Richmond goes electric, Chesterfield STIRs before driving

Chesterfield signed on, by way of a resolution, to endorse the mission of the Sustainable Transportation Initiative for Richmond (STIR) during the Board of Supervisors most recent meeting. According to information contained in the resolution, “STIR exists to ensure the Greater Richmond Region’s future transportation system by promoting an array of cost effective, sustainable transportation choices for citizens in the region.”

Designed to maintain access and mobility while minimizing the impact on travel and the environment, STIR was instrumental in making Richmond a pilot city for Ford’s electric Ford Focus, which is being tested here. Last week the first electric Focus was delivered to Richmond Ford. Another pilot program that will provide state of the art alternatives to traditional transportation is the G.M./Segway PUMA Project, which will move pedestrian traffic in a rapid efficient way and help keep intercity traffic to a minimum.

Marleen Durfee, Matoaca District Supervisor requested the resolution and invited Robert Crum and Mark Creery of the Richmond Region Planning District Commission (RRPDC) to make a presentation about the mission to the board.

“By connecting the dots in the Richmond region through transportation, we can make Richmond, including Chesterfield an excellent place to live, work and play,” Creery said. “The premise right now though, is that transportation in Richmond is not sustainable.”

Creery said that STIR is concerned about the direction that transportation is headed and that they want to assure that the area and the planet are healthy and livable for our grandchildren. Creery noted that there is a direct correlation between quality of life, a good business climate and transportation.

The Richmond Metropolitan Area is expected to grow by 28 percent in the next 12 – 18 years. That will put a lot of strain on transportation systems in the area.  The impacts of this growth include an increase in miles traveled by commuters with an increase in congestion and a decrease in mobility and access.

“The most common way of transportation in the Richmond area is the automobiles and they put out a lot of pollution, so the impact to our air quality is going to be significant as our population grows,” Creery said. “To anticipate and mitigate the impact of all of this, STIR was born to see what we might do, a little bit ahead of the curve, to try and make sure that we don’t turn into an area that is not as desirable as it is now.”

Creery said this could turn into an area with long commutes, high traffic volumes and pollution that could act as a deterrent to people wanting to move here.

Most people drive to work alone and that is because for most people the commute is so easy. Traffic is light and there is a well designed road system, but according to STIR, that is not sustainable. So the group is looking at some alternatives. They are looking at a multi-model system, not just a single solution. This solution includes higher efficiency vehicles like hybrids, alternate fuel vehicles such as electric, hydrogen cell and natural gas. But that is not enough Creery says, there has to be public transit and ride share. But once a person is downtown doing things like renting zip cars and Segways to move around, the city is a great solution.

Crum made a point of saying that STIR was not an anti-car movement. “We all drove here today,” he said.

Ms. Durfee accepted a position on the STIR board saying, “You have a lot of important local individuals who are standing behind this initiative. Even though we have some different modes of transportation in place in the Richmond area, we know we need to advocate for more transportation options as most regions are ahead of us. This is an opportunity to educate and advocate to all our citizens for how we can do that.”

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