Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Local Coordination News from PA, TX & OR

A study of transportation in the York, Pa. area recommends coordination as a strategy to improve transit service. Analyzing transit in a nine-county area that has five transit systems, the study, funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), found:
-- Projected population growth between 2000 and 2030 is significant in the southcentral Pennsylvania region.
-- The need for more express services, multimodal linkages and park and rides was identified.
-- A common way to pay for fares on different transit systems is essential.
-- Transit is viewed as a choice for the younger generation.
-- Separate funding for inter-county transit service coordination is needed in legislation with local political support.
-- Partnerships with local government and employers are very important for regional transit coordination.
To encourage transit use, county borders must become seamless, the study recommends. A potential market is young adults.
Amenities like wireless Internet on buses, such as Rabbit Transit express buses that run between York and Harrisburg and to Maryland, appeal to younger riders.

"It seems the younger generation is more open to mass transit and living a sustainable lifestyle," Heilman said.
Source: Study finds need for transit coordination in York region, from the YorkDispatch.com

[Bus outside Chicago's Union Station.]

Texas Partnerships Moving Forward

A disability navigator in Corpus Christi, Tex., a member of the new LinkedIn group for the Partnership for Mobility Management, sent information about his region's experience with the Accessible Transportation Coalitions Initiative, a project of Easter Seals Project ACTION. The ATCI team became the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Mobility Options Project, a
Coastal Bend Center for Independent Living demonstration project, funded by a JARC grant from Texas Department of Transportation that:
partners with Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services to increase mobility options for people with disabilities seeking employment-related opportunities. The two-year Mobility Options Project advances the plan developed at the ATCI event primarily regarding increasing access for people with disabilities in rural area, and expanding hours and days of service. To further promote new initiatives in their community that promote the team’s priorities, the ACCESS TEAM advocated for the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority’s successful application for funding through the Department of Transportation’s Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative. This initiative will support the development of a regional call center that will provide a single point of access for regional transportation.
The team hosted a mobility management summit in the fall and discussed creation of a "united mobility management system" by examining "the positive and negative aspects of three models of mobility management: human services/independent living-based, workforce development-based, and public transit system-based."

[Portland light rail train near convention center. Hardly any wait and just a few free minutes to downtown near the federal courthouse (free tour available), department stores and the cute animal fountains.]

Social Media Meets Depressing Transit Choices

In a story of partnering with the public to decide how to make up for revenue shortfalls and inevitable service reductions or fare increases, the Oregonian reports that Portland's TriMet transit agency is asking residents to offer their opinions about how to plug a budget hole of $17 million. The article is entitled Want to tell TriMet how to run a railroad (and buses)? Now's your chance, about a social media campaign survey that is more like a game.

The site is part poll and part make-painful-choices game. "Love Connection" it's not. Think "Wheel of Fortune" meets a version of the "Sims" video game that allows players to manage a transit agency. There's a red bar reading "$17 million." You control a green bar, which moves depending on whatever service cuts and fare changes you click on. The goal is to balance the green and red.
... ... ... ...
(Yes, TriMet riders and payroll tax payers, it may be the most depressing interactive survey you've ever taken.)

"We're hoping to get an idea of what the public sees as the best approach," said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. "We also want to help people understand the tough tradeoffs that the agency faces."

The "game" is available at trimet.org/mailforms/budgetchoices.

Can I Borrow Your Car?

One more Portland story that I think is relevant for rural and suburban areas as well, though probably needs a few kinks worked out, is carsharing that is similar to, but goes beyond asking to borrow a neighbor's car. The Oregonian reports that federal funding, changes to the state's automobile insurance law and a venture by a private company will allow cheap pay-by-the-hour car rentals. Basically, you might be able to borrow - for a fee - the old hatchback down the street that has junk all over the front passenger seat or maybe the neat Audi convertible you admire.

With $1.7 million in federal grant money, California start-up Getaround will debut its personal car-sharing service in February, assuming a test period at the Portland State University campus goes well. The pilot starts on Jan. 1.

My source for the Portland stories is my-ever-reliable source, the TransitWire.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Public Participation - Legal Requirement, Resources, TA Providers

What do you as technical assistance providers say when you are asked for advice about public participation aspects of planning, transit development and creating transportation services? What are resources that are written for laypeople? What staff from within our network can assist you and your constituency? This blog post describes some common issues to keep in mind, legal requirements, just a few recommended resources and a list of staff within the TA Provider Network who can help when public participation issues arise.

Legal Requirement

Public involvement is a legal requirement of SAFETEA-LU and is increasingly used at all levels of government to inform official decisions and projects. A successful public consultation process is proactive and provides complete information, timely public notices in relevant media, and opportunities for early and continuous participation. Early issue identification and cooperative solution-building can reduce the potential for conflict later in the process.

Planning for public participation should account for costs, reasonable timelines, and serious consideration of community voices. To stay in communication with community members, organizations and leaders throughout a planning or other process, establish and maintain a list of all parties interested in transportation in the region or in the particular project at issue.

[Mural near Amtrak station in Galesburg, Ill.]


The digital divide looms large for community outreach because methods of outreach, particularly use of social media, email and the Internet, will depend on the lifestyles of the community at large and populations within the community. To rely only on social media and the Internet, however, is to ignore rural populations in areas without good Internet access and people who do not use the Internet and social media.

Effective Participation

Guidance for effective participation applies both to those seeking public input and people who wish to contribute their input. It takes a champion, a committed individual, to identify the players and organize and facilitate meetings in a way that others can see the merit of participation.

Community members should coordinate with other individuals, groups and local and regional political leaders. If possible, it is best to reach a unified position because it is more likely result in success than a lone voice. Newspaper editorials and letters, blogs and comments, Facebook, Twitter, and email campaigns can be useful for publicizing a position and gathering support.

Local political representation should be included from the start so that politicians may take ownership (credit) of the idea and guide it to success. It is best to keep politicians informed all the way through the process, as they can be instrumental in moving the projects along.

[Bus serving what will be Denver's renovated Union Station transit hub; right now the bus appears in the middle of the construction site of the station area.]

Channel Your Inner Boy Scout: Be Prepared

Community members should prepare for a public workshop by obtaining the necessary materials and studying each suggested alternative for any given project. As much factual information as possible should be employed to support a position on a project. Data will be more persuasive and credible than an unsupported opinion. Similarly, enumerating specific concerns and providing explicit suggestions for improving a project are likely to be better received than a general statement of opposition.

Effective participation requires knowledge of the planning process and methods of participating that are proven. Community members may attend the meetings of the MPO or other regional body, its board of directors, technical advisory committee (professional staff from the county and larger municipalities), and its citizen advisory council, all of which are open to the public.

Stakeholder Committees: Convening a stakeholder committee is a strategy that is widely used for supplying transit agencies and governmental entities with feedback about proposed projects and changes to service. Some are used from the planning through the implementation stages of specific projects; some are permanent fixtures.


Coordination: It’s the Law
- explains SAFETEA-LU’s public participation legal requirements.

Public Involvement in Transportation Decisionmaking - a course offered by the National Transit Institute (NTI) that discusses public participation and federal requirements.

How to Engage Low-Literacy and Limited-English-Proficiency Populations - excellent resource for including people who either are unable to read well or are not fluent English speakers. Low literacy is generally a marker for low income populations. 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 conduct a meeting.

The Do's and Don'ts of Working with Local Communities: Tips for Successful Community-Based Public Meetings - provides a checklist for effectively leading a public meeting.

A Guide to Transportation Planning for Citizens
- explains in simple language the planning processes contemplated in federal mandates and how to become involved.

TCRP SYNTHESIS 85: Effective Use of Citizen Advisory Committees for Transit Planning and Operations
- a must-read about public involvement via stakeholder committees. Provides a veritable cookbook for residents, political leaders, government personnel, and non-profit staff of all stripes. Descriptions of a range of purposes for the committees, procedures, membership, sizes, and types of projects and project phases for which the committees were utilized.

Including People with Disabilities In Coordinated Transportation Plans
- gives a simple explanation of coordinated planning, benefits of coordination, and improving coordinated planning through the involvement of people with disabilities. This Easter Seals Project ACTION brief includes resources for facilitating the process of coordination.


For information about reaching people in rural areas or places where many people are not connected to the Internet, contact Kelly Shawn (shawn@ctaa.org, 202-299-6596).

Remember that including people with disabilities means outreach that is accessible to those populations. Contact Ken Thompson (kthompson@easterseals.com, 800-659-6428) for more information about including people with disabilities.

Convening public meetings and stakeholder groups to discuss issues that will require supporting technology has been a key component of the Mobility Services for All Americans (MSAA) project. For more information, contact Yehuda Gross (yehuda.gross@dot.gov, 202-366-1988).

Contact Sheryl Gross-Glaser (grossglaser@ctaa.org, 202-386-1669) at the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination for more information.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You All Work Very Hard

I don't even know where to begin with news,events, and resources because the TA Provider Network is such a busy crew that I am starting to feel like keeping up is about as possible as being on the candy assembly line with Lucy and Ethel. They keep on going because you of the importance of their work and the need to provide assistance to states, communities, regions, human services agencies, and transit and transportation providers, among others.

I therefore sincerely apologize for the long blog post. These are are all indicative and good examples of the work technical assistance staff produce and how they can assist clients with the resources of TA peers.

[Part of the already-realized multi-modal Denver Union Station project. Exciting at day's end to see all of the commuters and ongoing construction. Thank you to MTAP for the tour.]

New Dialogue and Mobility Management

National Center on Senior Transportation
Online dialogue - Nov. 28 to Dec. 16, 2011 - Intended for individuals and organizations from the aging network and transportation industry. "The dialogue will give the aging network, older adults, advocates, volunteers, policy makers, public and private transportation providers, federal, state, and local transportation agencies, human services agencies, and municipal planning organizations the chance to submit, comment on, and rate ideas related to planning for senior-friendly transportation services." NCST is a technical assistance center administered by Easter Seals Inc., in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

NCST also has grant money available for mobility management. It is soliciting proposals for senior transportation projects that demonstrate innovative and effective solutions to enhance the mobility of older adults. Funding may be used to create comprehensive mobility management systems, increase mobility in urban and rural areas, and improve public transit access for older persons. The grants will be $50,000 or less. The NCST anticipates making a total of eight awards. These are the categories:
1. Peer-Mobility Management and Employment
2. Mobility Management in Rural/Frontier Areas
3. Mobility Management Integration within Current Practices
4. Mobility Management Applied to the Family of Senior Transportation Options

All proposals must be submitted by December 23, 2011.

[Chicago's Union Station.]

RTAP Events and New Resource

National Rural Transit Assistance Program

Webinar - Resource Library Overview and Tools - Dec. 5, 2011. The webinar will provide overview of the latest National RTAP web app, the Resource Library. Through National RTAP in the Cloud, this web app can be installed on any transit agency's website and may be used to upload, share and manage resources. You will also learn how you can install the Resource Library web app on your website and use it to upload, share and manage resources. Features of the web app will help you manage, track and report on resources using an easy-to-use web interface.

Conference - Creating Partnerships for Rural Transit Solutions - March 18-21, 2012, Scottsdale, Ariz. The conference will provide technical assistance with RTAP products on four tracks: Tribal, Transit Management, Transit Operations, and RTAP/5311 Program Management.

RTAP releases a new brief, Livable Communities: Tips for Designing Transit Services and Infrastructure that Promote Livability, which explains in simple terms what livability is and what the relationship to and benefits for rural transit are. The brief links to technical assistance resources and federal government information.

What Are the Procurement Rules?

Federal Transit Administration [www.fta.dot.gov]
The FTA has a new page on its site, Third Party Procurement FAQs, which answers questions about a few dozen topics about what procurement rules apply and when. Plus, the sleek look of the FTA site is worth a visit if you have not gone there in a while.
[Galesburg, Ill. train station platform.]

State Coordinating Council Profiles

National Conference of State Legislatures
NCSL has added to its State Human Service Transportation Coordinating Councils: State Profiles. These are in-depth examinations, approximately five to 10 pages, of how the state coordinating councils were created, their goals and evolution, how their objectives are being addressed across the state, and funding details. So far, NCSL's library includes five states.

NCSL also releases a livability brief. Though titled Recent State Livability Initiatives in Minnesota: An Analysis, the brief very much explains the integrated components that comprise livability and the type of projects that fall under its umbrella.


Easter Seals Project ACTION
ESPA releases a brief about technology to assist people who are visually impaired. Improving Transit Facility Accessibility by Employing Wayfinding Technology discusses tactile maps, detectable warnings, talking signs, smartphone apps and other assistive technology that enables a visually impaired person to navigate streets and transit on his or her own.

Information & Referral Training

National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities

Online training - Basic Training for Aging I&R/A Professionals - This training will give an overview of the broad array of health, social, and long-term services and supports for seniors and individuals with disabilities; tools and strategies to provide culturally appropriate services; and the fundamental phases of the I&R/A process with a focus on learning how to support the decision making of seniors, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers.

[Photo taken in California from the Coast Starlight train. I was mesmerized by the landscape.]

Local Story

The transit authority in Wichita, KS, is serving a reduced ridership following a 50-cent fare increase. The authority, in response, is soliciting feedback via an
interactive website to learn more about the public’s needs. The virtual town hall seeks community input about public services. The site provides a convenient way for residents to share ideas, offer opinions and make recommendations on a broad variety of Transit subjects including routes, services and possible expansion plans.

The fare increase was due to a budget shortfall.