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.