Navigating Public Transportation in Morgantown

According to the 2016 census, Morgantown, W.Va., has a permanent population of 30,885, a number that doubles with the West Virginia University student population. Based on economic data gathered by Town Charts, about 61.4 percent of the permanent population commutes to work using their own vehicle. From the same population, 3.4 percent relies on some form of public transportation. Walkers make up 17.8 percent, and 1.5 percent rely on taxicab services, motorcycles or bicycles for their daily commute. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimates that about 9,700 people commute to work in Morgantown between 5 a.m. and 10:59 a.m.

Public transportation in the United States is a vital part of the economy. It helps tremendously with various environmental, economic and energy concerns. More and more people are using public transportation, which has led to cities expanding their public transportation services and it’s impacting the country in a big way. Not only do individuals benefit from the use of these services, but so do families and businesses as well as communities.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, in 2016, Americans took a total of 10.4 billion trips on public transportation. Since 1995, public transit trips are up 34 percent, outpacing average population growth in the United States.

Mountain Line

In May of 2016, the Monongalia County Urban Mass Transportation Authority Levy passed adding increased rural destinations to the city’s bus service. The Mountain Line Transit Authority now has routes across the entire county.

“[The levy] will bring in an estimated $1.8 million each year [to Monongalia County],” said Mountain Line Authority General Manager David Bruffy.

Since 1996, the Mountain Line Transit Authority has been positively impacting the state of West Virginia. The transit line was originally developed to consolidate resources by merging the city public transit and county public transit. Over the years, the bus line has become a major source of transportation for Morgantown.

“To this day, we have 19 different bus routes and about 1.2 million riders,” said Maria Smith, Marketing Officer for Mountain Line Transit.

The Mountain Line supplements its annual budget with federal subsidies and a nearly $1 million contract with West Virginia University. The contract gives a small portion of each student’s tuition to the Mountain Line in exchange for currently enrolled students being able to utilize the Mountain Line’s transit services for free.

“Of our total ridership, about 70-75 percent of it is students, faculty and staff of WVU,” Smith said. “We also have a high percentage of senior ridership, high school students and then we just have our regular, local riders. But, the majority, like I said, comes from the University.”

Ali Jeney, a graduate student at WVU uses the Mountain Line almost every day to get around town and to and from classes. Most days, she utilizes the #44 Valley View line to get to her downtown classes.

“It’s actually surprisingly reliable and runs every 15 minutes,” she explained. “The super downside is that it stops running at 3 p.m., so if you have classes that get out after that, you don’t have a way home unless you walk or wait for the #9 Purple Line, which is what I have to do some days.”

One of the most common delays for the Mountain Line is heavy traffic in town, which can especially affect the express lines that run in 30-minute, non-stop intervals.

“The Purple Line is always late picking up in front of the Mountain Lair; anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes late, but it does run, and I won’t be stranded,” Jeney Said.

Most of the lines run on a flag-down system. This means that if you are on a route that isn’t a designated express route—a route that makes only certain stops to guarantee it remains on time—then you can simply flag down the bus and you will be picked up. The only downside is not necessarily having a covered area to wait, which can be inconvenient in inclement weather conditions.

Another benefit of the new levy funds was the creation of the Beechurst Express line. This line, one of the most popular lines, runs every 20 minutes during peak travel times Monday through Friday during fall and spring university sessions, excluding holiday breaks.

The other line that sees the most frequent ridership is the #38 Blue and Gold Express line which runs Monday through Friday, year-round from 6:40 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. (8:40 p.m. during the WVU fall and spring semesters. Saturday year-round from 3:20 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. and Sunday year-round from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. For a full list of routes, destinations and times, you can visit the Mountain Line website.

“It’s free because I’m a student, which is nice,” Jeney said. “But when I lose my student ID, then I totally pay. Since the fares range from 75 cents to a dollar, one-way, it’s really not bad.”

In addition to new bus routes, Mountain Line Transit Authority was also able to create a new park-and-ride site in Cheat Lake. The park-and-ride is a pull-off where individuals can park their cars for free to either carpool or catch the bus to their connecting lines and/or destinations. Before the levy, there was only one park-and-ride in Morgantown, located at the Westover bus depot. There is an additional park-and-ride off of the Goshen Road exit, just before the Marion County line that offers a bus two times a day into Morgantown.

Mountain Line Transit Authority prides itself on being user-friendly and employs Twitter to make sure that all riders have up-to-date information about all buses and routes. Each line has its own Twitter account and updates in two-minute intervals about bus and transportation status.

Other Options

There are other public transportation options of course. Morgantown does offer two 24-hour taxi services. Motown Taxi and Morgantown Yellow Cab. You can get contact information and rates by clicking on the provided links.

Uber and Lyft services are also an option when considering your commute around Morgantown. Companies like these give residents and students alternative travel options whenever the Mountain Line may not be running, perhaps early in the morning, on weekends or during holidays.

Sarah Averill, an aerospace engineering student at WVU, drives for Uber in order to supplement her income.

“Based on my schedule, I make about an extra $100 a week, sometimes more if I have the time,” she said.

Kammi Teter, a substitute teacher and middle school volley ball coach, also drives Uber to supplement her monthly income.

“I average between $500 and $1,000 a month,” said Teter. “It just depends on what I’ve got going on at the time. But if I do have the time, I’m definitely going to Uber because it’s so worth the money.”

Recently, Uber made it possible to tip your Uber driver on your credit card when you book the trip.

“It really helped me make a little extra,” Teter explained. “A lot of people don’t carry cash on them, so by adding a credit-tipping feature, Uber has increased my payout in several cases.”

By downloading the Uber app, you can pick a driver to come and pick you up from any location with a varying fee that fluctuates during peak travel times, distance and driver quantity and demand. There is no set cost, but they do typically tend to run $10 or less, depending on your destination. If you’re taking an Uber to a football game and you’re coming from a downtown location, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5-$13, in most cases.

If you’re worried about getting in the car with a complete stranger, Uber has a rating system that allows you to see who is picking you up, what car they drive and their past customer experiences. After you’ve finished your ride, you simply rate the driver on a one out of five scale.

Text, video and graphics by Samantha Huffman

Parking in Morgantown Requires Careful Planning

Deondra Jones, a 20-year-old Senior at West Virginia University used to wake up at 6 a.m. every day to move her car from a space in front of her apartment on Grant Street to a free lot. If she hadn’t she would have received a ticket for parking in the permit area, which was enforced from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Signs like this one in Sunnyside line the streets of residential neighborhoods with blue curb parking, which requires a permit.

“One day I was going out to move my car and I saw a boot from afar and I said “dang someone got a boot,” and I got closer and saw that it was my car and started crying,” Jones said.

Jones realized she would be late for work and called her boss, who paid her $200 ticket. She then went to meet the parking authority to get the boot taken off. When she arrived, the boot was already taken off but, to her surprise she had another ticket.

Though Jones was a student at the time of these incidents, she was living in off-campus housing and parking in city enforced lots.

On West Virginia University Campus property, parking is enforced by University Parking and Transportation. But all non-University parking is regulated and enforced by the Morgantown Parking Authority (MPA). MPA parking tickets are only $5. But, campus parking tickets are $15.

Although it seems that there are endless parking lots around the Morgantown area, parking is still limited because many of them are permit-only parking. For on-campus parking, it’s a rapidly revolving door, a student pulls out of a spot, and another student pulls in. For off-campus parking, the challenge is finding parking close enough to your destination. With students parking downtown, spots for people coming to shop and eat at the businesses are limited.

The map below indicates parking areas around downtown Morgantown and their rates and hours.

Morgantown Parking Director, Dana McKenzie says people often misunderstand the intentions of the Morgantown Parking Authority.

“Everyone has a misconception that we’re out to get everybody when it comes to tickets. That’s really not the case. It’s more about compliance and making sure everyone is on the same page going in the same direction,” McKenzie said.

“When I started here in 1996, you could walk down High Street and not find a single space that was open, and this was at 9 a.m. Most businesses did not even open until 10 a.m., so there was no place for customers to park on High Street at that time,” McKenzie said. “Through studies and many meetings with stakeholders, we were able to create new parking regulations that made it fair for all of our customers and not just a select few.”

Changes are coming to Morgantown. The MPA is working with local businesses to bring more awareness about parking that will not only benefit customers but the businesses themselves.

“We are creating folders to hand out to all the business in the downtown to explain the options that the parking authority offers for them and their customers,” McKenzie said. “We currently offer validation stickers for the downtown businesses to provide to their customers that park in the gated garages.”

On Nov. 1, the city began a new campaign, “This One’s On Us.” According to Parking Enforcement Supervisor Larry Merrill,  the campaign is trying to change the perception of the MPA. Instead of automatic ticketing when a meter runs out, parking enforcement personnel will place a note on a car, leaving the person with no fines.

Courtesy of the City of Morgantown Twitter page

With downtown parking, there is already a 10-minute grace period if a meter runs out. But with this campaign, the person parked gets an additional 5 minutes.  The parked car will receive an orange paper, which resembles a ticket, but instead says,“This One’s On Us.”

By the end of the year, MPA will introduce Park Mobile, an app that lets drivers pay for their meters or parking spots online.

“If it’s raining, snowing, you don’t ever have to worry about standing in lines; it’s just pay and go,” McKenzie said. “It will also give you a reminder 15 minutes before your time expires, so if you need to add time you can do that.”

McKenzie hopes the changes will bring a needed change in perception of the MPA.

“I think it’ll cut down citations. Our end goal, as many citations as we do write, is to not write any citations,” McKenzie said.

Currently the city gives out, 43,000 tickets (or citations) per year, six days a week, 24 hours per day. On Sundays, the enforcers are not ticketing after 5 a.m.

Parking in residential areas presents other challenges.

Some of the streets in Morgantown, in residential neighborhoods, have curbs painted blue. Blue curbs in Morgantown allow residents of homes guaranteed parking with a permit Monday-Friday. The times that blue curb are in effect differ per neighborhood. In order for a new resident to see if they are eligible for blue curb parking, they must contact the MPA. The Sunnyside area and South Park area are an example of areas where blue curbs are in effect.

The blue curb policy began about 5 years ago and limits residents to three spots per home. This allows residents to have designated spots with punishable fines for those who park without a permit.

Neighborhood Associations have been advocates of the policy.

“A lot of the stuff that’s going on with the neighborhoods with the blue curbs is all from the neighborhood associations,” Merrill said “They contact the parking authority; they go through council, and they really do all the work to have the blue curbs put into the neighborhoods. We’re just there to enforce it.”

According to Mckenzie, the city has about a $3 million budget. The MPA is an enterprise, which means the money gained from parking citations goes right back into the city. Since 2000, the city has put over $10,000,000 worth of capital improvements into downtown. The upgrades include parking garages, surface lots, paving parking lots, equipment for snow removal, updated garage equipment, paint, etc.

“My main goal is to provide parking, which sounds kind of cliché but it is such a fashion that everyone is happy,” McKenzie said. “It’s impossible, but that’s our ultimate goal is to try to keep everyone going in the same page and the same direction, so we can have a successful downtown. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Jeff Vance is an MPA Enforcement Officer. In the video below, he walks through some of the ups and downs of working for a city where college students are a majority of drivers.

Drivers parking on university owned property may be subject to different fines and penalties than the ones levied by the MPA. WVU will place holds on the accounts of students with unpaid parking tickets. Those holds prevent students from registering for courses or even from graduating if fines are not paid. If students or residents continually get tickets and don’t pay them, University parking will tow their cars, which can become costly.

West Virginia University Parking and Transportation has done a lot of work over the years. They have updated their machines to take credit cards and allow additional payments from mobile phones. They have also added parking lots and more spaces.

For those who don’t see the changes it may be because they aren’t present when the work is being done.

According to WVU’s Parking and Transportation director, Clement Solomon,“One of the missing points is, you guys [students] don’t see a lot of it [changes] because you’re gone in the summertime, and we do a lot of the work during the summertime. So when you come back everything looks the same, but lines are painted, lots look good, lightbulbs replaced, no holes. So that’s what we do; we plow it [money from citations] right back into those parking lots.”

Over the past few years, the University’s Parking and Transportation department has added parking to the Student Recreational Center, Evansdale Crossing, and they are currently trying to extend the library parking.

Yet, students still feel that there are not enough parking spaces.

For students who want to park on campus regularly, a simple solution is to purchase a parking permit. This grants students a guaranteed parking spot. A student can find information about getting a permit for their car by going to the University’s Parking and Transportation website.

“We have parking permits available. It may not be in the lot that you want. The first thing is, you’re better off buying a parking permit even if it’s a lot that you don’t really have access to,” Solomon said. “You’ll only pay thirty bucks a month. Two citations will pay for that permit.”

WVU Parking is not out to get students but rather to ticket those in the wrong. The citations are a punishment because people park in areas for which another has paid .

WVU Parking and Transportation’s operating budget is about $4,786,949, which includes salaries, parking lot maintenance, supporting technologies, etc. They give out an estimated 48,344 tickets per year.

WVU Parking and Transportation has turned to social media to communicate with students. They use Twitter regularly to announce changes to parking patterns.

Engineering Career Day was Sep. 14, so the campus parking authority tweeted out that a short-term lot at Evansdale Crossing was closed for the day.

On Oct 5, Solomon met with a student who was upset that she had received a parking ticket because the lot was closed. Solomon explained that the campus parking authority had notified students, but he said they want to be user friendly too.

“So I brought her in; I chatted with her; I explained to her; I said, “Hey, I’ll take your citations off,” Solomon said. “We void at least 10 percent when you have a legitimate excuse or reason. Probably 99 out of 100 times if you’re legitimate we’ll probably excuse it.”

 

Text, video, and interactive graphic by Rebecca Toro

Five Tips for Cycling Safely in Morgantown

Gunnar Shogren works on a bicycle at Pathfinder in Morgantown, W.Va. Shogren is a long-time cyclist who used to race professionally, and still competes in his spare time.

As the situation with traffic and congestion in Morgantown continues to grow, alternatives to driving become more attractive options for getting around the city. One solution is the use of bicycles to get around town. The Morgantown Bicycle Board aims to get 5 percent of the commuting population on bikes by 2020. Although it’s hard to dispute the positive health benefits of cycling, there are some risks involved. Between 2008 and 2015, there were 18 reported accidents in Morgantown according to Frank Gmeindl, former chair of the Board. The number is likely higher, but not all bicycle accidents get reported, so we may never know the true numbers.

While at times accidents are unavoidable, there are many ways to reduce the likelihood of getting into serious accidents or sustaining major injuries. Here are five tips to make cycling less risky.

  • Wear a helmet:

Cyclists in Morgantown must wear helmets by city law. Cyclists without a helmet can be punished with a $50 dollar fine according to Chip Wamsley, vice-chair of the Morgantown Bicycle Board and owner of Wamsley Cycles.

Aside from the potential penalties of non-compliance, wearing a helmet can make a major difference in the severity of injuries sustained in accidents. A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2017 by Jake Olivier and Prudence Creighton showed that helmets can significantly reduce the chances of many different types of injuries.

The study found:

“Helmet use is associated with odds reductions of 51 percent for head injury, 69 percent for serious head injury, 33 percent for face injury and 65 percent for fatal head injury.”

  • Check your bike before every ride:

With all the necessary safety gear on, the next thing you should be careful of is making sure your bicycle is in safe operating condition. Gmeindl recommends that you check your bike before every ride. He uses what he calls an ABC Quick Check.

“A: Be sure the tires are properly inflated. B: Make sure the brakes are working properly. C: Make sure the chain and gears are running smoothly.” Gmeindl said, “Before going out in traffic, ride the bike around and look for anything loose and listen for anything rattling.”

In Morgantown, there are two places to get your bike checked and get routine maintenance done. The shops are Wamsley Cycles and Pathfinder.

In the video below Gunnar Shogren, an employee at Pathfinder, talks about his long-time love of cycling.

  • Don’t ride on the sidewalk:

When riding, it is much safer for cyclists to ride on the road or in bicycle lanes as opposed to riding on the sidewalk. Riding on the sidewalk increases the risk for injury, not only to cyclists, but also to pedestrians and motor vehicles.

“Bicycling on sidewalks is especially dangerous where bicyclists cross driveways or merge from the sidewalk into the roadway,” Gmeindl said. “The problem is that motorists are not looking for bicyclists on sidewalks.”

Cyclists riding on sidewalks, where there are entrances to businesses where cars pull in, cause a lot of accidents in Morgantown, according to Wamsley.

“There’s a BP station right down the street from us [at Wamsley Cycles], and walking down there to get cream for my coffee, I’ve seen that several times,” Wamsley said.

According to a study by the Bicycle Board, of all reported bicycle accidents in Morgantown between 2008 and 2015, six out of eight of the reported accidents, where the bicyclist was at fault, involved the cyclist riding on the sidewalk.

Currently, riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in business districts is illegal in Morgantown, according to Morgantown City Code.

  • Be visible and predictable:

Being visible and predictable are other important parts of safe cycling. When drivers can account for your location and your movement, they’re less likely to hit you.

Gmeindl emphasizes the importance of those two things in order to avoid accidents with cars.

“Being visible and predictable are the most important cycling behaviors to avoid collisions with motor vehicles. Being visible doesn’t just mean wearing bright clothing and using headlights and taillights at night. Being visible means being where you can be seen. Being predictable means doing what’s expected such as stopping for red lights and stop signs, signaling turns, and yielding when you don’t have the right of way,” Gmeindl said.

Being predictable while cycling means behaving as a motorist would, according to Marilyn Newcome, former bicycle safety instructor at West Virginia University. She recommends cyclists ride in the center of the lane to maximize their visibility, and always signal before they turn, so their movements will obvious to drivers.

“Act predictable. Consider yourself a driver of a car,” Newcome said.

Not only is it safer for both motorists and cyclists for cyclists to ride as if they were cars, but according to the Morgantown City Code, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists when using the road.

Another aspect of visibility is signaling to pedestrians when passing. Newcome recommends cyclists on trails alert pedestrians by yelling out or ring a bicycle bell when they are about to pass pedestrians. She also recommends only passing pedestrians on the left.

  • Be aware of bicyclists when you are driving:

On the other end of the spectrum there are things motorists can do for their part in preventing collisions with cyclists. The first tip would be to be aware if there are bicyclists nearby and to adjust your driving accordingly. Bicyclists will likely be moving more slowly, and drivers should be patient and anticipate turns.

Secondly, motorists should be careful to not be distracted while driving, as that greatly increases the risk of not seeing a cyclist until it’s too late.

“Distracted drivers are usually the main reason cyclists get hit by cars,” Newcome said.

Another recommendation for drivers is to watch the distance between themselves and bicycles. In Morgantown, the law states that motorists must give cyclists a distance of at least three feet before passing them, according to Newcome.

The map below shows the reported bicycle accidents in Morgantown from 2008 to 2015. It shows the location of the accident and who was responsible. The data was compiled by Gmeindl for the Bicycle Board.


The Bicycle Board has been working on several projects in order to make the city more friendly to cyclists. The city was rated a bronze level bicycle friendly city by the League of American Cyclists in 2012 and 2016. The Bicycle Board has crafted a bicycle plan to improve the bicycle-friendliness of the city. The goal of the plan is to increase the use of bicycles by residents, and it aims to achieve that goal by increasing education for cyclists, increasing the enforcement of traffic laws, providing amenities for cyclists, and removing impediments for cyclists on roads. They Board is also working on projects such as a protected bicycle lane that will stretch from the Mileground roundabout to Willowdale road, according to Wamsley.

Text, video and graphics by Moe Hasan.

Morgantown’s Trail System for Off Road Walking and Recreation

It’s no secret that the rail trails around West Virginia are a booming success. If you go to any part of the trail during pretty much any time of the day, you’ll see people riding bikes or going on runs. It’s a vastly used system in the community, but there’s a lot more to it than just a stretch of land to ride on and get a glimpse at nature. There are currently 564 miles of trails in West Virginia, and 80 miles of potential trail available.

The Mon River Trails Conservancy wants to keep this success going and is aiding the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition in one of the biggest projects called The Parkersburg to Pittsburgh Corridor. This extension would allow residents from Morgantown to ride along a trail up into Pittsburgh. The Mon River Trails Conservancy website states that the connection would make Pittsburgh the hub of a broad network with trails from the metro area to Cleveland, Akron and Ashtabula in Ohio, Morgantown and Parkersburg in West Virginia, and Erie in Pennsylvania. Just imagine how exciting it would be to take a bike ride from Morgantown up to Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates play!

In an interview with the Times West Virginia on April 9th, Kelly Pack, The Trail Development Coordinator with Rails to Trails Conservancy stated, “. . .  the gaps remaining in the Parkersburg-to-Pittsburgh corridor are few, and could — with support from the communities, and successful fundraising or grant awards — be complete in as little five years.” Raising the funds for this project is still in progress.

A large portion of the trails around Morgantown are mostly maintained by the MRTC. They are responsible for building 48 miles of rail trail outside of Morgantown and are working with the cities of Morgantown, Star City and BOPARC on several community connectors that will improve access to the rail trails, such as the Collins Ferry Road Connector , the Deckers Creek Pedestrian Bridge , and the Foundry Street Link. The Mon River Trails Conservancy is always accepting donations and encourages volunteers to help keep the trails beautiful.

Another group that is highly invested in connecting trails is the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition. This is a group of supporters and builders that focus on connecting trails from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Members range anywhere from the government all the way to land managers. The main goal of this organization is to make rail expansion a “regional priority.” Currently, they connect 48 counties and they want to continue this progression.

Before the trails were popular attractions for walking and biking, they were part of the oldest railroad system in the country, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In 1996, the trails around Morgantown were converted into non-motorized trail systems.

Other than recreational benefits, rail trails have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of the community. According to the Rails To Trails Conservancy website, the trails create an alternative and eco-friendly environment for people of all ages to enjoy.

“The Mon River Trail was my favorite to ride on,” said Vernon Jones, a 2016 alumnus of West Virginia University and avid trail user. “I like it not only because it was nice and flat, but also because of the scenery.”

Jones enjoyed sights such as the World War II Memorial in Star City, but there were things he would like to see improved on the trail.

“Adding more restrooms and water fountains would be beneficial,” said Jones. “The only other thing I dislike about the trail is that it’s one straight line versus a trail that loops around itself. So, no matter how far you go you’ll always have to travel the same exact distance back.”

Expansion of the trails around Morgantown could mean a number of things. The most obvious being that this would allow for more recreational opportunities. Bikers, runners, pet owners, and anybody else who wants to spend their spare time on the trail would be able to go further than they could before. However, trail expansion also enhances communities economically.

The RTC reports, “Design, engineering and construction of walking and bicycling facilities such as trails create more jobs per dollar than any other type of transportation infrastructure construction.”

In a college town like Morgantown, rail trail expansion could help immensely in these types of situations. While many students have cars, there are just as many, if not more, that don’t have them. If there were a simpler way to get around town that didn’t include walking or depending on public transportation, this could help boost the economy drastically.

Ella Belling has seen firsthand what trail expansion can do for an area. Belling is the director for the Mon River Trails Conservancy.

“It’s good for startup businesses for outfitters and restaurants,” Belling said. “Lodging along the trail, camping along the trails. All of these things help fund the economic development for communities.”

According to Belling, not only does it bring in business attractions, the trail also hosts festivals and bike riding events. It’s a popular attraction in the area.

One of the businesses that has benefited from being near The Mon-River Trail is Apple Annie’s in Point Marion. Apple Annie’s serves homemade foods and desserts, and has a cozy charm that makes it the perfect place to stop for any cyclists after a long ride.

“Sometimes they (the bikers) discover us by happy accident, sometimes they know we’re here and we’re the end goal for them,” said Peter Padula, Owner of Apple Annie’s.

Padula would like to see the trail continue through Pennsylvania, and he believes that if all the local businesses in town got together they could help make it happen.

Text, video and graphics by Kelly Lemasters

 

Four Reasons to Ride A Bike in Morgantown

The Country Roads Cyclists ride on the Decker’s Creek Trail. The club has about 10 adult members, who normally ride on the weekends when the weather is nice.

Despite a hill-heavy landscape, Morgantown is home to many bicycle riders. Some ride for enjoyment, some for the community, some for their own health, and some for the health of the environment. In 2016, a statistical report by The Statistic Portal, said that only 12.4 percent of Americans cycled on a regular basis. Additionally, within the U.S. 50 percent of those trips are two miles or less. Everyone has their own reason for why they should bike, but here are some good ones if you need the motivation to get started.

  1. Meet people and find a community

Kelly Williams is 64 years old and the president of the Country Road Cyclists in Morgantown. He has been riding with the group for several years and dedicates much of his free time to the club and to cycling. The Country Road Cyclists group is mostly made up of older adults or seniors, but the club welcomes anyone of any age to join.

As president, Williams plans out various biking trips for the whole group to enjoy together. “It’s always enjoyable to do these little biking adventures,” says Williams. Williams officially joined the club after he went on his first bike tour with the group, to the upper peninsula of Michigan. “Our [the club’s] mission is to get people out on their bikes, mainly adults, but it’s always nice to see someone come along, join the club and progress as a person and as a cyclist,” Williams says.

Williams and his wife, Gerry Katz have spend a lot of time biking, and it has become one of their shared passions. Katz who is 76, says her husband has helped her stay motivated, and riding together has helped them become closer. The couple also take their rides together as a time to learn. Katz explained when they started biking, she learned to identify wild flowers, while Kelly learned to identify birds, so they could educate each other when riding in nature.

Other groups around Morgantown and West Virginia have been established to help bring communities together. In Morgantown, another group called the Mon Bike Club meets every Sunday at the Courthouse to do a weekend ride.  The Mountain State Wheelers, based in Charleston, organizes rides for cyclists of different abilities, in hopes to get people out on their bikes and riding more safely. Chris Nagorka the president of the club said the club has activities to foster relationships outside of riding as well. “We also have a post holidays dinner where everyone can get together when they aren’t on the bike.” Nagorka says most of the time riding is more fun when you do it with a group rather than by yourself.

 

  1. Boost your Mental Health

Bicycling and exercise can be used as anti-depressants. Christiaan Abildso, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health at West Virginia University and an avid biker, can feel a difference in his mental state when he doesn’t take the time to ride each day. “Other people around me can tell for sure. I can tell in the way I work or the way I talk to my children,” Abildso says. He says he is short-tempered or irritable when he doesn’t ride.

Abildso had a family member diagnosed with clinical depression for whom exercise was a part of the journey to recovery. “They started to come out with it and started to come out with some counseling and medication, and then now they’re just a really super exerciser,” Abildso says.

When he has been on the road for long weeks of traveling or conferences, Abildso says sometimes he feels the strain of the lack of activity, so his wife pushes him out the door to ride for a few hours. He says it creates a dramatic difference in his attitude and outlook on life as soon as he exercises.

A recent article in Momentum Magazine a publication dedicated to showcasing the bicycling lifestyle, noted cycling as a physical activity improves one’s self-esteem, prevents depression, and reduces anxiety and stress. According to a study on outdoor exercise, by The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, “… partaking in physical activity outside was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement,” which is just another reason biking is great for your mental attitude.

 

  1. Get in Shape and Feeling Healthy

Eric Cappellini, a West Virginia University student and member of the WVU cycling club talks about his brief break from cycling during his freshman year at WVU and how getting back on track with the team has helped him shave off the resulting freshman 15. However, the physical benefits go beyond losing weight. According to Harvard Medical School website, cycling for physical health is both easy on the joints and great for building muscle. “Pushing the pedals provides an aerobic workout. That’s great for your heart, brain, and blood vessels. Aerobic exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals – which may make you feel young at heart.”

In an interview with Men’s Fitness, Andy Clarke, the president of the League of American Bicyclists said, cycling is “much easier on your legs, ankles, knees, and feet than running. Running has the potential to take its toll on the body.


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  1. Helping the Environment with Cycling

On its website, the Morgantown Municipal Bicycle Board announces the purpose of a Morgantown bicycle friendly community, as described by the League of American Bicyclists: “…to reduce traffic demands, afford better air quality, and improve public health.”

According to information presented by the San Francisco Bay Area’s Bike to Work Day organization, bicycling is helpful to the environment because it doesn’t use fuel, uses less energy than a car, and does not require batteries or motor oil.

Cappellini, an engineering student, says, “I’m a firm believer in foot travel and other forms of transportation; cutting down on emission is huge.” He routinely cycles to and from locations around Morgantown and notes that some of the advantages are the savings from not having to buy gas, and the freedom to bypass the stress and hassle of Morgantown’s rush hour traffic jams.

A midsize car traveling a 10-mile round trip commute five days a week for an entire year uses about 124 gallons of gasoline and emits 1.3 tons of CO2, according to youcanbikethere.com. Think how much CO2 could be eliminated from the environment if more people chose cycling as their primary transportation.

Text, video and interactive content by Karlee Gibson

Morgantown Traffic Safety

There’s a phrase describing Morgantown that goes something along the lines of, “it’s uphill in every direction.” The landscape of this town is unique to its region and the roads follow the hills and the valleys making them unique as well. However, the topography can cause issues amongst those trying to navigate these roads.

Last year, 906 auto accidents were reported to the Morgantown Police Department. University Avenue and Patteson Drive saw the majority of those accidents with 157 and 106 accidents respectively.  The states average of fatal accidents in 2014 was 30.2 fatalities per 100,000 population. Morgantown experienced 16.1 while Charleston and Huntington had 7.9 and 10.2 respectively.

“There’s a lot of crashes and what you’ll find is the [number] of crashes goes up as the speed goes up,” said Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston. “And if you’re inside the city of Morgantown, there are very few areas that have a speed limit higher that 25 miles per hour.”

University Avenue and Patteson Drive are main thoroughfares that have multiple lanes, high traffic, multiple stop lights and intersections. All of these factors together, according to Preston, make the perfect conditions for accidents.

Preston also mentioned that weather plays a big part in the number of accidents that happen in Morgantown.

“We get rashes of accidents during the initial start of a downpour,” Preston said .

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released information finding distracted driving to be one of the major causes of most accidents that happened in the United States. Preston confirmed that drivers not paying attention to the task of driving, lead to the most common type of accident in Morgantown, getting rear-ended.  Other types of common accidents are t-bones (when the front or rear of one automobile strikes the side of another), head-on collisions, and collisions with stationary objects like guard rails or trees.

Getting into a rear end collision is a fear Abby Friegler, 20, knows all too well. She moved to Morgantown from out of state at the end of September, and the driving patterns make her nervous.

“I noticed the tailgating almost as soon as I drove into the city,” Friegler said. “Coming from Michigan, we don’t have these kind of hills, so I am worried about people traveling that close behind me.”

Tailgating can be a problem when driving in traffic. Insurance group, State Farm, suggests leaving three seconds of room between you and the car in front of you, avoiding weaving in and out of traffic lanes, and avoiding braking abruptly by paying attention to the car in front of you. They recommend letting your car decelerate on its own for a few seconds when you see brake lights in front of you instead of just hitting your brakes.

Dr. Jennifer Knight M.D. is a general surgeon at the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center in Morgantown, one of two, level one trauma centers in West Virginia. This trauma center sees accidents from all over the state as well as some of the surrounding states.

“We see car accidents, car crashes almost every day,” Knight said. “Most of the time we see orthopedic injuries: broken bones, broken ribs, broken backs.”

Dr. Knight said safety technology in cars has decreased the number of fatalities occurring because of injuries sustained in auto accidents.

“Vehicles are becoming much safer than in years past, so the severity of injuries has seemed to decrease,” said Star City Fire Chief Ethan Bailey. “ The most common injury types we see would typically be head, neck, chest, or back pain.”

While most accidents occur on major roadways with higher speeds and more traffic, some do occur on more rural roads with poor road conditions like potholes, narrow lanes, and sharp turns. These road conditions can sometime impede how fast first responders can get to the crash.

“Some of the roads in our first [area] are in deplorable condition.  This can make access difficult due to the size of apparatus responding,” Bailey said.

Fire trucks have a harder time navigating roads when weather is bad. The trucks don’t have four wheel drive and their drivers need to be cautious when they drive on roads that may be icy or have not been plowed after a heavy snow. If the snow is bad enough chains have to be attached to the tires to help the first responders maneuver the tough terrain.

Safety precautions have to be taken to ensure that the responders arrive at the scene safely as well as for other motorists they may encounter along the way.

Several police departments in Monongalia County have been recognized by the Automobile Association of America for efforts in traffic safety.  The Community Traffic Safety Platinum Award was given to each of Monongalia County’s law enforcement agencies. The award is given to communities who have put new traffic safety programs in place and can show positive results because of these new programs.

Morgantown Road Conditions

Despite the safety programs in place, the road conditions in Morgantown are significantly worse than the rest of the state, which is costing drivers money on car maintenance.

According to a national transportation research group (TRIP) report that was released in February, Morgantown roads cost drivers $1,439 each year: $815 in vehicle operational costs, $313 on safety and $311 from sitting in traffic. Gas mileage on the highway is better than in urban settings because of the high rate of stop and go in a city. When stuck in traffic, that stop and go is even more frequent. Also, sitting in a car that is idling is wasting gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy turning a car on uses as much gas as sitting idle for 10 seconds. Hybrid cars, which are known partly for their higher gas mileage, have stop and start features that shut off the cars’ engines when they are idling.

The TRIP report also found that 68 percent of the roads in Morgantown were in bad condition. Over the last two years, Morgantown has completed construction on over 20 miles of city-owned roads, which is about one third of all the roadways in Morgantown. The money used to pave these roads represents 40 percent of a $3 fee deducted from the paychecks of city employees each week.

It has been an effective way of covering the costs of fixing the roads but misses a key factor: not all of the roads that need work are owned by the city.

“A lot of the issues we have in Morgantown are on roadways the city itself doesn’t have control over,” said city engineer Damien Davis. “They’re state maintained roads.”

He said the roads were not built to handle the capacity of people who live in this city now. Roughly 30,000 people live in Morgantown, and there’s another 30,000 students that live here during the school year. This is what causes a lot of the traffic back ups that happen on roads like Patteson Drive and University Avenue. 

Game day in Morgantown

Game day in Morgantown attracts thousands of fans. All of the roads surrounding the stadium get backed up both before and after the games. Traffic control requires all of the University Police to be on duty plus members from the Morgantown Police Department and the State Troopers to make sure everyone involved has a good time while being safe.

 

Text, video and graphics by Jenna Gilbert

Morgantown’s Unique Personal Rapid Transit System

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University has many unique and eye-popping qualities, from the never-ending hills, to a mascot in a coonskin hat carrying a musket for starters. But above all, WVU has the first ever Personal Rapid Transport system. The PRT is “one of the best kept secrets in the transportation world,” according to Clement Solomon a PRT engineer.

The PRT came to life in 1975 after West Virginia’s own senator Robert C. Byrd convinced John Volpe, the Secretary of Transportation at the time, to make Morgantown an experimental site for the PRT. Byrd wanted the school to have better transportation for its increasing student body, as buses were starting to become a problematic and inefficient way to transport students. The project to construct the transportation system officially began after the idea gained the support of president Richard Nixon. Nixon wanted to move forward in a new era of science as a political play to gain momentum for the upcoming 1972 Presidential election.

Boeing was the major company given the task of creating the vehicle according to Todd Newcome. The whole project, after being rushed by Nixon ended up costing $120 million. To this day it still relies heavily on the original computer technology, so working as an engineer for the PRT is almost like traveling through time.

A vehicle that was supposed to usher in a new wave of computer controlled transportation unfortunately didn’t, as it is the only system like it in the United States. But for WVU it became a staple of student transportation and an icon for the university.

On an average day, the PRT takes an estimated 15,000 people, not just students, to their destinations. If the PRT weren’t around WVU would need an average of 30-60 buses running non stop to complete the same task. Even more impressive is for most of its life it ran at 98 percent reliability. However by 2015, the PRTs reliability had dropped to only 90 percent. This decline, due to an aging control system with no available replacement parts, demanded a renewal project. So for the past three years, WVU has been working again with Boeing to recreate and revamp the one of a kind vehicle.

Phase one has been in the works for a couple years, and a complete replacement of the original control system, from the 1970s, will be accomplished by 2018. After the control system is remade the final stage will start which involves replacing each of the individual cars. No date has been set for the commencement of the next stage.

Though the PRT has been operating at 90 percent reliability, it is often the object of complaints from the student body, who can be stuck in the cars and delayed during the 10 percent of the time when things go wrong.  The University even has an automated PRT reporting system, so students can check the status regularly.

Things to know about Morgantown’s PRT

The PRT is safe

The PRT, through all of its malfunctions and faults is surprisingly a very safe method of transportation. It is so safe in fact that, according to Kent Hastings, director for the PRT, since 1975 it has racked up an incredible 33 million miles transporting students from station to station- with no serious injuries. There was a reported crash last year but everyone walked away and no one was seriously injured.

The PRT responds to demand

Sometimes it can feel like you’ve been waiting for the PRT forever. During the busiest hours of the day, the cars travel regularly because there is always demand. The cars come faster when more people request one at a given station. There have to be at least 15 people to choose a platform to go to for it to immediately deploy. If it is just you and a couple other people, it has a five minute wait time to see if more people will be getting on. So this means that if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere while using the PRT, bring some people to make the wait time a little shorter.  

PRT Capacity

Since its creation the PRT has been putting in work. According to West Virginia University’s Transportation and Parking department, on an average day during the school year,  the vehicle carries around 15,000 people to their destination. About 83 million people have ridden in the cars since 1975. Though the listed capacity is about 20 passengers per car, many more pile in at busy times and especially on game days and concerts. Mary Kate Riley, a junior at WVU testified to the PRT cramming, “When I went to the 21 Savage concert for fall fest this year the car I was in was crazy full, there must have been 50 people on it.” Though 50 people seems like a lot, the record for most passengers in a car is almost double that and was set during the annual PRT Cram in 2000, when 97 people smushed into one car.

The PRT is cheap

The PRT is not just a free and fun roller coaster ride for students. Any and everyone can use the PRT to get around Morgantown from Walnut all the way over to Ruby memorial hospital. This makes a huge impact in the lives of people without reliable methods of transportation, who might not be able to pay for rides or even afford a bus. To ride the PRT anywhere the cost remains the same at only 50 cents a trip. Cody Graham, who is in between jobs at the moment, relies on the PRT to get around and is glad the rides are so cheap. “The buses here can take a while, depending on traffic, but the [PRT] car doesn’t have to wait for a light,” Graham said with a chuckle. For those of us students who take the ride for granted, there are many people like Graham whose way of life would be different without it.

 

Post and interactive graphic by Dan Walsh

 

 

 

 

Six Things Pedestrians Should Know in Morgantown

As the third largest city in West Virginia with over 30,000 residents in 2014, Morgantown is home to many people, who do not own or have access to a car. Instead, their feet carry them to their destinations. Walking instead of driving is good for both physical health as well as the environment. Here are some tips and advice for navigating Morgantown on foot.

Pedestrian Safety

To avoid being a statistic, the Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board suggests the following: pedestrians should make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street, use designated crosswalks, wear bright and reflective clothing (especially while walking at night) and always be cautious and aware of their surroundings. Use sidewalks or walk facing traffic if there is no sidewalk.

Children learn from their parents and role models, so teach them to look and listen when crossing the street, crossing only at intersections or crosswalks and using sidewalks or walking while facing traffic if there is no sidewalk.

At night, pedestrians should take extra precautions to walk where there is plenty of street light. West Virginia University maintains a Student Cadet program in which students patrol areas of campus during the school year on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and act as liaisons with the Morgantown Police Department to report problems.

Cadets talk about the program in the video below.

Public Transportation

Public Transportation is available when you need to go where you can’t walk, and there are a few options.

    • Mountain Line:
      • Nineteen routes are offered by the Mountain Line Transit Authority, allowing Morgantown residents without cars to travel throughout the city and to Cheat Lake. Transporting the people of Morgantown since 1996, the bus system costs 75 cents to $1 for a single, one-way fare. Although there are discounts and programs for cheaper rides, WVU students receive free transportation through a swipe of their university IDs. Routes offered by Mountain Line (as shown on their website) includes the Campus PM, Downtown PM Mall, Green Line, Orange Line, Gold Line, Red Line, Tyrone, Purple Line, Cassville, Blue Line, Crown, Mountain Heights, Grafton Road, Pink Line, Grey Line, West Run, Blue & Gold Connector, Beechurst Express, Westover Park & Ride and Valley View.
    • Taxis:
      • Taxis are always an option, as well. Yellow Cab, Motown Taxis, Lyft, Uber and Zipcars are all available throughout Morgantown for longer-distance travels. Yellow Cab can be contacted at (304) 292-3336 and Motown Taxi at (304) 291-8294. Lyft and Uber both have mobile apps to help plan your travels.
      • Zipcar requires users to submit an application first in order to use the car. From there, the company gives customers a zipcard to use at any of their vehicles around the city. Some locations include 1112 Van Voohris Road, University Park, Towers and 215 Beechurst Ave. This information and the application to use the service can be found on zipcar’s website.
    • WVU’s PRT System:
      • If you are traveling right around downtown, you might take a ride on Morgantown’s unique Personal Rapid Transit system, one of only three in the world. Finished in 1975, the PRT costs 50 cents per trip for anyone who is not a student or employee of WVU, but it covers most of the downtown area. For more information, visit the PRT’s webpage.

Morgantown’s Ward System

The city of Morgantown has seven wards, each with specific boundaries. These boundaries allow pedestrians to pinpoint where they are, as well as understand which city councilman to speak with if there are ever problems. You can use this interactive map on the city of Morgantown’s website to find your neighborhood, but in short:

    • The First Ward includes White Park, Hopecrest and the Mountaineer Mall.
    • The Second Ward includes South Park, the Morgantown High School and some of Greenmont.
    • The Third Ward includes Wiles Hill, University Place and the Downtown PRT Station.
    • The Fourth Ward includes Suncrest, the Core Arboretum, Patteson Drive and J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital.
    • The Fifth Ward includes Woodburn, the WVU Dairy Farm, Eastwood Elementary School and the WVU Husbandry Farm.
    • The Sixth Ward includes South Hills, Marilla Park, Morgantown Municipal Airport and West Sabraton.
    • The Seventh Ward includes Eastern Avenue, Dogwood Avenue and Burroughs Street.

Walking for Leisure and Exercise on the Trail Sytems

Morgantown and the surrounding area boast a nice trail system. According to Tour Morgantown, walking trails for leisurely activity in Morgantown include six miles at Caperton Trail, 4.5 miles at Cheat Lake Park and Trail, 19 miles at Deckers Creek Trail, the six mile north and 17.7 mile south trail at Monongahela River Trail, and five miles in the White Park trail system. Just a little way out of town at Cooper’s Rock there are 21 trails available, and 24 miles worth of trails at Big Bear Lake in Bruceton Mills.

Four-legged Walkers

Morgantown’s Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners, or BOPARC, encourages pedestrians and Morgantown residents to utilize the two dog parks located in the city. Krepps Dog Park, is located on the corner of Patteson Drive and I-19 beside the WVU Nursing School and WVU Child Learning Center. Stanley’s Spot Dog Park, the other and original dog park in Morgantown, is located beside Deckers Creek Trail and Pleasant Street. Dogs must be vaccinated and over six months old in order to be welcome at the parks. Also, owners must have their dogs on leashes, clean up after their pets and have verbal control of the dogs.

Morgantown’s Pedestrian Safety Board

When you have been in town for a while or if you just want to go and hear what is going on, the Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board meets publicly on the first Monday of each month from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Public Safety Building Conference Room. Meetings focus on creating a pedestrian-friendly environment for the city. The Pedestrian Safety Board’s chairperson, Matthew Cross has recently identified some of the sidewalks in Morgantown that need attention for their state of disrepair and lack of ADA compliance.

To contact the board, email chairperson Matthew Cross at crossnyc@hotmail.com.

Post by Erin Drummond
Video and Map by LaDonna Adams

 

Skateboarding in Morgantown

Skateboarding In Morgantown

Although the skateboarding community is a small niche among Morgantown commuters and recreational hobbyists, it does exist. According to the U.S. Census, there are over 30,000 residents who live in this area (not including students who move here to attend college during the school year). With such heavy traffic moving throughout the city, skateboarding in town can be dangerous. Not only are there automobiles to worry about, but there are pedestrians too. One thing that makes Morgantown unique is its terrain. West Virginia is referred to as the Mountain State for a reason. This city is filled with hills and irregular landscape— being very steep in some parts. With such heavy traffic moving throughout the city and such mountainous topography, some may find it difficult to find places to skate.

 Laws and Restrictions

You might see a number of skateboarders on the sidewalks downtown or even in the street. However, in several areas this is illegal. Ed Preston, Chief of Police, explains that any violations to these laws can result in a citation from the city. Depending on which restriction one has disobeyed and how many occurrences, there could be over $200 in fines.

The City Council of Morgantown reports the following ordinances regarding skateboarding in the city.

Skateboarders Can Not…

  • haul things
  • ride on the sidewalks within the Central Business District (the boundary streets of the Monongahela River on the west; both sides of Spruce Street on the east; both sides of Willey to the north; and both sides of Foundry to the south).
  • go on roadways or sidewalks accept for crossing
  • use things to propel themselves

The map above shows where skateboarding is prohibited in Morgantown

Where to Skate?

Morgantown does offer some suitable areas to skateboard where it is legal.

Places that skateboarders are allowed to skate are known as “play streets”. These streets are car-free streets on blocks that provide children and communities with space for engaging in active play and physical activity.

One indicator of a “play street”

 

According to Alex Giuliani, a local trick skateboarder for the past 14 years, the most popular place and only skateboarding park in Morgantown is Marilla Skate Park. Marilla Skate park is located just off Powell Avenue, south of Downtown.

This outdoor skate park boasts a half-pipe, pyramid with a rail, and two combination vertical ramps. Giuliani says it is also a popular area for BMX riders.

A history of the skatepark:

 

Another popular and safe option is the Rails to Trails system around town, which includes three individual trails.  The Rail Trail system stretches out over 48 miles along the Monongahela River. It’s flat and smooth with at least eight miles of paved trail. Perfect for skateboards. Although this trail lacks ramps and other obstacles for tricks, it’s ideal for cruising. Kamden Merwede, a student here at WVU, says he really enjoys riding his longboard on the trail. Merwede says, “Some days when I’m running late for class, I’ll just hop on my board and take the Rail Trail. Then, I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic or the PRT  breaking down on me.”

Where to Find Skateboard Equipment

“I’d be super stoked if there was a real skate shop here in Morgantown devoted to just skateboarding,” says local rider Vanden Rackley. Since the skateboarding scene in Morgantown is small, there are no shops assigned to just skateboarding.   “ Pathfinder is for sure the spot for skate equipment,” Rackley says. Pathfinder is located at the end of High Street in Downtown Morgantown. They are an all-around outdoors sport shop. Although they don’t specialize in just skateboarding, the store offers a wide variety of brands and equipment for skateboarders. “Here at the store we have typically what any skateboarder would need, from trucks, wax, screws, bushings,  bearings, and of course boards,” says Bill Brandow, who manages the skate section.

Vanden Rackley talks more about skateboarding in Morgantown in the video below.


Getting Involved

If you’re interested in learning to skateboard, or meeting more people who skate, WVU offers a club! The organization is called “WVU Skateboarding & Longboarding Club“. This club is a great way to improve skating skills, while also making new friends that share the same passion. It provides the opportunity to become a member and hold a leadership position. For more information, please email wvuskate@gmail.com.

Text, video and interactive graphics by Kaitlyn Norman 

Walking and Running Culture Thrives in Morgantown

The Morgantown Running Club heads out to the Rail Trail at 5 p.m. on a Monday in November. The club has about 10 to 20 regular runners, and they run from 3-5 miles, though runners can turn around for home at any point.

In the spring of 2017, over 65 millions people went jogging or running in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which can be broken up into 30 minutes of daily walking or running. Many researchers have related a daily walking or running habit to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, improved psychological well-being and weight loss.

Walkable neighborhoods or communities tend to have higher rates of physical activity and less air population from traffic, contributing to an environmentally friendly relationship, researchers found in a study published in the Journal of American Planning Association.

The Best Places to Go for a Walk or Run in Morgantown

According to Walk Score rankings, one of the exhaustive studies on pedestrian accessibility of U.S. neighborhoods and communities, Morgantown has close to 30, 000 residents and an average score of 54 out of 100. With a score between 50 and 69, Morgantown is categorized as “Somewhat Walkable”, which means “some errands can be accomplished on foot.” Morgantown’s hilly terrain can make walking downtown a challenge.

However, Morgantown has plenty of options for walkers and runners for physical fitness, including a Pedestrian Walking and Recreational Trail System. Read more about the local Rail Trail system here. (Link to Kelly LeMasters story). And you can find out more information about the parking and other facilities on the North Central WV Trail Map.

In addition to the Rail Trails, the city has a number of parks inside the city limits with trails or tracks.

Additional opportunities a little outside the city limits include, The WV Botanic Garden, Coopers Rock State Forest, Chestnut Ridge Park, and Manson-Dixon park are also available for walkers and runners in the region.

According to Ella Belling, director of The Mon River Trails Conservancy (MRTC), over 30 rail-trail events happen each year on the Mon River and Deckers Creek Trails to celebrate and/or benefit a local cause. Races in 2016 on the rail-trail helped support causes such as pet adoption and spaying and neutering programs, food for the hungry, veteran services, college scholarships, literacy programs, cancer research, and more.

Belling said, the rail-trail system has been a draw for companies to locate to Morgantown, and it allows them to offer incentives to employees through their wellness programs. The rail-trails are a tourism draw as well, bringing in visitors to shop, eat, and recreate in Morgantown.

Active Local Groups for Walkers or Runners

Don’t want to run alone? Below are some active local groups that enjoy and contribute to the walking and running environment in Morgantown.

Morgantown Running (MR) is a shoe store that also invites runners to get together and run. The store sponsors various running events in town. The MR group runs every Monday at 5:15 pm. Walkers and Runners meet at the running store and run on the trail in a group for about 5 miles every time. Interested in group runs? Contact Heather Cleary via (304)-241-5223 or heathermcd12@gmail.com. MR also provides a high school club program for youth runners at middle school age or under. Anyone looking to run in a high school club program should contact Jonathan Wright at wvfylers@gmail.com. The group sponsors holiday themed fun runs a couple of times a year, for example, Halloween Half Marathon and Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk.

In the video below, Heather Cleary, the organizer for the Morgantown Running club talks about how she got started.

Morgantown Road Runners/ WV Track Club is a local running club that meet the first Monday of every month. They organized the many fun walking and running events like Good Neighbor Mile. At the end of October, the club held the event Mission Take Back 5K Run/2 Mile Walk. They require different memberships fees for students, individuals and families. Anyone interested in this club should contact Heather Parks, the secretary of the club, at hbury98@hotmail.com or (304)-216-4467.

Girls on the Run North Central West Virginia is a non-profit organization that serves Barbour, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor, and Wetzel Counties in West Virginia. They help girls in the area increase self-confidence, develop healthy relationships and feel good about themselves. The organization offers programs for girls in grades 3-5 (Girls on the Run) and grades 6-8 (Heart & Sole). Girls in grades 9- 12 and beyond have opportunities to get involved as volunteers and junior coaches. Registration is currently open for the spring 2018 program. Interested in the programs or events? Call (304)685-4140 or email INFO@GOTRNCW.ORG

Resources for Walkers and Runners

Besides following the activities of the active local groups, walkers and runners can build up their own event calendars by checking the events from West Virginia Rails-To-Council, iPlayOutside and nearby races information.

A more extensive list of local hiking and outdoors activities is available through Morgantown Outdoors.

The online tools West Virginia Trail Inventory and TrailLink provide zoomable maps for you to look into the rail-trails system.

The map below shows places to run and clubs to join for running and walking in Morgantown.

 

Story, video and graphic by Minying Kong