Friday, June 25, 2010

Decoding the DOT/HUD Livability Etc. Funding Sources

I am confused. It's all livability; there is funding and different programs. Are they all the same or different and what are the rules? I need to explain all of these funding opportunities to myself. Hoping that this information provides some clarity to the rest of you. This entry will also appear today in the NRC Technical Assistance News because my brain will not allow me to revisit the Federal Register documents again today.

Staff of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will together review applications and select grantees for some of these programs. The interagency partnership seeks to help states, regions and communities:

Develop safe, reliable, and affordable transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce energy consumption and dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote public health.
... ... ...
Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe, and walkable neighborhoods—rural, urban, or suburban.
... ... ...
Support metropolitan areas and multijurisdictional partnerships that commit to adopt
integrated plans, strategies, and management tools to become more sustainable.
... ... ...
Facilitate strong alliances of residents and regional interest groups that are able to maintain a long-term vision for a region over time and simultaneously support progress through incremental sustainable development practices.

Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program

Department of Housing and Urban Development
$100 million available.

Not less than $25 million shall be awarded to regions with populations of less than 500,000.

Purpose: Support metropolitan and multi-jurisdictional 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: (1) economic competitiveness and revitalization; (2) social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; (3) energy use and climate change; and (4) public health and environmental impact. The program is calling for development and implementation of Regional Plans for Sustainable Development (RPSD).

Bottom line for transit and alternative transportation programs: Transit, vanpooling, carsharing, and bike/ped accessibility fall into the The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) planning and implementation categories for transportation investment, energy conservation, and consistency with Department of Transportation (DOT) programs.

Serving marginalized populations: HUD is looking for initiatives that engage residents and stakeholders substantively and meaningfully in the development of the shared vision and its implementation early and throughout the process, including communities traditionally marginalized from such processes, while accommodating limited English speakers, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

The application is due August 23, 2010.

There is way more and plenty of the terms mentioned are explained in detail in the NOFA. Transit and transportation are mentioned throughout and are integral to this program.

HUD's Community Challenge Planning Grants and DOT's TIGER II Planning Grants

$35 million in TIGER II planning grants as part of the National Infrastructure Investments program

DOT is referring to the grants for National Infrastructure Investments as TIGER II Discretionary Grants. The FY 2010 Appropriations Act permits DOT to use up to $35 million of the funds available for TIGER II Discretionary Grants for TIGER II Planning Grants.

Purpose: Fund the planning, preparation, or design of surface transportation projects that would be eligible for funding under the TIGER II Discretionary Grant program. Those include public transportation projects.

Bottom line for transit and alternative transportation programs: The two types of transit and transportation-related planning projects that the TIGER II planning grants envision are (1) Planning activities related to the development of a particular transportation corridor or regional transportation system, that promotes mixed-use, transit-oriented development with an affordable housing component; or developing expanded public transportation options, including accessible public transportation and para-transit services for individuals with disabilities, to allow individuals to live in diverse, high opportunity neighborhoods and communities and to commute to areas with greater employment and educational

Pre-applications are due by July 26, 2010.

DOT TIGER II Discretionary Grant Program

Pay attention to the specific information in the
for rural areas.

Minimum $10 million grant size, except for projects located in rural areas (as defined in section V (Projects in Rural Areas)), the minimum TIGER II Discretionary Grant size is $1 million.

Not less than $140 million of the funds provided for TIGER II Discretionary Grants are to be used for projects in rural areas. Also, 100 percent funding is only available in rural areas; 80 percent is the federal share otherwise.(For purposes of this grant, "DOT will consider a project to be in a rural area if ‘all or a material portion of a project is located in a rural area’. ... DOT will only consider a material portion of a project to be located in a rural area if the majority of the project is located in a rural area.)"

Up to $150 million of the $600 million available for TIGER II Discretionary Grants may be used for TIGER II Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) Payments.

Purpose: DOT is looking for long-term outcomes that include livability, economic competitiveness, job creation, state of good repair, safety, environmental sustainability. An emphasis is put on innovation and partnerships - "the project’s involvement of non-Federal entities and the use of non-Federal funds."

Again, there is explanatory material in the NOFA and read the details. Concepts such as livability and economic competitiveness are defined in detail. Rural areas are considered to have underserved populations. Others are also discussed.

Bottom line for transit and alternative transportation programs: This is an opportunity friendly to transit, bike/ped modes and other alternative transportation. There is great room for flexibility, creativity and coordination.

Pre-applications are due July 16, 2010. The NOFA only mentions DOT as reviewing the applications and not HUD and EPA.


PolicyLink, Smart Growth America, Reconnecting America, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the National Housing Conference will co-host a special informational webinar to discuss the HUD elements of the regional planning program next Wednesday, June 30th from 3-5 pm Eastern Time (noon-2 pm Pacific time).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Funding Details - TIGER II and Climate Showcase Communities

I am not about the money, but funding is necessary to help communities expand and improve upon transportation, transit and mobility options.

This morning the Federal Register published the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Challenge Planning Grants and the Department of Transportation’s TIGER II Planning Grants. Details were posted in yesterday's entry Funding Update and Webinars. The nitty-gritty necessary details are included in the NOFA.

"HUD will publish a separate NOFA for the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program."

Local and Tribal Government Climate Showcase Communities

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is giving away $10 million in grant money, in increments of approximately $100,000 to $500,000, in its Climate Showcase Communities program for communities to "create replicable models of sustainable community action, generate cost-effective and persistent greenhouse gas reductions, and improve the environmental, economic, public health, or social conditions in a community." Sounds like transit and alternative transportation to me. A few of the grants last year included transportation projects.

Except for tribal entities and consortia, the federal match is 50 percent. Local governments and entities as well as regional organizations are encouraged to apply.

The deadline is July 26, 2010.

Working with Low Literacy Populations

Apologies to the readers of the NRC Technical Assistance News for an almost identical post today.

Jane Hardin of the Community Transportation Association of America recommended an excellent resource for including people who either are unable to read well or are not fluent English speakers, whether or not they read in their native languages. Low literacy is generally a marker for low income populations and populations that need workforce and human services assistance.

How to Engage Low-Literacy and Limited-English-Proficiency Populations
, issued by the Federal Highway Administration in 2006, is ostensibly geared toward transportation-oriented community participation, but can be used for any type of community participation effort in which low literacy and non-English speakers should be involved.

The FHWA report explores what is meant by low literacy and how to detect its subtle signs. People are often ashamed of their inability to read and communicate in English. They have practiced ways of hiding illiteracy. Utilizing people in the community who know the culture is helpful as is being aware of the subtle clues of illiteracy. The same can be said of people with cognitive disabilities. This is an issue of sensitivity, detection and full inclusion.

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 operate a meeting. These methods will allow people who are illiterate to participate fully and on par with better educated populations.

Though the FHWA report is a few years old, it provides the best material I have seen that addresses the specific issue of including low literacy community members.

Thanks again to Jane for mentioning this resource at our last meeting of the Technical Assistance Provider Network.

Resources and Events to Make Livability and Accessibility Happen

I admit to being early on the smart growth bandwagon and happy to see the concept morph into the more-inclusive livability/sustainability collaboration that is the inter-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, among the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From what I hear, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) are also coordinating with the partnership at various levels.

The current manual of funding sources among the partnership agencies is Leveraging the Partnership: DOT, HUD, and EPA Programs for Sustainable Communities. Many of the sources can be used for transit and other mobility options, including designing a street scape that improves access to buses, vanpool meeting areas, trains and biking facilities.

Since our transportation technical assistance (TA) centers have been involved with livability since before the term was invented, many of us are educating our constituencies about livability resources that will bring and enhance transit service and transportation options to communities across the country.

Upcoming Livability-Related Events among the TA Centers

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): Livability 101 Pre-conference on July 25, 2010, right before the Legislative Summit in Louisville, Ky. The Transportation Committee will be concentrating as well on high-speed rail, the link between transportation and health, biking and rural road safety.

Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA): Forming Partnerships with Transit for human service providers, disability community advocates and private transportation providers – online from Aug. 2 to Sept. 10, 2010.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA): State Public Transit Partnerships Conference on Aug. 3-6, 2010 in Seattle will have a livability session.

Access and Universal Design

Livability encompasses availability of transportation options beyond the automobile. To include everyone in the benefits of livable community initiatives raises issues of universal design, rural access and specialized transportation. The following resources and events address those issues and their links to economic development, equitable access for transportation-challenged populations, and costs.

Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) continues to assist the transit community to make people with disabilities welcome. A handy Transit Operator’s Pocket Guide informs drivers of their ADA responsibilities and etiquette for interacting with people with disabilities.

ESPA: Excellence in Service for Paratransit Managers - online from July 19 to Sept. 24, 2010.

Taxi, Limousine, and Paratransit Association (TLPA) releases Assessing the Full Cost of Implementing An Accessible Taxicab Program. The report discusses how the taxi industry works in terms of the practical obstacles and costs of providing accessibility where the additional costs fall on mostly small businesses and independent contractors.

Rural Accessibility

For rural transportation and economic development resources, the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) has a Rural Transportation Clearinghouse. Among the resources available are descriptions of how rural planning organizations operate in different states.

National Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation Conference on October 24-27, 2010, in Burlington, Vt. Conference sessions will include accessibility, rural transit policy and planning, alternative fuels, regional systems, networks and coalitions, and tribal transportation.

ADA Takes the Ferry

Finally, with a picture of the Staten Island Ferry, the Secretary of Transportation blogged on June 17 about extending ADA protection to maritime vessels, including public ferry service. Secretary LaHood "encourage[s] everyone to visit and get their two cents in on the important questions" outstanding about this ADA extension.

More Transit = Fewer Emissions

TCRP Synthesis 84: Current Practices in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Savings from Transit states the equation flat out that the more we use transit, the fewer emissions we will produce. "Each time someone decides to take an existing bus or train and leave his/her car at home, GHG emissions from that trip are reduced immediately." For metropolitan areas, the equation has a corollary, which is the reduction of congestion, a big producer of emissions.

Direct Correlation in Metropolitan Areas
By encouraging compact development, transit indirectly affects even the travel patterns of people who do not take transit. Compact communities typically allow people to travel shorter distances to get from place to place, as homes and businesses are closer together. Those who do drive can drive fewer miles. Compact communities also tend to be friendly places for walking and biking, which eliminate vehicle trips altogether; and areas rich in transit tend to have lower rates of car ownership than other areas.
One study concluded that though the best energy savings are from rail, bus and vanpool transportation produce significant reductions compared to automobiles.

"The most successful transit systems are not a product of one transit agency working alone, but of a partnership of transit and other public agencies supporting transit through good urban planning and policy." Turns out coordination is needed whatever the setting.

Improving Quality of Transit

The report delivers an obvious and crucial answer to the question of what prompts people to use transit - better service - which the report translates as improving "geographic coverage of routes, increasing service frequencies, extending operating hours, and adding new transportation modes."

I will add competitive travel times with the single occupancy vehicle. No one who has access to an automobile is willing to take a bus if takes three times longer to arrive at a destination. Funding for frequent express and local service by whatever mode creates a transit-rich community. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adds proximity to bus stops and rail stations, part of geographic coverage, but user focused.

What is wonderful about the report is that it backs up its pronouncements with evidence from a multitude of studies. For example, specific studies demonstrate that expansion of geographic coverage and frequency of service producing significant increases in transit ridership. And these improvements extend beyond their particular times and places. "In Dallas, new weekend service on suburban shuttles prompted a measurable increase in weekday ridership." (You will have to read the report for more. I am told that blog posts should only be so long.)

Attracting Riders

The report spouts the familiar link between fare prices and elasticity of ridership. No surprises here. What is surprising is the lack of study of transit public relations and marketing efforts, whether they work or not and why. Also missing is evidence of what designs yield the best results for attracting riders. Though the report covered bus stop design, it acknowledged that no one wants to wait at them very long. The report discusses innovative strategies for speeding up transit, such as enforcement of parking regulations to allow for buses to maneuver on the street.

Energy Efficiency, Savings and Measurements

Not explored in this blog post is the report's in-depth discussion of increasing the energy efficiency of transit vehicles, maintenance and facilities. That would produce way too much sleep for this writer's work productivity.

The report also spends a long time exploring transit-relevant measurements for modal shifts, congestion reduction, cost of emissions, and compact development as well as the challenges to transit systems in taking those measurements considering the coordination and money required.


Most research on transportation planning and GHG emissions has focused on the roles and processes of MPOs and state DOTs, and has largely focused on road-based transportation. While transit agencies are partners in the transportation planning and funding exercises led by these agencies, their roles and their internal processes have received less attention.
In other words, transit has to be at the table for planning and implementing air quality improvements. To fully realize transit's role in emission reduction, the report declares, requires coordination with land use planning, congestion mitigation, and the full range of transportation planning. Other strategies, such as telecommuting, bike paths, vanpooling and slugging, as just a few examples, fell outside the parameters of the report.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Funding Update and Webinars

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has really taken the theme of user friendliness to heart with information sources and webinars about its funding programs.

Changes to the New Starts/Small Starts Federal Transit Administration (FTA) program are coming soon. In anticipation, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is hosting listening sessions around the country, which are continuing until July 15. For more information, the Annual Report on the program is a good read.

Coordinated Grants

DOT and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a joint TIGER II and Community Challenge Grant to award up to $75 million in funding, including:

$35 million in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II Planning Grants and $40 million in Sustainable Community Challenge Grants for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing and economic development.

The two federal departments are looking to fund planning activities that envision mixed uses of housing, retail and commercial entities near transit. Explicitly mentioned as an a fund-able activity is:

Developing expanded public transportation options, including accessible public transportation and para-transit services for individuals with disabilities, to allow individuals to live in diverse, high opportunity communities and to commute to areas with employment and educational opportunities.

Pre-applications are due July 26. Full applications are due on August 23. More information is available at

FTA is holding ARRA webinars to educate old and new grantees. In fact, the FTA's ARRA homepage has so much information that I could take the whole day to go through all of it. I read through everything that I recommend, but this is the exception. There is too much other work to be done.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Huge Gaps for Seniors

Transportation: The Silent Need, a report from the National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST), outlines the tremendous unmet demand for older adults. The paucity of service is especially acute in rural areas.

As I have heard from Mary Leary, Senior Director of Easter Seals Project ACTION, and Jane Hardin, Transportation Specialist at the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), transportation provides older adults with a life of spontaneity and social interaction as well as meeting the fundamental needs of access to food and medical care. Yet, as the NCST shows in the results of its survey of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), more than half of older adults find it challenging to obtain transportation for everything except medical care, which clocks in at just under 50 percent. These activities included grocery shopping, participation in religious institutions, entertainment, and visiting family and friends.

While there is a wide array of programs in the family of services, many are unavailable in a majority or even a quarter of AAA service areas. Door-to-door and volunteer driver programs exist in 50 to 60 percent of jurisdictions, but door-through-door, travel training, pedestrian access, and driver transition programs all come in at under 20 percent. And these numbers refer to availability and not whether the programs are able to meet demand.

Only fixed-route transportation approached 80 percent and that statistic did not speak about safety, depth of service, service hours or pedestrian access. In rural areas that number is approximately 60 percent.

The vast majority of AAA staff who responded said that transportation was either somewhat coordinated or that coordination was "improving." Very few gave high or low marks.

This report was the first in an NCST series that will examine senior transportation in Indian country, transportation for older diverse populations, and senior mobility and livable communities.

Please note that this post will also be appearing in the NRC Technical Assistance News, an occasional consequence of having two blogs with overlapping coverage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bikers and Sluggers

The number of transit, biking, walking, sustainability, and livability blogs is so huge that I fear I might never read them all once, let alone keep up with what is happening everywhere. Okay, many appear and go inactive pretty quickly. An informal search reveals that many low emission-mode blogs are written by bicyclists. Whether announcing biking events, advocating for bike-friendly policies and street designs, or covering news in the increasingly professional biking world, the biking community is far ahead of transit users, pedestrians, and shared-vehicle commuters in getting out their message: We want better, safer and more equitable access to the street network.

My favorite entree into the bike blogosphere is definitely, which is not dedicated solely to biking. However, on the right is a cornucopia of blogs, listed by region, with a separate list for national coverage, many of which are devoted to biking.

And biking associations? There are many. The League of American Bicyclists has information about local organizations, clubs, stores and instructors in every town. The biking community has become an active and effective advocate for its cause. Just watch the youtube video from Boulder that shows what 20 years of dedicated advocacy and volunteering can accomplish. The video is available at


Today I am interested in the informal world of commuter volunteer transportation - the cousin of old-fashioned hitchhiking - slugging. covers the slugging world, has a discussion forum, maps, etiquette rules and other resources. There is even talk in D.C. of making the arrangement official and allowing cars to stop in designated lanes to pick up passengers. This is an important issue for commuters from transit-deprived areas and slugging keeps many cars off the road at no extra cost to the taxpayer or driver (besides the already "free" costs of pollution, accidents, obesity, etc.). Visit for today's WTOP coverage of whether D.C. police have started enforcing no stopping rules in unofficial slugging zones.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

External Costs of Auto-Dependent Lifestyle and Advances of Zero-Emission Modes

The American Public Health Association (APHA) follows up its 2009 report about the important link between transportation and public health. In At the Intersection of Public Health and Transportation: Promoting Healthy Transportation Policy, APHA turned its attention to mobility options, including public transit, walking, and biking. APHA questioned the current design of communities, the allocation of transportation dollars, and the paucity of public health funding to encourage mobility options that promote health.

Now APHA attempts to start quantifying the health-related external costs of auto-dependency in The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation. The report recommends a re-thinking of the current federal funding allocations that primarily support an inherently unhealthy mode of transportation.
A considerable increase in transportation investments is needed to offer more balanced and affordable modes of transport including biking, walking and public transit. Currently 80%of federal transportation funding goes toward building highways and improving road infrastructures, and approximately 20% goes toward public transit andmotor vehicle safety programs.

This report dovetails nicely with the Department of Transportation (DOT)report, The National Bicycling and Walking Study: 15–Year Status Report, which finds a considerable increase in biking and walking, with a reduction in fatalities. However, walking represents only about 10 percent of all trips, while biking, with all its increases and public relations, comes in at a measly (approximately) one percent.

The report does a good job of describing the available resources and explaining the limitations of its data collection and statistical findings.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Livable Communities Act: Senate Hears from County, Regional Council Representatives

In June 9, 2010 testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, representatives of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), the National Association of Counties (NACO), and the National League of Cities (NLC) testified in support of the Livable Communities Act, S. 1619.

NADO especially endorses the Act’s strong role for local governments and regional councils. A NADO board member’s hearing testimony laid out two provisions NADO would like to see included in the legislation:
1. Reserve no less than 20 percent of the regional planning and program implementation resources for small metropolitan and rural areas; and
2. Retain the bill's focus on providing incentives, not mandates, for regional development strategies that are locally developed and locally controlled on a voluntary basis, meaning absent any federal mandates.

NARC supports the Act’s voluntary, competitive and incentive-based approach to promoting comprehensive regional planning and implementation that allows each region to meet broad, federally-established goals by setting regionally-driven objectives.

NARC testimony specifically included transit as part of the interrelated transportation set of pedestrian/bicycle/transit systems and the “half-mile radius of proposed stations along the new bus rapid transit and commuter rail systems—for the economic and social benefit of the region as a whole.” Smart growth, neighborhood design, and commuter and long-distance public transportation options were the livability interests that NARC concentrated on, with a strong belief expressed in regional coordination.

NACO is pleased with legislation that meets counties where they are, with many just planning sustainability initiatives, but lacking the funds for implementation. NACO supports the multi-jurisdictional and coordinated approach that the Livable Communities Act envisions.

An NLC representative spoke of the Act’s integrated approach that coordinates the work of federal agencies that every city interacts with.

Written testimony and a video of the hearing are available at

News and Resources for Transit and Transportation Staff and Advocates

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has enhanced its website with current news of transit funding realities and ideas as well as articles about what is happening in communities around the nation. Right now, ATU has posted an article from Metro magazine, CTAA EXPO Covers Funding, Healthcare, Green Alternatives, with excellent coverage of the conference and the types of education it provides every year.

The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) offers Fast Mail, a newsletter with transit news from around the country as well as national policy and legislative developments. Fast Mail is a great resource for quickly staying on top of the steady stream of transportation information. A subscription link is available on CTAA's homepage.

Monday, June 14, 2010

We All Need to Learn about the Health Reform Law

If only due to the many dollars involved, we all need to know where a large chunk of federal and state money will be going once the provisions of the health reform law become effective.

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) has a short presentation that explains the effective dates of different provisions, what will happen to Medicaid, and summarizes long-term care and other provisions.

Periodic postings about the ramifications of health care reform, including its consequences for providing medical transportation, are available from the NRC Capitol Clips, a publication of the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination (NRC).

Livability and Legislative Efforts for Rural Areas

Billy Altom, Executive Director of the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and Robin Phillips of the American Bus Association participated in Transportation for America’s Congressional lobby day for its rural and small town partners.

The issue for the participants is access, whether to jobs, grocery stores, or medical care. “Many felt their towns, tribes or counties were ready to move on innovative projects that improve access and quality of life, if only federal policy would give them a little nudge. Far from asking Washington to tell them what to do, they were asking for resources to make change for themselves possible.” At a panel to discuss these issues, Altom talked about the transportation challenges facing older Americans and people with disabilities.

He called on audience members to no longer see those with unique transportation needs – whether due to reliance on a wheelchair, inability to afford a car or age-related limitations– as an “us versus them” situation. Getting transportation right is not just about changing public policy, Altom said, but “changing public perception.”

The Lobbying Day effort is supportive of the continuing statements of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. On May 6, 2010, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood testified before the Senate appropriations subcommittee about livable communities. He specifically addressed rural areas in terms of pedestrian friendliness, transportation options, and the threat to farmland of suburban sprawl. The Secretary gave the example of Bath, Maine.

Bath is a small town in southwest Maine whose historic downtown area is a model of a livable community. The town provides two trolley loops to transport residents and tourists through downtown, reducing the need for on-street parking. Bath’s street design encourages citizens to get out of their cars, which in turn supports local merchants through increased foot traffic.

The Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also spoke and stated that HUD is “looking at creating a separate, special funding category for small towns and rural places." The testimony can be found at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Needs Sounds of the Road

American Council of the Blind

ACB has been pushing hard to resolve the dilemma of hybrid vehicles and the safety of people who are visually impaired. Hybrids are quieter than their conventional counterparts and in some circumstances fail to supply noises that are sufficiently loud to enable visually-impaired people to navigate streets. ACB supports passage of, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 734, S. 841). This Act would require a Department of Transportation study and establishment of a motor vehicle safety standard for alerting blind and other pedestrians of motor vehicle operation. Both bills have been in committee since early 2009.

Now a National Highway Traffic Safety Report, Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind Pedestrians: Phase I, posted on ACB’s website, studies the circumstances in which there is a difference between noise levels, whether those differentials impact safety, and the merits of possible countermeasures. Basically, noise levels differ at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. Two approaches for counter measures are discussed, (1) configuring hybrids so that they emit more noise and (2) producing devices that can be carried that warn people who are visually impaired that a quiet vehicle is nearby.

At present, only countermeasures that cause quiet vehicles to emit additional sound come close to meeting the requirements of blind pedestrians. Within this class of countermeasures, there is a fundamental distinction between systems that emit synthetic engine noise at all times when the vehicle is operating at low speeds, and those that emit noise only when triggered by a transmitter carried by blind pedestrians. The former eliminate the need for blind pedestrians to carry special transmitters, and also warn other pedestrians, cyclists and animals of the approach of quiet vehicles, while the latter minimize community noise impact.

The report wisely observes what is true in many circumstances, that universal design measures that assist people with disabilities also help others. The boys and girls who play soccer and street hockey in the middle of the road or who ride bikes without paying too much attention to their surroundings need vehicle noise almost as much as someone who is blind and they are probably less likely to carry a personal noise emitter. The sound must also be recognizable as vehicular noise, the report noted, discussing the disadvantages of personal device sounds.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

TIGER Grants

Still, getting to all of the information and emails that accumulated while I was in California. Apologies for being a bit late on this. TIGER II, the Department of Transportation grant program means funding for transit programs. Grants will be available for planning and for projects that will have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area or a region.

Information about the funding and how to apply can be found at:

Department of Transportation: DOT has a TIGER II resource page.

Federal Highway Administration webinars
: These are recorded and are available online. Webinars are covering both the discretionary and the planning grants.

National Association of Regional Councils has a good discretionary grant cheat sheet that summarizes the goals, deadlines, eligibility, application procedures, etc.

Guide to Mobility and Transit Options for Older Adults

AARP releases The Getting Around Guide: An AARP Guide to Walking, Bicycling and Public Transportation. Written for people who wish to remain independent in the communities where they are living, the guide helps consumers take advantage of fun and healthy options for getting around without a car. It encourages walking, biking, and taking public transportation or other transportation options. The guide includes benefits of options, how to find them and use them, and what one can do to advocate for change to broaden the range of options in different places.

The guide is available as a pdf or in hard copy; actual size is just 5-1/2” x 8-1/2.” To order copies, call 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277) and ask for The Getting Around Guide, Stock # D19294. For more information, contact Lori Cohen at

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) report, Funding the Public Transportation Needs of an Aging Population, discusses the depth of the growing need for transportation services among Older Americans and the amounts of funding that will be necessary to provide those services. Currently, only half to two-thirds of the needs are being met for conventional transit, dial-a-ride, ADA paratransit, subsidized taxis and volunteer driver services. With the huge increase in the older population, these needs will likewise increase. The report covers universal design, planning, mobility management, coordination between government entities and all types of transportation providers, travel training, and pedestrian improvements near transit. Considerable space is given to the difficulty of predicting the levels of service and demand for the next generation of older adults.

The spreadsheet tool created to produce the national estimates has been designed in a way that allows it to be used to create estimates for particular areas or to create estimates using different assumptions than the ones used in this report. The spreadsheet tool is available on the website of the American Public Transportation Association at

In addition to APTA, the report was guided by input from a technical working group that included the Community Transportation Association of America, Easter Seals Project ACTION, and the AARP Public Policy Institute, all members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Medicaid Transportation Resources

This entry is a collection of resources concerning non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) for medicaid patients. The resources focus on the current situation of challenging economic times and on what health care reform means for medical transportation.

Community Transportation Association of America

NRC Capitol Clips explains health care reform and its ramifications for medical transportation in an ongoing series of postings.

The State of Non-Emergency Medical Transportation: A Community Transportation Magazine Essay delves into the history of Medicaid transportation, where it stands now, and how to approach the challenges that health care reform legislation is bringing to NEMT.


Policy Options to Improve Specialized Transportation, a report from AARP’s Public Policy Institute, offered not only options, but what funding and realities presently affect the delivery of specialized transportation.

Taxi, Limousine and Paratransit Association

TLPA released Non-Emergency Medicaid Transportation: How to Maximize Safety and Cost Effectiveness through Better Use of Private For-Hire Vehicle Operators. The report provided an excellent explanation of what coordination provides and what models of non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) existed throughout the country.

Toolkit for the Business Community

The Community Transportation Association of America

CTAA's Joblinks Employment Transportation Initiative announces the launch of its Transportation Toolkit for the Business Community. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood praises the toolkit as a timely resource for tough economic times.

The toolkit provides businesses with strategies and resources that meet employee commuting needs while advancing bottom-line goals. Included are flyers, fact sheets, resources and examples of transportation initiatives undertaken by employers nationwide.

The toolkit website is organized into four areas: Good for Business, Getting to Work, Going Green and Accessible Transportation.

Other resources and assistance available from Joblinks:
1. Archive of Joblinks webinars, including, but not limited to, (1) late night transportation service strategies, (2) mobility management assistance in connecting job-seekers and other community members with transportation; (3) voucher programs, and (4) commuter tax benefits.
2. Transportation voucher programs wiki
3. Transportation Solutions Coordinator training
4. Institute for Transportation Coordination

Monday, June 7, 2010

Emergency Preparedness - Draft DOT Strategic Plan part 5

Department of Transportation Draft Strategic Plan

Acknowledging that I am not an expert in this area, the proposals seem logical, but addressed to any time period, as though similar language cold have been used in 1940. In non-specific language, the plan discusses preparing for continuity of operations, developing security policies, coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (yes that would have been a different agency in 1940), and dealing with the youngest potential danger on the block, cyber threats.

The plan recommends grants and technical assistance to plan and train for “effective emergency response to transportation incidents involving hazardous materials” and to provide for the improvement of state and local response to emergencies.

Virtually no specifics are given and no performance measures are proposed. Admittedly, with potential and actual emergencies covering a wildly broad spectrum of dangers, preventive procedures and responses, there is little this a strategic plan could say without launching into a 50-page manual on this topic alone. But then fewer people would read the proposed plan than are reading the current 74-page document.

So if you actually know anything about emergency response and preparedness, this is your opportunity to share your expertise with DOT. Remember that DOT invites the public to comment on its proposals.

This is the final entry about the draft plan. Next entry will be about something completely different.

Environment and Sustainability - Draft DOT Strategic Plan part 4

Department of Transportation Draft Strategic Plan

DOT sets ambitious goals to reduce emissions and “air, water and noise pollution and impacts on ecosystems;” establish environmentally sustainable practices that address global climate change; and promote energy independence. These challenges require new transportation solutions, DOT declares in the proposed plan.

The agency does not hesitate to lay out the environmentally awful statistics and the transportation sector’s role in contributing to them.

The transportation sector is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 29 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2007. About 60 percent of transportation emissions were from passenger cars and light-duty trucks, about 20 percent from medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and about 12 percent from aviation.

… … …

[A]s of 2007, some 158.5 million Americans lived in counties or regions that exceeded health-based national ambient air quality standards for at least one regulated air pollutant. Significant challenges remain, particularly as new national ambient air quality standards are revised to be more protective of public health. These challenges apply to individual neighborhoods, travel corridors, and local facilities as well.

… … …

The President has challenged us to transform the way transportation serves the American people by encouraging transportation that is less carbon-intensive such as rail, and public transportation or transportation that produces zero emissions such as biking and walking.

Of course the draft strategic plan offers proposals for air and automobile travel, but in terms of public transportation, the plan imagines coordinated federal environmental policies and programs through the interagency DOT-HUD-EPA partnership, high-speed rail (though no one is talking about something akin the China’s mega investments), multi-modal strategies, reducing the energy consumption of transit, and encouraging state and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), such as councils of governments (COG), to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To accomplish the goals for reducing energy consumption, reducing greenhouse emissions, and reducing our national dependence on foreign oil, the draft strategic plan is proposing that public transportation systems continue to take advantage of the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Discretionary Grant (TDG) program, which is already at work replacing older fuel-eating facilities and vehicles with more environmentally-friendly models, buildings, and innovative technologies.

The obstacles to realizing the environmental goals are pretty much the same obstacles to realizing many of DOT’s other goals in the proposed plan: questions of sufficient funding, particularly continued use of the federal gas tax, and technological and market-based problems with switching technologies, especially in connection with automobile use.

DOT is also proposing strategies for becoming a more environmentally-responsible federal agency with ambitious goals for its own buildings, equipment and office practices. For DOT employees this will mean practices that literally extend all the way to office garbage. These strategies include compliance with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings LINK, better stormwater practices, working with HUD and EPA to locate federal buildings in alliance with the administration’s livability principles, reducing staff travel through video and web conferencing technology, maximizing recycling, and eliminating paper wherever possible.

Putting its money where its mouth is, DOT is requiring its staff to “[w]ork with local government entities to improve transit service and neighborhood amenities around DOT field offices and headquarters.”

Remember that DOT comment invites the public to comment on its proposals. Read the draft plan sections that interest you and respond to DOT.

Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility - Draft DOT Strategic Plan part 3

Department of Transportation Draft Strategic Plan

DOT embraces CCAM, which seeks to coordinate the many transportation programs dispersed throughout the federal bureaucracy. Explicitly mentioned for continued federal support are:
* Local coordinating councils,
* One-call services - "single point of access that links human services with transportation providers to address the special mobility needs of persons with disabilities, older adults, low-income persons and others without ready access to automobiles,"
* ITS to assist human service transportation via transportation management centers (such as the Mobility Services for All Americans - MSAA - program), and
* "[T]echnical assistance and training activities to improve the operations of local public and non-profit community transportation providers."

With no discussion, the plan directly ties CCAM's work and the technical assistance and local efforts mentioned above to DOT's livability initiative. Mobility for vulnerable transportation-challenged populations is considered a livable communities issue that is part of DOT's overarching mission. Connecting CCAM’s work to the major goal at three federal agencies (DOT, HUD and EPA) will lend gravitas to the Council’s efforts and allows it to fit in with the Administration’s emphasis on federal cooperation and coordination.

The plan delves into the performance measures for CCAM's assistance to states, regions and communities. These include:
* Increase in "transit seat-miles by urbanized area transit systems,"
* Increase in non-urbanized area transit trips,
* Increase in "intermodal transportation options for travelers,"
* Improved transit reliability,
* Improved walking and biking networks - a Federal Highway Administration task,
* Improved ADA access on rail and buses for people with disabilities.

DOT plans to seek reauthorization of transportation legislation that will foster livable communities,

providing funding to regions and communities to carry out livability goals in partnership with States and other public agencies; strengthening the consideration of land use, energy, the environment, and other livability elements in transportation planning; and establishing criteria for performance-based planning and incentives to focus on outcomes.

DOT acknowledges that there will be resistance to the livability agenda and its vision of a multi-modal future. Housing, land use design, roads and other infrastructure are investments that last a generation, the plan recognizes, and many communities and states are not accustomed to thinking in terms of sidewalks, bike paths, distances between residential and commercial areas, or connectivity among transportation modes.

Remember that DOT comment invites the public to comment on its proposals. Read the draft plan sections that interest you and respond to DOT.

Livability - Draft DOT Strategic Plan part 2

Department of Transportation Draft Strategic Plan

Recalling Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s blog entry from several months ago describing a weekend getaway to friends in Hoboken N.J., the Secretary spoke of a night out in the city, being happy to walk, take the train, and leave the car at home for the whole weekend. His department likewise wants to assist communities in affording multi-modal and healthy, environmentally friendly transportation choices to Americans wherever possible.

In an earlier section of the draft plan, DOT sets forth an economic competitiveness goal: "Promote transportation policies and investments that bring lasting and equitable economic benefits to the Nation and its citizens." What does this mean for transit and other publicly available transportation? The plan calls for investment in full range of modes, including transit, an intermodal approach, new ways to finance the transportation system, and reducing congestion through transit, ridesharing, and flextime. However, there are no performance measures in the economic competitiveness section that set transit ridership or alternative transportation goals, except indirectly through reduction of congestion.

Livable communities gets its own section of the draft plan. DOT calls for "place-based policies and investments that increase transportation choices and access to transportation services." DOT expressly wants improved public transit, human services transportation (mentioning the special needs populations and people with disabilities), and better bike/pedestrian networks. The plan envisions transportation coordination with land use and economic development.

The plan directly links the auto-dependent lifestyle to national insecurity and ill health.

The United States’ heavy reliance on car-dependent, dispersed development is not without costs. This kind of development is energy-intensive and contributes to a dependence on fossil fuels and a tendency toward high carbon-emissions; it has been correlated with increasing rates of obesity in the U.S. and higher transportation costs for American families.

A study is cited showing that people who live in compact, walkable communities are more fit and healthy than those who reside in counties with more sprawl. The connection between health and the transportation network is explicitly made and discussed in detail. The plan practically comes out and says that the 40 percent of trips that are two miles or less in length should be able to be made by walking or bicycle, but that our current street network does not allow this - despite studies showing that young adults and baby boomers want to live in walkable neighborhoods and towns.

In case you think DOT is talking about New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle, or a few others, the plan specifically includes rural areas and their desperate need for alternatives to the car.

Creating livable communities is just as important to residents of rural areas as it is to residents of urban and suburban areas. Rural town centers have experienced disinvestment in much the same way as urban core areas and many rural towns are fighting to attract local commercial development through the revitalization of town centers. Rural residents generally must travel greater distances to jobs and services than their urban counterparts and can suffer from greater isolation, especially if they cannot drive.

The DOT-HUD-EPA partnership is already identifying barriers to coordinating transportation, housing, and environmental policies and investments. The three agencies are coordinating and bringing resources together for each others' programs, such as EPA's Smart Growth Technical Assistance Program, HUD’s Sustainable Communities Planning Grants, designed to fund regional, coordinated planning, and "evaluation of DOT’s TIGER Discretionary Grant applications, for which livability and sustainability are two key criteria."

In terms of the economy, DOT maintains that livable community development will do two things: Save on infrastructure investment costs, and help communities be economically resilient through decreased dependence on foreign oil price fluctuations. DOT sees livability as a way to reduce household transportation costs through the availability of alternative mobility choices, such as transit, biking and walking.

And what is DOT envisioning to help states, regions and communities become more livable? Providing technical assistance, advocating for "robust State and local planning efforts," spending transportation dollars where they will capitalize on public and private infrastructure investment, and developing livability performance measures.

Specific strategies that DOT plans to use are increasing access to transit and inter-city services, developing pedestrian and bike-friendly street networks, "where practical" providing better rural transit for access to jobs, services and transportation centers that are currently only automobile accessible, and encouraging mixed-income development, for which DOT has already funded a technical assistance MITOD guide through Reconnecting America.

DOT's plan seems almost ashamed that although walking and biking account for account for "almost 12 percent of trips and about 13 percent of roadway fatalities, these modes receive less than 2 percent of annual Federal Aid Highway funds." The agency is calling for assessments, planning and encouraging the public to use these modes.

Remember that DOT comment invites the public to comment on its proposals. Read the draft plan sections that interest you and respond to DOT.

Best Tidbits from the Draft DOT Strategic Plan

I read the 74-page Department of Transportation Draft Strategic Plan so you would not have to read every section and every word. This is DOT’s first ever draft plan and the agency invites the public to comment on its proposals. So read the blog, read the meaty parts of the draft plan and share your responses with DOT.

In a series of five (yes, five) subsequent blog entries are some facts and objectives buried in the proposed plan. I’ve divided up the blog entries in pretty much the same way DOT has categorized its proposed strategies, with a couple of departures. The blog entries will separately address safety, livability, the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, environment and sustainability, and emergency preparedness. The plan also covers employee performance and practices.

Feel free to use these blog entries as a guide to the draft plan and an easy way to find what interests you. Share your responses with the DOT by submitting public comments.

There are some quotes in these blog posts, but mostly I paraphrase pretty closely about interesting tidbits. While my observations follow, I recognize that coming up with such an ambitious document takes great diplomacy a balancing of interests, and fulfilling legislative requirements.

A Bird’s Eye View of the Draft Plan:

The terms that come to mind after reading the entire draft plan are livability, multi-modal, transportation choices and environmental friendliness – or the actual term used, sustainability. Pedestrians, bicyclists as well as the National Complete Streets coalition should be pleased as these three interests are woven into the fabric of DOT’s vision for livable communities with good transportation options beyond the automobile.

Public transportation is featured prominently. It is seen as a safe travel choice and as one that promotes our national goals of reducing reliance on foreign fuel, reducing congestion and improving our environment. Human services transportation is recognized as a big contributor to livability for people who are transportation challenged and wish to remain in their homes.

Not at all mentioned are the privately-run and publicly available modes of taxis (the original guaranteed ride home) and intercity bus service, which complement public transportation and the zero-emission modes of biking and walking. High-speed rail, perhaps because of the crucial role of federal funding, is mentioned, though not given too much space.

Auto travel is prominently discussed in the draft plan, with safety and environmental concerns providing the most interesting reading about that mode. Automobile issues are not covered in this blog except where directly relevant to public and human services transportation.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Google Transit Turns Rural

In a Northern California pilot project, Google Transit is adjusting its previous urban transit amenity for rural areas. According to a recent Reconnecting America posting by a staff member of one of the pilot counties, Google's main objective is to enable the public to plan transit trips involving multiple services. Coordination is key. "Continued identification of needs and issues, collaboration, and sharing effective strategies can help to improve transit trip planning globally."

The author, an accountant and staff to the regional planning body, points to benefits for human services clients.

Social service agencies, caregivers, and those providing aid to someone can now Google transit information for their clients. For the elderly who can no longer drive, Google transit information for bus stops and locations helps make it possible to maintain a sense of independence.

Google Transit's benefits are also noted for tourists who wish to arrive or park their cars during their stays.

The "last mile" and convenience issues remain unresolved. The goals are "the trip planner’s low maximum walking distance to transit stops, and a 48-hour window for available transit services."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Public Opinion Shows Routes to Attractive Transit

APTA's recent edition of its newsletter, Public Transport, linked to a Montreal Gazette article that listed the top 10 reasons why people in the City of Windsor, right across the border from Detroit, take public transit.

No surprise that cost considerations topped the list and that the desire to be good environmental citizens appeared, but other reasons included my grandfather's favorite, napping on the bus or train, time to catch up on reading, and chore and errand preparation (writing up shopping lists are safely done on the bus). For me the surprises showed that public transit can attract everyone on the economic ladder, from the transportation-challenged to the folks with a Porsche parked in the driveway. Above environmental concerns were comfort and convenience, less stress than driving, and, ranking somewhat lower, the rare opportunity to do absolutely nothing.

Last on the list and therefore squeaking into the top 10? Exercise to and from the stop or station.

Speaking of making transit more attractive, the Fast Company post about designing bus stops is a must read for giving the public what it wants from transit, bus stops that are attractive and useful, with route and waiting information clearly posted.

I also could not resist a post that began: "Having grown up in New York in the '70s, public transportation holds a special place in my heart."

FTA Administrator Rogoff Speaks at CTAA EXPO

Just a word before going to Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff's May 26 speech to EXPO attendees. In terms of social media, this is already late anyway, but I am still in LA mode and on West Coast time. EXPO in Long Beach, experiencing LA-area public transit and playing on Pacific Ocean beaches were all incredible. To meet the people I speak to and serve all year, whose interests I try to keep close each day at work, is the most rewarding part of the conference. These community leaders, transit providers and regional representatives are doing as much as they can with whatever they have to transport people where they need and want to go. Someone getting off of a paratransit vehicle to go the movies in Long Beach, a busload of culture vultures arriving by bus at the Getty Museum, and personally walking all over LA, which was surprisingly pedestrian friendly for a native New Yorker, were the mobility highlights outside the Convention Center.

Now a week ago at lunch, Rogoff contrasted the purchase of 11,000 new vehicles with ARRA funds and the serious financial straits of transportation providers. He asks transit and human services transportation operators "[t]o comment on our [Department of Transportation] strategic plan and where you think it speaks to what you need and what you do and where it doesn't." Rogoff emphasized the link between the state of good repair and safety. As someone traveling on the DC Metro red line on the day when nine people died right near my station, good repair and emergency preparedness are the non-glamorous, but necessary, aspects of transit service.

Rogoff promised that safety/good repair funding will not just go to rail operators or to urban systems. "[P]utting together a formula program for bus, and sending it to bus operators on a formula basis, specifically for the State of Good Repair, will provide a predictable formula amount that every bus operator can count on going forward."

Rogoff specifically pointed out the achievements of CTAA in helping to bring service to all people and especially to transportation-challenged populations. "The progress we are making is in part because of our partnership with CTAA and your efforts with job links and national resource center on human service transportation coordination (NRC)." Rogoff mentioned the Institute for Transportation Coordination, the Transportation Solutions Coordinator training, developed by CTAA and Easter Seals Project ACTION, the ten NRC ambassadors, and the United We Ride initiative.

The NRC provides support to the Federal Coordination Council on Access & Mobility (CCAM),which, Rogoff announced, will have an expanded agenda with emphasis on access to jobs, routine and preventative medical care, and assistance for returning veterans. The online national dialogue held in November 2009 will inform that agenda.