Connecting Our Future: Working Together on Transportation and Mobility in the Upstate

Connecting Our Future: Working Together on Transportation and Mobility in the Upstate

By: Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

Imagine living in an Upstate region where no matter which city, town or county you lived in or your level of income, you knew that you had access to dependable and affordable transportation that could take you to your job, appointments or shopping and then back home again in a timely and relatively easy manner every single day.

While many of us are fortunate enough to have daily access to our personal automobile, chances are it takes you noticeably longer to get from place to place today than it did even five years ago. In fact, within the Upstate region, 94% of all people who work travel to their job using an automobile, with 85% driving alone and 9% car-pooling. That works out to somewhere around 690,000 vehicles on the roads across the Upstate every day just to get people to and from work.

A recent study by INRIX reported that the average motorist in Greenville spent 11.5 hours in 2016 stuck in congested traffic. They also estimate that traffic congestion costs the average motorist $1,200 per year in wasted gasoline and time.

However, while the biggest issue related to transportation for many of us is congestion, there are others within both the urban and rural areas of our region who simply do not have reliable personal transportation. While there are many places across the country where public transportation helps alleviate access issues, that isn’t really the case here in the Upstate.
Across the region, only 0.4% of all workers (roughly 3,000 of the more than 750,000 people working in the region) utilize some type of public transportation to get to their place of work. Those without dependable transportation often struggle to find or maintain employment because they can’t easily get to a job location.

So to reach our imagined future of a region where transportation is available and timely for all, access and congestion become two prominent issues that must be understood and addressed.
In partnership with more than 20 transportation and community partners, Ten at the Top is coordinating a year-long effort known as Connecting Our Future to develop a vision, strategic goals and impactful actions that can ultimately make it easier to move people and goods across the Upstate while reducing congestion and increasing mobility opportunities for all residents.
Since 2010, the Upstate has added more than 60,000 new residents, which based on employment numbers means every day there are between 30,000 and 40,000 more cars on our local roads than there were seven years ago.

Between now and 2040, the region is projected to add another 321,000 residents and 256,000 new jobs. That means unless we start doing something differently in terms of how people get to work every day, by 2040 we will have nearly a million cars on the road every day just to get people to work (not counting school buses, trucks or people traveling for appointments or shopping).
When I moved to the Upstate nearly eight years ago I heard from many people that they were glad to be living in a region with a solid and growing economy, but that they didn’t want to see this region consumed by some of the same characteristics of sprawling growth, traffic congestion and endangered natural resources as our neighbors in Charlotte or Atlanta.

The reality is that while we are not quite to the point of either of those areas, most of our current policies and investments put us on a collision course with that future. Models from the recent Shaping Our Future growth study showed that if we continue our current land use trends over the next 25 years, we will more than double the amount of land used for our built environment by 2040.

Transportation and specifically how we move people and goods from place to place is an important component of that land use and an area where doing things differently can have a significant impact on how we grow moving forward.

Communities that have successfully addressed transportation and mobility issues have typically done so through developing partnerships that include the business community, transportation stakeholders, local governments and other community partners. We hope through Connecting Our Future to develop a coalition of stakeholders who not only create a connected vision for mobility and transportation, but will work together to identify and implement strategies and solutions that will help make this a region where we no longer have to just imagine that every resident can get from where they are to where they need to go in a timely and affordable manner.

If transportation and mobility are important to you, please join us for the kickoff of Connecting Our Future on October 18th from 9:30am—2:30pm at the TD Convention Center. Details are available at http://www.connectingourfutureupstatesc.org.

Ten at the Top Passes 400 Regional Engagements

Upstate, SC [October 27, 2014] – Ten at the Top (TATT), an organization created to foster collaboration, partnerships and strategic planning across the Upstate, recently conducted the 400th regional engagement (presentations, forums, meetings, surveys) since the organization began its current phase in January 2010. The activities have included more than 22,500 participants from across the Upstate region.

Ranging from issue-based task force meetings to presentations for community organizations or gatherings of hundreds of elected officials, community & business leaders and Upstate residents discussing key issues around the economic vitality or quality of life in the Upstate, each session has helped grow the spirit of collaboration and partnerships across the Upstate region.

The issues on which TATT has convened regional meetings and encouraged collaboration focus around the five driver areas of the Our Upstate Vision (which TATT developed through feedback from more than 10,000 Upstate residents). The specific topics on which TATT has convened meetings and forums include the value of education, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, senior issues, air quality attainment, water planning, transportation & infrastructure, workforce & skill development and local community vibrancy.

In September, Ten at the Top hosted its largest event, the Upstate Regional Forum, which brought together more than 800 leaders and interested residents from across the Upstate to look at where we have been as a region, where we are now and where we are going.

“Ten at the Top has strived to elevate the conversation about how working collaboratively across the Upstate region isn’t just a ‘good idea’, but is crucial if our local communities are all going to reach their full potential,” said current TATT Chairperson Carol Burdette. “Reaching 400 meetings and activities is significant because it illustrates that TATT is actively engaging stakeholders from across the Upstate to build regional trust and grow the capacity of the region to strategically address key issues that impact our economic vitality and quality of life.”

Ten at the Top was originally formed under the name Upstate Together in 2005 as an ad hoc regional committee with the goal of encouraging regional discussions on cross-jurisdictional issues. In 2009, the group hosted the Upstate Reality Check event that brought together more than 400 leaders from across the region. It was at that point that the name of the organization was changed to Ten at the Top and it was incorporated as a non-profit.

In 2009, Upstate leaders identified a lack of regional collaboration as a barrier toward future growth and success for the region. Of respondents to a survey conducted in advance of the September 2014 Regional Summit, 94% said that they believe regional collaboration is stronger today than it was in 2009, though 60% said it is still a potential barrier if we do not continue working to build regional capacity and partnerships.

The current work plan of community activities, meetings, forums and presentations began in 2010 following the hiring of Dean Hybl as executive director. Irv Welling served as the chair of Ten at the Top through 2011, followed by Neal Workman for 2012-2013 and Burdette for the current two year term. The board of directors includes more than 50 leaders from across the ten counties of the Upstate region.

Outreach Highlights:

• TATT has hosted three Regional Summits and nine Regional Forums on topics including: regional communications, senior issues, workforce & skill development, transportation & infrastructure and natural resources. The most recent summit, in September 2014, included more than 800 participants from across the Upstate.

• In partnership with other regional organizations, TATT has convened eleven Upstate Elected Officials Meetings that bring together city, county and state elected officials as well as business and community leaders to discuss key regional issues. Among the topics that have been addressed are: economic development, transportation, city/county/state/federal communications and water resources.

• Within the five driver areas of the our Upstate Vision (Human Potential, Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality, Sustainable Growth, Natural Beauty & Resources and Community Vibrancy), TATT has convened meetings of stakeholders from across the Upstate on many topics including: identifying barriers to educational success, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, senior issues, air quality attainment, water planning, workforce & skill development, tourism and preventive health care.

• TATT helped facilitate the development of the first long-term regional transportation partnership in the Upstate between GPATS (Greenville-Pickens Area Transportation Study) and SPATS (Spartanburg Area Transportation Study).

• TATT convened the seven United Ways in the region in an effort that has led to a region-wide messaging campaign around early childhood education. This marks the first-ever region-wide partnership by all the United Ways in the Upstate.

• In partnership with the Barbara Stone Foundation, TATT convened the first meeting of organizations that work with individuals with disabilities and special needs. The result has been a year-long effort to enhance communications amongst organizations and to increase programs available for individuals with disabilities and special needs.

• In 2010 TATT held a community workshop in every county in the region. In 2013 it held four Community Vibrancy Workshops across the region. Presentations have been made to organizations in every county in the region.

UPSTATE AIR QUALITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE RECEIVES “SPARE THE AIR” AWARD FOR COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT CAMPAIGN CATEGORY

Upstate, SC [February 10, 2014] – South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) recently honored the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee with the “Spare the Air” Award in the Outstanding Community Improvement Campaign category for  the Clean Air Upstate (CAU) initiative.  The purpose of the Spare the Air Award is to recognize environmental leaders that have made a voluntary commitment to promote and practice air quality improvement in South Carolina.

Clean Air Upstate is an initiative of the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee, a group of diverse stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Ten at the Top, a nonprofit that fosters regional collaboration across Upstate South Carolina, coordinates this initiative and engages local governments, businesses, and community organizations from the region in efforts to promote physical health and economic vitality through improved air quality.

The cornerstone of CAU is the Regional Air Quality Pledge. The pledge allows local governments, businesses, community organizations, media outlets, and even individuals to illustrate their commitment to improving air quality. To date, 23 governments, businesses, and community organizations have signed the pledge, each committing one representative to work with UAQAC and the SCDHEC on their strategies.

Another significant piece of CAU is the promotion of SCDHEC’s Breathe Better (B2) program, which helps to protect the health and safety of children by reducing harmful vehicle emissions around school campuses. CAU secured funding from Duke Energy and the Hollingsworth Funds to provide grants to schools that participate in the program. The program makes schools a no-idling zone for both school buses and personal vehicles, thus significantly reducing emissions and resulting in a decrease of gasoline usage. The program also includes a student education component that teaches the importance of clean air and how individual actions can make a difference.  Participation in the program has increased by 129% from 14 to 32 schools.

The school-specific B2 program works in tandem with CAU’s broader anti-idling campaign, which encourages no-idling zones in shopping centers and other parking areas. A variety of stakeholders – including the Upstate location of GE Energy – have placed CAU’s no-idling signs around their parking facilities. Rounding out CAU’s clean air toolkit are a series of practical, easy-to-implement clean air tips developed by the UAQAC.

These tips are disseminated on promotional materials and through electronic and social media channels. Seven public service announcements, representing an in-kind donation from WSPA, bring the tips to life and were shown for ten weeks on three regional television channels.  The PSAs were also featured for six weeks in the pre-screening reel at over 100 movie theaters across the Upstate.  For more information about the Clean Air Upstate initiative or how to get involved with the Clean Air Advisory Committee, visit www.cleanairupstate.org.

Shared Upstate Growth Vision Survey Eclipses 6,000 Responses-Results To Be Revealed at Summit in the Fall

Upstate, SC [June 25, 2010] – The Shared Upstate Growth Vision Survey distributed by Ten at the Top (TATT), a regional organization created to foster regional collaboration and planning in the 10-county Upstate region, generated feedback from more than 6,000 Upstate residents during a recently concluded four-week distribution period. Through the survey, residents from across the Upstate were asked to share “what matters most to you” as we look toward future growth in the region.

The Upstate is projected to add more than 235,000 residents and 200,000 new jobs over the next 20 years. In preparation for this growth, it is vital that leaders and decision makers within the region have an understanding of what people value about the region today and what they see as priorities for the future as we look to maintain and enhance the quality of life that makes the Upstate a wonderful place to live. Survey participants were asked to prioritize issues such as education, workforce development, green space, air and water quality, public safety and transportation. The survey also elicited responses pertaining to how residents envision future growth in both the urban and rural areas of the region.

“We are very pleased with the great interest and feedback we have received from residents across the Upstate,” said Dean Hybl, executive director of TATT. “It is clear that residents care about the future of our region and have specific elements for which they have great passion as we look toward the future.”

The results from the survey, along with other regional studies and information, will be used by the Ten at the Top Vision and Values Committee to create an initial vision statement and vision principles. Residents will then have an additional opportunity to help shape the vision through participation in a number of community forums to be conducted in the fall.

“Having more than 6,000 people participate in our initial survey provides a great start,” Hybl added. “However, we know there are many more residents across the Upstate who care about the future, but have not yet been engaged. Community involvement is the backbone of creating a Shared Vision for the region. We hope every resident that is interested will participate in our future outreach because every voice is important.”
Continued

The survey results and initial vision statement will be shared at a Regional Summit on September 28th at the Carolina First Center. The event is open to the public and attendees will have the opportunity to offer input and help prioritize the elements of the vision. TATT will also host community forums across all 10 counties of the region during the months of October and November where residents will again have the opportunity to provide feedback on the initial vision statement and principles.

In addition to the community outreach, this fall two graduate studio classes at Clemson University will be working with TATT to create the land use model and a regional tool kit that will help communities implement elements of the regional vision that fit for their local community. A second Summit will be held in the spring where the final Shared Upstate Growth Vision and Implementation Guide will be unveiled.

Specific details about how to register for the Regional Summit and Community Forums will be announced in late July.

Ten at the Top Launches Survey to Ask Upstate Residents “What Matters Most” As Region Grows

Upstate, SC – As the Upstate region prepares to add more than 235,000 residents and 200,000 new jobs over the next 20 years, the regional collaboration and planning organization, Ten at the Top (TATT), is launching a public input survey on May 10, 2010 to get input from residents on how they would like to see the region grow.

The “Regional Vision Survey” is available for residents to complete between May 10 and May 31 and asks a series of questions dealing with the issues of growth, land use, economic vitality, natural and cultural resources, education and quality of life. It is available online at www.sharedupstatevision.org and in printed form at a variety of locations including municipal buildings, hospitals, libraries and community buildings throughout the Upstate counties – Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union.

“Input from Upstate residents is vital to creating a regional growth vision that illustrates what people in the region value and what community leaders and elected officials need to consider as we grow,” said Irv Welling, Chair Emeritus of Elliott Davis and the Chair of TATT. “It’s more than just the question of where should we build new subdivisions and businesses, but how we need to look at transportation and road systems, where are new schools needed, how important is historic preservation, and what about farmland and open green spaces.”

TATT worked with the Appalachian Council of Governments and the Metropolitan Studies Institute at USC-Upstate to develop the questions for the survey. The Metropolitan Studies Institute will monitor the results to ensure statistical validity and sufficient representation across the entire region.

“Because it is important to ensure that all residents of the region are represented appropriately, we are distributing the survey as widely as possible through area businesses, municipalities, chambers of commerce, religious organizations, non- profit organizations, the media, and will even reach out to some residents over the phone,” said Dr. Kathleen Brady, director of the Metropolitan Center at USC-Upstate.

Following the survey period, TATT’s Vision and Values Committee will review the survey and develop the elements of a Shared Upstate Growth Vision. Chaired by Dr. John Stockwell, Chancellor of USC-Upstate, the Vision and Values Committee includes representatives from a wide array of stakeholder groups across the entire region.

“The Shared Upstate Growth Vision will help identify the issues of regional scale and significance that go beyond city or county levels to give regional organizations and elected officials an understanding of what elements of our future growth matter to residents,” said Dean Hybl, executive director of TATT.

The Shared Upstate Growth Vision will be unveiled during a Regional Summit on September 28, 2010. During October and November, TATT will hold Community Forums in each of the ten counties of the region during which they will ask residents for additional input on how to implement the vision. An implementation strategy for the Shared Upstate Vision will be finalized during the first quarter of 2011, and it is the goal of TATT to then present the vision and implementation strategy to all city and county governments, as well as businesses and community organizations, across the Upstate.

“Our purpose in Creating a Shared Upstate Growth Vision and implementation strategy is not to tell cities and counties how they should grow,” Hybl said. “It is instead to use the input of residents from across the region to help community leaders understand how their residents envision the future and to identify what elements of a shared vision are appropriate to implement locally and regionally.

“The Upstate is already a great place to live, learn, work and play and we hope that by identifying opportunities to work together to enhance and grow our quality of life that it will continue to be a special place for our children and grandchildren.”
Printed copies of the survey can also be obtained through Ten at the Top by calling 864.283.2315.

 

Ten at the Top Unveils Strategy For Creating a Shared Upstate Vision- Public Survey Will Ask Residents “What Matters Most” as Region Grows

Upstate, SC  – The regional collaboration and planning organization Ten at the Top (TATT) today announced a four step, year-long initiative to create a Shared Vision and Implementation Strategy for South Carolina‟s Upstate (known as the Shared Upstate Vision) that will be based on input from area residents, community leaders and elected officials.

According to projections based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Upstate of South Carolina (comprised of Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union counties) will add roughly 234,000 residents and 200,000 new jobs to the region over the next 20 years. Pending the final results from the 2010 Census, it means the 10-county region could have a population near 1.6 million with nearly a million jobs by 2030.

“We are very fortunate to be a region that is anticipated to continue growing and increasing our economic vitality,” said Irv Welling, the Chair Emeritus of Elliott Davis and the Chair of Ten at the Top.

“However, with that growth comes a responsibility to ensure that we maintain and increase the quality of life for the next generation.  Creating a regional vision will help illustrate what people of the region value and what leaders and elected officials need to be looking at as we plan for the future.”

TATT has developed a four step process that combines community input with engagement from community leaders and elected officials from across the region. Below are the steps and project timeline:

Step 1: Community Education and Input – February-May 2010
Step 2: Refining the Vision – June-August 2010
Step 3: Unveiling the Vision/Creating the Implementation Strategy – September-December 2010
Step 4: Publishing of Implementation Strategy – January-March 2011

Presentations and meetings with community leaders and elected officials have been ongoing since the Ten at the Top Board of Directors approved the strategy in February 2010.

The public portion of the campaign will begin with a „Public Input Survey‟ that will be available for residents to complete between May 10 and 31. In this survey, which will be available both over the internet and in printed form, residents will answer a series of questions dealing with the issues of growth, land use, economic vitality, natural and cultural resources, education, and quality of life.

The land use questions will build on the information collected in April 2009 during the „Upstate Reality Check‟, which was coordinated by Ten at the Top and engaged more than 400 leaders from across the region in a day-long exercise to look at future growth within the region.

That exercise identified four potential patterns for future on-the-ground growth in the region:

Dispersed Growth Development: Reflecting current growth trends, this scenario places less development in existing city centers; adds growth throughout the region; separates jobs from residential areas; and increases dependence on roads and automobiles.

Corridor Development: Placing development along existing and projected roads and transit corridors, especially near transit stops, this scenario provides a mix of jobs and housing.

Center Development: Concentrating new growth primarily in existing city centers; this scenario mixes housing and jobs while also conserving open space and rural lands.

Village Development: Supporting development in small towns as well as larger cities, this scenario provides goods and services on downtown main streets, combines households and jobs in town centers and preserves rural character.

The Appalachian Council of Governments and the Metropolitan Studies Institute at USC-Upstate are developing questions for the survey with input from the Ten at the Top Vision and Values committee. The Metropolitan Studies Institute will also monitor the results to ensure statistical validity and sufficient representation across the entire region.

“Because it is important to ensure that all residents of the region are represented appropriately, we will identify the number of respondents we need from each county to constitute a representative sample and take measures to make sure that we obtain enough responses,” said Dr. Kathleen Brady, Director of the Metropolitan Center at USC-Upstate. “We will distribute the survey as widely as possible and if necessary will reach out to residents in some counties by the telephone to ensure that we get a wide understanding of what matters to the residents of our region.”

Following the community survey period, the TATT Vision and Values Committee, which is being chaired by Dr. John Stockwell, Chancellor of USC-Upstate, and includes representatives from a wide array of stakeholder groups across the entire region, will review the survey results and develop the elements of the regional vision.

“The Shared Upstate Vision will help identify the issues of regional scale and significance that can be addressed from a broader perspective than only at the city and county levels,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. “It also will provide a roadmap to give regional organizations and elected officials an understanding of what elements of our future growth matter to residents.”

The Shared Upstate Vision will be unveiled during a Regional Summit in September 2010. For the Regional Vision to be successful, it will take community buy-in and an implementation strategy. At the Upstate Regional Summit and then in the following weeks at Community Forums held in each of the ten counties in the region, participants will be asked to provide input on how to ensure public support and how the Shared Upstate Vision can be implemented in an effective and efficient manner.

“Many people have the mistaken idea that regional planning is about creating a large homogeneous, generic megapolitan area, when in fact the goal of successful regional planning is quite the opposite,” said Rick Danner, Mayor of the City of Greer and a Ten at the Top Executive Committee Member. “The mission of Ten at the Top as I see it is to recognize, identify and plan for changes that will affect the Upstate region and then proactively inform and educate our citizens so that they can make informed decisions about the future of the region.

“My vision for the Upstate, with the help and direction of TATT, is to help preserve those things we hold dear, sense of community, the environment and robust economy within the framework of a well planned growing and changing region.”

An implementation strategy for the Shared Upstate Vision will be finalized during the first quarter of 2011 and one goal for TATT during the remainder of 2011 will be to present the vision and implementation strategy to all city and county governments in the region as well as to businesses and community organizations across the Upstate.