Emma community to gather as much feedback as possible.
Since the Transit Master Plan launch in 2008, enhancements outlined in that plan have been implemented as funding is secured. Service enhancements that have been implemented include new branding, increased frequency on major corridors, holiday service, increased service on Tunnel Road, 10 new shelters, route schedule improvements and the launch of the NextBus arrival notification system.
For more information about Asheville Transit call (828) 253-5691, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ridetheart.com.
August 14, 2014
Following a revision to the City’s traffic calming policy and approval by Asheville City Council, the City of Asheville Transportation Department has resumed projects designed to ease traffic speed on neighborhood roads.
Speeding and unnecessary through-traffic presents dangers that affect the quality of life in residential areas. In order to provide a safer environment, the City of Asheville seeks to provide traffic calming to neighborhoods that go through the process of requesting it. A 2000 Traffic Calming Policy approved by City Council established a protocol for responding to requests from residents for traffic calming installations, but funding for such projects has been unavailable since 2007.
With $100,000 funding approved in the 2013/2014 budget, the Transportation Department is able to once more address requests for traffic calming, beginning with those submitted since 2007.
“We have a backlog of traffic calming projects requested by residents that stretches back seven years or so, and those are going to be our first priority right now,” said Transportation Director Ken Putnam. “We appreciate the patience of these folks and are working closely with them to move projects forward.”
The department worked closely with the Public Safety Committee, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force sub-committee and the Asheville Police Department to develop next steps.
In March City Council approved an action plan and revisions to the traffic calming policy that shifted focus to the use of speed humps, speed cushions or other lower-cost strategies. That move will stretch the funding budgeted for the projects by focusing on installation instead of design.
“Speed humps are really the most economical kind of device to slow traffic, and they are easier on vehicles,” Putnam said. “Bicyclists also seem to prefer them to other speed reduction devices.”
Staff is currently analyzing or working with the top seven locations on the waiting list to determine those that meet a certain threshold of traffic volume and have an identified speeding problem. Residents on the first of those, Bear Creek Road, have already reviewed the locations for speed humps and completed the necessary collection of signatures. Work is expected to take place in July.
“We work closely with the neighborhoods on these,” Putnam says. “Especially since there is the possibility that interest in traffic calming may have declined over time.”
The revised Traffic Calming Policy also includes changes that make it easier for neighborhoods to initiate the consideration of speed humps, allows for the combination of public-private funding and ensure safe access for emergency vehicles.
Additionally, the city plans a public outreach campaign designed to increase awareness of speeding and other dangerous driving habits.
“We really want the community to gather around the cause that safer driving is better for individuals, for neighborhoods and for the city as a whole,” Putnam said.
Updates on individual traffic calming projects will be posted to the City’s Projects Page.
Click here to see the entire list of locations that are under consideration or being evaluated for traffic calming.
May 28, 2014
The City of Asheville is looking for applicants to participate in this year’s Volunteer Handicapped Parking Enforcement Program. Each year, the City of Asheville Police Department trains volunteers how to write citations and warnings to drivers who park illegally in handicapped spaces. The program has been a great success for the city over the years in both educating and enforcing handicapped parking space laws.
Out of 900 plus handicapped parking citations written in 2013, approximately 80% of those were written by volunteers who had gone through the class.
“This is a great group of volunteers who help us out by being an extra set of eyes in parking lots,” says Parking Enforcement Supervisor Adam March. “And the numbers are proof of their effectiveness.”
The volunteers, many of whom utilize handicapped spaces themselves, are in a unique position to spot violations. Often, these are cases where handicapped placards are not displayed, placards are expired, or where drivers have parked in the striped zones around handicapped spaces. Many drivers aren’t aware that those striped zones are there to give people with wheelchairs or other mobility assistance room to exit or return to their cars.
Volunteers who go through the class are empowered to write handicapped parking citations only, and only within the City of Asheville limits and outside of the Central Business District. Participants are given a background check and signed off on by the City Manager. Volunteers who have participated in previous years and who want to continue in the program must re-attend the class.
To apply for the Volunteer Handicapped Parking Enforcement Program, contact the City of Asheville Parking Services at (828) 259-5759 or stop by 45 Wall Street to pick up an application. The class will be held Thursday May 22nd, at 45 Wall Street, and parking will be provided in the Wall Street Parking Garage. The deadline for applications is May 15th.
May 1, 2014
In the video below, Ken Putnam, City of Asheville Transportation Department Director, discusses the upcoming traffic and pedestrian improvements to E. Chestnut Street in the Five Points Neighborhood Community.
You can find more information on the status of this project at the City of Asheville Projects Page.
February 26, 2014
The Biltmore Avenue Parking garage, situated beneath the Aloft Hotel and opened in August of 2012, has been recognized among the region’s best by the Carolinas Parking Association.
Earning an award of merit in the category of New Design, the garage was recognized alongside parking garages from throughout the region.
“This is a really exciting development in a garage that was situated in a dense area of downtown yet nearly tripled available public parking there,” said the city’s Transportation Director Ken Putnam.
The construction was the result of a collaboration between the City of Asheville, Aloft owners the McKibbon Group, and Public Interest Projects, who owned the property – a partnership that resulted in a construction savings of $2.66 million to the City of Asheville and resulted in a parking garage in a corner of downtown with limited parking options, a need identified in a 2008 parking study.
The City of Asheville maintains four parking garages with a total of 1444 parking spaces in downtown Asheville, including the garage at Biltmore Avenue and decks at Rankin Street, Wall Street and behind the U.S. Cellular Center. Except in cases of special event rates, the first hour is free when parking in any of these garages, with each additional hour $1.00.
Click here for more about the City of Asheville parking services.
More from the CoABlog:
Aloft hotel opening marks great public/private partnership
October 31, 2013