Friday, March 23, 2012

Public Health and Expanding Mobility Options

American Public Health Association
APHA has eight fact sheets devoted to the topic of how transportation modes, accidents, and the lifestyles our prevalent car culture engender affect public health.

APHA is promoting National Public Health Week, Apr. 2-8, 2012. Monday, Apr. 2 is the day designated to celebrate active living and healthy eating. The week is designed as a time to tell your tale, host an event, or introduce yourself to public health partners. Refer to the event toolkit for ideas and instructions. Transit, transportation services, and pedestrian and bike-friendly street networks (complete streets) offer exercise and access to food and all of the important destinations in life.

Faster Route to Multimodal Choices

Department of Transportation
The Secretary and the Federal Transit Administration are proposing streamlined regulations to make the review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) more efficient and "five times" faster. More details are contained in the FTA press release and in the Federal Register notice. The notice states that "[c]omments must be received by May 14, 2012."

Ten categorical exclusions are proposed. Among these is one for "[a]cquisition, construction, rehabilitation, and improvement or limited expansion of stand-alone recreation, pedestrian, or bicycle facilities, such as: A multiuse pathway, lane, trail, or pedestrian bridge; and transit plaza amenities." Other exclusions are for rehabilitation of public transportation buildings, planning and administration, repairs within an existing right of way, acquisition and maintenance of vehicles within existing facilities, and similar activities to maintain facilities themselves. Another one that seems possibly more significant is:
Assembly or construction of facilities that is consistent with existing land use and zoning requirements (including floodplain regulations), is minimally intrusive, and requires no special permits, permissions, and uses a minimal amount of undisturbed land, such as: Buildings and associated structures; bus transfers, busways and streetcar lines within existing transportation right-of-way; and parking facilities.
The tenth exclusion is for encompassed or adjacent facilities that do not substantially enlarge the carbon footprint of a transit project, such as daycare, police or other facilities.

An important public participation aspect of the proposed regulations is that "applicants may announce project milestones using either electronic or paper media." Posting on a website of all important documents during an environmental review is encouraged. Hard copies would still be available.

Acknowledgement that Options Matter

Transportation Research Board

Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans is mostly about safe driving and roads, but it recommends enhancements to public transportation, such as:
• Ensuring public transit vehicles, facilities and stops are easily accessible and accommodating to elderly or disabled passengers.
• Expanding bus and transit routes.
• Implementing non-traditional and public sector approaches that are tailored to the needs of older adults, including ride sharing, volunteer driving programs, door-to- door community transportation services, taxi services and vehicle donation.
While the report points out that traditional fixed-route transit might not be an option for people who are frail or disabled, it does not discuss or advocate particular options.

Local Stories

Food Access - From the American Public Transportation Association newsletter is a story about transporting the supermarket to people who are transportation challenged. In areas of Columbia, MO., that the Department of Agriculture has deemed to be food deserts, a USDA grant is paying for a food bus. The city contracted with a farmer's market to provide two buses that will make stops through the food deserts and underserved areas. Promotion for the food buses include advertisements on public transit buses.

The bus route will run on 30-minute cycles from April 7 to Oct. 27, beginning at 8:15 a.m. Normal Saturday transit doesn't begin until 10 a.m. and runs in 80-minute cycles.

- Steuben County, NY, is the home of a new website that offers the one-click portion of a one-call/one-click service for information about transportation options. An article from Bath, NY, New site outlines transit options, features mobility manager Jane Davis and describes how the website,, offers everything from transit schedules to rides to medical appointments. The site has information about publicly-funded options and volunteer services, as well as taxis. [Editor's Note: Jane Davis serves on the Advisory Committee of the Partnership for Mobility Management. The editor is the director of the Partnership.]

Carsharing - Car2go expands to Washington, DC and Portland, OR. This carsharing company operates differently than Zipcar and others. There is no mandatory use of particular parking spaces, no requirement that cars be reserved, and the fee is based on minutes the vehicle is rented for instead of hours. Daimler's car2go Continues Carsharing Expansion from Coast to Coast, an article from the Bradenton Herald, gives more information. There are also posters with details currently on Metro trains in Washington, DC and its suburbs.

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