Source, The Times Herald, Gary Puleo
UPPER MERION — Developers involved with making the proposed King of Prussia Rail a reality one day recently learned of ways they can upgrade the station settings for walking and bicycling.
The purpose of the latest study by The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is to help KOP Rail stakeholders identify and evaluate physical improvements, as it explores the local land use and transportation implications of the proposed extension of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Norristown High Speed Line to the King of Prussia area, explained Andrew Svekla, a manager with DVRPC.
“There have been a lot of studies over the years in support of this project, primarily by SEPTA, with environmental impact studies and things like that. We view our project as complimentary to all of that, but distinct from those efforts,” he said.
“If the line were to be built, we had a special focus on how do we provide the best pedestrian access as possible?”
The new report, Station Area Planning for the Norristown High Speed Line Extension to King of Prussia, supports the KOP Rail project by exploring concepts related to pedestrian and bicycle access to the five proposed stations, as well as transit-supportive land use and development considerations for the area.
The station area planning study focused on improving mobility and accessibility for travelers and creating an environment that encourages walking and biking near the new stations and was developed in collaboration with the KOP Rail Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Upper Merion 2040 Comprehensive Plan Update.
“Since our region is a built out mature region we don’t have a lot of new transit, what we have we have had for a long time, and compared to other places that are building their transit now, we have a different set of issues associated with planning,” Svekla said, pointing out that transit works best in areas where walking and biking can be enjoyed in safe, convenient, interesting, and pleasant area.
“Accordingly, DVRPC worked with a variety of stakeholders, including SEPTA, Montgomery County, Upper Merion Township, Greater Valley Forge TMA, and KOP-BID, to study the existing environment for walking and biking (often referred to as nonmotorized transportation) in each proposed station area.”
Key transportation infrastructure improvements recommended for the KOP Rail station areas include: new sidewalks, intersection and crossing amenities, bicycle facilities, and multi-use trails. In addition to these specific recommendations, the document describes a series of “broader planning principles” that can help elected officials and partner agencies plan for the future of the KOP Rail corridor.
“We believe providing safe and convenient non-motorized transportation is one of the best and most cost-effective ways that local and regional stakeholders can prepare for the arrival of rail transit in King of Prussia. Making it easier and safer to walk or bike to transit can promote transit ridership without adding congestion to local roads or requiring costly parking spaces,” Svekla added.
Many of the strategies and recommendations outlined in the study make sense for Upper Merion Township to pursue even without the prospect of the KOP Rail, he noted.
”Improvements that make it safer and easier to walk and bike to transit also likely make it easier for people to walk in their daily life and can help to create the types of communities increasingly in demand for today transit stations,” Svekla said. “We’re working closely with Upper Merion Township and SEPTA, and primarily what would make the document useful to many people is that it’s a snapshot of existing conditions along the proposal (route) now, if they’re interested in learning what the rail service may mean for them, how they could access stations nearby. We talk about how you can improve sidewalk and bicycle connections, so we hope there is information that will be useful to a variety of people of different capacities. But our primary purpose is developing material, some of it technical in nature, for folks who are going to be planning for the future of Upper Merion Township.”
DVRPC Executive Director Barry Seymour noted: “All members of the King of Prussia community, even those that do not use transit, can benefit from recommendations in this report. Investments that create safer streets and better walking and biking environments help communities stay vibrant, promote healthy lifestyles, and attract private investment.”