Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FEMA Resources

Not sure why there have to be new resources on a topic I just covered. Must be a message from the universe. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has two new resources and another worthy of mention.

For ongoing updates about FEMA and emergency management and planning, there is the FEMA blog. Coverage this week includes the California natural disaster due to weather and upcoming winter challenges. Twitter and online links are given.

The second resource is a comprehensive planning guide, Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans, Version 2.0. Since I do not dabble too much in this area, perhaps one of my resolutions for 2011 is to have a guest blogger review this resource.

Better write that down.

For those even more involved in emergency planning is FEMA's lessons learned website. For those updates, there is a lessons learned newsletter available at the site.

Before I add any more resolutions to an already long list, let me wish all of you a happy and a healthy holiday season and a joyous new year. Have fun, be safe, and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2010 Highlights

I am starting the recap early this year, going over notes, my blog, the index of my old newsletter, and thinking about what from 2010 resonates and will last as useful resources and information as the calendar page turns over to 2011.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and a healthy holiday season and a joyous new year.

Stay Up to Date at the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination
Go to the NRC website - - for news and information from around the country, such as the blogs of the United We Ride Ambassadors. The NRC also has resources about all aspects of public and human services transportation, including several compilations about significant topics.

New News Sources

The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) has launched a newsletter, Caryn's Corner, named for Executive Director Caryn Souza.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)created two transportation-related newsletters, one is the Transportation Coordination Quarterly Newsletter, a compilation of news and resources involving coordination, and the other a monthly newsletter that spans transportation sectors.

Specialized Taxi Transportation

In 2010, the Taxi, Limousine, and Paratransit Association (TLPA) prepared reports that address the taxi industry's role in providing non-emergency medical transportation and accessible transportation. These are Assessing the Full Cost of Implementing An Accessible Taxicab Program and Non-Emergency Medicaid Transportation (NEMT): How to Maximize Safety and Cost Effectiveness
Through Better Use of Private For-Hire Vehicle Operators
. The accessible transportation report discusses how the taxi industry works in terms of the practical obstacles and costs of providing accessibility where the additional costs fall on mostly small businesses and independent contractors. The NEMT report provides an excellent explanation of what coordination provides and what models of NEMT exist throughout the country.

Learning about Health Care Changes
For information on what states must accomplish and are doing to fulfill the mandates of the new health care law, the National Governors' Association (NGA) has created a website, the Health Reform Implementation Resource Center, a product of the State Consortium on Health Care Reform Implementation (State Consortium), which provides information and technical assistance to states about requirements, offers options and best practices and synthesizes feedback to federal agencies on issues that affect state implementation. The website has resources on aspects of the health reform law that are likely to have the biggest effect on states – the Medicaid expansion, the establishment of health insurance exchanges, insurance regulations, and delivery system initiatives, along with important governance, coordination and timing issues for states are available from NGA and on each of the Consortium members' websites.

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) has a short presentation, Health Reform: Issues for State Governments, that explains the effective dates of different provisions, what will happen to Medicaid, and summarizes long-term care and other provisions.

With greater numbers of people to be covered by Medicaid and preventive and maintenance medicine to be practiced, there may well be many more people traveling to regular doctor appointments. The Community Transportation Association of America is assisting providers with training, the Competitive Edge, to enable providers to be more efficient for when the new law takes effect.

Transportation for Challenged Populations

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) report, Funding the Public Transportation Needs of an Aging Population, discusses the depth of the growing need for transportation services among Older Americans and the amounts of funding that will be necessary to provide those services. In addition to APTA, the report was guided by input from a technical working group that included CTAA, Easter Seals Project ACTION, and the AARP Public Policy Institute, all members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has a multitude of resources related to the intersection of transit and the ADA. These include regulations, legal guidance, details about equipment and paratransit eligibility, and so much more. A new page has topic guides on selected ADA topics.

The Easter Seals Project ACTION website always has resources for government staff, transportation providers and transportation-challenged populations. These resources offer information to improve services, educate staff and enhance public participation.

Census Guides the Future

Census 2010 and Transit: What's at stake? is a web portal that the NRC created for transit-related Census resources. The 2010 Census will help communities receive over $400 billion in federal funds each year for many activities including transit and human services. Visit the NRC's Census 2010 page to read about how public transportation may be affected, learn about possible outcomes for tribal communities, and find a list of quick links to audio and video clips about the Census.

State-Level Sustainability Plans
State-wide sustainability and livability movements are turning into established parts of state governments with plans that span different sectors of the economy and public works, including transportation. At their core, these plans envision transportation systems that meet present needs without compromising the lifestyles of future generations.

Hawaii's plan, Hawaii 2050, incorporates increased public transportation as a goal and an indicator of progress under its community and social well-being heading. Hawaii's plan goes way beyond the environment, addressing such different issues as the economy, education and health care.

The Department of Transportation for Washington, D.C., the equivalent of a state department of transportation that also has jurisdiction over local roads, releases its Sustainability Plan 2010, which promotes transit, biking and walking and seeks to reduce energy consumption.

The Oregon Department of Transportation also has a sustainability plan. It emphatically incorporates public transportation and the environmental and health benefits of zero and low-emission modes. The state DOT also commits to a policy of locating its own facilities in places that employees can reach by walking and transit.

State Planning Participation

The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), via its Rural Transportation Clearinghouse, posted a presentation that local officials can use or modify for orientation of new board members, transportation committee members or staff. The Guide for Rural Local Officials: Evaluating Your Input into the Statewide Transportation Planning Process explained the local role in state transportation planning across modes. The guide was also available in a PowerPoint format.

NADO also released a new online version of its Metropolitan and Rural Transportation Planning: Case Studies and Checklists for Regional Collaboration. This guide was intended for leadership and professional staff of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), rural planning organizations (RPOs), state departments of transportation (DOTs), and regional development organizations that are involved in transportation planning, programming, and service delivery, and other planning partners.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has released an MPO primer, Staffing and Administrative Capacity of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. It is a terrific nuts and bolts detailed description of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), their staffs, projects, funding, partnerships and formal arrangements with state and local governments.

Livability and Sustainability
The Initiative for Sustainable Communities and States (ISCS) compiles the news and resources of the federal interagency sustainability partnership in one place. There is information about funding, policy, and examples for states and localities.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has a Transportation and Climate Change Resource Center with resources about how state departments of transportation, regional planning organizations and states are addressing climate change.

Always a solid source is the FTA's livability page, which is kept up to date with funding programs, case studies, and news and links related to the interagency sustainability partnership.

Also on My Favorites List

TCRP SYNTHESIS 85: Effective Use of Citizen Advisory Committees for Transit Planning and Operations is a must-read for anyone who either works with public involvement and stakeholder groups, recommends them, or whose work is in some way involves public involvement.

TCRP Report 140: A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services, a product of the Transit Cooperative Research Program, gets into the weeds on what constitutes a non-fixed route, flexible transit service, why communities and regions choose them, the relative costs and how they operate either on their own or as supplements to traditional fixed route and ADA paratransit service.

Compilation of tribal transit resources, which appeared on this page earlier in the year.

An Express Stop blog post offers a compendium of emergency preparedness resources.

Relevant to public employees and citizens in every state is a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Fiscal Brief: State Balanced Budget Provisions, which explains what is meant by a balanced budget, to which funds state constitutional and statutory provisions apply and what enforcement mechanisms exist. Interesting is how varied balanced budget requirements are. This not a one-size-fits-all term.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More Resources for Emergency Preparedness

National RTAP - the Rural Transit Assistance Program - announces its updated free training module, Emergency Procedures for Rural Transit Drivers. The training includes a Learner’s Guide, a Self-paced eLearning Course Disc, an Instructor’s Guide, and a disc with videos and a trainer’s PowerPoint presentation. It can be used in a classroom setting or by a single student, and is appropriate for both new and experienced transit drivers. The training offers information on preparedness for hazards and threats that may be encountered as a transit operator. This training module also offers targeted training on the Seven Steps of Crisis Management.

For more information, please contact Pam Russell DiGiovanni at 888-589-1122 or

FEMA Reviews its Progress

Although FEMA’s Preparedness for the Next Catastrophic Disaster - An Update, a report from the Department of Homeland Security, will not render assistance in the midst of an actual emergency, it provides food for thought about what is involved across the different types of agencies called to serve during or in the aftermath of a man-made or natural disaster.

Transportation is mentioned as a piece of the pie of emergency response services, and discussed in reference to large-scale evacuations.

FEMA is responsible for providing direction, guidance, and technical assistance on state and local evacuation plans that contain integrated information on transportation operations, shelters, and other elements of a successful evacuation. FEMA is also required to work with state, tribal, and local authorities to support contraflow planning, where the normal flow of traffic is reversed to aid in an evacuation, and is responsible for ensuring that adequate resources are available for evacuation efforts.

Most indicators of progress have progressed with a moderate rating. Substantial progress has been made in the areas of emergency communications and having pre-disaster contract in place.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Events and Resources from Around the TA Network

National Transit Institute

The National Transit Institute (NTI)has upcoming classes related to coordination.

Public Involvement in Transportation Decisionmaking
This course will:
* Identify public involvement challenges
* Describe U.S. DOT transportation decision-making processes, including those that trigger the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
* Describe the relationship between public involvement and decisionmaking
* Develop a public involvement plan with stakeholder assistance that includes attention to non-traditional populations as an evaluation component
* Describe interest-based problem solving and their underlying values
* Identify ways to enhance public involvement plans
Public Involvement in Transportation Decisionmaking will be given Dec. 8-10 in Arlington, VA; but check NTI's webpage for the course for future offerings.

Managing Community Mobility

This course will:
* Introduce the concept of mobility management and its application to transportation operations at the community level.
* Identify funding resources available for implementing and operating mobility management programs.
* Describe how to develop the Coordinated Public Transit and Human Service Transportation Plan “Coordinated Plan.”
* Identify the necessary tools and resources to effectively implement a mobility management program.
* Present case studies of successful mobility management models.
* Discuss the skills of a mobility manager.
The course is being held in three different locations from December through April.

Easter Seals Project ACTION

Easter Seals Project ACTION
has a new Livable Communities page on its website. Featured are ESPA's publications about accessible streets, transit, and universal design as well as links to government and other resources.

ADA Essentials for Transit Board Members: Fundamentals of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Transit Public Policy, produced with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), is a primer on transit's responsibility in realizing the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the legal obligations that the ADA established. The publication addresses traditional fixed-route service and transit facilities, but does not discuss deviated route or other types of service to which the ADA does not apply. It also provides information about federal transportation initiatives related to the ADA, such as United We Ride.

ESPA is hosting an audio conference, Developing Flexible Policies to Empower Transit and Customers with Disabilities, on Dec. 8. The audio conference will cover modifications to transit policies that enable access by customers with disabilities and legal requirements for modifications to policy. The program will also feature several examples of ways in which flexibility can help create a more accessible transportation experience for customers with disabilities.

Federal Highway Administration

The next Pedestrian Safety Webinar will take place on Tuesday, November 23 from 1:00-3:00 Eastern Time. Learn about pedestrian safety initiatives in New York City and California. For information, go to

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DOT Recognizes Excellence in Rural Transit

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood blogs this morning about the Outstanding Rural Transit System awards, announced at this week's National Transportation Research Board Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation Conference. The Secretary specifically thanks our fellow TA center, the National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) program, for evaluating the award applications.

News from NTI

The National Transit Institute (NTI) announces a survey that explores alternative training approaches. NTI is looking to understand the needs of its trainees and identify alternative training methods most suitable for them. The survey is located at

NTI will also be presenting its Managing Community Mobility course. The course covers mobility management and coordination topics.
* December 15 - 16, 2010 - Chicago, IL
* April 27 - 28, 2011 - Phoenix, AZ

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rural Transit System Profiled

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity highlighted a new Montana transit system in its newsletter. Usually RWJF concentrates its efforts on safe routes to school and complete streets. The transit service profile demonstrates the importance of connectivity over great distances to services, jobs, education and stores. It discusses the needs of the community as well as the popularity of the service.

As a lesson in coordination, the profile shows how a large rural area can use outreach and partnering among organizations to plan and provide a valuable public service.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mobility Management

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) must be mentioned for its mobility management resource page. The page explains the topic to the transit audience and discusses the economic aspects of mobility management.

Mobility management resources can be obtained at the website of the Partnership for Mobility Management. National organization members include CTAA, APTA, the American Bus Association, AASHTO, TLPA and Easter Seals Project ACTION.

CTAA President Eloquent Word on Community Transit

If you missed CTAA's president speaking during a piece on National Public Radio recently, the wonders of video and the Internet bring you the extended interview of Charles Carr. In seven minutes, Carr discusses the need for transit and "right sizing" it to fit a community's circumstances. Carr discusses those who are transportation challenged and also the situation of so-called "choice riders."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

ADA Paratransit: Driver Satisfaction

A quality workforce in almost any field requires experience and incorporation of employee opinions about how to do the job well. TCRP Report 142: Vehicle Operator Recruitment, Retention, and Performance in ADA Complementary Paratransit Operations lists pay, workable schedules, the support of dispatchers and management, and installed GPS systems as high on the list of what paratransit drivers are looking for.

In many ways, the report simply lays out common sense management practices that keep keep employees happy, with specific examples and suggestions for the particular field of paratransit services.

A common theme in systems that were identified to have stable workforces was that there was a good overall work environment. Vehicle operators from these systems reported that the organization was like a “family” and that they enjoyed the people they worked with. They indicated that the organization had a real interest in its employees and looked out for their interest.

Happy Birthday

Such recognition as celebrating employee birthdays, having comfortable and attractive facilities for drivers, and bonuses for good performance were cited as important to drivers. However, the low pay was recognized as a key factor in high turnover, which "for private paratransit contractors average 30% per year and range as high as 80% per year."

The report notes that low wages can result in higher costs due to the reduced productivity that results from high turnover. The report has a good discussion of the benefits of better driver pay. A detailed study appears about halfway through the report that measures the productivity benefits of driver experience in two systems.

The report also discusses the gap between pay for fixed-route drivers and their paratransit counterparts. "Wages for ADA paratransit vehicle operators were found to be lower than for fixed-route operators. Fringe benefits for ADA paratransit operators were also found to be minimal, especially for services operated by private contractors."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Communities Are Planning - Coordination and Mobility Management

Some updates on mobility management and coordination in action:

Wasatch Front Mobility Management Project Final Report: This is a comprehensive assessment of one region's community transportation and a demonstration of its mobility management perspective in planning for transportation-challenged populations.

Illinois website with links to three-step primer on building public transportation, coordination, and service in rural areas. Cool map of public transit in Illinois counties. The website is part of the state's Interagency Coordinating Committee on Transportation (ICCT) Clearinghouse. The primer received a NADO award in 2007.

TA Coordination: Peer Exchanges

The Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program (TPCBP) recent peer exchanges include the Colorado Department of Transportation hosting the Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington State departments of transportation. Colorado was looking for voices of experience about establishing a rail and transit division in a state department of transportation.

A peer exchange on exurban to urban regional transportation planning compared the experiences of a few regions with mid to large-size cities and their fringe communities. The exchange partly discussed collaboration about across jurisdictional lines.

Write ups of the peer exchanges are available online. They go quite in depth and are terrific case studies about specific challenges.

How Communities Are Planning - Placemaking


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces its five Greening America’s Capitals technical assistance recipients. EPA will "fund a team of designers to visit each city to produce schematic designs and exciting illustrations intended to catalyze or complement a larger planning process for the pilot neighborhood. Additionally, these pilots could be the testing ground for citywide actions, such as changes to local codes and ordinances to better support sustainable growth and green building."

Except for Boston, the cities are all small, at least by my NY childhood standards. (Okay, when I lived in Boston, that seemed pretty small.)

Charleston, WVa, will have its transit hub's streetscape addressed to give it a "sense of place." There is also a transit connection in the Hartford, Conn. plan. There is no transportation or transit TA mentioned in connection with any of the projects.

Placemaking Resources

If you are ever providing TA with a placemaking component, here is a website with resources that quickly explain what placemaking is and how to achieve it. Entitled Livability for All Ages-Best Practices, the site envisions placemaking as a crucial livability component. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is listed as one of the resource sites.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ambassador Blog Round Up

I keep coming back to the ambassador blogs for two reasons: (1) to learn what the ambassadors see happening around the country, and (2) to increase my knowledge of technical assistance through the ideas and information that the ambassadors write about. I recommend that everyone periodically read all the blogs, but here is what I found particularly instructive this month.

If you are unfamiliar with the ambassador program and the individual ambassadors, visit the ambassador home page of the NRC website. There are also links to archives of each ambassador's blog.

Jim McLary - Region II Ambassador blog
Jim writes this summer about the importance of taxi service and an accessible taxi coming to market this October. He believes that with accessible taxis we will have a model for universal design in this mode of transportation so critical to people with disabilities and small communities.

Rex Knowlton - Region III Ambassador blog
One of Rex's pieces of information had to do with the University of Virgina's new TDM policy. U-VA took the position that it not only needed to reduce the number of student and staff single occupancy vehicles coming to campus each day, but that it had to do so in a flexible and user-friendly way. Very interesting from a mobility management perspective.

Roland Mross - Region V Ambassador blog
Roland writes about non-emergency medical transportation for people with serious health conditions and the need to bring medical care providers to the coordination table. He describes the discussion leading to this conclusion in one Ohio region.

Margi Ness - Region VII Ambassador blog
Margi has instituted monthly regional conference calls. After the first call she formed "a committee with one person from each state to help plan the calls and work on the continuing dialogue" as well as offer different informed perspectives. Margi's first call featured mobility managers and mobility management resources.

Jeanne Erickson - Region VIII Ambassador blog
Jeanne writes about the success of All Points Transit in Montrose, Colo. and how leadership, coordination and smart utilization of funding has led to a tremendous increase in the number of rides.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All About Coordination

Two instances of coordination at the federal level caught my attention. One involves the Administration's current focus on the benefits of its livability initiative for rural America and the other involves the efforts of public health advocates to work with transportation organizations to combat widespread public health problems.

An important aspect of coordination is maintaining the momentum of working with partners over long periods. One of our TA centers is addressing that issue in an upcoming audio conference described below.

USDA Program Features Sustainability Partners

The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) participated in the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) roundtable yesterday to discuss livability in rural areas. Among the topics covered was the need for connectivity between rural and urban communities. The roundtable also focused on preserving small town main streets, protecting agriculture and expanding transportation options. Deputy secretaries from DOT and HUD addressed the participants.

Connecting Transportation Options to Health

In September, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Childhood Obesity program is starting a webinar series devoted to the connection between transportation policy and the obesity-health issue.

Sept. 9 - "Ready Set Go: Transportation Reauthorization"
Recommendations on how to ensure that investments in transportation are made equitably, so that all children and families have access to safe, reliable, affordable transportation options that encourage healthy, active lifestyles.

Sept. 23 - "Hide and Seek: Where is Your School and How Do You Get There?"
Safe routes to school and school siting guidelines within the framework of broader sustainable community development.

Oct. 7 - "On the Go: Complete Streets and Public Transportation"
Strategies for effective advocacy and implementation of complete streets policies and advice for ensuring that access to public transportation and active living opportunities are equitably provided to all communities.

Oct. 21 - "Feet to the Streets: Alternatives to Motorized Transportation"
Strategies for creating opportunities that encourage non-motorized transportation, particularly walking and biking.

Maintaining Momentum

Easter Seals Project ACTION
(ESPA) is having an audio conference, Sustaining Coalition Efforts for Improving Accessible Transportation on Sept. 28. As part of the series Promising Practices and Solutions in Accessible Transportation, ESPA will address re-energizing members to maintain interest and enthusiasm, recognizing small steps toward long-term success, replacing members who move on to other jobs and activities, and reaching consensus among diverse partners.

Tribal Transit Resources

Tribal communities, many with low income residents and isolated in extremely rural areas, benefit greatly from the technical assistance of our TA network. These are some resources that quickly explain the particular issues of working on transit and transportation issues with tribes and community-specific projects.

Much thanks to Kelly Shawn for his suggestions.

National RTAP is featuring American Indian Transportation: Issues and Successful Models, a brief co-authored by one of the Community Transportation Association of America's (CTAA) tribal specialists, Kelly Shawn. The brief discusses transportation funding, coordination and economic development.

CTAA's Tribal Projects

On CTAA's website are resources about funding transit and projects in particular tribal communities. Tribal Transit: Accessing Federal Transit Funding to Develop Your Transit System covers the major federal funding sources, discusses how tribes should begin planning for transit initiatives, and features successful examples.

An interactive map lists all of CTAA's rural and tribal community transit projects since 1990.

An issue of Community Transportation magazine, Tribal Transportation, highlights the transit services in several tribal areas.

A list of links to other tribal and transportation-related information sources is also available on CTAA's website.

Tribal Delegates Appointed to CTAA Delegate Council

At the "Nations in Transit" conference, part of CTAA's EXPO conference in Long Beach, CA, representatives of tribal nations elected three delegates to serve on the Community Transportation Association's Delegate Council. Selected as Tribal Delegates were Lee Bigwater of the Navajo Nation (Ariz.), Camille Ferguson of the Sitka Tribe (Alaska) and Kathy Littlejohn of the Eastern Band of Cherokees (N.C.).

National RTAP's Tribal Resources

National RTAP has posted links to:
* the process for becoming an acknowledged Indian tribe, and
* a list of tribal transit grant recipients.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rural Resources for Planning Streets and Transit

The state of Montana has produced a Transportation and Land Use Toolkit to help with planning for streets that are friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. In addition to many resources, there are links to federal resources, detailed case studies, most of which are from out West, and a state-by-state listing of bike-pedestrian coordinators. Technical assistance and training in planning and public involvement are available. These resources address long-term planning for rural areas that is consistent with livability principles.

Assessing Transit Demand

Taking a very different approach is the TCRP Web-Only Document 49: Methods for Forecasting Demand and Quantifying Need for Rural Passenger Transportation, a workbook for "evaluating areas not currently served by transit." Note that Region VIII Ambassador Jeanne Erickson is one of the co-authors.

The workbook takes a step-by-step approach that shows the websites that its users will employ and how to utilize them. It also shows how to use the mathematical formulas supplied. Addressed are estimating transit service demand from the general public and the needs of transportation-challenged individuals.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Congratulations to MSAA!

The Mobility Services for All Americans (MSAA) technical assistance center received praise from none other than DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administrator Peter Appel in today's Fastlane blog post. As guest blogger, Appel recounted his participation in the "grand opening of the Lower Savannah Council of Governments (LSCOG) Aging, Disability & Transportation Resource Center (ADTRC) in Aiken, South Carolina."

This resource center--one of only three in the US--provides transit information and trip planning services to a six-county region covering nearly 4,000 square miles with a rural population of 300,000 people.

The newly expanded center is funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Department of Transportation’s United We Ride/Mobility Services for All Americans (MSAA) initiative. And it’s a great example of how Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) can make a real difference in people’s lives today.

Appel praised the one-call center for the ease of access to transportation service information and for its future assistance in getting people to education and jobs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flexible Transit Service

TCRP Report 140: A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services, a product of the Transit Cooperative Research Program, gets into the weeds on what constitutes a non-fixed route, flexible transit service, why communities and regions choose them, the relative costs and how they operate either on their own or as supplements to traditional fixed route and ADA paratransit service.

Warning: The report I am recommending is dull, sometimes painfully so. However, the case studies are informative and cover a wide variety of types of communities.

The authors noted their surprise that so many communities have flexible fixed-route service, ranging from service very similar to a traditional route to service almost indistinguishable from demand-response ADA paratransit. When reading the case studies, many of which featured flexible service in places that have chosen not to have conventional transit service and mandatory complementary ADA paratransit service, I started to wonder about the future of conventional transit in rural and cash-strapped communities.

Those interviewed for the report were frank that flexible service is for transportation-challenged people and that those served better not be too concerned about timing and being prompt. Explicitly stated were cautionary notes that this type of service is not ideal for commuters and students, who need to be somewhere on time pretty much each day.

What I found intriguing were the case studies, the tales of places trying to provide transportation that is very different from quality transit-rich urban rapid transit. Getting people out of cars was clearly not the goal. There are some tales of lack of community resources and others of filling in gaps in regions that have traditional transit, but also include far flung communities or where there are transportation needs at hours of low demand.

The report, though dull, paints a picture worth looking at.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Meaningful Decision for Employers

I have to admit a liking for a good judicial opinion, especially one well written and intellectually honest. So, when Randee Chafkin alerted her fellow staff at the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) about an ADA decision related to commuting to work, I did not hesitate to read the whole opinion to glean some helpful hints for transit and transportation providers, employers, advocates and people with disabilities.

The question posed in Colwell v. Rite Aid is whether a disability that does not handicap one in any way at work can be counted as a disability - which requires accommodation - where the only disadvantage is an inability to drive to or from work, in this case at night after the public transit buses stopped running and where taxi service was unavailable.

Procedural Pointers

does not require that the employer assist with transportation or advocate for improved transportation options. Nor does Colwell speak to other transportation-challenged populations, such as people who temporarily or permanently do not drive due to low income or preference. Presumably it applies to discrimination on the basis of age itself. However, as people with disabilities are overrepresented among low income populations, those with disabilities that make driving dangerous or impossible can glean much from the decision.

Another important tidbit to keep in mind is that Colwell was decided on a summary judgment motion, which is basically the stage where a judge rules, if asked (and the motion is very common), whether the allegations could lead - after a jury trial - to a judgment for the person who is suing. Generally, if the plaintiff wins, the suit settles because going the distance to a trial and perhaps appeals is a time consuming and expensive process.

Shift Request

The plaintiff was a part-time employee in her sixties who developed a serious eye problem in one eye that led to blindness in that eye. She asked her employer, a large chain drugstore, to accommodate her visual disability with assignment to day shifts instead of her usual night shifts. The plaintiff had managed thus far to get rides to work and the employer refused the request. (Other information in the opinion suggested that the manager was none too fond of the plaintiff otherwise.)

The defendant, Rite Aid, argued that the commute to work fell outside of the workplace and therefore commuting difficulties did not require accommodation. The Third Circuit saw the legal landscape very differently. "[W]e hold as a matter of law that changing Colwell’s working schedule to day shifts in order to alleviate her disability-related difficulties in getting to work is a type of accommodation that the ADA contemplates."

Reasonable Accommodation

The ADA's provision for reasonable accommodations, the Third Circuit found, explicitly includes "modified work schedules." "[P]ersons who may require modified work schedules are persons with mobility impairments who depend on a public transportation system that is not currently fully accessible."

And the Court declared flat out that the ADA covers getting to work even though transportation to employment does not involve any accommodation at the workplace.

Refusing to comment on a Second Circuit opinion that held an employer to task for not paying for a parking space for an employee who was unable to walk long distances, the Third Circuit agreed that "T]here is nothing inherently unreasonable, ... in requiring an employer to furnish an otherwise qualified disabled employee with assistance related to her ability to get to work."

Hence, if the plaintiff had lived and worked in an area with evening bus service, Rite Aid would not have had to spend all this money on attorneys and, presumably, writing out a nice size settlement check to end the suit with an ex-employee.

The only kernel that employers must pay attention to in Colwell is that the "ADA contemplates that employers may need to make reasonable shift changes in order to accommodate a disabled employee’s disability-related difficulties in getting to work." (Emphasis supplied.) There is no hint that something other than a shift change, such as paying for an accessible and quality bus stop, would ever fall within the realm of an ADA reasonable accommodation.

Reading the Tea Leaves

The Third Circuit's language poses all sorts of questions about access to streets, intersections, quality transit and other mobility options. Maybe that's just the lawyer in me, hoping that people bring lawsuits just to have interesting questions answered as much as to correct injustice. However, most courts - with the Supreme Court sometimes an exception - tend to be rather conservative institutions and recognize that their role is not to impose social change, but to leave that to legislatures and the executive branch.

With the Supreme Court soon to include four justices who grew up in New York City, three from the transit-rich boroughs of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan (admittedly, even Queens is better than most of the country), and who have worked in New York, DC and Cambridge, questions of reasonableness in terms of transportation and commutes will be tinged with their transit-rich and mobility-wealthy experiences.

Employers: Be Accommodating and Prevent Litigation

As the Joblinks Transportation Center has shown in its Transportation Toolkit for the Business Community and other products, employers can be proactive in terms of commuting and accommodating employees' needs for public transit and other mobility options.

Specifically addressing the commuting needs of people with disabilities, Joblinks will be hosting another in a series of vanpool webinars. Vanpooling: A Promising Transportation Option for Commuters with Disabilities will be held on August 11, 2010 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The webinar will cover the ways in which vanpool providers serve riders with disabilities, the potential for greater use of vanpools by persons with a variety of disabilities, and ideas for partnering at the state and local levels to create more accessible vanpools across the country.

To register, visit

Of course, the accommodation and mobility of employees with disabilities are issues that all are free to raise during the online national paratransit dialogue that Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) is hosting until Aug. 6.

ESPA also has a few distance learning events coming up in August that address accessible transportation, one concerning rural areas and one to cover paratransit and demand-response services.

Monday, July 26, 2010

National Online Paratransit Dialogue

As part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) is hosting a National Paratransit Online Dialogue to discuss progress to start the next 20 years.

ESPA's online dialogue is designed to address calls for programs to decrease service or provide innovative options in a time of tight budgets. This dialogue will provide an opportunity for providers and stakeholders to share experiences, paratransit practices, challenges, and recommendations. ESPA is defining paratransit for the purpose of this dialogue to include ADA complementary service and a range of traditional and beyond-ADA demand response services for people with disabilities, older adults, customers of community programs, and/or the general public. Paratransit services are typically door-to-door or curb-to-curb reservation-based services.

I will personally join the dialogue. Although I believe in universal design and accessible streets, transit and other mobility options, I am well aware that at some point many of us need assistance beyond curb-to-curb transportation, whether due to cognitive difficulties, physical challenges or both.

Let us make full use of the paratransit online dialogue to improve the lives of the most transportation-challenged among us.

And happy birthday to the ADA!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ambassador Blogs

Okay, we all know that not every second of work is a productive one. Studies show that the mind needs to wander, that doodling can be productive and that intermittent short rests (even napping) are healthy strategies.

Where am I going with this? I have a productive way for you to waste a little time, and really, while it is passive, you might gain quite a bit.

Write this on your Calendar

Ambassador blogs are a monthly cornucopia of what is going on in public and human services transportation around the country - what are the issues in coordination, veterans mobility, medical and senior transportation, and much more. While I can do a monthly roundup of highlights, I really do think that reading the blogs is a high-benefit twenty minutes that you will spend each month.

Just to tempt you, here are July's highlights.

Highlights for July

Ambassador Dan Dirks
discusses the effect of the oil spill on a transit agency in Mississippi.

Ambassador Roland Mross writes about tax revenue declines and decreased transit funding in Indiana.

Ambassador Jo Ann Hutchinson beams her spotlight on travel training for students with disabilities and Mississippi's collaborative planning process.

Ambassador Rex Knowlton has used the very moving words from a letter he received from a grateful parent about the life-changing success that travel training has brought to her and her daughter.

The ambassador blogs are linked from each ambassador's page, accessible from the NRC's homepage at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Be a Pilot Community

Less than a week is left to volunteer to be a pilot for the walk-friendly communities project. July 19 is the deadline to apply for this Federal Highway Administration program.

[This is} a nationwide program with the goal of encouraging towns and cities throughout the United States to establish (or recommit to) a high priority for encouraging and supporting more safe walking. The program is aimed at improving a wide range of conditions and facilities related to walking, including safety, transportation, access, and physical activity.

The current deadline is for a second round of the program, which will test the tools developed in the first round. Details are available at

Information about bike/ped programs is also available at

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Define Your Terms

At the National Resource Center (NRC), we help define transportation terms for you and those with whom you work. We have a 13-page Glossary of Transportation Terms. Included is everything from "Access Board" to "Volunteer Network," with apologies to the letter "Z" and its few counterparts at the end of the alphabet.

Many organizations are listed, as are as transportation-specific terms such as "busway," (which my spellcheck is displeased with) and government funding terms, such as the ever-important "match."

Feel free to forward the link or print out. The glossary is available at - or find it through the NRC website at

Friday, July 2, 2010

Funding Deadline Changes

From the Federal Register:

On June 1, 2010, DOT published a notice (75 FR 30461) announcing the availability of funding and requesting proposals for DOT's National Infrastructure Investments grant program under the FY 2010 Appropriations Act. The DOT is referring to the grants for National Infrastructure Investments as ``TIGER II Discretionary Grants.''

DOT is extending the deadline to submit pre-applications for TIGER II Discretionary Grants from July 16, 2010, at 5 p.m. EDT to July 26, 2010, at 5 p.m. EDT. The deadline for submitting final applications is not being extended, and remains August 23, 2010, at 5 p.m. EDT.

Apologies to anyone who also reads the Express Stop. I have an almost identical post there today. Really have to figure out the two-blog strategy.

Have a fabulous Fourth of July. I will be on my porch on Maple Avenue in Takoma Park to watch the parade. Anyone in town can feel free to stop by. But don't bring your car. The Metro is a couple of blocks away. We're very transit-friendly.

Public Involvement in Transit Decision Making

TCRP SYNTHESIS 85: Effective Use of Citizen Advisory Committees for Transit Planning and Operations is a must-read for anyone who either works with public involvement and stakeholder groups, recommends them, or whose work is in some way involves public involvement. In fact, though the report is about the use of public involvement and stakeholder advisory groups in the realm of transit, I would recommend the report to anyone who utilizes or suggests these tools in any decision-making arena.

This is a long report, 76 pages, so I do not expect that many people will read it through. However, because it has valuable information, I am going to do more than provide a blurb. Just reading a couple of sections will be worthwhile. Even in the conclusion I found words of wisdom that added to the depth of fantastic information.

What Coordination Efforts Can Learn about Stakeholder Committees

In our work, we often talk about local and state coordinating councils. Public involvement is a legal requirement of SAFETEA-LU and is increasingly used at all levels of government to inform official decisions and projects. Convening a stakeholder committees is one strategy that is widely used for supplying transit agencies and governmental entities with feedback about proposed projects and changes to service. The report discusses how to effectively form, structure, give purpose to and use these committees for transit planning and project implementation.

The report recommends:

• Clear expectations and communication about committee roles and responsibilities contribute to an advisory committee’s success.
• For committee membership the need for representation of all viewpoints can be balanced with the need to maintain a manageable committee size.
• Agencies find value in the input provided by advisory committees and think of them as an indispensable part of the public involvement process.
• Many agencies employ professional public involvement staff to support committees and other outreach activities.
• Committee evaluation can lead to improved effectiveness.

Flavorful Cookbook for Professionals and Citizens

The case studies are well written, not the usual dull text of most reports, and extremely informative, providing a veritable cookbook for residents, political leaders, government personnel, and non-profit staff of all stripes. The case studies offered a range of purposes for the committees, procedures, membership, sizes, and types of projects and project phases for which the committees were utilized.

What was impressive was the political and governmental appreciation for the input of the committees and in some places the expansion of their use. "The agencies featured in the case studies tended to report on advisory committees as a standard, expected part of the process by community members, staff, and officials."

A Taste of the Findings

Strategies for promoting involvement were extensively covered, such as where to hold meetings, as well as an emphasis on and suggestions for effective facilitation of meetings.

Examples of successful stakeholder advisory groups and their roles are discussed in wonderful detail so that a flavor for what they do, how and why, is available from the black and white of the report as well as information about procedures and lessons learned.

In terms of specifics, here is just one set of recommendations in the area of purposes for which such committees are well suited.

Stakeholder advisory committees are effective to use for:
• A policy, plan, or project is being developed on a local or regional scale.
• Technical information is sufficiently complex to require consistent attention and involvement to make a meaningful recommendation.
• Stakeholder input is needed during a well-defined time period.
• The advisory committee has a clear role in providing input to the decision-making body.
• Community buy-in is needed for a controversial project.
• Opposing stakeholders could benefit from the opportunity to hear each other’s views and problem solve in a collaborative environment.


Stakeholder advisory bodies can be costly, due to extensive staff time for training, liaison services, facilitation and recording of proceedings. The committees should be subject to size limitations (or else unwieldy), though the case studies offered many different sizes that worked well. These entities are subject to group dynamics, which can limit effectiveness, and require facilitation, the need for which becomes more pronounced as groups increase in size.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Secretary of Transportation Recognizes Technical Assistance Center

None other than Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recognizes our partner Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) in his Fastlane blog yesterday afternoon. There's even a photograph of the whole ESPA crew with the Secretary, Doug Birnie, Erik Weber, and Judy Shanley.

LaHood thanked ESPA for its work "to make our communities more livable for the 54 million Americans with disabilities." He discussed the October 2009 ESPA Youth with Disabilities Transportation Roundtable, which resulted in a plan to address:
five core challenges that need to be solved to increase transportation options for youth with disabilities:

* Share information about transportation resources with youth.
* Train youth to use public transportation.
* Expand limited public transportation service on nights and weekends.
* Include student and school transportation issues in local transportation planning.
* Help planners learn about the family of transportation services, eligibility criteria, and funding streams available.

To read the Secretary's post about ESPA, visit

Friday, June 25, 2010

DOT/HUD Livability Etc. Funding Sources

I am confused. It's all livability; there is funding and different programs. Are they all the same or different and what are the rules? I need to explain all of these funding opportunities to myself. Hoping that this information provides some clarity to the rest of you. This entry will also appear today in the Express Stop because my brain will not allow me to revisit the Federal Register documents again today.

Staff of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will together review applications and select grantees for some of these programs. The interagency partnership seeks to help states, regions and communities:

Develop safe, reliable, and affordable transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce energy consumption and dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote public health.
... ... ...
Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe, and walkable neighborhoods—rural, urban, or suburban.
... ... ...
Support metropolitan areas and multijurisdictional partnerships that commit to adopt
integrated plans, strategies, and management tools to become more sustainable.
... ... ...
Facilitate strong alliances of residents and regional interest groups that are able to maintain a long-term vision for a region over time and simultaneously support progress through incremental sustainable development practices.

Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program

Department of Housing and Urban Development
$100 million available.

Not less than $25 million shall be awarded to regions with populations of less than 500,000.

Purpose: Support metropolitan and multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of: (1) economic competitiveness and revitalization; (2) social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; (3) energy use and climate change; and (4) public health and environmental impact. The program is calling for development and implementation of Regional Plans for Sustainable Development (RPSD).

Bottom line for transit and alternative transportation programs: Transit, vanpooling, carsharing, and bike/ped accessibility fall into the The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) planning and implementation categories for transportation investment, energy conservation, and consistency with Department of Transportation (DOT) programs.

Serving marginalized populations: HUD is looking for initiatives that engage residents and stakeholders substantively and meaningfully in the development of the shared vision and its implementation early and throughout the process, including communities traditionally marginalized from such processes, while accommodating limited English speakers, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

The application is due August 23, 2010.

There is way more and plenty of the terms mentioned are explained in detail in the NOFA. Transit and transportation are mentioned throughout and are integral to this program.

HUD's Community Challenge Planning Grants and DOT's TIGER II Planning Grants

$35 million in TIGER II planning grants as part of the National Infrastructure Investments program

DOT is referring to the grants for National Infrastructure Investments as TIGER II Discretionary Grants. The FY 2010 Appropriations Act permits DOT to use up to $35 million of the funds available for TIGER II Discretionary Grants for TIGER II Planning Grants.

Purpose: Fund the planning, preparation, or design of surface transportation projects that would be eligible for funding under the TIGER II Discretionary Grant program. Those include public transportation projects.

Bottom line for transit and alternative transportation programs: The two types of transit and transportation-related planning projects that the TIGER II planning grants envision are (1) Planning activities related to the development of a particular transportation corridor or regional transportation system, that promotes mixed-use, transit-oriented development with an affordable housing component; or developing expanded public transportation options, including accessible public transportation and para-transit services for individuals with disabilities, to allow individuals to live in diverse, high opportunity neighborhoods and communities and to commute to areas with greater employment and educational

Pre-applications are due by July 26, 2010.

DOT TIGER II Discretionary Grant Program

Pay attention to the specific information in the
for rural areas.

Minimum $10 million grant size, except for projects located in rural areas (as defined in section V (Projects in Rural Areas)), the minimum TIGER II Discretionary Grant size is $1 million.

Not less than $140 million of the funds provided for TIGER II Discretionary Grants are to be used for projects in rural areas. Also, 100 percent funding is only available in rural areas; 80 percent is the federal share otherwise.(For purposes of this grant, "DOT will consider a project to be in a rural area if ‘all or a material portion of a project is located in a rural area’. ... DOT will only consider a material portion of a project to be located in a rural area if the majority of the project is located in a rural area.)"

Up to $150 million of the $600 million available for TIGER II Discretionary Grants may be used for TIGER II Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) Payments.

Purpose: DOT is looking for long-term outcomes that include livability, economic competitiveness, job creation, state of good repair, safety, environmental sustainability. An emphasis is put on innovation and partnerships - "the project’s involvement of non-Federal entities and the use of non-Federal funds."

Again, there is explanatory material in the NOFA and read the details. Concepts such as livability and economic competitiveness are defined in detail. Rural areas are considered to have underserved populations. Others are also discussed.

Bottom line for transit and alternative transportation programs: This is an opportunity friendly to transit, bike/ped modes and other alternative transportation. There is great room for flexibility, creativity and coordination.

Pre-applications are due July 16, 2010. The NOFA only mentions DOT as reviewing the applications and not HUD and EPA.


PolicyLink, Smart Growth America, Reconnecting America, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the National Housing Conference will co-host a special informational webinar to discuss the HUD elements of the regional planning program next Wednesday, June 30th from 3-5 pm Eastern Time (noon-2 pm Pacific time).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Working with Low Literacy Populations

Thanks to Jane Hardin of the Community Transportation Association of America for recommending an excellent resource for including people who either are unable to read well or are not fluent English speakers, whether or not they read in their native languages. Low literacy is generally a marker for low income populations and populations that need workforce and human services assistance.

How to Engage Low-Literacy and Limited-English-Proficiency Populations
, issued by the Federal Highway Administration in 2006, is ostensibly geared toward transportation-oriented community participation, but can be used for any type of community participation effort in which low literacy and non-English speakers should be involved.

The FHWA report explores what is meant by low literacy and how to detect its subtle signs. People are often ashamed of their inability to read and communicate in English. They have practiced ways of hiding illiteracy. Utilizing people in the community who know the culture is helpful as is being aware of the subtle clues of illiteracy.

The report offers a multitude of methods for reaching people who do not read well, including places to go, people to use, and ways to operate a meeting. These methods will allow people who are illiterate to participate fully and on par with better educated populations.

Though the FHWA report is a few years old, it provides the best material I have seen that addresses the specific issue of including low literacy community members.

Thanks again to Jane for mentioning this resource at our last meeting of the Technical Assistance Provider Network.

Community Schools Become Community Centers

On our horizon should be the expanding Community Schools movement, which does for human services and education what many in our network do for transportation - use coordination to create or improve access to services.

A community school houses more than the students, teachers and accoutrement of education. Depending on the needs and wants of the community, and they exist at all income levels, some have community classes (such as dance and cooking), medical and dental care, welfare, literacy, housing, other human services and employment counseling, training and services.

Funding Available

The Department of Education has $10 million available for the Full-Service Community Schools program, with approximately 10 new awards of $480,000 to $500,000. Academic supports are emphasized in the program description. Relevant to transportation, also mentioned are "activities that improve access to and use of social service programs and programs that promote family financial stability."

Relevant to our networks, activities specified are "youth development programs; community service and service learning opportunities; programs that provide assistance to students who have been chronically absent, truant, suspended, or expelled; job training and career counseling services; nutrition services and physical activities; primary health and dental care; activities that improve access to and use of social service programs and programs that promote family financial stability; mental health services; and adult education, including instruction of adults in English as a second language."


An eligible applicants is a consortium of a local educational agency and one or more community-based organizations, non-profit organizations, or other public or private entities.

The deadline for applications is July 23, 2010.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Need for Technical Assistance for Aging Populations

Transportation: The Silent Need, a report from the National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST), outlines the tremendous unmet demand for older adults. The paucity of service is especially acute in rural areas.

As I have heard from Mary Leary, Senior Director of Easter Seals Project ACTION, and Jane Hardin, Transportation Specialist at the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), transportation provides older adults with a life of spontaneity and social interaction as well as meeting the fundamental needs of access to food and medical care. Yet, as the NCST shows in the results of its survey of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), more than half of older adults find it challenging to obtain transportation for everything except medical care, which clocks in at just under 50 percent. These activities included grocery shopping, participation in religious institutions, entertainment, and visiting family and friends.

While there is a wide array of programs in the family of services, many are unavailable in a majority or even a quarter of AAA service areas. Door-to-door and volunteer driver programs exist in 50 to 60 percent of jurisdictions, but door-through-door, travel training, pedestrian access, and driver transition programs all come in at under 20 percent. And these numbers refer to availability and not whether the programs are able to meet demand.

Only fixed-route transportation approached 80 percent and that statistic did not speak about safety, depth of service, service hours or pedestrian access. In rural areas that number is approximately 60 percent.

The vast majority of AAA staff who responded said that transportation was either somewhat coordinated or that coordination was "improving." Very few gave high or low marks.

This report was the first in an NCST series that will examine senior transportation in Indian country, transportation for older diverse populations, and senior mobility and livable communities.

Please note that this post will also be appearing in the Express Stop, an occasional consequence of having two blogs with overlapping coverage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Livability and Accessibility

I admit to being early on the smart growth bandwagon and happy to see the concept morph into the more-inclusive livability/sustainability collaboration that is the inter-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, among the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From what I hear, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) are also coordinating with the partnership at various levels.

The current manual of funding sources among the partnership agencies is Leveraging the Partnership: DOT, HUD, and EPA Programs for Sustainable Communities. Many of the sources can be used for transit and other mobility options, including designing a street scape that improves access to buses, vanpool meeting areas, trains and biking facilities.

Since our technical assistance centers have been involved with livability since before the term was invented, many of us are educating our constituencies about livability resources that will bring and enhance transit service and transportation options to communities across the country.

Upcoming Livability-Related Events Among the TA Centers

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): Livability 101 Pre-conference on July 25, 2010, right before the Legislative Summit in Louisville, Ky. The Transportation Committee will be concentrating as well on high-speed rail, the link between transportation and health, biking and rural road safety.

Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA): Forming Partnerships with Transit for human service providers, disability community advocates and private transportation providers – online from Aug. 2 to Sept. 10, 2010.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA): State Public Transit Partnerships Conference on Aug. 3-6, 2010 in Seattle will have a livability session.

Access and Universal Design

Livability encompasses availability of transportation options beyond the automobile. To include everyone in the benefits of livable community initiatives raises issues of universal design, rural access and specialized transportation. The following resources and events address those issues and their links to economic development,equitable access for transportation-challenged populations, and costs.

Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) continues to assist the transit community to make people with disabilities welcome. A handy Transit Operator’s Pocket Guide informs drivers of their ADA responsibilities and etiquette for interacting with people with disabilities.

ESPA: Excellence in Service for Paratransit Managers - online from July 19 to Sept. 24, 2010.

Taxi, Limousine, and Paratransit Association (TLPA) releases Assessing the Full Cost of Implementing An Accessible Taxicab Program. The report discusses how the taxi industry works in terms of the practical obstacles and costs of providing accessibility where the additional costs fall on mostly small businesses and independent contractors.

Rural Accessibility

For rural transportation and economic development resources, the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) has a Rural Transportation Clearinghouse. Among the resources available are descriptions of how rural planning organizations operate in different states.

National Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation Conference on October 24-27, 2010, in Burlington, Vt. Conference sessions will include accessibility, rural transit policy and planning, alternative fuels, regional systems, networks and coalitions, and tribal transportation.

ADA Takes the Ferry

Finally, with a picture of the Staten Island Ferry, the Secretary of Transportation blogs today about extending ADA protection to maritime vessels, including public ferry service. In, Secretary LaHood "encourage[s] everyone to visit and get their two cents in on the important questions" outstanding about this ADA extension.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A New Employment Transportation Toolkit

This resource is from the The Community Transportation Association of America.

CTAA's Joblinks Employment Transportation Initiative announces the launch of its Transportation Toolkit for the Business Community. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood praises the toolkit as a timely resource for tough economic times.

The toolkit provides businesses with strategies and resources that meet employee commuting needs while advancing bottom-line goals. Included are flyers, fact sheets, resources and examples of transportation initiatives undertaken by employers nationwide.

The toolkit website is organized into four areas: Good for Business, Getting to Work, Going Green and Accessible Transportation.

Other resources and assistance available from Joblinks:
1. Archive of Joblinks webinars, including, but not limited to, (1) late night transportation service strategies, (2) mobility management assistance in connecting job-seekers and other community members with transportation; (3) voucher programs, and (4) commuter tax benefits.
2. Transportation voucher programs wiki
3. Transportation Solutions Coordinator training
4. Institute for Transportation Coordination

Please contact Sheryl Gross-Glaser ( with news of technical assistance resources that may be helpful for other technical assistance providers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Resources and Events Useful to the Disability Community

Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) continues to assist the transit community to make people with disabilities welcome. A handy Transit Operator’s Pocket Guide informs drivers of their ADA responsibilities and etiquette for interacting with people with disabilities.

ESPA events coming up:
Excellence in Service for Paratransit Managers - online from July 19to Sept. 24, 2010.
Forming Partnerships with Transit for human service providers, disability community advocates and private transportation providers – online from Aug. 2 to Sept. 10, 2010.

Send your transportation TA news to Sheryl Gross-Glaser at

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

In a Nutshell - the Draft DOT Strategic Plan

The 74-page Department of Transportation Draft Strategic Plan is DOT’s first ever draft plan and the agency invites the public to comment on its proposals.

A Bird’s Eye View of the Draft Plan:

The terms that come to mind after reading the entire draft plan are livability, multi-modal, transportation choices and environmental friendliness – or the actual term used, sustainability. Pedestrians, bicyclists as well as the National Complete Streets coalition should be pleased as these three interests are woven into the fabric of DOT’s vision for livable communities with good transportation options beyond the automobile.

Public transportation is featured prominently. It is seen as a safe travel choice and as one that promotes our national goals of reducing reliance on foreign fuel, reducing congestion and improving our environment. Human services transportation is recognized as a big contributor to livability for people who are transportation challenged and wish to remain in their homes.

Not at all mentioned are the privately-run and publicly available modes of taxis (the original guaranteed ride home) and intercity bus service, which complement public transportation and the zero-emission modes of biking and walking. High-speed rail, perhaps because of the crucial role of federal funding, is mentioned, though not given too much space.


Big endorsement of complete streets. According to DOT, this is a safety issue to protect pedestrians, bicyclists and "walking school buses." Included in the safety recommendations:

Work with State and local governments to provide more technical assistance such as the application of pedestrian and bicycle safety audits to ensure that transportation systems are designed for optimum safety for all users.

The corresponding performance measure? Increase in number of localities that adopt complete streets policies and have safe routes to school programs. No recommendations of specific measures, except a cited Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study that found that "sidewalks, raised medians, turning access controls, better bus stop placement, better lighting, traffic calming measures, and treatments for disabled travelers" protect all users - pedestrians, bicyclists as well as drivers and their passengers. Does this mean less right on red, more traffic signals, and more scramble intersections?

No mention is made of some type of “Safe Routes for Seniors” program or initiative for people with disabilities. People who are physically challenged tend to walk across intersections more slowly and their bodies are fragile when they are hit, making them more prone to serious physical injuries and death.


Recalling Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s blog entry from several months ago, describing a weekend getaway to friends in Hoboken N.J., including a night out in the city, this is a man who was happy to walk, take the train, and leave the car at home for the whole weekend. His department wants to assist communities in affording multi-modal and healthy, environmentally friendly transportation choices to Americans wherever possible.

Livable communities gets its own section of the draft plan. DOT calls for "place-based policies and investments that increase transportation choices and access to transportation services." DOT expressly wants improved public transit, human services transportation (mentioning the special needs populations and people with disabilities), and better bike/pedestrian networks. The plan envisions transportation coordination with land use and economic development.

The plan directly links the auto-dependent lifestyle to national insecurity and ill health.

A study is cited showing that people who live in compact, walkable communities are more fit and healthy than those who reside in counties with more sprawl. The connection between health and the transportation network is explicitly made and discussed in detail. The plan practically comes out and says that the 40 percent of trips that are two miles or less in length should be able to be made by walking or bicycle, but that our current street network does not allow this - despite studies showing that young adults and baby boomers want to live in walkable neighborhoods and towns.

In case you think DOT is talking about New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle, or a few others, the plan specifically includes rural areas and their desperate need for alternatives to the car.

Creating livable communities is just as important to residents of rural areas as it is to residents of urban and suburban areas. Rural town centers have experienced disinvestment in much the same way as urban core areas and many rural towns are fighting to attract local commercial development through the revitalization of town centers. Rural residents generally must travel greater distances to jobs and services than their urban counterparts and can suffer from greater isolation, especially if they cannot drive.

The DOT-HUD-EPA partnership is already identifying barriers to coordinating transportation, housing, and environmental policies and investments. The three agencies are coordinating and bringing resources together for each others' programs, such as EPA's Smart Growth Technical Assistance Program, HUD’s Sustainable Communities Planning Grants, designed to fund regional, coordinated planning, and "evaluation of DOT’s TIGER Discretionary Grant applications, for which livability and sustainability are two key criteria."

DOT sees livability as a way to reduce household transportation costs through the availability of alternative mobility choices, such as transit, biking and walking.

And what is DOT envisioning to help states, regions and communities become more livable? Providing technical assistance, advocating for "robust State and local planning efforts," spending transportation dollars where they will capitalize on public and private infrastructure investment, and developing livability performance measures.

Specific strategies that DOT plans to use are increasing access to transit and inter-city services, developing pedestrian and bike-friendly street networks, "where practical" providing better rural transit for access to jobs, services and transportation centers that are currently only automobile accessible, and encouraging mixed-income development, for which DOT has already funded a technical assistance MITOD guide through Reconnecting America.

DOT's plan seems almost ashamed that although walking and biking account for account for "almost 12 percent of trips and about 13 percent of roadway fatalities, these modes receive less than 2 percent of annual Federal Aid Highway funds."


DOT embraces CCAM, which seeks to coordinate the many transportation programs dispersed throughout the federal bureaucracy. Explicitly mentioned for continued federal support are:
* Local coordinating councils,
* One-call services - "single point of access that links human services with transportation providers to address the special mobility needs of persons with disabilities, older adults, low-income persons and others without ready access to automobiles,"
* ITS to assist human service transportation via transportation management centers (such as the Mobility Services for All Americans - MSAA - program), and
* "[T]echnical assistance and training activities to improve the operations of local public and non-profit community transportation providers."

With no discussion, the plan directly ties CCAM's work and the technical assistance and local efforts mentioned above to DOT's livability initiative. Mobility for vulnerable transportation-challenged populations is considered a livable communities issue that is part of DOT's overarching mission. Connecting CCAM’s work to the major goal at three federal agencies (DOT, HUD and EPA) will lend gravitas to the Council’s efforts and allows it to fit in with the Administration’s emphasis on federal cooperation and coordination.

The plan delves into the performance measures for CCAM's assistance to states, regions and communities. These include:
* Increase in "transit seat-miles by urbanized area transit systems,"
* Increase in non-urbanized area transit trips,
* Increase in "intermodal transportation options for travelers,"
* Improved transit reliability,
* Improved walking and biking networks - a Federal Highway Administration task,
* Improved ADA access on rail and buses for people with disabilities.

DOT acknowledges that there will be resistance to the livability agenda and its vision of a multi-modal future. Housing, land use design, roads and other infrastructure are investments that last a generation, the plan recognizes, and many communities and states are not accustomed to thinking in terms of sidewalks, bike paths, distances between residential and commercial areas, or connectivity among transportation modes.


DOT sets ambitious goals to reduce emissions and “air, water and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems;” establish environmentally sustainable practices that address global climate change; and promote energy independence. These challenges require new transportation solutions, DOT declares in the proposed plan.

The agency does not hesitate to lay out the environmentally awful statistics and the transportation sector’s role in contributing to them.

Of course the draft strategic plan offers proposals for air and automobile travel, but in terms of public transportation, the plan imagines coordinated federal environmental policies and programs through the interagency DOT-HUD-EPA partnership, high-speed rail (though no one is talking about something akin the China’s mega investments), multi-modal strategies, reducing the energy consumption of transit, and encouraging state and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), such as councils of governments (COG), to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To accomplish the goals for reducing energy consumption, reducing greenhouse emissions, and reducing our national dependence on foreign oil, the draft strategic plan is proposing that public transportation systems continue to take advantage of the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Discretionary Grant (TDG) program, which is already at work replacing older fuel-eating facilities and vehicles with more environmentally-friendly models, buildings, and innovative technologies.


Acknowledging that I am not an expert in this area, the proposals seem logical, but most could have been written in 1940. In non-specific language, the plan discusses preparing for continuity of operations, developing security policies, coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (yes that would have been a different agency in 1940), and dealing with the youngest potential danger on the block, cyber threats.

The plan recommends grants and technical assistance to plan and train for “effective emergency response to transportation incidents involving hazardous materials” and to provide for the improvement of state and local response to emergencies.

Virtually no specifics are given and no performance measures are proposed. Admittedly, with potential and actual emergencies covering a wildly broad spectrum of dangers, preventive procedures and responses, there is little this a strategic plan could say without launching into a 50-page manual on this topic alone. But then fewer people would read the proposed plan than are reading the current 74-page document.

Remember that DOT comment invites the public to comment on its proposals. Read the draft plan sections that interest you and express your thoughts about the draft strategic plan.