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 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.