Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Livability Means: Rural Areas and State Policies

Last year, 32,885 people were killed on the nation's roads, according to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in a recent blog post. Rural roads witness a far greater rate of accidents, injuries and deaths than urban roads. The Secretary's words are chilling.
[D]river distraction continues to be a significant safety problem. For example, in a survey we're releasing ..., more than three-quarters of the drivers told us they answer calls on all, some, or most trips when they're behind the wheel. They also said there are very few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text, and that they rarely consider traffic situations when deciding to use their phone. That behavior poses a safety threat to everyone on the road.
We owe our rural neighbors mobility options beyond the single-occupancy vehicle. To bring options to people in every type of community involves partnerships and an eye on the prize of what type of transportation options a community needs, or, given the realities of funding scarcity, what kind of transportation service a community or region desperately needs. This blog addresses the "how" of options that are available and what national organizations, government at every level, and other partners are doing to make getting from here to there (channeling Dr. Seuss) easier.

Technical Assistance

Local coordination stories are featured in today's NRC Technical Assistance News about how communities are growing or reconsidering transit and transportation services. Stories come from York, Pa., Corpus Christi, Tx., and Portland, Or.

From our technical assistance network, an offering that national organizations and state and local stakeholders may be interested in is the National Transit Institute webinar on Jan. 12, 2012, Public Transportation Systems as the Foundation for Economic Growth (RRD 102), which examines the experiences of four cities outside the U.S., Istanbul, Cairo, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, through the eyes of staff from much-smaller American transit systems and cities who participated in the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) international study mission.

[A light rail area of Denver's upcoming new Union Station multi-modal hub.]

What Is Rural Smart Growth?

Federal Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities
Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities is a partnership report that presents brief case studies and explanations of benefits of livability for rural communities. The report seeks to make the practical case for livability outside its usual metropolitan area or urban contexts. Walking, biking, transit and economic development are part of the usual cast of livability characters discussed by the federal partner agencies, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture. A list of staff contacts at each agency appears in Appendix B.

The agencies are promoting community self-determination in rural areas, espousing particular strategies for economic vitality that also support transportation-challenged populations, historic downtowns and rural landscapes and agriculture. In an agency-cross-cultural exchange, the report explains the relevant programs of each agency to rural areas. Performance measures are suggested for each type of goal - whether environmental, housing, land use, transportation, economic. Case studies are from many sparsely populated places, especially from the Plains to the West Coast. My favorite transit-focused case studies are the Opportunity Link in Montana, the Tennessee Intercity Bus Program, and the Downeast Transportation and Island Explorer transit service in Maine, which grew out of a meals-on-wheels program.

State Legislation and Livability

I attended the recent AARP Public Policy Institute forum on aging in place and read the report connected with the event. Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices was a joint venture with the National Conference of State Legislatures. It presents case studies about transit, human services transportation, pedestrian safety, volunteer driver programs, transit-oriented development, and housing-related issues. There is an appendix with a summary of state laws and programs. AARP and NCSL "offer state legislators and officials concrete examples of state laws, policies and programs that foster aging in place."

The report gives many state legislative examples and points out which ones are mandatory and which do not actually require changes. One concrete example given of the dollars-and-cents ramifications of sprawl and exclusively auto-centric communities versus more compact and mixed-use development concerns emergency service delivery in Charlotte, N.C.
Connectivity also reduces the cost of providing emergency services. In Charlotte,
the most efficient fire station—in a connected 19th-century neighborhood—served 26,930 households in 14.1 square miles with a per capita life cycle cost of $159 per year. In contrast, the least efficient station—in a sprawling community built in the 1980s and 1990s—served only 5,779 households in 8 square miles at a per capita life cycle cost of $740 per year.
[Portland's round-the-block food cart destinations are a wonderful example of a transit-oriented, mixed-use, neighborhood's potential offerings.]

Variety of State Action

The report discusses what is necessary in terms of transportation and pedestrian-friendly street networks for people to age in place and the movement at the state legislative level on related policies. From Virginia's complete streets legislation to Utah's transit-oriented development, the report contains many examples of programs and laws that are the starting blocks for communities to be hospitable to a wider range of transportation modes. An example of progress is Montana, a very sparsely-populated state.
Three years ago, the state had nine rural transportation systems; today, there are almost 40. To achieve this, the state went to city and county governments and several county Councils on Aging (each of which already operated some type of bus service) and offered to help them devise and pay for a coordinated plan. “We went to these Councils on Aging and said, ‘You’re already running a senior bus service; if you open your doors to everyone, print a schedule and follow the FTA guidelines, we will help you pull it all together and receive FTA funding,’” said [Audrey] Allums. The localities have provided matching funds by using Title III-B Older Americans Act money, property taxes, donations and other local government money.
What Is a Citizen to Do?
Idaho Smart Growth
Idaho Smart Growth releases a citizen's guide that could easily function as a template for other states and communities. Language is plain for laypeople. It defines livability concepts and walks through jurisdictional responsibilities and steps for becoming involved in planning and community participation in land use, transportation, and public health decisions. Included is information specific to Idaho and local organizations, but most of the guide and resources listed are relevant nationally.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Models to Improve Transportation for Veterans, Patients and People with Disabilities

Community Transportation Association of America
CTAA's National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination released NRC Report: Transportation for America's Veterans and Their Families, which discusses improving transportation for our nation's veterans through partnerships and coordination. Examples of the work of regional ambassadors are given. The NRC also maintains a webpage "bookshelf" with veterans transportation resources.

Life-Saving Transportation

CTAA also distributed the Dialysis Report, which discusses the dire, complicated transportation demands that dialysis patients present.
The crux of the transportation challenge is that the majority of dialysis patients are covered by Medicare, which — unlike Medicaid — does not offer non-emergency transportation as a benefit. Three out of four dialysis patients in the U.S., are Medicare primary, meaning that Medicare sets the reimbursement rate and pays 80 percent of that amount ...

Indeed, in background discussions with community and public transit officials around the country for this article, a common refrain was the difficult position in which many transit operators find themselves — how to continuously add new dialysis patients to the transit schedule with no means of payment.
The situation places transportation providers between the proverbial rock and a hard place. CTAA is advocating for a funding mechanism within Medicare and for increased kidney organ donation. "Transplants can add decades to people’s lives and significantly forestall the need for dialysis, but only when the needed organs are available."

Solutions Possible to Realize Decades-Old Commitments

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living

APRIL's Executive Director, Billy Altom, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about the need for affordable, accessible and available rural transportation. Forty years after the Urban Mass Transportation Act and 20 years after the passing of the ADA, Altom argues, "minimal or nonexistent transit services in rural areas still create serious barriers to employment, accessible health care, and full participation in society for people with disabilities."

Altom sees some solutions that are working - mobility management and voucher programs. Altom praised the Easter Seals Project ACTION Mobility Management Independent Living Coaches program and he cited as an example the Center for Independent Living for Western Wisconsin Regional Mobility Management/New Freedom Program, which provided 12,000 rides last year and coordinates in seven counties with public and private transportation providers. More than 140 volunteer drivers provide the rides and the program is expanding into an 18-county area. Already weekly rides are being supplied to 130 veterans.

Partnership for Mobility Management
member Denise Larson is the mobility manager for the program. She also serves on the Partnership's advisory committee.

Another Type of Coordination

American Public Human Services Association

Bridging the Divide: Leveraging New Opportunities to Integrate Health and Human Services is APHSA's new report about the value added of coordinating and aligning health and human services for clients beyond eligibility and enrollment for a "customer‐focused, one‐stop shop, 'service home'." Such coordination makes sense, according to the report, because:
Many of the same people who qualify for Medicaid, CHIP or some level of premium subsidy identified through the Exchanges also qualify for one or more human service assistance programs.

The positive impact of coordinated care and integrated case management on improving the overall health and well‐being of individuals and populations— strengthening families, achieving employment and independence, improving the well‐being of children, youth, people with disabilities, seniors and other vulnerable populations—is well documented. Better outcomes mean healthier, safer, stabilized individuals and families with a better chance of sustainable independence from government services and long‐term personal success.
The report contains case studies of what several states are doing and the impending impact of the new healthcare law.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What it Takes to Walk - When You Cannot See

American Council for the Blind

ACB releases an updated Pedestrian Safety Handbook, a publication that informs the visually impaired and blind communities "about contemporary approaches to assuring safe paths of travel for blind pedestrians and effective ways to advocate for accommodations like accessible pedestrian signals, tactile warnings at the edges of curb ramps, and mechanisms for routing travelers safely through problematic intersections." This is a valuable resource for two reasons. First, this handbook is an excellent guide to the ADA and how it is implemented in states and localities. Step-by-step advice is given about how to work within the ADA's requirements and when and how to advocate for accessible pedestrian sidewalk and intersection features. Its value is not limited to those who are visually impaired.

Second, the handbook provides detailed information for people who are blind and visually impaired about navigating streets and intersections and what improvements are currently available. Considering how much we who are sighted rely on visual cues, this resource aims to supply those types of details via senses other than sight. For example, cues are described and possibilities explained for what happens at the end of the building line. Airflow changes and a curb is the most frequent, but not the only, possibility of what is in close proximity.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Local Success Stories

In the NRC Technical Assistance News
State coordinating council profiles
Mobility management grants
Livability briefs
Online dialogue about senior transportation
I&R training
FTA procurement facts

[Details high up inside Chicago's Union Station.]

Planning Assistance

National Association of Regional Councils

NARC's newsletter welcomes communities to apply for the American Planning Association's Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) program. Communities facing a range of challenges including, but not limited to, social equity and affordability, economic development, sustainability, consensus building, and urban design are well-suited for assistance through the program. Demonstrated need for assistance is an important qualification. The deadline for applications is Dec. 13, 2011.

Transit Partnerships

American Bus Association

The ABA celebrates the new bus deck at Union Station in Washington, D.C., making the station truly multi-modal, with intercity bus and train services as well as local transit and bikeshare. The Union Station parking garage now accommodates Megabus, Bolt Bus, Washington Deluxe, DC2NY and tour bus parking.

[Chicago Transit Authority bus outside Union Station.]

American Public Transportation Association
APTA awards six Local Transit Coalition Grants, which "support grassroots coalitions and their advocacy efforts to achieve public transportation goals on the state and local levels." These include education and advocacy campaigns. The current winners are:
* Arizona Transit Association (AzTA), Gilbert, AZ, which will use the grant award to support a first-ever statewide poll of voter preferences for public transit in Arizona.
* Community Transportation Association of Idaho (CTAI), Boise, ID, which is working with Idaho Smart Growth and community leaders to place the question of local option tax authority on the November 2012 ballot.
* Friends of Transit for Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, MI, which will support grassroots advocacy efforts to secure local funding for public transportation services in Kalamazoo County and to increase public transportation funding in the state and federal budgets.
* Transit Alliance, Denver, CO, which will continue its educational efforts on the benefits of public transit in the Denver metropolitan region. The group is working with other regional stakeholders to identify ways to solidify long-term leadership and advocacy for the region’s livability.
* Transit Now Nashville (TNN), Madison, TN, which is partnering with the Metro Nashville Public Health Department to develop a pilot educational program focused on incorporating public transportation as a component of a healthy lifestyle.
* Washtenaw Partners for Transit (P4T), Ypsilanti, MI, which advocates for reliable funding to implement the 30-year Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Transit Master Plan.

Smart Growth Achievement Awards

Environmental Protection Agency

Last week at EPA, the agency celebrated this year's Smart Growth Achievement Awards. Terms like mixed-use, transit-oriented and walkable figured prominently. While none of the projects was a transit project, some provided access to transit and sought to engineer transit-oriented living. Two stand out from a transit perspective.
* LEED-platinum residential project in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., which is affordable and placed near transit, intercity transportation, restaurants and shopping. The site was previously a bus holding facility.
* Plan El Paso that envisions three mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhoods that will make possible responsible environmental stewardship and reduced car usage. Bus rapid transit service has already started.

[View of California coast.]

Big Partnerships in a Big State

From the newsletter of the National Complete Streets Coalition:
Though most everything else is bigger in Texas, AARP Texas isn't convinced mobility options for the state's aging population are the right size. Volunteers have begun conducting pedestrian safety audits across the state, including in El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Beaumont, Sherman, San Angelo, Austin, San Antonio, and McAllen. This information will be used to make the case for more Complete Streets solutions, including a renewed push for a state law when the legislature meets again in 2013. A bi-partisan group of legislators put forward a Complete Streets bill this year, but it failed to reach the floor in either chamber.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Events and Local Coordination Stories

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Webinar - Tackling the Question: Will Complete Streets Cost Too Much? - Dec. 1, 2011. Communities Putting Prevention to Work Webinar series presentation about implementing Complete Streets policies and strategies for responding to the cost concern, including examples and resources. The webinar will provide information both about the low cost of many complete streets treatments, as well as ways to talk to transportation professionals about the added value and community support that result from complete streets implementation.

National Association of Regional Councils
Annual conference - Feb. 12-14, 2012, Washington, DC. The conference will focus on the Administration's priorities, Congressional activities, critical policy issues and pending federal legislation that will impact regions. Environmental and transportation policy, livability and the effect of the current U.S. fiscal situation will be addressed.
[View of mid-renovation Union Station area in Denver at dusk.]

Coordination Stories

The Rio Grande Valley in Texas is realistically appraising its coordination and connectivity challenges via its coordinated transportation plan. "The public transit coordination plan was completed this month to comply with Federal Transit Administration rules requiring similar plans to be in place for access to its funding streams, but the study also provided an overview of how well the Valley’s providers have implemented existing coordination efforts." An article in the Brownsville Herald, Study: Valley's Transit Providers Must Connect Services, also explains the plan for further coordination to enable commuting from one city to another in the area. Other transportation services on the horizon are medical and shopping trips and routes with consistent schedules "throughout the day in the Valley’s urbanized areas."

Binghamton, a city in Upstate New York is using its half million dollar Community Challenge Grant, the only one awarded in the state, to engage the community to envision what type of community it should be in the future and follow up on that vision by writing it into its zoning code. A brief television news piece explains.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Legislative Push to Improve Transportation for People with Disabilities

National Council on Independent Living
NCIL published a new position paper on transportation that starts out with the observation that 80 percent of federal transportation funding goes to highways, which discriminates against people with disabilities, along with the unfulfilled promise of the ADA for transit service accessible to all and the lack in rural areas of transportation options and accessible streets for people with disabilities.

NCIL declares 11 goals that it is seeking via the next transportation authorization bill. The following list is edited, but quotes from the position paper.
1. Address the continued discrimination against individuals with disabilities by ensuring through legislation that all public transportation is accessible to and for individuals with disabilities. According to the Rural Transportation Institute, a recent study indicates that only 7 states require public transportation to be wheel-chair accessible under Section 5310. ...

2. Provide major new investments in public transportation and complete street designs ... . The lack of transportation and pedestrian safety and right of way options in many communities is a major barrier to employment of individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities heavily rely on public transportation and the expansions of transportation and complete street options will significantly improve the mobility of individuals with disabilities. ...

3. Include the creation of innovative, creative, universally designed, and accessible and energy efficient vehicles in any future Economic Stimulus, Climate Change, or Surface Transportation Reauthorization Legislation. ... Legislation should maximize the development of federal incentives to increase local and state transit investment. All community and public transportation systems should be able to decide locally when and how to best deploy federal and local investment for either operating or capital uses.

4. Require states to establish an advisory committee to the state Department of Transportation including at least 51% of persons with disabilities and senior citizens, for all types of transportation services. An advisory committee should also be created in counties and/or areas where there are no transportation services, in order to help establish a transportation system to meet the needs of that county. ...

5. Develop a federal standard that requires all taxi fleets to be wheelchair accessible/universally designed that can be adopted by the U.S. Access Board. At a minimum private transportation services such as taxis, limousines and/or shuttle services, must have 10-20% (with a minimum of at least one accessible vehicle) wheelchair accessible/universally designed vehicles.

6. Make all train cars, stations, and any mechanism used to assist with boarding, doorways and vestibules accessible. According to the Amtrak staff at The Piedmont in Charlotte, North Carolina, there are no accessible cars for wheelchair users. As a result, one may be able to get to his or her destination on a car that is accessible but may not be able to travel home because the car on the return train may not be accessible. ... Also, all stations must maximize accessibility improvements including stations not designated as key stations.

7. Create legislation that requires support for mobility management and coordination programs and voucher programs among public transportation providers, other human services agencies providing transportation services, and volunteer driver and aide programs ... by establishing a dedicated funding source for these services. The mobility needs of individuals with disabilities in rural communities are significant. New initiatives to address their unique needs, such as the need for accessible transportation services to transport individuals between the various Municipalities, must be included in any transportation reauthorization.

8. Expand Section 5310 [rural general purpose], the Job Access and Reverse Commute program and the New Freedom program that serves a critical need in the disability community. ... The program should be strengthened by improved oversight and transparency to help nonprofit partners understand how to access the program and assist policy makers understand how the program is being used.

9. Produce all information by transportation authorities for the purpose of informing the general public of their function and schedule of operations in an accessible format upon request. Such formats must address the needs and requests of the patron requesting such an alternative format like large print (18 size font), braille, and computer disk (digital format). In addition, transportation websites must meet the requirements set forth under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

10. Establish a federal standard that requires all commercial airline carriers, as well as small air carriers, to provide personnel with adequate training in safe methods of transfer for passengers with mobility disabilities onto both small and large aircraft. ...

11. Allow service animals including psychiatric service dogs & emotional support animals (ESA) to follow their user.


NCIL and other disability rights organizations, particularly those representing people with cognitive disabilities, are advocating for the ABLE Act, which stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience Act. Modeled on the qualified tuition program, the Act would amend the tax code to encourage saving for "disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, the Medicaid program under title XIX of the Social Security Act, the supplemental security income program under title XVI of such Act, the beneficiary's employment, and other sources." These expenses include housing, transportation, education, employment supports, health and wellness, and assistive technology, among others, including spending on public transit or modifying personal vehicles.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Smart Growth Community Assistance and Walkability News

Environmental Protection Agency
EPA has school siting guidelines that include access to transit and biking, as well as walkability.
Connecting a school to a network of sidewalks, bike paths and other infrastructure encourages physical activity by making walking or biking safe and enjoyable. It is also important to provide walking and biking routes that do not bring children close to large roads, highways and other major pollution sources (for both health and safety concerns). Site size, location and design all play a role in determining whether walking or biking will be an option for students. Locations that provide access for students and staff via public transit will also reduce vehicle use as well as potentially promote increased physical activity in getting to the transit stops from both home and school.

More EPA Technical Assistance Opportunities

Through an EPA grant to the Project for Public Spaces under the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program, Livability Solutions will be offering free technical assistance workshops to six to 12 communities around the country. This technical assistance will take the form of one- to two-day workshops utilizing livability tools such as a Community Image Survey (CIS) public engagement tool, a Walk Audit workshop, a Safe Routes to School workshop or a Design Mini-Charrette, among other community-focused analyses and exercises. Selected communities will also be linked to a network of other communities with similar goals and challenges. Each community team will be led by Livability Solutions coalition members.

The application deadline is Nov. 22, 2011. Visit the Livability Solutions technical assistance page for details and the application.

A webinar next week will cover four technical assistance programs under the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program program.

[Bicycle promoting the goods from a bakery in Hood River, Oregon.]

Streets for All Walkers and Wheelchair Users

Access Board
Three weeks left for public comment on Accessibility Guidelines for Public Rights-of-Way. The US Access Board posted the proposed guidelines on its website these are available for public comment through November 23, 2011.

The guidelines will cover sidewalks, street crossings, medians and traffic islands, overpasses, underpasses and bridges, on-street parking, transit stops, toilet facilities, signs, and street furniture. They will apply to permanent as well as temporary facilities, such as temporary routes around work zones and portable toilets.

Issues related to particular disabilities and pedestrian safety are noted.
Wheelchair users usually have a lower eye height above the street than most adult pedestrians, and may be hidden from motorist view behind parked vehicles, plantings, or other visual obstacles. People may have vision, hearing, cognitive, or other considerations that must be considered within the public right-of-way.
Please be aware that certain public comments will be allowed regarding the Access Board's Advance NPRM (notice of public rulemaking) for Shared Use Paths, announced on on March 28, 2011. Although comments were due June 27, 2011, these guidelines are in initial development stages. The proposed guidelines will consider differences between public right-of-way guidelines and recreational trail guidelines. More information is available in the FHWA's Pedestrian Forum newsletter.

Please note that a public hearing will be held in Washington, DC on Nov. 9 at the Access Board Meeting Room, 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800.

[Buses on Central Park South on a June morning.]

Template for Multi-Modal Street Networks

National Complete Streets Coalition

The coalition is recommending the Model Design Manual for Living Streets. Offered as a street-design template, the manual:
focuses on all users and all modes, seeking to achieve balanced street design that accommodates cars while ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists and transit users can travel safely and comfortably. This manual also incorporates features to make streets lively, beautiful, economically vibrant as well as environmentally sustainable.
For more information about walkability best practices and places, visit the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center's walkinginfo.org website, which also houses information about the Walk-Friendly Communities Program. More walkability news and resources are available from America Walks and the Federal Highway Administration's pedestrian resources website.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Events, Proposals Sought: Transit, Aging & Sustainability

Environmental Protection Agency
Webinar - Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities - Nov. 9. The webinar will describe the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program and how it can help communities achieve the kind of development they are seeking. Discussed will be EPA’s direct technical assistance and each of the four grantee’s programs to provide free technical assistance. The webinar will also cover important deadlines and the application process.

National Center on Senior Transportation
Webinar - Successful Collaboration Between Aging and Transit: The Experience of Kent County, Michigan - Nov. 15, 2011. Sponsored by the Administration on Aging and NCST, the webinar will cover a successful collaboration between aging and transit that uses person-centered mobility management as a tool to assist older adults in identifying the right mobility option to meet their needs. Featured will be the experience of Ridelink, a transportation system for seniors in Kent County, Michigan.

NCST is a technical assistance center administered by Easter Seals Inc., in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

[Fort Collins - First Colorado snow of the 2011-2012 season.]

National Transit Institute
Webinar - Public Transportation Systems as the Foundation for Economic Growth - Jan. 12, 2012. The International Transit Studies Program (ITSP) of the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) conducted a study mission of four cities where large investments in public transit are being made. The webinar will focus on how public transit investments drive economic growth in Istanbul, Cairo, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, and will discuss how population growth, congestion, urban sprawl, and inequalities in society are leading to unique patterns of transit expansion. Transit professionals who were members of the study team will present their observations and analysis.

Seeking Proposals (Non-matrimonial)

National Council on Independent Living
NCIL is requesting proposals for its 2012 conference, which will take place in Washington, DC on June 11-14, 2012. NCIL seeks workshops about transportation, social media, best practices, and the work of centers for independent living in hard times, among others. The deadline for submitting proposals is Dec. 2, 2011.

NARC Speaks Up for Rural Development Funding

National Association of Regional Councils
In a letter to the Senate dated Oct. 31, NARC opposes Senator Coburn's proposed amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2012, which NARC maintains would reduce Fiscal 2012 federal rural development spending by $1 billion or about 40 percent. Rural development funds pay for such programs as expansion of rural broadband and clean drinking water facilities. NARC states:
The amendment sponsored by Senator Coburn will further decimate an agency and programs already hard hit by budget cuts. In recent years, Congress and the Administration have repeatedly reduced annual appropriations for rural development. The FY 12 level recommended in the Senate’s version of H.R. 2112 is some $175 million below the FY 11 rate. Between 2003 and 2011, appropriations for rural water sewer, business programs and community facilities were cut by 30% and rural housing direct lending and related grant programs by over 50%.

The Coburn amendment will not only curtail improvements in housing, water and waste facilities, broadband deployment, and economic opportunity; it has the potential to displace thousands of families living in rural rental housing developments. The Senate bill contains appropriations to renew 205,000 expiring rural rental assistance contacts. The Coburn amendment requires that each rural development account is proportionately reduced (by 40%) to achieve a $1 billion reduction. Over 80,000 rural families – all of whom are low-income and most of whom are elderly or persons with disabilities – will face almost certain loss of their apartments if the amendment is approved and their rental assistance is terminated.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sharing the Truth about Transportation Services & Transit

Community Transportation Association of America
CTAA's Director, Dale Marsico, provides historical context for the Federal Transit Administration's proposed changes to current policies on implementing the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
[K]eep in mind that it is fair for us to be asked if we are living up not just to our responsibilities on Civil Rights under Title VI. Remembering that these proposals represent something more for us than a typical government regulation, I believe that everyone who has questions or concerns about them use the full range of comment procedures and meetings to discuss them with the FTA. I'd also urge you to suggest different strategies to provide the kind of factual information that tells our ongoing story of the role we play in expanding Civil Rights for everyone.
Visit the FTA site for information about the proposals relating to civil rights and environmental justice and the ADA.

CTAA has a new blog, Truth in Transit. The blog contains stories about transit systems, rider experiences, and funding. It is a resource for community and public transportation leaders and advocates to share best practices in building effective, strategic relationships with local, state and federal elected officials and with other key partners. I really like the 101 piece written by a Wisconsin legislator about how to approach political leaders. The advice applies everywhere and beyond transportation.

[Portland's Union Station.]

American Public Transportation Association
APTA releases the APTA Primer on Transit Funding - The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, Extensions, and Other Related Laws, FY 2004 Through FY 2011, a report that explains all of the transit funding programs and how many dollars are authorized and appropriated for them. In another report, APTA analyzes what will happen if cost-cutting proposals become the law of the land in the next reauthorization. An Analysis of Proposed U.S. House of Representatives Actions and Their Impact on Public Transportation looks at impacts on riders, jobs, service, maintenance and new projects.

AARP has written a report about the safety and mobility considerations involved with golf-cart-like vehicles, called Low-speed vehicles (LSVs). Use in specific communities is analyzed as well as accident rates. Use of these vehicles has increased, though they are not designed for car-like speeds or impacts.

Map of Senior Transportation Programs

The Beverly Foundation has compiled a map of senior transportation that shows the number of programs in each state, where they are and a link to further information about each program.

Local Stories

Ohio Valley of West Virginia announces plans to revisit its coordinated transportation plan. The study's director sees challenges in mobility needs as well as perceived barriers of liability and funding to interstate service. See the local news video.

Like many areas of the country, Palm Beach County, Florida, is seeing an increase in transit ridership. This increase remained even during a dip in gas prices. Sundays, the only day for which there was no increase, remained steady in ridership, though service has been cut.
[Tile art on Portland building.]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Solar Decathlon Reflects Transportation, Accessibility Thinking Among College Students

In this era of linking transportation and housing to find solutions to energy-related problems, it is heartening that the link was reflected in the wish list of solar/low carbon-emission houses produced for the 2011 Solar Decathlon that just took place in Washington, DC. For any of you not in the know, the Solar Decathlon is a finalist competition of 20 college and university teams from across the country and around the world. The teams are from all types of schools along the collegiate spectrum, this year including an impressive entry from a small liberal arts school (my husband's alma mater) in New England to giant state universities (one of which my sister works for and another 10 minutes from my house). Many of the homes are designed for specific regions and affordability is one component of the competition.

This year, two homes were designed as possible units in multi-family buildings. The City University of New York (CCNY) (my dad's alma mater) entrant was a house that could sit atop an apartment building, surrounded by a rooftop farm or other similar units. I have to admit I used to love spending time on the roof of my building when I was growing up. It is an oasis-in-the-city idea. It also made gorgeous use of light green recycled glass in the kitchen and bathroom. Team Tidewater from Virginia's Old Dominion University and Hampton University, produced a lovely house, the most formally decorated and architecturally detailed in the competition, designed as a unit for a small apartment building in a walkable old small city.
[CCNY house.]

I was happy to see that these schools thought about the energy use of their occupants beyond their front doors to where people travel in their daily lives.

Accessibility: Garden State and Beyond

New Jersey was not far behind in this respect. Its design assumed that homes are usually placed close enough together that privacy is desired and that floor-to-ceiling windows in every room do not provide that. (Disclosure: I had a private tour of the New Jersey house from my cousin, an architecture student, who was on the team.)

Another plus from Team New Jersey that reflected larger societal trends was its complete accessibility, even in the bathroom, for wheelchair users, so that a person in a wheelchair can do more than visit for a few hours, but can actually visit over night or live in the house. Other teams with equal accessibility were Florida International, Maryland, Illinois, Tennessee, and Appalachian State. Indeed, Florida International's design included grab bars throughout the bathroom.
[Bathroom of Appalachian State's house.]


We can all have a dream house with enough money, but providing housing that meets societal and personal needs at an affordable price is a challenge. Affordability was well displayed in Team Belgium's entry. The home was made from a house kit the students designed that will enable do-it-yourself building. It is compact, livable and flexible for multiple uses. It also features a design element missing in the 2009 Solar Decathlon, two bedrooms, so that a family could live there.

A few other teams also featured two bedrooms, including Middlebury College (an impressive entrant with a green indoor vegetable wall in the kitchen) and Appalachian State (also beautiful with tin wall in bathroom and outdoor shed storage spaces). Florida International's design also seemed amenable to family use for long-term living.

Something heartening beyond the creativity and commitment of the students was the attention of many teams to universal design, cost concerns, and options (such as solar technology) that are available now. That a few teams actually placed their homes in specific types of walkable - and transit-friendly - locations was a big plus, and one that I hope extends beyond the competition.
[Middlebury's green wall in kitchen.]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emergency Preparedness Events & A Program for Older Workers

This small collection of resources and events do not focus on transporting people, but for the programs they cover, all necessitate somehow moving individuals, some frail, from one point to another. I think they show the critical role that mobility plays and the complications that ensue in difficult circumstances.

American Public Works Association
APWA is developing an emergency management peer network. It requests that members share their expertise about the different facets of emergency preparedness, response, mitigation, planning, and recovery. The "database will operate as an in-house listserv for APWA members who need advice or information on emergency management matters."

How to be FEMA Ready When Disaster Hits (Rebroadcast) - audio/web broadcast - Oct. 11, 2011 - Pointing out that within the last five years, every state has had at least one disaster declaration, APWA presents this program to help identify what should be ready before disaster strikes and what can be expected when dealing with FEMA after the disaster. Participants will learn how to justify the value of a good asset management system that gives quantifiable information to help identify the cost of bringing assets back into use and how to estimate the length of time and resources involved in the recovery process.

Coast Starlight - outside of LA
[In LA, Amtrak's Coast Starlight passes environmental message.]

Preparedness Considerations for Aging Americans - webinar - tomorrow, Sept. 20, 2011 -
This webinar will provide information about specific preparedness steps for Aging Americans. Speakers will include representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and leaders at the forefront of Aging American Preparedness. Advanced registration for this webinar is not required.

Impoverished, Working and Getting Old

National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities
NASUAD releases a primer for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which explains how the over-40-year-old program works. It is the only "federally mandated job training program that explicitly serves low-income adults, age 55 years and older." One of the family of services for which recipients may receive assistance is transportation. Tight restrictions on who is eligible exist, but the program provides individualized supports for recipients.
Supportive services commonly provided to the participant—either by the subgrantee or through referrals to other agencies—include transportation, legal assistance with access to a benefits specialists, subsidized housing, caregiver support, personal and financial counseling, health care, and medical services. Participants may also be offered rent and utility assistance, payment of reasonable costs for transportation and money for incidentals such as uniforms, shoes, badges, safety glasses, and tools.
Portland bus stop[Portland bus stop offers a high-tech, urban image.]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Not Just Vehicles: Access to Long-Term Care, Food Assistance & Mobility

American Public Human Services Association
APHSA's concerns about Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) closure of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offices include transportation barriers. It sees technology as a solution. "[I]implementation of office closures that are accompanied by the appropriate alternative methods and technology could not only avoid negative effects but can very likely on balance improve access and integrity." APSHA is also objecting to an FNS requirement for the SNAP that allows deduction from income of transportation costs for dependent care, which requires documentation of actual transportation expenses. "[T]he great variety of possible arrangements opens the door to errors, and requires an unwarranted amount of effort by the worker." APSHA would prefer either a federal standard or a state-by-state standard amount. Both of these documents are available on APSHA's homepage.

Long-Term Care Report Card


AARP issues its State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers. The report asserts that quality of life, including engagement in the community, requires a long-term care support system where:
there is effective coordination or integration between health-related services (such as clinician services, medications, home health, and physical therapy) and supportive services (such as personal care, adult day, homemaker, transportation, and other services).
One concrete result of high quality home and community support is the cost-saving reduction of hospital readmissions. The report emphasizes that limited data to measure services such as transportation and assistance in the home means that currently the performance of programs cannot be effectively measured. A state-by-state scorecard website looks at several measures, but does not examine anything directly related to transportation.


Easter Seals Project ACTION

Public Involvement in the Transportation Planning Process
- webinar - October 12, 2011. This webinar will provide a guide to taking and utilizing a seat at the table for transportation planning and implementation. This event will prepare transportation advocates to offer effective input that will be heard, understood and incorporated into the over-all plan.

Transcripts from ESPA's summer webinars can now be found at its website.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reauthorization - National Organizations Talk Transportation Investment

There's an uptick in reauthoriztion talk due to the impending Sept. 30 deadline and whether the old transportation authorization, SAFETEA-LU, will continue to be extended as is - a "clean" extension. A further question is whether a short-term extension will be followed by a reauthorization.

National organizations are advocating for a reauthorization. Their priorities have generally remained the same in the last couple of years. This is what they are saying to the public and to their members.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
AASHTO supports President Obama's position to extend SAFETEA-LU to "as a prelude to completing a new reauthorization bill." AASHTO's reauthorization recommendations include doubling the use of transit by 2030, encouraging more efficient land use, streamlining transportation programs, and increasing investment in highways, transit and intercity passenger rail. On AASHTO's homepage, it is asking Congress to provide "[f]lexibility to enable states to get the most value for each dollar; [c]hanges in [the] law so we can deliver projects faster; [and f]inancial tools as a supplement to our dollars."
[Bike with bread in Hood River, Oregon.]

National Association of Regional Councils

NARC urges Congress to "pass a clean, long-term authorization extension of both the current federal-aid surface transportation programs (highways and transit) and the continued collection of federal fuel taxes." Economic stability and jobs are cited as the reasons for Congress to act now.

Smart Growth America is basically sending out the same message as NARC, with a warning that if Congress does not act "no federal funds for roads, bridge repair, or transportation options; thousands of American workers facing halts in work or layoffs; a loss of $1 billion in just 10 days."
[San Luis Obispo Amtrak station in California. Photograph taken from the Coast Starlight train.]

Community Transportation Association of America

CTAA is noting the redefining of infrastructure to include transit vehicles and workers. Due to the consensus in Congress that we should not slight transportation infrastructure, CTAA is urging transit and transportation providers that "we must keep the infrastructure angle primary in our communications."

American Public Transportation Association

APTA released a public service television spot with Presidents Clinton and Reagon declaring the importance of transportation. The message requests that people tell Congress to pass a robust six-year transportation reauthorization. The ad presently appears on APTA's homepage. APTA is also talking about transportation investment as a means to preserve and create jobs.

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations
AMPO succinctly described the current House plans for a six-year reauthorization and the Senate two-year version, which has a $12 billion funding gap. AMPO also explains the mechanics of the Budget Control Act and the House plan to limit transportation spending to the amount of gas-tax receipts.

A summary of what is going on in Congress concerning reauthorization and appropriations appears in yesterday's edition of NRC Capitol Clips.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Demand for Transit and Long-Distance Options

I am struck by the confluence of information floating across my screen about the more and more mainstream notion of transportation options in different settings, local, rural, urban, and regional.

National Association of Development Organizations
Exploring the Role of Regional Transportation Projects as Rural Economy Drivers is a NADO research report that looks at three positive experiences with transportation-led economic development projects. Funding sources are also discussed.

(1) Vermont: Construction in Brattleboro of a passenger intermodal transportation hub. The transportation hub, just blocks away from the Amtrak station, added to the downtown 300 parking spaces, bicycle racks, a parking enforcement office, street-level commercial space, and a connection to existing local and regional bus service. The results are fewer empty storefronts downtown, a new theater, and plans for renovating the Amtrak station and building a nearby mixed-use retail and multi- family residential project.

(2) Alabama: Creation of Baylinc, the first multi-county public transportation system in Southern Alabama. The report details the funding hurdles, importance of potential commuter service demand and effective partnerships with local leaders and transit systems. The result is the planning of other regional services, including ferry service and a guaranteed ride home component of commuter service. The lesson emphasized is not to give up on a good idea.

(3) Oregon: Recent projects of the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), with the support of regional partners, in opening a ride brokerage call center, preparing a coordinated regional public transportation plan, designing a bus system, building an intermodal transit hub, and starting local and regional bus service. That service is now serving 200,000 riders per year, with a shift from "a transit- dependent population (low-income, older adult and disabled customers) to a population that chooses public transit over other available transportation options ... helping boost the local economy." Although serving the wider public was not part of the plan, early-adopter human service agencies and transportation-challenged individuals convinced small communities and agencies to support public transit. There are now plans to partner with the business community and add pedestrian and bicycle connections. The advice of one participant is to "[c]reate a story of the problem and have data available to demonstrate a need for the proposed service. "

NADO also issued new reports about air quality projects (with one transit example), emergency planning and economic recovery after disasters.

Long-Distance Connectivity

American Bus Association

The ABA is promoting the $8.8 million that the Federal Transit Administration is offering for wheelchair lifts as part of its Over-the-Road Bus (OTRB) Accessibility Program. The ABA has a special grant information webpage with details and contacts for assisting with grant applications. The deadline is Sept. 12, 2011.

ABA mentions Who Rides Curbside Buses? A Passengers Survey of Discount Curbside Bus Services in Six Eastern and Midwestern Cities, a survey of passengers of intercity curbside bus service about what modes they are taking their business from and also examines the differences between travelers on these buses and on conventional carriers. "Curbside bus companies have attracted publicity for their steeply discounted fares, free wireless internet, and express services on routes that had seen little new service in decades." The 14-page report was prepared by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University.

The buses are generating trips in the two areas studied, East Coast and Midwest cities. Their fares undercut Amtrak's, are competitive with car travel, and offer free wifi. On the East Coast, where Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service is a popular option with frequent trains, the curbside buses are stealing business, though Amtrak is still showing ridership increases. In the Midwest, bus passengers are forgoing automobile travel add airplane trips.

Young Demographic

The age 18-25 age group represents a large segment of the curbside bus market and though I have seen many people outside this age group board those buses, including me, there is no question that it is mostly an under-30 crowd. Perhaps due to the nature of their travel and not being as concerned with time (or more concerned with free wifi at low cost), personal rather than business trips predominate. A huge difference with the conventional bus market is the over 90 percent use of portable electronic devices. The only greater percentage use is on the Acela, which costs a whole lot more, is the quickest option (rivaling the plane) and generally has much more expensively dressed travelers.

The ABA also reports that Megabus in the United Kingdom is experimenting with sleeper service, including one's "very own bed," on overnight service between Glasgow and London.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Webinars - Performance Measurement, Creative Responses to Reduced Funding

Performing For Individual, Organizational and Collective Impact - webinar - Sept. 14, 2011 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The Partnership for Mobility Management and the Community Transportation Association of America jointly present this webinar to explore the fundamentals of performance measurement. Hear how a results-based accountability framework is used to support quality of life. Learn about mobility management measures that gauge success of programs and outcomes for customers. Speakers include representatives of transit, transportation services and workforce agencies as well as a staff member of the Federal Transit Administration.

Creative Solutions to Reduced Funding for Public and Human Services Transportation - webinar - Sept. 20, 2011 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation presents this colloquium via webinar to assist national organizations, states and communities during these fiscally challenging times. Speakers are representatives of communities that have taken different approaches to solving or alleviating the problem of cutbacks as well as a panel representing national organizations.

President Addresses Reauthorization

Department of Transportation
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in his Fastlane blog applauds President Obama's request that Congress "pass a clean extension of key transportation programs as soon as possible." The President states that the jobs of thousands of construction workers and DOT employees are on the line. Politico is linking Obama’s remarks to a job-creation plan he’s expected to launch next week.

According to Politico, the President also calls this a good time to invest in transportation - while jobs are scarce, interest rates are low and infrastructure needs to be maintained. “We have to have a serious conversation about making real, lasting investments in infrastructure from better ports to a smarter electric grid to high speed rail,” he said. A Washington Post blog states that Obama will address jobs next week in a speech to a joint session of Congress.

The houses of Congress have different plans, a six-year reauthorization in the House and a two-year proposal in the Senate. Transportation funding will expire on Sept. 30. Click here for more general information about reauthorization and the speech from the Associated Press.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Caregiving Costs & FTA Policy on Access to Transit


AARP reports that transportation is a major part of caregiving for elderly relatives. Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update - The Economic Value of Family Caregiving in 2009, states:
Nearly four in ten (39 percent) Medicare beneficiaries report being accompanied to routine medical visits, typically by spouses or adult children. A recent analysis found that family and friends provide 1.4 billion trips per year for older relatives (age 70+) who do not drive. Adult children provide 33 percent of these trips.
Taking time off to drive a parent or a spouse is not the only responsibility, though it might be one of the most time consuming. AARP also mentions the at-home medical care for people with long-term conditions as well as nursing-type care is performed after major surgeries and other critical procedures. Those people requiring the most care over long periods were individuals with chronic health conditions.

According to "more than one in three (36 percent) caregivers" due to budget cuts "government agencies and nonprofit organizations are now less able to provide services to their relative or friend" than prior to the recession. These include services such as transportation and delivered meals. This is borne out with area agencies on aging statistics in the report. Long-term effects for caregivers include a drain on financial resources and retirement savings, and negatively impacted employment prospects or advancement. Only California and New Jersey have legislation mandating paid family leave programs.

[Fish design bike rack in Long Beach, Calif.]

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
AASHTO publicized the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) issuance of a policy statement on the eligibility of pedestrian and bicycle improvements for funding under federal transit law - up to a radius of one-half mile for pedestrian improvements and all bicycle improvements located within three miles of a public transportation stop or station." The FTA declares a "de facto physical and functional relationship to public transportation." Funding for bicycle or pedestrian improvements at greater distances to public transportation may also be eligible for FTA funding where it is demonstrated that "the improvement is within the distance that people will travel by foot or by bicycle to use a particular stop or station." And that's just the FTA's introduction to the statement.

Details about funding are available in the NRC Technical Assistance News. The FTA policy statement appears in the Federal Register.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Easter Seals Project ACTION
July 27 - Promising Practices and Solutions in Accessible Transportation: Environmental Barrier Analysis and Options for Remedy webinar.
This webinar will focus on common barriers and potential remedies for creating a barrier-free environment. Community assessment tool included that may be shared to train others on the importance of community involvement in removing barriers to accessibility.

Aug. 15 - Fundamentals of Travel Training Administration online course.
The course teaches about launching, operating and maintaining a travel training program. Learners may complete this course at their own pace while sharing experiences, ideas and knowledge with colleagues.


Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Oct. 25-28 - AMPO Annual Conference - Dallas, TX.
Expected presentations about climate change, complete streets, data collection, sustainable communities, small MPOs, promoting health through transportation, performance measures and social networking.

American Public Health Association

Oct. 29-Nov. 2 - Annual Meeting - Washington, D.C.
There are 1000 sessions on a wide range of public health topics, with many devoted to some aspect of the intersection with transportation, including public transit, walking and cycling, and mobility of people with disabilities.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's in the Deal for Transit and Community Programs?

I have yet to see specifics about transit or community transportation in articles about the proposed bipartisan debt-ceiling/deficit-reduction package. Instead of writing about missing details, I will take a page from the Daily Show - no, I won't attempt comedy - and look back at the bipartisan commission that is the source for the current proposal.

In late 2010, the chairs of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and retired Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), released detailed draft recommendations and a PowerPoint summary explaining their plan to significantly cut the federal budget and reduce the national debt.

Lots of Details

Their recommendations included freezing federal employee salaries and cutting the federal workforce, reducing the number of contract positions, and reducing the amounts spent on federal travel. Their plan would eliminate the Economic Development Administration and merge the Department of Commerce with the Small Business Administration. For transportation, there would be a 15-cent increase in the gas tax. There is much more. If you want details, refer to both the draft recommendations and the PowerPoint because they cover somewhat different topics.

This blog covered the responses from national organizations within the transportation world in November.

In December 2010, the Commission issued its report and in January 2011, the members of the Commission released their individual statements.


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

The Commission recommends gradually increasing the per gallon gas tax by 15 cents between 2013 and 2015. Congress must limit spending from trust funds to the level of dedicated revenues from the previous year. Before asking taxpayers to pay more for roads, rail, bridges, and infrastructure, we must ensure existing funds are not wasted. The Commission recommends significant reforms to control federal highway spending. Congress should limit trust fund spending to the most pressing infrastructure needs rather than forcing states to fund low-priority projects. It should also end the practice of highway authorization earmarks such as the infamous Bridge to Nowhere.
Transit, community transportation and other modes are not addressed. Nor were they mentioned in the President's deficit reduction speech in April 2011, covered here.

News Will Be Out Soon

Well, we will all know soon whether the current Senate bipartisan proposal will take hold in the House. If it does, the transportation and infrastructure provisions will influence reauthorization whenever that happens, and specifically funding for transit, community transportation and zero-emission modes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

More Responses to the House Reauthorization Proposal

Association for Commuter Transportation
ACT responded to the House reauthorization proposal by stating that while the association understands the need for fiscal constraints, it points to underinvestment in transportation. ACT applauds the proposed expansion of public-private partnerships where appropriate, and the development of performance measures for both highway and transit projects.

[Taxis about to leave Central Park on a summer morning.]

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations

AMPO warns that if all current metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are not grandfathered in the next reauthorization bill, which could institute a 200,000 population threshold, then it is possible that almost two thirds of the current MPOs will disappear and that eight states will no longer have an MPO.
As required under U.S. Code Title 23, Chapter 1, Section 134, MPOs are policy boards comprised of local elected officials, representatives of public agencies that administer or operate transportation modes and state officials. The boards are responsible for carrying out federally required transportation planning activities that include, but are not limited to, development of long-term multimodal transportation plans, coordinated selection of transportation improvements in a fiscally constrained manner, public outreach, and coordination with states and numerous public and citizen interests.
AMPO asserts that MPOs are crucial for transportation decisions to reflect "the voice of the local government, its citizens, and people in the regions."

Community Transportation Association of America

CTAA currently has links on its homepage to the overview of the House proposal, the House Democratic response, and a Senate Banking Committee state-by-state table of current spending levels and expected reductions.
[Maine fishermen relaxing on shore on a cool evening.]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Living with a Transportation Challenge

AARP reiterates its concern that most older adults are lacking transportation options, particularly transit and a pedestrian-friendly street network. The result for many people is isolation as they are hesitant to ask friends and family members for assistance with non-essential trips.
Public transportation is very limited or nonexistent in America's suburbs and rural areas, where most older people live, and there is no indication that the situation will improve soon. In fact, a recent study by Transportation for America finds that by 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or nonexistent. Further, 60 percent of people age 50 and over said in an AARP survey that they did not have public transportation within a 10-minute walk from their homes. And 53 percent said they did not have a sidewalk outside their home.
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
N4A's Maturing of America Survey asked governments, particularly local governments, about their services for older adults. The survey notes generally the increasing population of older adults, increasing need and, with the recession, decreasing revenues to support programs.

In terms of transportation and other services, the survey finds that older adults living in urban areas are in a better situation than those who reside in rural areas. Higher population areas are more likely to provide discounted fares on public transportation, taxi discounts or vouchers, and door-to-door and door-through-door demand-response service. They are also more likely to have pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and intersections, paratransit and public transportation. The survey emphasized that the West Coast "excels in almost all transportation categories."

Multiple Disabilities

American Council for the Blind

ACB's newsletter, the Braille Forum, recently noted the ways in which we can all be sensitive to people with mobility challenges when planning events or when using public transit and accommodations. The article discusses people with visual impairments who have multiple disabilities.

American Public Health Association

A new resource for me is the APHA Transportation and Public Health E-Newsletter (link is to subscription page). Public health benefits of transit, community transportation, walking and biking, interrelated as they are, supply wonderful partners for coordination efforts and mobility initiatives. In the current newsletter issue are the following resources:

* The Road to Health Care Parity: Transportation Policy and Access to Health Care, a policy brief about the public health ramifications of our transportation system on living a healthy lifestyle and actually being able to travel to healthcare appointments.
* National Prevention Strategy, which recommends greater reliance on transit and the active transportation modes of biking and walking. One suggestion is to "[c]onvene partners (e.g., urban planners, architects, engineers, developers, transportation, law enforcement, public health) to consider health impacts when making transportation or land use decisions."
* Safe Routes to Transit and Safe Routes for Seniors programs, which are now limited to the San Francisco area and New York, respectively.
* Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation, a Transportation for America report that documents the need for viable transit options so that baby boomers will be able to comfortably age in place. The report takes a hard look at rural and suburban areas, which together account for 75 percent of today's seniors.

Medicaid Tracker

National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities

NASUAD is updating monthly its Medicaid tracker, available via its homepage. The tracker reviews the Medicaid systems in each state and summarizes any changes in eligibility and service.

Legislative Recommendations

National Council on Independent Living
NCIL has posted its summer legislative priorities, which can be opened from the homepage. Among others, the priorities include a ban on forced electroshock, support for Senate processing of judicial nominations, housing, health and medical support services, and opposition to the ADA Notifications Act, which would require 90-day notice before filing an ADA complaint. NCIL is also making requests concerning funding and the structuring of state independent living entities.

NCIL's transportation endorsements favor Complete Streets legislation, accessible taxi fleets and reauthorization of transportation legislation.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Making Sense of Funding Available and Reauthorization Talk

Okay, may be it is just me or that my brain has shifted to the summer mode of summmers before air conditioning, but I am finding confusing the news about funding available and the reauthorization proposal and the many responses to it.

Funding - All Sustainable

TIGER grants - $527 million is available from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program. These Department of Transportation funds will be awarded for innovative transportation projects that will create jobs and have a significant impact on the nation, a region, or a metropolitan area. Pre-applications must be submitted by October 3, 2011. Final applications are due through Grants.gov by October 31, 2011.

The money may be awarded for projects beyond public transportation, such as roads and freight rail. In the past, awards have gone for transit buses, streetcars, ports, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. The TIGER website has a very cool map that allows one to peruse previous awards.

Sustainability Initiative

This Federal Transit Administration program will award funds for clean fuel and energy-reducing technologies and transit upgrades. The deadline for applications is Aug. 23, 2011.

Clean Fuels grant recipients will be chosen through a competitive selection process based on their ability to help communities achieve or maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and carbon monoxide, while supporting emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses.

TIGGER III grants, which will also use a competitive selection process, will be awarded based on a project’s ability to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and provide a return on the investment.

Last year's 63 winning projects involved an array of environmental innovations, such as installing energy-efficient technologies at transit facilities, replacing traditional diesel-powered buses with low- or zero-emission vehicles, and building compressed natural gas fueling stations.
Now see why I am confused? Between TIGER and TIGGER, I feel like I am stuck in a Winnie the Pooh story with Tigger bouncing and Tony the Tiger visiting, except that there are no cutely-drawn striped animals involved.

To make this somewhat easier, FTA has a website with information about its discretionary programs, the funding available and deadlines.

Livability Expansion Initiative

Other FTA discretionnary programs include the Livability Expansion Initiative, with $175 million available and a deadline of July 29. The two components include the Alternatives Analysis program and the Bus and Bus Facilities program. The goal of the Alternatives Analysis program is to assist potential sponsors of New Starts and Small Starts projects in the evaluation of all reasonable modal and multimodal alternatives and general alignments options to address transportation needs in a defined travel corridor. Priority will be given to projects that foster the six livability principles. Included in allowable expenditures for the bus program are
purchasing of buses for fleet and service expansion, bus maintenance and administrative facilities, transfer facilities, bus malls, transportation centers, intermodal terminals, park-and-ride stations, acquisition of replacement vehicles, bus rebuilds, bus preventive maintenance, passenger amenities such as passenger shelters and bus stop signs, accessory and miscellaneous equipment such as mobile radio units, supervisory vehicles, fare boxes, computers and shop and garage equipment.
The State of Good Repair program also has a July 29 deadline and has $750 million ready for maintenance and repair.

Related HUD funding

The Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grants are not yet available. Advance notice has been released that there will be $67 million on the table "towards creating stronger, more sustainable communities that connect housing to jobs while fostering local innovation and building a clean energy economy."

Reauthorization Conversation Begins Again

Both the Senate and the House have started anew serious talk about reauthorization, with Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) proposing a one-third cut in highway and transit funding and a six-year bill. Sen. Barbara Boxer has put forth a two-year bill.

The SAFETEA-LU extension will expire on September 30, but it is anyody's guess whether the current discussions will lead to new legislation or another extension. Here is information about the proposals and the perspective of some members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation.

American Public Transportation Association - transit perspective on the Mica reauthoriization proposal.

American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials - coverage of House and Senate activity, with discussion of the current divide between Democrats and Republicans on each.

Amalgamated Transit Union - Responds negatively to the Mica proposal. Says the proposal will cause massive layoffs among transit workers and the service reductions "would be the knockout punch that puts millions of more people on the unemployment line."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Planning for Emergencies and Disaster Response

On Wednesday morning, members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation engaged in a colloquium about emergency planning and disaster response, both in general and in particular regarding transportation, transportation providers, and transportation-challenged populations and areas. The speakers were Sheryl Gross-Glaser of the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination (NRC) (a technical assistance center housed at the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA)), Virginia Dize and Jo Reed of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A), and Patricia Monaghan of the National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP).

To understand the different types and categorization of emergencies and disasters, and preparedness, a good concise guide is the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Introduction to All-Hazards Preparedness for Transit Agencies.

Never Introduce Yourself at the Disaster

"Never introduce yourself at the disaster" was a terrific soundbite from a recent FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) webinar. Richard Devylder, Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation at the U.S. Department of Transportation, gave this advice. It is too late to be involved in planning for emergency response when disaster hits and even at the point where officials are looking for endorsement of a plan.

Early and Often Involvement

Unlike voting, involvement in emergency planning should be early and often, counsels Devylder (who did not refer to voting). Involvement while a plan is being crafted ensures that preparedness actively includes populations beyond those of average age and abilities.
[Central Park South yesterday was full with pedicabs, taxis, buses, cyclists and walkers (left out of the photograph).]

After Hurricane Katrina's disproportionate impact on older adults (47 percent of the people who died were 75 or older), area agencies on aging (AAAs) are participating in emergency preparedness by providing information, establishing partnerships, providing communications links, outreach and services in the event of a disaster. (More information about AAA participation in emergency preparedness and response is available in an N4A 2009 survey.)

Redundant and Universal Communication

Also mentioned during the webinar, which is not currently archived, was the wisdom of redundant communications in multiple formats and with attention paid to those with communication challenges, such as people with visual or auditory impairments. Information provided in visual updates, such as maps or information scrolled at the bottom of a screen, or announcements via radio or television, should be duplicated in other formats.
[A bus stop on Broadway, about 63rd St. The new shelters are chic, though not hi-tech like the Portland ones.]

Building in Redundancies for an Imperfect World

Since no one measure is perfect to identify and keep track of who will need assistance, transportation, health-related or otherwise, redundancy in identification and monitoring is necessary. No one system of determining need - before or during an emergency - will be completely accurate. There will be people who are injured or disoriented during a disaster who were perfectly well beforehand and who would not show up on a registry. Likewise, depending on time of day, many children who do not usually have transportation challenges would be unsupervised and in need of assistance.

For example, we discussed the value of registries for meeting the needs of transportation-challenged individuals. Both N4A and CTAA include the development and use of registries in their recommendations. A participant in the FEMA webinar, June Isaacson Kailes, Disability Policy Consultant/Associate Director at Western University in California, spoke against reliance on registries because she believes that they provide a false security to registrants, who assume that registering means that the government will be taking care of them, and they provide no service to those who fail to register, whether out of ignorance, distrust of the government, or privacy concerns.

Kailes recommends that governments assess what will be needed and in what amounts to keep people independent and in good health - wheelchairs, medications, vehicles, meals, health aides - based upon the demographics. Jo Reed of N4A described door hanger notification systems that residents can hang outside to indicate whether they are fine or need assistance. As Reed's door hangers suggest, notification of need can be inexpensive and will supplement whatever other monitoring or identification systems are in place.

The Model of AAAs

Other examples of AAA involvement in preparedness are :
* Florida's emergency communications network, its plans for people with disabilities and home health care, and its registries;
* Iowa's requirement that local transportation providers have emergency plans; and
* A rural Colorado area's designation of the AAA as the designated emergency transportation provider.

Numbers Speak

Jo Reed spoke about emergency planning findings in the 2011 Maturing of America survey of local governments, last performed in 2005. An exception to a general finding of lack of assessment and preparation for the greater number of older adults in the future was the tremendous increase in specialized training to handle older adult needs in emergencies. However, a smaller percentage of communities than in 2005 were planning for evacuations of older adults or had systems in place to track where older adults reside.

Patti Monaghan discussed the relevant RTAP products, two updated training resources. The highest attendance numbers for an RTAP webinar was the one held about its emergency procedures training, demonstrating the substantial interest in this topic. Patti also noted the current preparation of a TCRP handbook for emergency preparedness.


On the CTAA website is the Transportation and Emergency Preparedness Checklist, which organizes the planning and response measures that community, regional and state leaders, as well as stakeholders, should be paying attention to. Training and information are available for planning and response from the National Incident Management Systems (NIMS) resource center and the Incident Command System.

The NRC has an Emergency Preparedness and Response Bookshelf with resources that focus on populations with special needs. CTAA also maintains a webpage with emergency preparedness resources.

Emergency Procedures for Rural Transit Drivers - a training module.
Threat and Vulnerability Toolbox.

Personal Notes

Special thanks to Kelly Shawn of CTAA for his assistance in discussing important emergency preparedness issues and resources and thanks to Patti Monaghan for discussing RTAP's resources and Hal Morgan for bringing and discussing the FTA All-Hazards publication.

I have seen some disasters and potential disasters in New York, one of which was the blackout of 2003 that affected the whole Northeast. I visited an apartment house that was a naturally occurring retirement community. Many people could not get to their apartments and others could not walk down the stairs and to go out of the building. Staff and neighbors knocked on all doors, retrieved medications (some from apartments on the 20th floor and above), arranged for meals, and made people in their 80s and 90s comfortable for a night spent in the lobby. Most everyone else walked up the stairs to their apartments or spent the night elsewhere. I saw police officers calmly direct traffic on streets filled with both packed vehicles of all types and pedestrians (some barefoot and carrying their high heels). The Port Authority bus terminal recreated itself outside on 43rd Street.

Every disaster is unique, but what remains the same is that there are special challenges to getting through an emergency and its aftermath being older, living with a significant disability, or living in a rural community. Neighborliness, flexibility and ingenuity all have a place, but preparedness makes a big difference.