Wednesday, May 2, 2012

State Level Coordination, Taxi Study, Rural Meets Google

NCSL has released the latest in its series of state coordination profiles, this one from the great state of Texas. These profiles examine the statutory, regulatory or executive mandates for coordination, initiatives at the state level, funding and grant management, and the progress of coordination and mobility management. The Texas profile highlights statewide and regional efforts, a website clearinghouse, and funding.

NCSL also releases its first 2012 coordination newsletter. The new issue lists pending and recently-passed state legislation requiring coordination or making changes to human services or Medicaid transportation delivery.

Survey - Statewide Coordination

"NCSL is in the midst of a survey of all the states and territories on state coordination and other activities that facilitate access to transportation mobility for veterans. Planned for release in Aug. 2012, the report will feature a state-by-state comparison, three case studies and a synthesis of best practices from across the nation." Contact Jaime Rall at to participate in the survey.

[Conductor and passenger during a station stop on Amtrak's Vermonter route.]

The Original Guaranteed Ride Home

By way of introduction to a very good study about taxi service, I cannot resist telling about a recent ride of my own. While making my way to a conference in Vermont, taking the Vermonter train to the Burlington area, I was reminded how a taxi driver can give a visit local flavor. My driver was a taxi advocate and local history buff. How many people do you know who can tell romantic and daring tales about the War of 1812? Probably not too many. Nicholas was so engaging that I contacted him for the ride back for my trek home. Stories of Champlain, for whom Lake Champlain is named, filled that trip. Champlain, according to Nicholas, was a visionary, though somewhat naive about tribal relationships. Nicholas left me with a reminder to read the book Taxi from Hell, written by an immigrant taxi driver with his own tales.

Local and State Partnerships with Taxicab Companies
is a TCRP report that offers an in-depth analysis of many different types of taxicab/public partnerships, from subsidized services to a taxi-friendly regulatory environment. Covered are human services transportation programs, guaranteed rides home, accessible taxis and much more. Not only does the report cover a broad swath of programs, but it honestly examines the incentives and some disincentives for taxi owners and drivers to participate in publicly-run transportation programs.

If you want models of types of partnerships with taxi operators, how the public/private divide is handled, and incentives and arrangements that work, this is the study to read. This report will take time to sift through, but the time will be worthwhile. Examples from large cities and rural areas alike seemed amenable to adaptation in different types of places. Adequate compensation for participation is crucial for the taxi companies, with paperwork another concern; whereas the public agencies are concerned with protective practices, such as adequate insurance, drug and alcohol testing, and fraud prevention. The wonderful thing about the report are the examples of how these concerns have been negotiated and resolved.

The only fault I find with the report is the small number of respondents, particularly that only eight taxicab companies responded to the survey. Those respondents cited as obstacles to public/private taxi partnerships "insufficient financial incentives, low demand for service, and lack of government interest or participation." Despite the obstacles, which are examined in detail, there are case studies of partnerships that have discovered ways of navigating barriers and have figured out how to adequately compensate companies and drivers, while satisfying the need of public agencies to maintain records, ensure driver safety and guarantee sufficient insurance coverage.

Google Changes Transit Way Beyond the Big Cities

Evolution of Intelligent Transportation Systems for Mobility Management and Coordination Serving California’s Rural Frontier is an honest account of the barriers to coordination via technology for rural frontier communities. Google comes to the rescue in a sense with new possibilities, but systems designed for urban settings, with frequent service and many passengers, are not easily transferable to this very different setting.

Google Inc. added real- time updates through the same trip planning interface. Riders can see if their particular trip plan will be delayed by traffic, breakdowns or weather. In deploying a real-time interface, there are new standards that allow multiple agencies to communicate on behalf of the rider. Another recent feature offers all lodging options up to a span of time on transit, defined by the rider. These data integration features are the future of ITS projects. Riders will demand that innovative companies push technology solutions to meet their needs.
Yes, this report is about technology making mobility management be truly customer focused, but it is also about expectations, patience, and knowledgeable interaction with consultants on complex projects.

[Old railroad car at a Vermont Amtrak station.]

DOT Agencies Create Joint Webinars

Webinar - (SR500) FHWA FTA TPCB Transportation Planning Information Exchange - May 22, 2012. This webinar will be an introduction to the Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program, particularly its web-based resources, peer exchanges and events, manuals, training, and newsletters. The event kicks off a FHWA and FTA webinar series, the Transportation Planning Information Exchange (T-PIE). T-PIE is a web-based forum to connect the transportation planning community with information on training, technical assistance, and technical support for State, local, regional and Tribal governments, transit operators, and community leaders. The webinars will address issues like scenario planning, land-use modeling, livability, environmental quality, operations, and maintenance. The May 22 webinar airs at noon to 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Upcoming Events

National Transit Institute
has courses coming up around the country in mobility management, public involvement in transportation planning, environmental reviews, state and metropolitan land use, bus rapid transit, procurement and asset management, and many aspects of technology.

Easter Seals Project ACTIONhas a webinar on May 16, 2012. Best Practices in Premium Paratransit Service will cover ACCESS Transportation Systems in Pittsburgh, Pa., and its successful premium paratransit services.

DOT Requesting Collegiate Assistance

This is a call to action. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is engaging in a dialogue with the public and requesting assistance. Following the recent announcement of its SaferBus app, DOT is asking the nation's students to submit improved apps that give consumers easily accessible, comprehensible, and navigable safety information about intercity bus services. The Secretary himself made the request in a Fastlane blog post. Submissions are due by August 30, 2012.