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.]