Thursday, December 23, 2010

Helping People to Get Out of the House

Sometimes, it is the things we don't really notice - unless we have to - that make a big difference to the independence and mobility of a group of people. For the visually impaired, sounds are essential to navigating streets; for the elderly and the infirm, a helping hand of a volunteer is crucial.

After two years of hard work, the American Council for the Blind (ACB) scored a victory for pedestrian safety for anyone who relies on his or her hearing to completely or partially navigate the crossing of streets.

The House [has] passed S. 841, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, legislation that will provide blind, visually impaired, and other pedestrians greater security when traveling in close proximity to hybrid or electric vehicles. The legislation passed the Senate on December 9. It now goes to the President for his signature.
... ... ...
The legislation will require the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin writing standards that would set requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle. It also requires that those rules be finalized within three years.

Volunteer Engagement

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A), in collaboration with the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD), AARP, and the Administration on Aging, among others, has created a technical resource center for the aging network to engage and train volunteers and provide technical assistance for volunteers and volunteer coordinators. More details can be found in the N4A press release.

Volunteer drivers are an important component of both senior and non-emergency medical transportation. Visit the relevant pages of the Community Transportation Association of America website.

Upcoming Events and a Call for Proposals

The deadline is January 14, 2011 for submitting session proposals for the annual conference of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). Topics that NCIL is interested in include information and referral, skills training, transitioning into the community and increasing services to underserved people and communities.

DC Area Conferences

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC)
2011 National Conference of Regions, Feb. 13-15, Washington, DC. Sessions will address homeland security, transportation and infrastructure, livable and sustainable communities, and economic development.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)
Washington Briefing
, Mar. 2-4, 2011, Washington, D.C. Details at Legislation, intercity rail and the financial outlook for transportation will be discussed.

American Public Transportation Association
2011 Legislative Conference, Mar. 13-15, 2011, Washington, DC. Reauthorization and other legislative developments will be addressed. There are many more events coming up that are listed on APTA's website.

National Association of Development Organizations NADO)
2011 Washington Policy Conference, Mar. 20-24, 2011, Arlington, Va. The focus will be on federal legislative advocacy, with sessions on rural economic development, sustainability and transportation, and regional development organizations. Dates for NADO's peer learning, economic development and training conferences for 2011 are available by links from its homepage.

And for Cherry Blossom Season ...

American Public Human Services Association (APHSA)
APHSA National Spring Conference, Mar. 27-29, 2011, Washington, DC.

National Head Start Association (NHSA)
Annual Head Start Conference, Apr. 4-8, 2011, Kansas City, Mo. Sessions will include planning and management, and partnerships and collaboration.

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A)
Aging Policy Briefing and Capitol Hill Day, Apr. 11-12, 2011, Washington, DC. Sharing of advocacy strategies, insights into federal policy making, and reauthorization of the Older Americans Act will be among the topics to be covered.


A little reading material for after the holidays: The National Governors' Association website has a page with links to state reports on how they are distributing funds and retrenching in light of the "protracted budget crisis like none seen in the last 30 years, and perhaps not seen since the Great Depression."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

High Demand for Intercity Bus Service and Insights into Quality Concerns of the Transportation Challenged

A few years ago, intercity bus companies took notice of successful routes that had sprung up to serve Chinatown in New York. Those companies and a few new ones changed the traditional model of station-to-station service and started curbside departures and arrivals, Internet-supplied tickets, free wifi, comfortable seating and very cheap prices compared to the airlines and Amtrak - prices competitive with driving.

Now a report highlighted by the American Bus Association, from DePaul University, The Intercity Bus: America’s Fastest Growing Transportation Mode - 2010 Update on Scheduled Bus Service, examines the numbers, the phenomenal increase in demand, though generally limited to major cities with good public transportation, that outstrips growth for air and long-distance train travel. Megabus alone boasts a one-year growth in ridership of almost 50 percent, with "33% ... a conservative middle-ground estimate of the growth in curbside traffic between the 4th quarter of 2009 and 2010."

Good Service Brings Alternative to Car Use and Ownership

Though Amtrak pointed to much more modest ridership increases this past year, Amtrak does not have the luxury of adding service and destinations very easily. The bus phenomenon of the last few years demonstrates the potential demand for long-distance service even in places where that demand has not been addressed. Indeed, the bus phenomenon also shows that for "discretionary riders" a nice atmosphere goes a long way, even without the guarantee of on-time arrival that a train generally delivers.

The report makes the rather large claim that:
curbside buses encourage “transit lifestyles” that place comparatively little emphasis on single-occupant automobile travel (and more emphasis on common-carrier providers) and thus apparently lower carbon footprints per mile traveled.
I think that intercity buses are a piece of the mobility puzzle for many people, a piece that means a car is not a necessity for everyone. The buses also provide a cost-effective way for families to reduce car use, which the train and air travel do not provide, a fact in evidence on the highways during the Thanksgiving weekend and the winter holidays every year.

Sea of Buses

In contrast to even a few years ago, now when you are entering the Lincoln Tunnel to head into the city for Thanksgiving, you see a sea of buses, a good percentage of which are these intercity carriers. And to what do we owe this recent change in the mobility landscape? A flexible private sector that has the ability to make changes without the delay of regulatory changes, infrastructure building and repair, and the other factors that slow down public endeavors. Not saying the private sector can do it all, just that this is a good example of its role in publicly-available transportation as well as the insights into markets that the private sector provides and that other public and private modes can learn from.

Deviating from Private Car Ownership

And intercity buses are not the only part of the private market that is seeing increases, creative car sharing businesses are being developed and spreading. Still an urban phenomenon, companies like Flex Car are branching out into more cities. RelayRides adds a new type of business model to the mix. The company, backed by Google, enables people to rent out their cars to friends or strangers for a nominal fee with a standard agreement that includes an insurance arrangement. Read about one person's experience in the Cambridge area. It started in Cambridge and is commencing service in San Francisco.

Different Picture in the Heartland

In the heartland of South Dakota, the availability of mobility options is a very different situation than in the urban centers on the East and West coasts. This is not a transit-rich area; in fact, for people with disabilities, the need is all too real. Assessing Existing and Needed Community Transportation for People with Disabilities in North Dakota outlines the challenges - "Adequate shelter from the weather while waiting, inconvenient schedules, and having a place to sit while waiting were most often cited as a major problem for people with disabilities." Added to the list a little more into the report is difficulty of boarding.

These seem like universal design issues. Though adequate shelter, for example, might allow a person with a disability to ride transit, it also makes transit more welcoming to the parent with a toddler and the guy who is considering taking the bus during the winter. Aspects of street accessibility to transit were listed as problems for more than half of the survey respondents, as was safety and travel information.

[T]hose who do not use transit were significantly more likely to say service is not available, transit users were less likely to think they are not capable of riding, and those who used transit in the past but do not anymore were more likely to say they do not have enough information.

The results indicate it is not lack of need that keep people with disabilities from using public transportation. Rather, lack of service, lack of information, thinking they are not capable of riding (whether true or not), and fear of riding can likely explain many of the differences between those who use public transportation and those who do not.

Insights into Quality of Paratransit Service

The report also addresses the challenges of using paratransit and the unique situation of people with cognitive impairments.

Two-thirds of respondents said that service not being available when they need it was a problem; 35% said it was a major problem. Other significant problems were unkept schedules for pickups and drop-offs or long waits, the need for scheduling trips too far in advance, and trip times that are too variable or unpredictable. Respondents were least concerned about the vehicles, in terms of their mechanical condition, accessibility, and seating availability.

This is an insightful and detailed study that would be helpful to anyone in transit or those serving people with disabilities. Really, it shows the opportunities in terms of demand and advances in quality of life that mobility options, sometimes the synergy of pedestrian-friendly streets and transit, sometimes other options, can provide.

Spreading the Seedlings of Creativity

I think that the innovations of the private market in cities, the willingness of Americans all over the country to vote for more public transportation funding, and the increasing unattractiveness of a fuel-intensive lifestyle will spur changes in places like South Dakota. Maybe different models of volunteer driver programs and vanpooling are just around the corner for rural areas and other places where people do not wish to or are unable to drive.

Here's to allowing Americans all over the country to have more and better mobility options. Next year, I want to hear about how you picture mobility; I want to learn from you about places where good transportation choices (be they taxis or shared rides), good street networks and good transit are working. Let's learn from the success stories, build upon them, and adapt them to the amazing quilt of places of we live in.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fiscal Realities Addressed

The Government Accountability Office addresses the current best of times and worst of times for transit - how systems are dealing with increasing in ridership at the same time that costs are going up and public dollars are in short supply. Transit Agencies’ Actions to Address Increased Ridership Demand and Options to Help Meet Future Demand discusses not only the current situation, but also demographic changes, such as a more urban America, popularity of transit and an aging citizenry, that will contribute to expanding ridership for a long time.

In terms of costs, the report examines the expenses of greater demand for transit and the inability of cash-strapped governments to supply the necessary funds. Attention is given to the pleas of transit staff to use funds to maintain a state of good repair. Likewise, streamlining of paperwork for federal programs is also discussed. On a positive note, operators with newer infrastructure and assets are heeding the lessons of old systems that require more funds for maintenance as they age.

Fiscal Report

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform's final report, The Moment of Truth, explicitly addresses transportation and recommends a 15-cent increase in the gas tax. But it goes further, calling for smarter spending.

Under current law, the Transportation Trust Fund has hybrid budget treatment in which contract authority is mandatory, while outlays are discretionary. This hybrid treatment results in less accountability and discipline for transportation spending and allows for budget gimmicks to circumvent budget limits to increase spending. The Commission plan reclassifies spending from the Transportation Trust Fund to make both contract authority and outlays mandatory, and then limits spending to actual revenues collected by the trust fund in the prior year once the gas tax is fully phased in. Shortfalls up until that point would be financed by the general fund.

... ... ...

Congress must limit spending from trust funds to the level of dedicated revenues from the previous year. Before asking taxpayers to pay more for roads, rail, bridges, and infrastructure, we must ensure existing funds are not wasted. The Commission recommends significant reforms to control federal highway spending. Congress should limit trust fund spending to the most pressing infrastructure needs rather than forcing states to fund low-priority projects. It should also end the practice of highway authorization earmarks such as the infamous Bridge to Nowhere.

Not discussed were strategies for making sure better transportation choices, who should make them, performance measurements and mode splits.

The Commission recommends a cap on discretionary outlays, but really seems to desire a different approach to spending. For example, in terms of emergency response, the report suggests a planned budgetary response, instead of ad hoc after-disaster-hits spending. I quote at length here.

Any given disaster may itself be unpredictable, but the need to pay for some level of disaster relief is not. Yet federal budgets rarely set aside adequate resources in anticipation of such disasters, and instead rely on emergency supplemental funding requests. The Commission plan explicitly sets aside funds for disaster relief and establishes stricter parameters for the use of these funds. The disaster fund budget authority (BA) will be limited to the rolling average of disaster spending in the most recent 10 years, excluding the highest and lowest year. Any unused budget authority will be rolled forward to increase the disaster fund BA available in the following year. Any spending above the disaster fund limit must be offset with reductions in spending or subject to a 60-vote point of order (and all other requirements established for regular emergency spending).

The Commission recommends codifying a strict definition of what qualifies as a disaster, and requiring Congress and the President to separately designate spending as an emergency and as necessary for the purposes of disaster response.

The National Response Framework Center at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has technical assistance resources for communities to learn about planning for disaster response and the role of different levels of government.

In terms of redundancy and questionable results of federal expenditures, the report, using the examples of multiple job training and math and science programs, calls for demonstration "to Congress or taxpayers [these programs] are actually accomplishing their intended purpose." Earmarks are expressly singled out as a practice that should be banned, but federal travel, printing, and hiring all receive attention.

Medical costs are discussed in detail, including a repeal or reform of the CLASS Act (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports). It is the Commission's opinion that the program as currently conceived is financially unsustainable. The Commission goes into detail about reforms of Medicare and Medicaid, including use of pilot programs and a long-term global budget for health care. Sections on Social Security, retirement and protecting those disadvantaged by disability and low income are well worth reading.

More Bang for the Buck

One method of addressing fiscal constraints, though certainly not a complete or a magic solution, is mobility management to achieve coordination. The premier digital issue of CT Magazine, Managing Mobility, a publication of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), provides a mobility management primer as well as examples of mobility managers producing results for riders across the country. These examples demonstrate that mobility management can be employed both for transportation-challenged populations and for the public at large for livability purposes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Latest Resources and News

The Administration on Aging has a new newsletter, the Affordable Care Act News, which debuted with the November issue.

A new pro-transit news feed has started up with headlines from different sources about funding, legislation, projects, and transit-oriented development. It definitely has political leanings, but it does supply a stream of snapshots for whatever is happening on a particular day. The feed, called The Other Side of the Tracks, is put together by Jeff Wood, Reconnecting America's New Media Director and Chief Cartographer.

Read about the new multi-modal transportation facility serving an airport with buses, rail and parking. The Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) own Peter Rogoff wrote a guest post on the Secretary's blog, the Fastlane, about completion of a critical passenger rail route that connects Warwick, Providence, and Boston.

Transporting health care to children is part of the mission of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF). Now CHF is adding another mobile medical clinic to its fleet, this time taking it to the streets of Detroit (okay, could not resist the Motown lyric reference), specifically schools and youth centers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dec. 15: Colloquium on Multi-Modal Livability

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

American Public Transportation Association
1666 K St NW, Suite 1100
Washington, D.C.

A gathering of members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation and technical assistance providers to discuss models of multi-modal partnerships that promote livability. Our speakers represent different modes, perspectives, and the partnerships made to create livable, multi-modal communities.

Please come prepared to share your organization's livability priorities and concerns. We will produce a top 5 list of the most important aspects of livability.
Please bring and share materials about what is going on at your organization.
We welcome your participation.

RSVP by Dec. 10. to Sheryl Gross-Glaser at or 202.386.1669.

New Resource

The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT)has launched a newsletter, Caryn's Corner, named for Executive Director Caryn Souza. The current issue has news about federal transportation funding opportunities, the DC bikesharing program, and a Georgia vanpool incentive for commuters.

Ideas for a Sustainable, Multi Modal Transportation System

The American Bus Association (ABA) posts a link to a report of the Mobility Choice Coalition, of which ABA is a member. Taking the Wheel: Achieving a Competitive Transportation Sector Through Mobility Choice discusses the history and biases of current transportation infrastructure and policy, with recommendations for a multi-modal future that incorporates the public and private sectors.

Recommendations include:
* Transparent pricing - paying for the road services one uses;
* Fair allocation of costs based on use, savings of oil and damage to roadways;
* Moving authority for decision making to metropolitan level with national performance standards - to encourage more competition among mode choices; and
* Technology upgrades for a more efficient system.

A Menu of Suggestions

Though the report calls for transparent pricing, it includes only transportation costs and not many of the external costs of a car-dependent lifestyle, such as public health consequences. It does call for mileage-based insurance premiums to account for the high rate of injury and death that automobile travel results in and the increasing odds of accidents that come along with increases in mileage. Among the strategies mentioned are congestion pricing, HOT lanes, truck-only lanes, fees to reflect oil's national security costs, telecommuting, high-speed and inter-city rail, transit vouchers for low-income riders, apportioning transit dollars for realizing fuel savings through high-load routes and modes, and changing land-use rules to satisfy demand for mixed-use walkable communities.

The coalition estimates that by 2030, the recommended strategies could save 779 million barrels, "or more than 10 percent of projected on-road oil consumption." The estimates are based on "the Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2010, and includes all of AEO’s assumptions regarding vehicle miles of travel (VMT) and vehicle fuel efficiency to 2030."

DC's Sustainability Plan

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.

In the section about linking land use to transportation, the plan announces that "[t]he program revitalizes major urban corridors by improving transportation options, increasing streetscape attractiveness and attracting businesses and residents to the area. It also provides environmental benefits through smarter and more efficient use of land resources."

In terms of its strong endorsement of a multi-modal approach, the program is progressing with:

* Expanding and increasing transit services, such as designing and constructing a streetcar system and a water-taxi system.
* Developing multimodal transportation projects that consider roadway, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit improvements.
* Implementing TDM strategies, such as car sharing, carpool, vanpool, transit subsidies and parking management programs.

The plan also covers economic and social justice impacts. It envisions itself as a tool to spur economic activity and to save on infrastructure costs. It also seeks, without concrete details, to equitably serve low-income communities.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Buses: Cuts and Expansions

The Amalgamated Transit Union has posted articles about proposals for transit service reductions across the country. The mayor of Jackson, Miss., is calling for ending Saturday service and laying off JATRANS employees. Disability advocates are opposing the cuts. A 35 percent cut in service, as well as fare increases, might be coming to Pittsburgh - eliminating service to 50 neighborhoods. And in Washington, D.C., proposed reductions threaten to affect 70 routes, impacting 400,000 riders.

Not Cutting Everywhere

The American Bus Association posts articles about the resurgence of the bus industry. Megabus, providing low-cost, high-quality service to major East Coast cities, is adding routes to Southeast destinations, such as Richmond, Va., Knoxville, Tenn. and Raleigh, N.C. It is also adding direct service between Washington, D.C., and Boston. The bus company, along with others like it, requires tickets purchased online and offers free Internet service. It does not have stations. Ridership has increased by 50 percent this year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Responses to the Budget Cutting Proposal

The co-chairs of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and retired Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), recently issued detailed draft recommendations and a PowerPoint summary explaining their plan to significantly cut the federal budget and reduce the national debt.

Presumably, every national organization is considering the election's results and many have internally reviewed last week's budget proposal, which appears to be a first offer. This is a summary of explanations of the proposal and responses by national organizations involved with transportation and human services:

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC):
NARC offers a synopsis with an explanation of the Commission's genesis and work, a very brief run-down of the recommendations and a list of specifics about transportation and economic development funding and revenues. The synopsis links to the PowerPoint and list of recommendations.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO): AASHTO covered the recommendations in a Nov. 12 newsletter article. Discussed was the proposed 15-cent increase in the gas tax. The article also covers another proposal for raising the tax by 25 cents. AASHTO's plan for modernizing transportation is available at

American Public Transportation Association (APTA): APTA reviewed the proposal in its Nov. 12 newsletter. The article pointed out the recommended 15-cent increase in the gas tax. APTA is supporting the increase.

After the Election - Organizations Explain Changes

The National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD): Summary of the election's results for Congress, statehouses and state legislatures. The summary goes into detail about implications for health care, supports for older Americans, and state government personnel.

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC):
NARC prepared a summary of the election and changes in Congressional leadership significant to regional planning organizations.

The National Disability Institute offered its opinion on what the election will mean.

National Conference of State Legislatures
(NCSL): NCSL provides 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.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Resources: Accessibility and Health Reform

The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) has posted an outpatient accessibility form and guidebook, the Outpatient Health Care Usability Profile V4, for health care facilities. The form is a self-assessment that quickly generates a picture of accessibility for any type of building and could be used beyond the health care field. It covers accessibility to bathrooms, elevators, hallways, ramps to the building entrance, among others. However, the guidebook only discusses federal requirements; state and local regulations may be more stringent. Transportation to the facility - an assessment of whether transit, taxi service or other services are available - is not mentioned, but could be added.

For information about ADA paratransit eligibility, the National Transit Institute has a course on this topic and Easter Seals Project ACTION has an upcoming series of distance learning classes about ADA paratransit.

Health Care Reform

The Children’s Health Fund has posted a link to the video of the Kaiser Family Foundation's event last week, What Does the Election Mean for Health Reform and Other Health Issues?

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 four consortium organizations are: National Governors Association (NGA), including the NGA Center for Best Practices, National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), National Association of State Medicaid Directors (NASMD), and National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP).

Health care guidance for individuals is available from AARP. It's health reform fact sheets offer information about a wide range of changes and implications for consumers, particularly older adults.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Resource Update: Planning, Livability, Economic Downturn

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A) are hosting a webinar, Aging & Livable Communities, on November 15. The webinar will explore how the aging population is incorporated into comprehensive regional planning and implementation. This discussion will highlight lessons learned and offer recommendations for how regional planning organizations and Area Agencies on Aging can work together to achieve tangible results. For information, visit

Easter Seals Project ACTION
offers the 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), 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 and impose standards. It also provides information about federal transportation initiatives related to the ADA, such as United We Ride.

NARC has also posted a presentation about significant changes in Congress, specifically shifts in leadership and priorities in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

What Is an MPO?

The Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) has posted a report from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The report was produced with assistance from staff at AMPO, NARC, the National Association of Development Organizations and other national planning associations. 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.

Demographics and Population Needs

Though we hear news that the recession is over, it takes a long while sometimes after a downturn before people's financial circumstances bounce back. The following two reports discuss how people at both ends of the age spectrum are still suffering. The third examines demographic data about other indicators.

Young Child Poverty in 2009: Rural Poverty Rate Jumps to Nearly 29 Percent in Second Year of Recession
goes region by region and then state by state to give the numbers on child poverty. The publication also separates out the differences in each state for urban, rural and suburban areas. The numbers for child poverty provide a snapshot of where family poverty is concentrated and where poverty is increasing.

Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being offers data about income, physical and cognitive abilities, medical care, housing and more among the 45+ population. This is broken down so that information is easily available about those over 65, 75 and 85. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A) produced the report.

American Community Survey briefs, products of the Census Bureau, report on public transportation usage, education, income and public assistance. This is valuable data in an easy format to keep track of demographic trends.

Accomplishments of the Sustainability Partnership

A Year of Progress for American Communities summarizes the achievements and philosophy of the Administration's Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The report briefly explains the links among housing, the environment, economic development and transit-oriented communities for people of all ages and income levels. Concise case studies are included.

Livability in Transportation Guidebook: Planning Approaches that Promote Livability is a good companion to the previously mentioned partnership publication. This report offers in-depth case studies that highlight policy and programmatic shifts to promote and design livable communities.

Rebuilding America: APA National Infrastructure Investment Task Force Report
presents the environmental and economic cases for the livability agenda of transit-oriented communities with bike and pedestrian-friendly streets as well as mobility choices. The report also examines the role of regional planning entities.

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.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Emergency Evacuations

The newsletter of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) , Rural Transportation News, announces two reports relevant to emergency evacuations in rural areas. Both are available at The newsletter gives an in-depth summary of the reports. One examines the capacity of transit and school buses to provide transportation during emergency evacuations in places like the Gulf Coast, where many rural residents do not have cars and hurricanes are a fact of life, making evacuations a seasonal routine. The report also covers coordination and communications.

The other report looks into workforce, operating budget, and communication in rural evacuations. The evacuations discussed n this publication involve moving people from urban areas into rural ones.

From the Archives

Here are some emergency management resources from my old newsletter, with valuable input from Kelly Shawn of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA).

National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination (NRC), housed at CTAA:
The NRC website has a page, Emergency Preparedness and Response, with many resources listed. These include materials about emergency evacuation, planning and reentry. Especially noteworthy is Evacuating Populations With Special Needs - Routes to Effective Evacuation Planning Primer Series and Transportation's Role in Emergency Evacuation and Reentry.

CTAA’s Emergency Management Resource Alert page has a wealth of resources listed that address specific vulnerable populations, coordination, rural areas, planning organizations, case studies and more. Also available from CTAA are the presentations from the 2008 Emergency Evacuation Conference.

Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities:
This council has a host of materials, including a couple of items we developed at the NRC, on its web site at

House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee summary of a hearing, U.S. Mayors Speak Out: Addressing Disasters in Cities about H.R. 3377, the Disaster Response, Recovery, And Mitigation Enhancement Act of 2009. (This legislation has not yet moved forward in either the House or the Senate.)

Future resources

Due out next year is TRB’s A-33 – Communication with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit.
September 2011 – TCRP A-33: Communication with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit. Interim report due out in September 2010.
October 2011 - TCRP A-37 [RFP]: Paratransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook
September 2012 (approximately) – TCRP A-36 [RFP]: Command-Level Decision Making for Transit Emergency Managers

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mobility Management: Thinking Mulberry Street (NYC)

Last week I read a terrific synopsis of what mobility management aims for. Rich Weaver of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) was interviewed in the September issue of the National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST) newsletter and he gave concise summaries of the goals for mobility management and livability. (NCST is a technical assistance center administered by Easter Seals Inc., in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.) He described mobility management as promoting the partnership among "mobility providers," such as transit, vanpools, and other shared-ride services.

Mobility management is a concept that cuts across large and small communities. It looks beyond traditional fixed-route service and works to improve the operation of other transportation resources. Mobility management involves creating partnerships with transportation providers in a community or region to enhance travel options and then developing the means to effectively communicate those options to the public, including seniors.

Think Little Italy

To me, at least today, I am thinking of mobility management as akin to an association for a business district. The two restaurants on the street may be competitors in some sense, but if people don't know where they are, that the disctrict is a destination, or the special atmosphere and activities of the business district, then all the businesses suffer. So, too vanpools might be considered competition for fixed-route service, but not if each has its role in a family of transportation choices. (Or, as my niece was doing recently, taking the Metro someplace in the evening and then, on the way home, getting off at a station with taxis for the last mile.) As an example, if the streets are not pedestrian friendly, then no matter how much transit or other shared modes are environmentally friendly or economically enhancing, then people will not use them.

Mobility Management as a Connecting Concept

What does this have to do with the title of this post? How does mobility management connect to poverty, the environment and their ties to connectivity?

I am seeing reports right and left about changes needed to improve the environment and changes needed to address poverty. Authors of both types of publications are seeing the connection between transit and zero-emission modes (walking and biking) and the environment and equitable economic development. Also starting to happen and I would also like to see more is a more multi-modal approach that incorporates shared private transportation, such as vanpools, carpools and slugging, as well as taxis and flex car services. A few publications are even addressing how parking policies affect transportation choices.

Mobility management means partnering across modes and types of public interests. Just like the different types of businesses I am picturing from Little Italy, which banded together to create a brand that now attracts busloads of tourists and a few locals (okay once the tourists come, it's not cool anymore and New Yorkers, like high school kids, have moved on), fans of transit and alternative modes must band together to promote themselves as a family of services that provide environmentally friendly and economically-enhancing transportation options.

With all the Little Italy talk I am not nostalgic for Luna's, the old whole-in-the-wall restaurant that had zero atmosphere and amazing food. Plus, I feel proud to have successfully inserted a photo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Transit Funding Problems Prompt National Meeting

Decreased transit funding and declining revenue due to the recession are causing service cutbacks and layoffs in the transit industry, now at more than 3000. The Amalgamated Transit Union convened a meeting of national organizations and union locals, to work together bring to the public's attention the need for transit service. The meeting focused on jobs, community organizing, and forming a message for a national campaign.

Among the participants were the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), Transportation for America, and Reconnecting America.

Ridership Increases

Despite the recession, or maybe somewhat because of it, transit ridership is again on the rise, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), showing a .1 percent increase in the second quarter of 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Comprehensive Thoughts on Reauthorization

Two recent reports offer food for thought about reauthorization. One examines the macroeconomic issues at play and the other looks at the daily living needs of the population of those aging with disabilities.

Two Former Secretaries of Transportation

If we did not already know that reauthorization is overdue, the 92-page report, Well Within Reach America’s New Transportation Agenda, from the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, offers 10 reasons, with plenty of analysis to support its arguments, to invest now in transportation. Yes, two former Secretaries of Transportation participated in the conference leading to the report. Specifically, it calls for:
1. Investment to ensure the global competitiveness of the United States;
2. Investment in mobility options that reduce congestion at airports and on roads, especially high speed rail;
3. Returning to a pay-as-you-go funding mechanism for the nation’s highways, such as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) system;
4. Investment in hi-tech air travel safety systems;
5. Investment and policy reforms that reduce traffic congestion; and
6. Investment in infrastructure to prevent an erosion of the “social and economic foundations for American prosperity in the long run.”

Looking for Long-Term Solutions

The report has a long term economic perspective. Without explicit names or programs, it criticizes “short-term fixes for unemployment or other problems.” It also calls for setting of a few priorities, adequately funding them, and accounting for them as long-term investments.

The report examines the Oberstar reauthorization bill and its recommendations are consistent with the bill, particularly in the area of livability and reduction of single-occupancy-vehicle (SOV) trips. It also addresses other topics, getting into the weeds on zoning, technology, performance measures, public/private partnerships and other issues.

Transportation-Challenged Populations Left Unmentioned

Even though the report concentrates on megatrends and large problems, it leaves unmentioned the large and growing population of older adults and people with disabilities. It does not discuss those who are unable to drive, those who cannot afford a privately-owned vehicle, or those who live in rural areas. Nor does it address transportation equity.

AARP's Look at Caregiving

In Trends in Family Caregiving and Paid Home Care for Older People with Disabilities in the Community: Data from the National Long-Term Care Survey, AARP examines the levels of disability older people are living with and how they are being taken care of - whether with assistive devices, family care, and/or formal and paid care. Though the report does not discuss transportation, it does analyze the needs of a many people who do not drive. This population has increased substantially in the last 15 years.

The report offers both a sober message and recommendations.

Clearly, most older people want to stay in their homes and communities when disability strikes, and the data presented in this report and its companion (Redfoot and Houser 2010) document the strong trend toward greater independence among older people with disabilities. But policy discussions have been too focused on saving money and too little focused on providing the supports needed to enable older people to retain their independence. And far too little attention is paid to providing the financial, technical, and respite support needed by family caregivers who are increasingly bearing the burdens of care. Building the network of services and supports for people with disabilities and their family caregivers should be a national priority today so that tomorrow’s much larger cohorts of older people can look forward to aging with dignity and independence.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Aging in Place News

The National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD), formerly the National Association of State Units on Aging, has links to articles about the demographics of the older adult population and about how to age well in place.

One article discusses the village model, originated in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, but which has sprouted many different variations across the country. The article also touches upon the toll that end-of-life care imposes on workplaces and employees.

Community and Home Care

Unfortunately for those who wish to age in place on limited incomes, the financial condition of state and local government coffers are not in good shape. State and local services include transportation and meal deliveries, among others. According to NASUAD, "States can’t stop enrollments because these are entitlement programs. But they can cut the number of hours or visits and individual receives, and they can cut reimbursement to the providers, who already complain that their payments are too low."

Martha A. Roherty, executive director of NASUAD, adds that the shrunken government workforces will also have to meet the challenge of enrolling 16 million more people in Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Who Is Living in the Community?

has a brief that specifically discusses who is aging in place and at what level of independence and disability. Trends in who is caring for those who are unable to fully take care of themselves is also covered, along with who is paying for that care.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Health Care Reform - Integrating Transportation

The Administration on Aging released the Affordable Care Act - Opportunities for the Aging Network, which is a quick summary of health care reform's changes for the public health system and communities.

There are opportunities for transportation providers because successful aging in place, getting people healthy after a hospital stay and providing a modern medical workforce will all require moving people from home to a medical facility.

Medicaid expansion is addressed in Covering Low-Income Childless Adults in Medicaid:
Experiences from Selected States
. "The paper attempts to summarize: (a) what is known about the incoming population, including their health care needs and costs; (b) the outreach and enrollment challenges presented by the expansion population; and (c) the delivery system design questions that need to be answered to adequately address their needs."

Medical Transportation

Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) will be play a big part in getting people to appointments. 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 current issues and helping them to be more efficient for when the new law takes effect.

CTAA has a new training to address these needs.

Limited funding combined with growing patient loads has states seeking intermediaries that can control costs through competition. Community and public transportation providers must become efficient, safe, cost-effective and accountable to maintain these important medical transportation services. CTAA, in response to requests from its members, is introducing a new initiative this fall -- the Competitive Edge -- which will give community and public transit providers the tools, resources and benefits they need to make them central players in this new medical transportation environment. For more information, contact Charles Dickson at 202.247.8356 or email

Secretary LaHood's Blog in My Neighborhood

On a personal note, I read the Secretary's blog a moment ago and noticed he has been in my neighborhood for Walk to School Day. The Secretary is photographed at a nearby school surrounded by children. A video posted on the blog shows children walking to their local elementary school (yes, my daughters' old school) and discusses safety. I will brag a little to say that Takoma Park Elementary School boasts a 30 percent walker rate, thanks to pedestrian-friendly streets and child-friendly crossing guards on the corners.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Big Plans

From small to large public transportation systems, recent announcements are reminiscent of the Daniel Burnham quote, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.... Make big plans... aim high in hope and work.”

Last night, the PBS NewsHour profiled rural transit in Natchez, Miss., and the plans to build a better system that will attract many more riders. Charles Carr, director of transit services, Mississippi Department of Transportation and President of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) was asked to respond to arguments that subsidies are required to fund public transit. Carr replied that subsidies are used for rail and air travel as well as roads.

Natchez Transit's director, Sabrina Bartley, plans to expand service to underserved areas, start fixed-route service, and coordinate service in 13 counties.

A Bos-Wash Dream

On the other side of the spectrum, a large sytem, Amtrak, declares its plans for high-speed service along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). None other than the Secretary of Transportation praised the unprecedented regional partnership in his blog post this morning. The NEC plan envisions trips from Washington to Boston in 3 hours and 23 minutes (compared to the current 8 hours on Amtrak's Northeast Regional trains or 6 hours and 37 minutes on Acela Express), with 220 mile-per-hour service between the major cities along the corridor. More information is available from the Potomac Express and from the Philadelphia Enquirer at

What's the common denominators for implementation of ambitious plans in the rural Natchez area and the states and cities along the NEC? Champions will be needed to persist in seeing the plans through and coordination at the county, state and regional levels.

Economic Message

The message that many see in ambitious public transportation plans is the creation of jobs, increasing employment within transit systems and in the communities that it serves.

The Natchez Transit director speaks of attracting business. Employers, she says, are always interested in whether their employees can get to work. For Amtrak and those supporting the NEC plan, there are estimates that thousands of jobs could be created. Amtrak's president, Joseph Boardman, says that the new high-speed rail corridor's bridges, tunnels, and stations "would create 40,000 full-time jobs per year over 25 years" and planners estimate 120,000 new permanent jobs would result from improved economic productivity along the corridor.

Green Jobs

Ambitious plans are not limited to local and intercity transportation. According to the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), a green economy incorporates transit and coordination among regional sectors. In its discussion of green jobs in a letter to the Department of Labor, NARC points out the Kansas City regional plan. (The Department of Labor definition of
green jobs contemplates public transit.)

Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) is the multi-faceted regional planning organization representing the Kansas City bi-state region (Missouri and Kansas). MARC is a leader in developing Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone, an effort to concentrate resources — with funding, coordination, and public and private partnerships — in one specific area to demonstrate that a targeted effort can literally transform a community. This national model for place-based investment is now underway in the heart of Kansas City's urban core and has received significant federal recognition and funding. At the heart of the Green Impact Zone initiative is a project that would put area residents to work weatherizing the 2,500 homes in the zone’s neighborhoods. Another piece calls for development of a green bus rapid-transit system that would include bio-diesel buses and green bus shelters. A third piece would provide job training and employment programs for ex-parolees in green building, park restoration and transit work. The Green Impact Zone project will include an employment and training program coordinated both with zone activities and business interests outside of the zone.


To encourage the use of commuter transit and keep it on par with driving, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is urging its members to contact Congress to extend the commuter tax benefit for transit riders. APTA writes in its legislative update,
Under ARRA, the transit/vanpool portion of the benefit was increased to $230 per month, treating each mode of transportation as equal. This provision is set to expire on December 31, 2010, and without an extension, the transit tax benefit would be reduced by more than half to the previous $120 per month amount.

APTA is asking Congress to either extend ARRA's higher commuter tax benefit or to "permanently equalize the transit benefit and parking benefit."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Consortium Members Join Transportation Equity Group

Transportation for America has convened an Equity Caucus that includes members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation. Those Consortium members are the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, the Center for Community Change, and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

The caucus has declared its goals for transportation reauthorization. Among its goals are increased spending on public transit, "bicycle facilities, and sidewalks— particularly in disadvantaged communities," flexibility for transit systems to use funds for operating expenses, and increases in funding streams to serve "people who depend on public transportation—older adults, individuals with disabilities, people in rural areas, and the poor." The caucus also calls on Congress to invest in car sharing, bike sharing and auto loan programs in rural areas and under served city neighborhoods.

The priorities of the group go beyond a call to fund public transit and human services transportation. There is a jobs component as well as a public health component.

Other organizations that have joined the caucus are unions, walking and cycling associations, smart growth groups, and public health organizations.

Distinct Transportation-Challenged Populations and their Particular Needs

These reports discussed below are listed in Tappy Grams, a monthly roundup of research papers about transportation and human services. Subscribe at the Tappy page.

A new report on senior services discusses cutbacks and increased requests for assistance, with older adults in great need of transportation. Older Americans Act: Preliminary Observations on Services Requested by Seniors and Challenges in Providing Assistance also identified home-delivered meals and information and referral as very much in demand.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report also examines cutbacks in service due to the economic downturn and lack of funding. "Some state and local officials said they provided less service to individuals so that more could get some amount of assistance."

The need for transportation services was found all along the urban to rural spectrum, with urban older adults preferring specialized service to public transit. Though the report does not examine why this is the case, perhaps for frail individuals the issue might or might not involve the ride on public transit, but rather the daunting task of quickly crossing streets and navigating crowded stations and locations along the way to a bus or rail stop. GAO's "past work has found that mass transit options may pose scheduling and accessibility challenges for seniors" the report notes.

GAO states that the increase in demand for services is due to higher numbers of eligible older adults and people aging in place. According to the report, anecdotal information suggests that the needs are greater than the demand for services.

Travel Assistance Technology for People with Cognitive Disabilities

For those who are interested in user-friendly and individualized technology to support the use of transit by people with cognitive disabilities, the Travel Assistance Device (TAD) Deployment to Transit Agencies, a report of the National Center for Transit Research offers a detailed examination of TAD for individual users who ride transit in different places. Technological potential and glitches were discussed.

The study assessed three individuals with moderate mental retardation and whether TAD supported those individuals sufficiently to allow them to travel independently. The answer is yes, given the parameters of the study. The report is frank in its analysis of the limitations of the study's conclusions, among other issues the problem of extrapolating the applicability of a study done with people with a specific disability who had previously received travel training to people with other types of cognitive disabilities who had not received similar training.

Monday, September 27, 2010

AASHTO and APTA Publicize Individual and Societal Transit Needs

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recommends a large increase in rural public transit funding due to the increase in demand and the aging population that wishes to remain in their communities. Transportation Reboot: Restarting America’s Most Essential Operating System - The Case for Capacity: To Unlock Gridlock, Generate Jobs, Deliver Freight, and Connect Communities discusses the numbers involved and stories of communities and individuals.

Collective and Individual Needs for Transit

And communities are wanting transit. AASHTO is reporting that the Department of Transportation (DOT) received applications from every state for its TIGER grants, worth 32 times the amount of funds available. These funds will be awarded on a competitive basis.

In case anyone doubts the personal stories that go along with the need for transit, visit the new page of the website of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). APTA has a video wall of individuals who use transit. The people videotaped describe their needs, their transit experiences and their gratitude for quality service. The video wall is part of APTA's reauthorization public relations effort to emphasize the importance of transit in people's lives.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Livable Communities : Legislative Information

The Livable Communities Act (S. 1619, H.R.4690) is proceeding in the Senate, having been approved by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. The Act is receiving broad support in the transit and planning communities. If passed, the bill would provide more than $2 billion in investment for planning and challenge grant programs for public and community transportation infrastructure, services, transit-oriented development and other vital efforts, all under the auspices of the innovative working partnership among the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The text of the Act and actions in Congress are available at Thomas.

Analysis of the Act

Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) - CTAA has prepared an explanation of the Act's importance and an analysis and summary of the Act.

American Public Transportation Association
(APTA) continues to have legislative updates on its homepage and in its weekly newsletters.

National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) has its Association's testimony about the Livable Communities Act posted and linked from its home page at Latest News & Press.

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) has a livability page devoted to resources and congressional information.

has also posted a letter to Congress in support of the Act. AARP's Public Policy Institute also has released reports about livability and seniors.

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A)

By the way, the American Public Works Association
will be participating in NARC's Regional Metropolitan and Urban Policy Forum in Austin, TX on Sept. 27-28. APWA staff will discuss sustainability, livability and infrastructure planning. APEA has more information at its Center for Sustainability

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

President Obama Wants to Talk to Communities about Healthcare Law

This just in from the Administration on Aging newsletter:

Health Care Conference Call with President Obama

Faith and Community Leaders are invited to join President Obama for a conference call to discuss key new benefits under the Affordable Care Act. We want to ensure that community leaders like you have the most up-to-date information and resources about these new benefits to share with your communities and congregations.

The conference call will begin at 4:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, September 21, 2010. You do not need to RSVP for this call. For those with internet access, please join the call online at: For those without internet access, please dial: 1-888-455-6860 or 1-866-844-9416.

On September 23rd, the six month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, several new health care benefits begin to apply: eligible young people up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plan, key prevention benefits are covered without co-pays or deductibles in new plans, and insurance companies may no longer deny coverage to kids because of pre-existing conditions or drop someone from coverage because of a paperwork mistake.

President Obama will speak about how consumers and communities are already benefiting from the new law. HHS officials will provide an update on how the Affordable Care Act is being implemented, highlight new outreach resources, and answer questions from community and faith leaders. Community and faith leaders will also share their efforts to bring the benefits of health care reform home to communities.

If you have questions, email

Rural Transit Gets Attention

The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), along with YouthBuild USA, Good News Mountaineer Garage (a car ownership program for low-income residents of West Virginia), Redwood Coast Rural Action (a regional network of rural leaders based in northern California), and Sustainable Northwest (a Western U.S. community-oriented, conservation-based non-profit group), is a member of the National Rural Assembly Rural Transportation Policy Group. The group released a statement declaring, "Highway-building alone is not enough to address the economic and mobility needs of small-town and rural America."

The group's position on transportation reauthorization legislation calls for the federal government to be a catalyst to "modernize, strengthen and integrate the transportation systems that connect rural people and places to each other and urban commercial centers, while protecting the landscapes, habitat and livelihoods of rural communities." The National Rural Assembly is also asking for investments in broadband technology.

Billy Altom, executive director of APRIL, stated that "rural residents, especially those with disabilities, need and deserve affordable and accessible transportation. This includes public transit, regional, and inter-modal systems that are in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act."

Stories of Rural Livability

The Transportation for America blog series on rural livability is now complete, with 12 examples of livability initiatives across the spectrum of small towns, reservations and small cities. A few of the examples are from the archives of technical assistance projects of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). Some are examples of EPA smart growth projects.

The series shows some examples of transit's role in creating livable communities. Others showcase places that have embarked on downtown and pedestrian-friendly projects. The full series is available at

One State Goes Totally Smart Growth

The newsletter of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), announced that New York State recently passed a smart growth bill that is intended to do away with unnecessary sprawl. Enacted as an environmental conservation measure, the law sets forth nine smart growth criteria, including protection of rural agricultural land and improvement of public transportation choices to move beyond automobile dependency.

Though there are no exceptions to the law listed, it only applies to state agencies. It requires state infrastructure agencies to create smart growth advisory committees and mandates state committees to "solicit input from and consult with various representatives of affected communities and organizations within those communities, and shall give consideration to the local and environmental interests affected by the activities of the agency or projects planned, approved or financed through such agency."

I'm a New Yorker; I'm skeptical, watching and waiting to see how this broad legislative action plays out in the real world. There are no enforcement teeth or specific mandates.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Facts & Assistance for Helping People with Disabilities

Today's American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) newsletter, Working for Tomorrow, reports "[p]eople with disabilities are much more likely than people without disabilities to consider inadequate transportation to be a problem (34 percent vs. 16 percent, respectively)— a gap of 18 percentage points." The newsletter also gives details of upcoming changes to Medicaid.

Contact Nanette Relave (202-682-0100 x241; for subscription information.

Making Service Truly Accessible

The American Bus Association and Easter Seals Project ACTION are jointly featuring the Motorcoach Operator’s ADA Pocket Guide in a two-part webinar, Using the Motorcoach Operator’s ADA Pocket Guide, starting Sept. 22. Staff from Jefferson Bus Lines will explain how their company has made its service accessible for people with disabilities.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Upcoming Events

National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD), formerly the National Association of State Units on Aging - Home and Community Based Services Conference in Atlanta, Ga. on Sept. 26-29. Transportation will be addressed in a session on whole health, recovery and transportation as well as a session about the vital link to services that transportation provides.

Easter Seals Project ACTION
- Mobility Management: The Paducah Approach, an audio conference, on Sept. 21. Part of Project ACTION’s Promising Practices and Solutions in Accessible Transportation series, this conference will discuss this mobility management model and the provision of coordinated mobility solutions in the Paducah area.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Zero and Low Emission Modes Get AASHTO's Attention

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) had two interesting articles in its weekly newsletter, both involving transit.

First is Boulder's new initiative:, which promotes commuting to work less, even just one day a week less, and instead biking, walking, using transit, carpooling or telecommuting. Similar to Idaho's I-Way program, the site encourages use of alternatives to the single occupancy vehicle and producing less pollution. There is also a link there that connects to a national trail site with walking routes in every state.

30/10 Plan Reaches Across Party Lines

Second is Los Angeles' 30/10 plan, which seeks to implement a 30-year transit plan within 10 years by using the long-term revenue from a half-cent sales tax, estimated to produce $13 billion for transit, as collateral for long-term bonds and a federal loan. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D. Calif.) was promoting the mayor's idea at LA's city hall. The LA Times reports:

"We are going to get it done and it's going to be a template for the nation," Boxer said during the hourlong forum. "Everything we do is job-focused, but everything we do has to be deficit-neutral, except emergencies …. We have to leverage every single penny that we can."

The newspaper story also stated that Boxer's Republican rival in the upcoming election also backs the ambitious transit plan.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Consortium Organizations Find Transit to Be a Vital Link

Each day, news of the importance of transportation options for specific populations and the general public comes across my computer screen. Sometimes it feels like I am only writing about the contours and depth of the need. Today this started before I got to the office. Signs for one of the local bus systems notified riders of reduced frequency of service and route eliminations. Some of those riders this morning - most of whom appeared to be commuting to jobs - were using crutches or walking with great difficulty. Others had small children along. Then my computer screen gave me more news, some of it bad, but accompanied by possible solutions.

The Children's Health Fund (CHF) finds insufficient services for children in the Gulf Coast region during the five years since Hurricane Katrina. Among the points made in Legacy of Katrina: The Impact of a Flawed Recovery on Vulnerable Children of the Gulf Coast: A Five-Year Status Report, the reasons for continuing emotional and behavioral problems include lack of transportation to care and lack of childcare that would enable parents to take one child to an appointment.

Old and Young Share Mobility Challenges

On the other end of the lifespan, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A) accesses the challenges that cities and counties confront as their populations age. N4A informs communities that transportation is among the critical services necessary for aging in place.

Like the majority of American adults, older Americans rely on private automobiles to meet their mobility needs. However, the physical limitations that come with age may over time restrict or eliminate an older person’s ability to drive. Many older adults who cannot drive can still live independently if they have access to available, adequate, affordable and accessible public transportation.

Recommendation: Communities should offer driving assessment and training to help older adults remain on the road as safely as possible for as long as possible. Communities should also consider improvements to roadway design such as large print road signs, grooved lane dividers, dedicated left turn lanes and extended walk times at pedestrian crosswalks to accommodate older drivers and pedestrians. Additionally, local governments should assess their existing public transportation systems to see if they address the needs of an aging population.

N4A also recommends that housing amenable to older adults be developed close to "transportation links," which would enable those who do not drive or who have cut back on driving to have transportation options.

Map to AAA and CIL Cooperation

The National Council on Independent Living
posted a report with suggestions for collaboration between centers for independent living (CILs) and area agencies on aging (AAAs) and the mechanics of the relevant federal statutes. Among the suggestions made were coordinating transportation, development of transportation service, and travel training for people who need mobility options.

Public Transit: Health Provider

Yes, a bus can take a person to the doctor, to work, to the supermarket, but, according to a study commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), just having rail or bus fixed-route transit in your town or neighborhood increases the chances that you are living a healthy lifestyle and reaping its benefits. Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits, prepared by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, shows that it is not so much the bus or the train itself that provides health benefits as the accouterments of places that have invested in transit and the lifestyle of walking to a stop or a station: walkable streets, less car use - whether a trip is part transit or not, fewer car crashes (injuries and fatalities), less pollution, more exercise, and fewer health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. What transit does accomplish for health is making possible healthier choices than those mobility options that disproportionately pollute, cause serious injury and death, and make it inconvenient to get in that all-important daily exercise.

APTA's website is filled stories of the benefits of transit. In addition to health, the annual savings average of transit over car use was pegged this year at $9,381, an average far exceeded in many major cities. If you live in Brooklyn, for example, you could save over $13,000 (of course your housing costs would be impossible, so you might want to consider a move carefully).

Planning Sustainable Communities

The Administration intends to encourage more communities to become healthier and more environmentally sustainable through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants.

The Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations has posted advice for regions planning to apply for the grants. This includes a good explanation of what federal and other dollars may be used as matching funds. This planning grant program intends to "support metropolitan and multijurisdictional 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 these issues specific to their region."

Another good source of information on this topic is the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC). It has a page devoted to the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants and how to apply.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

For information about recent legislative activities related human services programmatic and funding decisions, the American Public Human Services Association has a nice summary linked to its homepage. Information about TANF and SNAP (food stamps) is included.


American Bus Association - National Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation Conference, on October 24-27, 2010, in Burlington, Vt. Sponsored by the Transportation Research Board, the conference will feature accessibility, rural transit policy and planning, alternative fuels, intelligent transportation systems and rural transit, regional systems, networks and coalitions, operations, safety, and security, and tribal transportation.

New online classes at the American Public Works Association include emergency preparedness and designing complete streets for all users.

Spontaneity = Accessibility 2.0

Spontaneity is becoming the new buzzword for people with disabilities, a kind of Accessibility 2.0. I have heard Mary Leary, Senior Director of Easter Seals Project ACTION, use the term before and she employs it now as the guest writer on the Disability Blog. She writes about the next 20 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What Ms. Leary is seeking for people with disabilities is "a world of spontaneous living" and she is working with the inter-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities and its livability program to help her vision become a reality.
This interagency effort joins programs and policy areas in transportation, housing and the environment to create a synergistic approach to increase access and mobility. Accessible transportation is more than just getting to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, to work or to school. It is also about seeing friends and family, going to a park, going out to dinner, enjoying the fireworks on the 4th of July or traveling across the country.

Making Lemonade in Hard Times

If these were normal times, I would agree not only with Ms. Leary's vision, but also with the prospect of it becoming a reality. These are hard times, so my skepticism is tempted to take over. Metro Magazine's article about paratransit providers discusses strategies for dealing with lean budgets and the growing demand for paratransit service. Unfortunately, one of the strategies for already lean operations is cutting service.

People are working hard locally to make sure that others do not lose the transit service they already have. Two examples struck me today as demonstrating the challenges of financial hardships for transit systems and what individuals can do to retain the spontaneity that existing service provides them.

Local Stories

A rural New Hampshire woman who uses a walker convinced bus buddies to help her persuade local authorities to retain her bus service. However, an article in the Union Leader explains the dilemmas that transit systems are confronting, especially on routes with low ridership and very little help from the fare box.

I cannot resist a good Brooklyn story, especially one about a neighborhood I have lived in. The B71 (B for Brooklyn) transported people through Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Carroll Gardens before it was discontinued and budget cuts prompted driver layoffs. Now, according to a Wall Street Journal piece (likely written by a Slope resident, perhaps a Paul Auster neighbor), a new service is starting that will feature laid off drivers, TLC (New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission)-approved van service on discontinued routes ($1 fare, initially) and driver pay equal to their old jobs. In true Brooklyn fashion, the union that represents the new service's drivers is also involved in litigation to shut it down.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Food Access: Tip of the Iceberg

I read a recent blog post from the Farmers Market Coalition about barriers preventing many SNAP participants from buying fresh and healthy food at farmers markets. Impediments listed mostly concerned financial issues of the SNAP customer and the farmer as well as cultural issues. Technical assistance for farmers markets was recommended.

Curious, I went to the report on which the blog post was based, REAL FOOD, REAL CHOICE Connecting SNAP Recipients with Farmers Markets. The report identified other impediments to buying at a farmers market, such as lack of transportation and lack of time to do multiple shopping trips.

An additional barrier highlighted by those individuals contacted was transportation. This not only includes the distance from a home to the market, but also concerns regarding transporting children/families to the market or finding childcare for children in order to complete shopping needs. Some organizations and markets, such as Hunger Action LA and the Lents Market in Portland, OR, have attempted to address transportation concerns by providing van or bus services from lower income neighborhoods to the market, but those organizations do not have the resources to provide transportation over the long-term.

In fact, lack of transportation was identified as a barrier in both urban and rural communities. In suburbia, 10 blocks that are dangerous to cross are as much an obstacle as life without a car in a rural area with 20 miles to a store or market that has food. These obstacles are practical for the consumer, but are complex for state and local agencies that have not previously had relationships. For example, in Michigan:

Many statewide farmers market organizations do not presently have the connections with transportation authorities to address transportation barriers. Additionally, many transportation decisions are made locally and it is difficult to coordinate advocacy on transportation barriers at a statewide level.

A December 2009, a brief about obesity prevention and health promotion prepared by the National Association of Counties (NACo) acknowledged the dire transportation challenges to reach supermarkets in rural communities for those without cars. These suggestions were offered.

Enhancements to public transportation systems can also help improve residents’ access to healthy and affordable foods. Local officials or community organizations can partner with the local public transportation system to improve routes that link lower-income areas with supermarkets or offer businesses financial incentives to develop projects near public transportation routes.

Good News

The good news is that transit funding ballot measures are being embraced. The homepage of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA)tells the story of service boosts and an 80 percent ballot initiative pass rate.