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.