Monday, July 25, 2011

Rural and Other Sustainability News - Grants & Webinars

There is assistance for rural communities interested in submitting applications for Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

Planning Grants

PolicyLink announces its updated guide for local governments, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), nonprofits, foundations, and educational institutions. The 2011 Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Guide: How to Incorporate Equity into your Grant Application provides information on how regions can incorporate social equity, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has made a significant priority of Sustainable Communities. Please be aware that the guide is not specifically designed for rural communities.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program is a great opportunity for rural communities to leverage federal funds for local transportation projects. To help communities apply these very competitive grants, the American Public Transportation Association, the National Association of Development Organizations, the National League of Cities, PolicyLink, Reconnecting America, Rural Assembly, Smart Growth America, and Transportation for America have joined together to encourage rural communities to submit superior applications for this funding.

The TIGER grants are called a "great opportunity for rural communities to leverage federal funds for local transportation projects." A webinar, TIGER Grants and Rural America, on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 2:00 PM EDT, will provide basic tips for outreach and education about the TIGER program, including an overview of TIGER, discussion of innovative rural transportation projects, and examples from two successful rural projects from earlier TIGER grant cycles.

[Abe Lincoln and helper at Metro Center station handing out ticket discounts for Nationals baseball games.]

Funding Available

Below is an announcement from the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities. All announcements are posted online at Funding is from the partner agencies, the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

DOT Federal Transit Administration Livability Grants
Up to $175 million in funding will be provided to increase and improve transportation options for communities. The Bus and Bus Facilities Program will fund up to $150 million to purchase or replace buses and to build bus-related facilities. Remaining funding will be provided through the Alternatives Analysis Program to help communities evaluate and select the best transit options to meet their transportation needs. Timeframe: application period now open, deadline is July 29.

DOT’s TIGER program will give funding to capital construction and planning projects in surface transportation around the country. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on infrastructure investment. Estimated timeframe: NOFA available fall, Interim Notice of Funding Availability available online now. Funding levels: $526 million for transportation projects with $140 million set aside for projects in rural areas.

HUD Communities Regional Planning Grants
HUD’s Regional Planning grants, in coordination with EPA and DOT, will provide funding of up to $68 million to improve regional planning efforts that integrate housing and transportation decisions, and increase state, regional, and local capacity to incorporate livability, sustainability, and social equity values into land use plans and zoning. Timeframe: Advanced NOFA available now, final NOFA available in July.

HUD Community Challenge Planning Grants
Up to $28 million will be available to assist communities in amending or replacing local master plans and coding system, with the goal of promoting sustainability at the local or neighborhood level. These grants also support the development of affordable housing through the development and adoption of inclusionary zoning ordinances and other activities such as acquisition of land for affordable housing projects. Timeframe: NOFA available in July.

EPA Brownfields Multipurpose Grants
For FY2012, the Brownfields Office will pilot a "multipurpose" grant opportunity. The grant would give a recipient flexibility in conducting assessment and cleanup activities at a specific site owned by the applicant, and would eliminate the delay that may occur when moving from assessment to cleanup when funding hasn’t been secured. Timeframe: RFP available mid-summer.

EPA Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grants
EPA, in collaboration with HUD and DOT, will provide planning assistance to communities, many in underserved and economically disadvantaged areas, to develop area-wide plans for the reuse of brownfields properties. Timeframe: RFP available mid-summer.

EPA Brownfields Environmental Workforce Job Training Grants
EPA will provide grants to non-profit organizations to recruit, train and employ predominately low-income and minority, unemployed and under-employed residents from solid and hazardous waste-impacted communities. Timeframe: RFP available mid-summer.

EPA Brownfield Assessment Revolving Loan Fund and Cleanup (ARC) Grants
Through the ARC, brownfields assessment, RLF and brownfields cleanup grants, EPA will address sites contaminated by petroleum and hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants (including hazardous substances co-mingled with petroleum). Timeframe: RFP available late summer.

EPA Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA)
EPA, in collaboration with HUD and DOT, will provide technical assistance to communities to focus on cross-departmental coordination of policies, cities undergoing economic transition, infrastructure financing, historic preservation and downtown revitalization, and climate change adaptation. Estimated timeframe: RFP available early fall.

EPA Building Blocks II

The Sustainable Communities Building Blocks Program seeks to provide quick, targeted technical assistance to communities using a variety of tools that have demonstrated results and widespread application. This technical assistance will help selected local and/or tribal governments to implement development approaches that protect the
environment, improve public health, create jobs, expand economic opportunity, and improve overall quality of life. Estimated timeframe: RFP available late fall.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Transportation Technical Assistance Resources: Seniors

Community Transportation Association of America
CTAA has a senior mobility page with resources about issues that are important to, elders.
* Volunteer driver programs as an in-kind match;
* Maintaining quality transportation in economically difficult times;
* The cost of living at home and using transit versus relocating to an assisted living facility; and
* How long-term care and independent living residents can benefit from community transportation services.

The last resource has information about technical assistance that CTAA and the National Center on Senior Transportation provide. NCST is a technical assistance center administered by Easter Seals Inc., in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

National Center on Senior Transportation
Many of the resources that NCST is currently featuring have been covered recently here and in the Express Stop. These include reports and events concerning taxis, Indian country, and, noted above, the resource about transportation aspects of the decision about whether to relocate in old age.

NCST has also posted links to:
* Maturing of America Survey by N4A;
* Aging in Place report by Transportation for America; and;
* Toolkit for One-Call/One-Click Transportation Services and related resources produced by CTAA.

Aug. 3 NCST webinar: Ride or Relocate? Transportation and Housing Options for Senior Adults - Speakers will address results from a study in North Dakota that quantified the cost of living at home and riding transit versus relocating to an assisted living facility and will provide strategies for reaching out to older adults living at home.

Community Transportation Association of America
CTAA's Joblinks program has an older worker page with issue briefs that describe the needs of older workers and suggested solutions.

[My aunt walked up the subway steps by this mosaic in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, during her years commuting, which continued until she was 87.]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Local Opportunities for Transit and Alternative Transportation

The American Public Health Association has a Transportation and Health Toolkit, which will help those interested and involved with transportation alternatives to explain and advocate for the public health benefits of transit and other community transportation, as well as zero-emission modes. The toolkit offers fact sheets linking public health to transportation choices in a community, outreach materials to the press, advice for dealing with local leaders, and archived webinar and factual material about public health consequences of the local transportation network.

Six Chosen Cities

Investing in Community Change reports that the Administration has selected six pilot cities for a new initiative. The Administration explains that it is encouraging local partnerships and empowerment.

Strong Cities, Strong Communities is a new interagency pilot initiative that aims to strengthen neighborhoods, towns, cities and regions around the country by strengthening the capacity of local governments to develop and execute their economic vision and strategies. Strong Cities, Strong Communities bolsters local governments by providing necessary technical assistance and access to federal agency expertise, and creating new public and private sector partnerships.

The six city pilot locations are:

Chester, PA - the Community Solutions Team will help Mayor Butler diversify the local economy, support small business development and revitalize the downtown.
Cleveland, OH - Strong Cities, Strong Communities will support Mayor Jackson in his efforts to coordinate workforce and economic development and to maximize the economic potential of the Cleveland Port.
Detroit, MI - the Community Solutions Team will partner with Mayor Bing and Governor Snyder to increase coordination and alignment on workforce and economic development issues, and to leverage U.S. DOT's investments in High Speed Rail and the Woodward Avenue light rail project to spur economic revitalization in the downtown corridor.
Fresno, CA - Mayor Swearengin and the Community Solutions Team will work to capitalize on the coming high-speed rail station to improve the downtown area, and will also build on a successful neighborhood development program.
Memphis, TN - Strong Cities, Strong Communities will partner with Mayor Wharton and his team to pursue his vision to strengthen the education system and attract new industries.
New Orleans, LA - Mayor Landrieu and the Communities Solutions Team will work to integrate existing federal resources to improve the delivery of health services, manage public safety and rebuild public infrastructure.

Potential for Transit and Mobility

The highlighted text shows just a few places where there is potential for transit and other mobility components to larger development and revitalization projects.

And here is more from Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, about how the pilot programs will be conducted.

Earlier this week, Deputy Secretary [of Transportation] John Porcari traveled to Memphis to announce that as part of this new initiative, the Obama Administration will send five full-time federal staff people to Memphis. Their job will be to listen to local leaders, learn what they need from the federal government, and help them secure that assistance or expertise. And the Obama Administration will also work with private partners to create a fellowship program that will connect new graduates looking for jobs with city governments looking for well-trained professionals.

This seems like the kind of technical assistance that many in our network are involved in, with perhaps an opportunity for networking with those new graduates to teach them about the link between a quality transportation network and a thriving town, small city, big city, and a metropolitan area.
[Central Park South with buses during morning rush hour.]

Within Our Network

One example of transportation technical assistance is Joblinks' list of case studies on its homepage. The list, with brief descriptions, gives visitors a good idea of the range of employment transportation programs, with links to detailed information.

Examples of planning in non-auto transportation are featured on NADO's among the Excellence Award Winners. The 2011 winners include planning for a Safe Routes to School program, sidewalks, bicycling, a volunteer driver initiative, and transit development.

Within our network, there are new events, initiatives, and even great website redevelopment. Feel free to send an email to Sheryl Gross-Glaser ( with information about your technical assistance center's great work.
[Morning taxi exodus from Central Park.]

Postscript: I promise to take transit pictures outside of New York during my travels this summer. I should have taken a photograph of one of the express buses I rode on while in the city, but I was in a rush to and from Queens.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Performance Measures

What do we measure and why?

What are our goals and are we meeting them? Are we trying to provide access to jobs or encouraging healthy lifestyles or reducing congestion or reducing carbon emissions - or all or some of the above? Are we interested in transit efficiency and measuring costs compared with revenue? Are we assessing safety of workers and riders?

Measuring Transportation Investments: The Road to Results examines whether states are measuring performance and what they are measuring. The report from the Pew Center on the States and the Rockefeller Foundation does not analyze the performance metrics, but describes what metrics are being utilized across different modes, primarily looking at auto-centric travel.

An interesting section discusses the Transportation Investment Generating
Economic Recovery program, or TIGER grants.

One typical TIGER grant awarded $22 million toward a new station in downtown Normal, Illinois, a city along the Chicago-St. Louis Amtrak Line, which will serve Amtrak, city and long-distance buses and taxis. State officials say the
project shows a potent multiplier effect in terms of economic development.
“Since that project was announced, up to $200 million has been invested in the downtown area by businesses coming into town,” says Joe Shacter, director of public and intermodal transportation at the Illinois Department of Transportation. “This included new hotels constructed right next to the intermodal facility.”

Standardized Performance Measures

If success can be replicated, if success can even be determined, then we have to compare apples with apples and and better yet, one type of Macintosh with another type. TCRP Report 141, A Methodology for Performance Measurement and Peer Comparison in the Public Transportation Industry complements "TCRP Report 88: A Guidebook for Developing a Transit Performance-Measurement System, which describes how to implement and use performance measurement on an ongoing basis at a transit agency."

TCRP Report 141 talks about "selecting performance measures appropriate to a particular performance question but [the report] does not prescribe a particular set of measures. This approach requires some thoughtfulness on the part of transit agencies in selecting measures, but also provides much-needed flexibility that allows the methodology to be applied to a wide variety of transit modes, transit agency sizes, and performance questions." The report discusses benchmarking, which is a comparison of peers, in this case transit agencies that are similar. "Participants agree upon common measures and data definitions—this provides standardization, focuses data collection on areas of interest to the group, and gives participants more confidence in the quality of the data and the results."

The report supplied six case studies of peer benchmarking for different types and sizes of public transit. Two of the case studies were (1) costs and revenue comparisons performed for Pennsylvania systems; and (2) funding source ramifications for Knoxville, Tenn.

Performance Measurement in Action

CalTrans, the California Department of Transportation, posts its performance indicators and measurements. Performance Measures For The Quarter Ending March 31, 2011 shows CalTrans' goals and realities. The document reports numbers for safety, rail ridership, single occupancy vehicle commuter trips, and much more. The frank statement of goals that arrows on charts provide when compared with the direction of actual results is illuminating and valuable data for transit agencies as well as taxpayers, voters, politicians and those who report to them.

TCRP Report 88, published in 2003, is a must read. There is a veritable department store of performance categories and measures as well as case studies.

There is tons more to read about performance measures. I am left with these thoughts: Choose how you define success, examine how success was reached in similar contexts and adapt lessons learned in keeping with the local culture and resources. And, of course, measure those results - because what gets measured is what gets resources and attention.