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.