Friday, July 30, 2010

Coordinating for Vibrant Communites

A bus system alone does not transform a community. And unless there is an accessible sidewalk and perhaps a bench, the bus will not be a solution for even those who live and work close by. However, I have seen plenty of smart growth material that does not even mention transit or long-distance transportation services. (And at least one court has ruled that poor public transit for an employee with a disability requires a reasonable accommodation. Read about the decision and resources in the NRC Technical Assistance News.)

What are the transportation issues that rural areas are paying attention to? Are transit access and connectivity among them?

Transportation Opinions from Rural Areas
Read the Four Corners Rural Transportation Forum report, recently prepared by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). The Four Corners rural communities of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah are working on coordination of public transit and human services transportation, translating livability and the land-use/transportation connection for rural areas, incorporating transit into long-range transportation planning, and dealing with emerging rural growth areas.

One concern expressed about coordination was the perceived barrier of insurance/liability potential. Developments in rural coordination include establishment of one call services, statewide coordinated planning, and integration of transit and alternative modes into transportation planning. In terms of livability, these states are examining rural connectivity to cities and reinvigoration of downtowns.

A recent Government Accountability Office report, Rural Homelessness: Better Collaboration by HHS and HUD Could Improve Delivery of Services in Rural Areas suggests, though does not explicitly state, that smart growth and livability would greatly help poor and homeless rural populations. They not only have limited housing choices, but they lack transportation to connect to services and jobs. While this is not the only problem, the lack of connectivity over the long distances involved needlessly complicates life for struggling populations.

Smart Growth Geared for Rural America

The following new resources present ideas for coordination in terms of enhancing transit accessibility and use:

Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities examines different types of rural areas and the specific challenges they confront in loss of farmland, dispersed development, long distances to jobs, and rapid growth as well as long-term declines. This report promotes the benefits of transportation options, walkable main streets and downtowns, reuse of existing land, and preservation of open space.

The parts I found useful concerned redevelopment readiness (including community visioning)and transportation options. One caveat: Though the report provides ideas for economic development and preservation of open spaces, farmland and rural communities, transportation, generally, and mobility options, specifically, (including transit) are given short shrift.

Pedestrian Access to the Bus and the Community

A Blueprint America video (eight minutes) demonstrates the unsafe conditions for pedestrians on many American roads, with particular footage of inadequate bus stop access. The images and interviews are thoughtfully presented, providing a stark comparison between the priority of car travel, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the lack of official focus on pedestrian safety and transit accessibility.

Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) has webinars and newsletters related to the ins and outs of pedestrian safety. A new webinar series is starting on Aug. 13. The seventh of eight in the series focuses on transit and pedestrians. Previous webinars are archived on the same site.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released pedestrian safety materials for people whose first language is not English. Coming soon is a beginner level ESL course for learners who are not advanced, but still need to be educated on pedestrian and bicycle safety. NHSA has additional pedestrian and bike safety materials for Hispanics.

Next Steps for Pedestrian Safety and Mobility

The National Complete Streets Coalition 2010 Progress Report points to the amazing success that the coalition has achieved in helping states, regions and communities institute complete streets policies. Members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation have been instrumental to this success, particularly AARP (which has produced amazing livability and safe roads products), the American Council for the Blind, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A), which all serve on the coalition's steering committee.

The coalition is looking forward to implementation, specifically at what elements complete streets policies include, whether these policies result in training, project development processes, design standards, and project selection criteria. The coalition will be analyzing performance measures to see whether they reflect the adopted complete streets policies and whether the outcomes are projects with improved travel for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and people with disabilities. The coalition "emphasizes a system-wide look at improvements, rather than measurement of individual projects against a standardized ideal."

As a lifelong pedestrian and transit user, I see safe and welcoming streets from the ground level and without expert eyes. I see the challenges from the perspective of a walker - of nonexistent, broken and inaccessible sidewalks, intersections where laws and signals allow both left and right turns during the same intervals allotted for pedestrians to cross, and streets with pedestrians running across six fast-moving lanes of cars because traffic signals are several blocks or more apart. I will throw out an ideal: places that have no right on red, scramble intersections, and traffic signal and other calming measures at walkable intervals, all to invite users other than cars, whether people are going to a train station, a bus stop or a library.

Watch a Video at Work

And in case we need any more incentives to promote transit and the streets that provide access to it, a new study shows that these symbiotic infrastructure systems lead to weight loss. Read about the Charlotte, N.C. weight-loss experience with light rail. A cute car-free diet video shows two young professional guys giving up their cars for a month in transit-friendly Arlington, Va.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


AARP has produced a fact sheet with details about the new legislation known as the CLASS Act. CLASS stands for Community Living Assistance Services and Supports. The Act was a piece of the health care law passed recently.

The CLASS Act sets up an insurance program that aims to help people remain in their homes once they have a:
functional limitation, certified by a licensed health care practitioner, that is expected to last for at least 90 continuous days. The limitation could be at least two or three activities of daily living (such as eating, bathing, and dressing); a cognitive impairment that requires substantial supervision to protect the person from threats to health or safety; or a similar level of functional limitation.
What will the CLASS Act mean for people who remain in their homes, but who wish to venture out? The benefits will enable people to pay for taxis, buses, vanpools or other transportation to any destination, whether to see a doctor, go to a movie, or have dinner with friends. Of course, the benefits will not be much, up to about $75 per day, depending on the degree of impairment. So, the money will have to also go for whatever supports a person needs - such as help with cooking and bathing.

However, though the funds are clearly inadequate for round-the-clock care, it will assist people who are partially physically or mentally impaired to stay in their homes.

No Age Requirement

Though the CLASS Act seems to be intended mainly for people who are suffering from age-related conditions, it will also provide benefits for people with disabilities, both permanent or temporary. As explained to me at the recent Health Care Colloquium held by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), an insured who has a bad break on the ski slope or a three-month course of chemotherapy would be able to receive temporary benefits for cooking, cleaning and taxi services.

More details are available on the fact sheet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Livability for Everyone: Celebrating the ADA Anniversary

Happy 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act!

The top ten cities for wheelchair users were named today by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The cities were rated on the basis of climate, employment of people with disabilities, Medicaid spending and eligibility, and age of the cities (with the assumption that older cities are less accessible). Due to the difficulty of judging actual accessibility of transit systems and streets, the Foundation mentioned these factors in its announcement of the top 10, but did not assess transit and street design in making its selections.

Rated number one is Seattle, with Denver, New Orleans, Lubbock, Fort Worth, and and small Arlington, Va. also in the top 10. If these are considered the most livable cities for people with physical disabilities, specifically for wheelchair users, then I assume, rightly or wrongly, that the other measures used for rating the cities are in some ways proxies for transit and mobility options other than cars. For example, the employment rate for people with disabilities assumes that most of those employees are getting to a workplace outside the home. As much as an accessible home is a necessity, so is the freedom to navigate streets and travel to places outside our own four walls.

Progress on Next 20 Years of Paratransit

For those interested in improving transit, streets and other mobility options for people with disabilities, Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) is hosting a National Paratransit Online Dialogue to address calls for programs to decrease service or provide innovative options in a time of tight budgets. This dialogue will provide an opportunity for providers and stakeholders to share experiences, paratransit practices, challenges, and recommendations. ESPA is defining paratransit for the purpose of this dialogue to include ADA complementary service and a range of traditional and beyond-ADA demand response services for people with disabilities, older adults, customers of community programs, and/or the general public. Paratransit services are typically door-to-door or curb-to-curb reservation-based services.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some Great Websites

From time to time, it's good to point out places to go, virtual places that is, that are good for finding particular types of resources, what I consider my reliable sources. Unlike great chefs who do not want their secrets to be widely known (perhaps except when their cookbooks come out), I feel like it's part of my job to share information.

Going Regional

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC)
NARC is a great resource for all types of funding information for regional councils, such as livability, transportation, economic development, air quality, and emergency preparedness. Legislation is also well covered from the perspective of regional planning organizations.

By the way, NARC has an upcoming conference in Austin, Texas in late September. Here's NARC's blurb.

Regional councils of all sizes have core cities and towns that are facing issues of growth, infrastructure, security and safety. This Forum will be a discussion on recent trends and opportunities in metropolitan policy for regions, and will address related federal, state, and local issues. Regions and partners will come together to discuss recent federal action on livability, transportation, climate change and other issues.

Federal Partnership

Initiative for Sustainable Communities and States
ISCS compiles the news and resources of the federal interagency sustainability partnership in one place. There is information about funding, policy, and examples for states and localities.

FTA Site A Treasure Trove of ADA Resources

Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
FTA has a multitude of resources related to the intersection of transit and the ADA. These include regulations, legal guidance, details about equitment and paratransit eligibility, and so much more. A new page has topic guides* on selected ADA topics. These offer way more details than a simple fact sheet. They are comprehensive and contain beautiful footnotes, something I really like because I enjoy (yes, enjoy) reading about the foundation for statements and background information about the text.

* As my own little footnote, the topic guide link above is to the FTA introduction page instead of the topic guide home page so that one may easily navigate back to the other FTA resources.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Transportation Legislation to Ponder as Summer Recess Nears

Though it seems like it could be years before a transportation reauthorization bill gets signed, I continue to get news of organizational positions and grand ideas ranging from broad national goals to local control. Considering that this is constant, I try not to write about it too often. I am sure that once Congress gets to reauthorization, I will have time to discuss the major players and how their preferences could affect policy, funding and our own everyday lives in the years to come.

Now that I've said I won't bother you with reauthorization "stuff," I have to mention an interesting piece in the newsletter of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). During a town hall meeting of state departments of transportation (DOT) staff and advocates and at the federal DOT, those who administer transportation programs expressed their views about reauthorization.

Delay Has its own Costs

Participants complained about the delay in getting a new bill crafted and signed. Projects are put off and long-term planning is difficult. This seemed more like letting off steam as everyone is aware that with Congressional and Administration work on health care and financial reform, not to mention immigration law, it is pretty near impossible for Congress to take on transportation as well right now.

Some called for local control and flexibility, but the major concern was how to fund transportation in the next reauthorization. Participants conceded that the gas tax will not be increased. Mentioned was the use of tolls on federal highways.

Administration's Mobility Priorities

From the Secretary of Transportation's blog post from the first reauthorization town hall meeting in January, through his and other DOT statements since, mobility options other than the car and public health are high on the Administration's list of priorities. In fact, the first town hall meeting took place in Minnesota right near a new light rail line. (This must have been important to the Secretary himself because other than Minnesotans, who would travel to Minnesota in January?)

Paying for Transportation Improvements and Maintenance

One idea that has gotten traction and has an aggressive proponent in Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is a national infrastructure bank. AASHTO's newsletter and the Secretary's blog have both addressed that topic. AASHTO's article about a Chamber of Commerce event pointed out that the real issues are sensible funding strategies and better accounting of the benefits of transportation investments.

"The government has all these different transportation finance programs, but there isn't one central place where you can go to get funding for a project," said panelist Jack Basso, director of program finance and management at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. "Instead you have to sift through all the pieces to find one that fits your project. A bank would be a much simpler solution to this problem."

Gov. Rendell pointed out that federal budgeting systems do not reflect the potentially significant benefits in job creation and income-tax revenue that transportation investment brings.

Opening Offer

According to the Secretary's blog, the Administration's opening offer for a National Infrastructure Bank included a launch of "$4 billion that will fund significant national and regional high-priority projects. It will also leverage private investment. Direct awards for this funding will model our highly regarded TIGER grants, many of which went to creative, multi-stakeholder partnerships." However, that was in February.

Even the bank's supporters concede that federal investment in the bank will not be sufficient to pay for necessary maintenance and enhancements to our existing transportation system.

More Information

An explanation of how the National Infrastructure Bank would work is explained in an interview with Gov. Rendell in an Infrastucturist blog post. A very critical analysis of the bank idea can be found in a Reason Foundation blog post from 2009. The foundation explicitly takes libertarian positions on the many topics it addresses.

For future reference, I keep a record of the major transportation reauthorization position statements and legislative recommendations of members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation, the Transportation and Livable Communities Consortium and others.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Upcoming Events with Transportation Elements

National Association of Development Organizations (NADO)
NADO is hosting its annual training conference in San Diego on Aug. 28-31, 2010. There are several transportation and economic development sessions. There will also be sessions on emergency services and local food production.

Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA)
ESPA will be holding a two week online dialogue this summer from July 26 - Aug. 6, 2010. During the Paratransit Online Dialogue, participants may submit, comment on, and rate ideas related to paratransit service provision. Topics will include ADA paratransit service, human services transportation, accessible fixed route transit, accessible pathways, taxis, volunteer programs, and aging services transportation. The dialogue is being held in support of the Federal Transit Administration to gather information, best practices, trends, and ideas relating to paratransit service. The information provided will be used to make recommendations and develop best practices on ways to meet the needs for efficient, effective, and person-directed paratransit services while addressing the challenges of reduced funding and other possible resource constraints that are facing many communities. The forum is free and open to anyone with knowledge or perspective to share on the topic.

For a regularly updated listing of events, please visit the NRC calendar, which has information and links to conferences and meetings related to human services and public transportation.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Put Transportation Options in the American Dream

The National Disability Institute is asking for short videos from people with disabilities that define their concept of the New American Dream. Examples are starting a business, saving money, and buying a home. Getting around towns, cities and regions is an integral tool for realizing those dreams. So, if your organization is promoting participation in the New American Dream project, mention transportation options, such as public transit, pedestrian-friendly streets, vanpools, and more, for the means to achieve the dreams of people with disabilities.

How to Give People with Disabilities More Transportation Options

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has written a good article that explains the benefits of travel training. Transit Agency Travel Trainers Help People Overcome Fears of Riding Regular Buses concentrates on the assistance that people who are disabled can receive to transition from paratransit to conventional transit.

Easter Seals Project ACTION
has an Introduction to Travel Training three-day course that provides travel trainers with knowledge in the classroom that is directly applied and practiced on the street, supplying constructive feedback from trainers and colleagues.

In 1999, the Transit Cooperative Research Program, in TCRP Report 49: Using Public Transportation to Reduce the Economic, Social, and Human Costs of Personal Immobility, explained the economic and social benefits of travel training.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Public Transit's Role in Alleviating Climate Change

Climate Change Resource Center

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has a
Transportation and Climate Change Resource Center
with resources about how state departments of transportation, regional planning organizations and states are addressing climate change. Included is a webinar series that AASHTO put together with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Also interesting is a report from the Washington Council of Governments (WASHCOG), entitled What Would it Take?, that summarizes what must be accomplished to meet certain environmental goals.

Environmental Groups Join in Dump the Pump

In its Dump the Pump Day press release, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) rightly noted that public transportation saves the U.S. "4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually." That does not even count vanpools, private bus service, carpools, and shared taxi rides. The National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club joined in, with messages about preventing future Gulf oil-spill type disasters and reducing our dependence on oil.


That the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is funding its support of transit-oriented development (TOD) is old news, but it is backing a particular view of TOD: LEED-ND or LEED (the environmental standard for buildings) for Neighborhood Development.

According to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan,
Using the 'LEED-ND' green neighborhood rating system CNU [Congress for New Urbanism] developed in partnership with the National Resources Defense Council and Green Building Council, it's time that federal dollars stopped encouraging sprawl and started lowering the barriers to the kind of sustainable development our country needs and our communities want.

And with $3.25 billion at stake in these competitions, that's exactly what they will start to do.
More information is available at

And How Much Can We Collectively Lower Our Carbon Footprint?

The Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD) in partnership with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) have issued a study that examines how much neighborhood design and access to transit affect people's carbon footprints. Transit Oriented Development and The Potential for VMT-related Greenhouse Gas Emissions Growth Reduction estimates that compact city locations show reductions in emissions of 78 percent, with still remarkable, though less dramatic, reductions for less dense transit-oriented areas.

NARC Webinar - Sustainable Communities Grants

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) will be presenting a webinar on Sustainable Communities Grants on July 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Representatives of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be on hand to explain the grants and the application process.

The grants involved are the HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grants at $100M; and the joint HUD DOT NOFA for the HUD Community Challenge Grants at $40M and the DOT TIGER II Transportation Planning Grants at $35M.

The address for registration is

More details about the current round of DOT and HUD livability grants can be located in Decoding the DOT/HUD Livability Etc. Funding Sources.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Funding Deadline Changes

From the Federal Register:

On June 1, 2010, DOT published a notice (75 FR 30461) announcing the availability of funding and requesting proposals for DOT's National Infrastructure Investments grant program under the FY 2010 Appropriations Act. The DOT is referring to the grants for National Infrastructure Investments as ``TIGER II Discretionary Grants.''

DOT is extending the deadline to submit pre-applications for TIGER II Discretionary Grants from July 16, 2010, at 5 p.m. EDT to July 26, 2010, at 5 p.m. EDT. The deadline for submitting final applications is not being extended, and remains August 23, 2010, at 5 p.m. EDT.

In NRC Technical Assistance News: Public Involvement in Transit Decision Making - Effective use of stakeholder advisory committees and public input. Review of a fantastic and readable, though long, TCRP report.