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Touloumtzis/My Turn: Sustainable transportation

We are writing as members of the Transportation Subcommittee of the Greenfield Sustainable Master Plan Advisory Committee. That’s a mouthful, but this process has been a straight-forward one: gathering information about our current transportation system, then trying to envision ways it could be improved looking 10 to 20 years into the future.

We want to share what we’ve been doing at our biweekly subcommittee meetings and let you know how you can become more informed and involved.

As a starting point, we reviewed the fruits of previous town planning efforts: the 2001 Master Plan Circulation section, the 2003 Downtown Master Plan and the 2007 UrbanRiver Visions project. The first two of these are available on the town website and copies of the poster developed by the latter — with a plan for improved Green River access — is available at the Office of Planning and Development at 114 Main St.

We’re also approaching our work with the principles underlying a “sustainable” plan in mind: the need to reduce greenhouse gases and the environmental impacts of transportation, and to improve social equity in the availability of transportation. This perspective suggests that we need to find ways to enhance alternatives to automobile use. As noted on the Master Plan website (greenfieldmasterplan.com), this process “will require a new consciousness and commitment to do things differently than what has been done in the past.”

We were thrilled at the level of enthusiasm of those who participated in the Master Plan Community Workshop held March 9. And we were specifically encouraged that the public feedback about transportation affirmed a strong interest in the sustainable approaches of having a more bikeable and walkable town as well as more public transit options.

At our subcommittee meetings, we’ve had rich and invigorating discussions with expert guests — transportation specialists from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) who have drafted a sustainability plan for the county; administrators from the Franklin Regional Transportation Authority (FRTA); and the coordinator of the Greenfield Public Schools’ new “Safe Routes to School” program. The FRCOG and FRTA websites have information on their various resources. “Safe Routes to School” is a nationwide initiative and can be easily found on the Internet. FRCOG has also started using “Complete Streets,” a nationally recognized standard for assessing and making recommendations on how to make public roads safer for all modes of transport (bicyclists, pedestrians and buses as well as cars). FRCOG and the Greenfield DPW have already come up with roadway improvements for three sites in Greenfield using this system. Information on the “Complete Streets” program can also be easily found on the Internet.

Other resources we’ve been using for information and inspiration include: The “Urban Bikeway Design Guide” from the National Association of City Transportation Officials; the “SameRoadsSameRules” driver/cyclist education campaign from the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition and Massachusetts Department of Transportation; the “Walk Friendly Communities” recognition program highlighting examples of best practices for pedestrian accommodation (at walkfriendly.org); and the recently published “Walkable City” by Jeff Speck (several copies of this book are available at the Greenfield Public Library). We’ve also been studying sustainable master plans from other communities, including Northampton, Easthampton, Pittsfield, Lowell, Keene N.H. and Richmond Va., all available on the Internet.

We are now in the process of developing goals for the transportation chapter of the Master Plan and will then work on strategies to implement those goals. We are looking over the detailed commentary obtained at the Community Workshop. We are also taking into consideration the public input so far from the interactive MindMixer component of the Master Plan website. And throughout this process, we want to continue to tap into the concerns and hopes of the community.

Regarding ways to stay or get involved, everyone is invited to attend our full committee and subcommittee meetings. They are posted on the town website’s calendar, and all are welcome to attend and witness the process first hand.

We will also consider all the thoughts you share on MindMixer on the Master Plan website. Transportation questions will be the focus through June 7 — just go to greenfieldmasterplan.com and click on the MindMixer icon to cast your votes and offer further comment.

In addition, another Master Plan Community Workshop will be held in September. More specific information will be available in the press and on the website once the details are worked out.

Please join us in this process of moving together toward a better and more sustainable future for this community we love.

George Touloumtzis is chairman of The MPAC Transportation Subcommittee, who wrote this piece in collaboration with the other members of the subcommittee. They are Sara Campbell, Nancy Hazard, Matt Howell, Danielle Letourneau-Therrien, Hope Macary, Christy Moore and Linda Smith.

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