The Victoria Metropolitan Planning Organization is asking the community for help in deciding where to focus current and future transportation-related efforts in the region.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization is developing an update to the Metropolitan Transportation Plan. The plan is a list of transportation projects that meet the regional goals but do not have complete funding available to build now, said Maggie Bergeron, transportation planner and MPO coordinator.
To create the list of projects, the MPO is asking residents to offer suggestions through an online survey, which allows people to share feedback, including listing their transportation values and pinpointing problem areas in the region.
“A transportation system is made to serve the people who use it,” Bergeron said. “That’s why we are really seeking to listen to the voices from people in our community here.”
Every five years, the Victoria MPO does an update to the plan, which has a planning horizon of 25 years. It is updated every five years according to changing transportation needs, she said.
The first part of the survey poses a question: “If you were given $100 to invest in transportation projects throughout the region, how would you distribute your investments?”
People are able to “distribute money” to project goals such as improve safety and security, increase connections and access, reduce congestion, encourage walking and encourage environmental stewardship and resilience.
The second part of the survey asks residents about themselves, with questions about age, income and primary method and areas of transportation. Bergeron said this section helps the MPO think long term. It “allows us to look at where busy travel is happening now and then think what it will be like when thousands of more people live here down the road.”
Finally, the third part of the survey allows residents to add comments to a map of the region using icons to indicate the general idea of their comment such as bike, public transit or congestion.
“This is the key space on the survey for public engagement because it allows people to easily add comments and thoughts while pointing out problem areas in the region,” Bergeron said.
Icons and comments left on the map are public. Comments range from “Need more lighting at night” near the intersection of Rio Grande Street and Laurent Street to “Dangerous and no side walks” near South Wheeler Street and East South Street to “Airline between Navarro and Laurent is in terrible conditions.”
Sister Rebecca Janysek, the executive director of Promise Pointe, a nonprofit that helps provides permanent, affordable housing for the chronically homeless in the region, said she filled out the survey to talk about the need for better bus routes into rural areas.
“Most of my residents need to use the rural transit system, and it has such limited timing that it makes it a very complicated and not dependable method of transportation,” she said. “The mentality that everyone even has a vehicle to move around in isn’t the right one.”
Janysek said she’s heard residents discuss the need for more bus stops as well as increased hours of operation for buses in both the rural and city areas.
“Beyond that, what I hear people talk about is the poor street lighting, the lack of sidewalks and the common problems in the Victoria area,” she said.
Bergeron said the plan is designed to meet the transportation needs for all residents, whether they drive, bike, walk or anything else. She said common suggestions for attention include the congestion at the intersection of Navarro Street and Rio Grande Street as well as on U.S. 87 near Victoria West High School.
Bergeron said it will “likely be a few years” before construction on projects proposed in this plan begin because of the time it takes to get “everything that lines up approved and moving along.” But, she said that should not discourage people from providing a comment because “changes and new ideas for transportation efforts are always ongoing.”
A public hearing will occur at the end of summer where feedback from the public will be discussed. The updated plan is expected to be adopted in April. Residents can offer suggestions through the online survey during the entire process, she said.
“Being connected with the community is of major importance to us,” she said. “If we don’t know what people want to see fixed or see happen, we won’t do it, so we hope people will give input so we can best meet the needs of our residents.”