Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
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The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Fostering Livable Communities Newsletter is intended to provide transportation professionals with real-world examples of ways that transportation investments promote livability, such as providing access to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools, and safer roads. To access additional tools and resources, or to learn more about FHWA's Livability Initiative, please visit FHWA's Livability website, or visit the interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC) website. To read past issues of the newsletter, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability/newsletter/. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit GovDelivery.
Rebecca Higgins, Policy Analyst
Office of the Secretary of Transportation
Lilly Shoup, Policy Analyst
Office of the Secretary of Transportation
In April 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) co-sponsored two Regional Bicycle Safety Summits - with the city of Tampa on April 11, and the city of Minneapolis, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Transit for Livable Communities on April 29. Both were highly anticipated events that generated a great deal of interest in the bicycle safety and advocacy community.
The summits were a major opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of bicycle safety programs, particularly given the growing number of cyclists and the expansion of bike share systems throughout the country. More than 200 people attended each summit, many of whom were professionally engaged in planning, engineering, and advocating for better roadway infrastructure. The summits facilitated significant information sharing between transportation professionals working on similar issues across the Southeast and Midwest regions of the United States.
Figure 1: Secretary Ray LaHood tours the
TIGER-funded Tampa Riverwalk project
with Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
The highlight of each summit was a National Bicycle Safety Rally with Secretary Ray LaHood (via video in Minneapolis) along with mayors from several U.S. cities, State DOT representatives, and bicycle safety advocates. During the rallies, Secretary LaHood and the mayors made clear commitments to advancing bicycle safety, and the Secretary emphasized that zero fatalities is the benchmark for all bicycle safety initiatives.
Each summit included technical sessions with expert panels describing innovative bicycle safety solutions from their community, State, or region. The presentations prompted interactive bicycle safety discussions among participants and regional and national experts. Panel topics included engineering, planning, evaluation, enforcement, education, and encouragement.
Another element of the summits was a Bicycle Safety Expo in which over a dozen local and national organizations provided hands-on interactive activities and information about promising practices, training opportunities, education and communications campaigns, and other materials. The Tampa expo included a bicycle skills training course. The Minneapolis event concluded with guided bicycle tours highlighting innovative bicycle infrastructure around the city.
The Regional Bicycle Safety Summits reaffirmed the importance of bicycle safety and highlighted the need to better communicate the flexibilities that are already available under current design regulations and guidelines, as described on page 13. Discussions in both Minneapolis and Tampa also identified certain gaps in the design guidance, such as intersections that include vehicular, streetcar, and bicycle modes.
The summits received considerable positive attention, both in Minneapolis, which is a pilot community in FHWA's Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, and in Tampa, where bicycling is a less established mode of transportation. The ongoing need to improve bicycling safety and encourage more residents to ride is one reason Tampa was chosen as the site for a summit. Building on the call for improved facilities, the city and Florida DOT announced several bicycle-friendly initiatives in the weeks following the summit, including new multiuse paths, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and road diets.
The work to improve bicycle safety is part of a long-term effort to change the culture of American roadways, to recognize that bicycling is an important part of expanding capacity - particularly on constrained urban streets-and that roads must be designed and managed in a way that accommodates nonmotorized transportation uses.
Figure 2: Midwest Regional Bicycle Safety Summit attendees try NiceRide bicycle
share on a guided tour of innovative bicycle facilities.
Andrew Breck, Environmental Protection Specialist
USDOT - Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
On June 16, 2013, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC) marked its anniversary by celebrating four years of working together to help communities build stronger regional economies, improve housing and transportation options, and protect the environment. The PSC conducted multiple activities in summer 2013 to advance collaboration and celebrate the Partnership, including a Twitter town hall meeting on June 17, a national virtual forum on June 26, a webinar series in July, and multiple roundtable discussions across the country.
At the Twitter town hall meeting , the Deputy Secretaries from DOT and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Acting Administrator from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) answered questions from the public in real time via a live web stream. Several participants asked questions about grant making and institutionalizing change. The following hyperlinks provide access to a recording of the event and a synopsis of the event on the White House blog.
At the national virtual forum, field staff from DOT, HUD, EPA, and other Federal agencies discussed past successes and future directions with agency leadership. Participants discussed strategies for integrating the principles of the PSC into core programs and maintaining momentum and activity in and beyond discretionary funding programs. Participants also discussed using livability principles to support community resilience, and methods for establishing and leveraging new partnerships.
In July, the PSC hosted a webinar series about three of the topics on which EPA, HUD, and DOT offer support: investing in green infrastructure, creating context-sensitive streets, and integrating housing and transportation planning. Figure 3 provides a snapshot of the three PSC webinars.
Throughout the summer, regional staff from DOT, HUD, and EPA hosted roundtables in Arlington, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Toms River, New Jersey; and other communities across the country. Municipal staff, community leaders, business and industry representatives, and other stakeholders were all invited to attend and report about the successes and challenges of their projects-and what the PSC can do to help.
PSC staff continue to work as a team to serve tribal communities, small towns, rural areas, suburbs, and cities more effectively. To learn more about current PSC activities and resources, please visit www.sustainablecommunities.gov.
Kristen Langford, Program Specialist
University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
Walk Friendly Communities (WFC) is a national recognition program developed to encourage municipalities across the United States to prioritize support for safe and comfortable walking environments. The program is sponsored by FedEx and FHWA, and and is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center's Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC). Modeled after the League of American Bicyclists's Bicycle Friendly Communities Program, WFC supports the twin goals of increasing the level of walking and reducing pedestrian crashes through policies, projects, and programs. Through five rounds of applications, PBIC provided personalized feedback to 69 communities in 30 states, and awarded WFC Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum designations to 27 of them.
Receiving a designation is not the end of the line; these communities use their designation to further promote walking initiatives and demonstrate their commitment to walking through grant applications, media campaigns, and project development. Below are some examples from current WFC designees:
Cary, North Carolina
In Cary, North Carolina, the town's Bronze-level WFC status helped spread awareness and support for its efforts to grow the pedestrian network in a connected and comprehensive manner. Last November, voters approved a transportation bond package that included $750,000 for sidewalk construction and funding for the development of a mobile application that will make Cary's "hike and bike" map more user friendly.
Figure 4: Walkers gather in front of the
Bluemont Junction caboose, one of nine
stops on the Bluemont/Bon Air Walk
Friendly Community Walkabout, which
debuted in April 2013.
Arlington County, Virginia
Along with infrastructure improvements, many communities also provide education and encouragement programs. Since receiving its Gold-level designation in 2011, Arlington County, Virginia, expanded its signature "Walkabouts" program and set out to improve awareness about pedestrian safety. Over the years, WalkArlington, the county's walking initiative, created 32 Walkabouts, which are self-guided neighborhood walking tours captured on maps that list the distance, type of terrain, and points of interest. In recognition of the WFC designation, WalkArlington sought nominations from the community for a special series of "Walk Friendly Community Walkabouts" for which they received 15 nominations and chose four. Thus far, WalkArlington has developed and debuted three new Walk Friendly Community Walkabouts. The Gold-level designation also helped Arlington County generate the awareness needed to develop and launch a new safety and courtesy campaign targeted at all street users: "Be a PAL/Share our Streets"-where PAL stands for Predictable/Alert/Lawful. The campaign is now being considered as the basis for future regional safety campaigns.
Wilsonville, Oregon's Bronze-level designation was announced just prior to the launch of their "Discover Wilsonville" campaign-an individualized marketing program designed to help residents understand all of the travel options available to them. In this community of almost 20,000, local media attention for the WFC designation helped shine a light on walkability in Wilsonville and generated interest in the city's walking programs and campaigns. The WFC designation also served as a springboard for Safe Routes to School planning for a new primary school and robust policy discussions for Wilsonville's recently adopted Transportation System Plan, which includes specific implementation measures that will allow more people to walk and bike.
WFC applications are accepted twice a year; the next round opens on November 1, 2013. Completed applications will be accepted through December 15. The WFC website contains important information about the process, including an Assessment Tool that helps communities plan and prepare an application. For more information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Candis Millar, AICP, Director
Billings, Montana Planning and Community Services
Modeled after the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Big Sky Economic Development helped to form the Billings Livability Partnership in 2010. As stated on the Billings Livability Partnership website: "Their goal was to anchor the six livability principles in local ground, remove any artificial or bureaucratic barriers preventing same, and collapse silos among key agencies that address housing, transportation, economic development, land use, public health, environment and schools." Recently, the 33-member Partnership adopted a strategic plan to ensure continued effort and resources devoted to making Billings a livable community. A complete list of the members can be found online at: www.livablebillings.com.
The Billings Livability Partnership exists to promote and support projects that embrace the six livability principles. Over the past three years, the group has supported a Brownfields Assessment Project; Exposition Gateway Master Plan; Downtown Circulator Feasibility Study; ArtSpace project, North Park Children's Center; Smart Growth Implementation Assistance program; the Infill Policy; and a number of East Billings Urban Renewal District projects, including form-based code development and a two-way street conversion.
Soon after its formation, members of the Billings Livability Partnership began reporting on the status of projects at monthly meetings. In the course of its activities, members identified the need to formalize the Partnership. Accordingly, Big Sky Economic Development launched an aggressive strategic planning effort and within 10 months, the plan-with goals, objectives, and action steps-was completed.
Three working groups: Housing + Transportation; Community + Economic Development; Public + Intergovernmental Relations were formed to generate action plans adding further substance to the planning goals. The Partnership's efforts still focus on promotion and education of the core principles, but there are specific projects it may pursue, including applicable grants. The following three actions have been or will be implemented:
Kirk Fauver, Environmental and Transportation Coordinator
FHWA - Texas Division
On July 17, 2013, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) hosted approximately 50 representatives in Arlington, Texas, as part of the Region 6 Federal Partnership Roundtable Discussion. Representatives from cities, counties, workforce agencies, transit authorities, housing authorities, bicycle sharing organizations, toll authorities, consultancies, the Urban Land Institute, the University of Texas at Arlington, and Federal agencies involved with the PSC in Region 6 discussed grants and best management practices involving land-use and transportation planning efforts underway in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
The focus of the Federal Partnership Roundtable Discussion was on "Building Livable and Economically Resilient Communities" within the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Implementation efforts are underway in the region, and the city of Garland and NCTCOG provided presentations on several initiatives. For example, the city of Garland received a $106,500 Community Challenge Planning Grant from HUD in 2012. By March 2014, the city expects to complete the development of a Centerville Marketplace Repositioning Strategy to help a struggling suburban area catalyze private sector redevelopment activities, create jobs, and improve transportation choices within 460 acres of commercial land to the immediate north of Interstate 635 in south Garland.
NCTCOG staff have worked over the past two years on a project known as Planning for Livable Military Communities (PLMC), which was funded with a HUD Community Challenge Grant. In partnership with local cities and Tarrant County, NCTCOG identified a need to conduct planning studies for the area surrounding the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. This need stemmed from a previous Joint Land Use Study funded by the Department of Defense that identified 17 actions for local governments to support development compatable with base initiatives and community-identified goals. These goals were to evaluate transportation options, support economic development initiatives, evaluate housing and retail markets in the area, and complete local government comprehensive plan updates. For additional information, please see the following website: www.nctcog.org/trans/aviation/jlus/HUD.asp.
Kirk Fauver, Environmental and Transportation Coordinator
FHWA - Texas Division
Figure 5: Participants at the Alamo Region
Livability Summit. (Photo credit: Kirk Fauver,
FHWA Texas Division)
The FHWA Texas Division, in collaboration with the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), held a free one-day Alamo Region Livability Summit at the Pearl Development near downtown San Antonio, Texas on August 21, 2013. Over 120 participants attended this event, which was sponsored by the Region 6 PSC. The San Antonio-Bexar County MPO worked with FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), EPA, HUD, and local partners to design the summit agenda and recruit speakers and panel members.
The Alamo Region Livability Summit was the fourth workshop in an annual series sponsored by the Region 6 PSC. Over the past four years, the PSC and FHWA Texas Division held prior livability summits in Arlington (2010), Austin (2011), and Houston (2012) reaching over 500 participants. The events have drawn a wide range of participants, including civil engineering consultants, environmental specialists, university researchers, students, urban planners, architects, private land developers, workforce agencies, transit authorities, city and county transportation officials, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, media representatives, and the general public.
The Alamo Region Livability Summit included presentations on complete streets implementation, bicycle sharing programs, the VIA regional transit authority's Primo bus service, the Hemisfair Park redevelopment and expansion, and a number of other local projects. Private and public sector panels offered insights on how to continue momentum for livability activities in the region and address ongoing challenges.
The Pearl Development, the site of the summit, is itself an architectural and planning showpiece, with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) -certified buildings and adaptive reuse of historic buildings visible throughout the development. Trendy restaurants, coffee shops, and antique stores now dot the walkable landscape that was once a bustling downtown brew house and distribution facility established in the 1880s during the horse and buggy days. The Pearl Development is also famous for its farmer's market, which showcases locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. For additional information regarding the Alamo Region Livability Summit, please contact Kirk Fauver of the FHWA Texas Division at (512) 536-5952 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more iinformation about the Pearl Development, please visit http://atpearl.com/.
Jolene Herrera, Urban and Regional Planner
New Mexico Department of Transportation
An ongoing challenge in the transportation community is how to engage the public, obtain feedback, and incorporate responses into planning documents. Dona Ana County, located in southern New Mexico, has an innovative method for educating the public about livability principles and soliciting feedback from residents who are not typically involved in the planning process. Through a series of mobile workshops, the Viva Dona Ana team met with approximately 250 people to discuss issues such as jobs, housing, education, and transportation.
Figure 6: Residents
voiced their opinions
at mobile workshops.
Viva Dona Ana is a regional project that works to coordinate efforts on the following five plans: a Comprehensive Plan, a Colonia Master Plan, a Border Economic Development Plan, a Corridor Management Plan, and a Regional Capital Needs Plan. Additionally, the Viva Dona Ana project will produce a Fair Housing Study and a Unified Development Code for the county. The Community Input Program is a separate component interwoven in all of the plans and is one of the cornerstones of the Viva Dona Ana project.
Figure 7: The Viva Dona
Ana team distributes
materials at a
On March 1-2, 2013, the Viva Dona Ana team set up mobile workshops in 10 different sites around the county. Project Manager Angela Roberson, Advanced Planner at Dona Ana County, said "It's not about getting the people to come to you, it's about going to where the people already are." The list of locations included three restaurants, four grocery stores, two downtown plaza areas, and a local flea market. Through this technique, the team was able to educate people about the $2 million Sustainable Communities Development Grant received by Dona Ana County that provides funding for the Viva Dona Ana Initiative. The mobile workshops focused on the Comprehensive and Corridor Plans and included distribution of printed materials and conversations with residents about the planning efforts. A complete summary of the feedback received can be found at www.vivadonaana.org/mobileworkshops. Many of the comments focused on jobs; the need for more transportation options, particularly in the rural areas; concerns about groundwater availability and water rights; and agriculture. Since the Viva Dona Ana project is still in the very early stages of development, it is yet to be determined how the comments received will be worked into the planning documents; however, this form of public outreach has proven to be effective in engaging residents.
In summer 2013, the Viva Dona Ana team held another set of mobile workshops that were spread across the county, this time focusing on community centers and schools. Another set of mobile workshops will occur in fall 2013 to solicit feedback on the county's Unified Development Code. At this event, the team hopes to learn what residents want to see in a countywide code. Overall, this method of public outreach has proven to be effective and is one example of how to engage residents and make them aware of important issues affecting their region.
Figure 8: The Viva Dona Ana team set up mobile workshops at a variety of locations
throughout the county, including an outdoor market.
Chris Jolly, Planning and Programming Engineer
FHWA - Vermont Division
The EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered to provide technical assistance to the State of Vermont and local communities in the Mad River Valley (MRV). The goal of this assistance is to help communities incorporate smart growth and sustainable community principles into their development plans, regulations, and hazard mitigation plans to increase flood resiliency on a watershed basis. Flood resiliency and smart growth are related, because how and where development occurs can either increase or reduce the risk of flooding as well as the damage caused by flooding.
The impetus for this work was the widespread flood-related damage the MRV and other areas of Vermont sustained in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Damage estimates to roads, homes, and crops ran into the millions of dollars. Although Irene caused tremendous damage, losses from flooding have recurred decade after decade in the MRV, underscoring the need for remedial action and improved hazard mitigation planning at the State and local levels. Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development, along with the Agency of Natural Resources, Agency of Transportation, and the Mad River Valley Planning District requested assistance from the EPA Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) program. The State received support from the SGIA program for flood impact recovery and planning for long-term resilience for future disasters. The SGIA project focuses on the coordination of recovery across several small villages in the MRV, as well as helping State agencies review their program structure and State policies to improve floodplain management and plan for more responsible future growth. Figure 9 illustrates ways that communities in the MRV can increase flood resiliency on a watershed bassis.
Figure 9: This graphic illustrates how communities can increase flood resiliency on a watershed basis.
The SGIA project team retained a consulting firm to review local development regulations, community plans, and hazard mitigation plans, focusing on two MRV communities-Waitsfield and Moretown. The goal was to offer a menu of options to Waitsfield and Moretown that can also be considered by the three other MRV communities and local governments statewide as they update and strengthen their policies and strategies to improve flood resiliency. As towns consider what options they might pursue, it makes sense to consider the impacts and benefits of these actions on the entire watershed since changes in one part of the watershed can affect other parts, particularly downstream.
The SGIA technical assistance project includes a preliminary audit of the plans and land-use regulations of Waitsfield and Moretown; an initial review of relevant local and State studies, plans, development regulations, and documents; interviews with State and local officials and organizations; and site visits and community meetings in the MRV to receive community feedback on an initial list of policy, strategy, and regulatory options. The work is also being coordinated with a parallel project funded by FEMA, which focuses on potential barriers to flood disaster response and recovery at the State level, including the degree to which State programs and policies support or hinder local government's ability to incorporate smart growth and flood resilience measures into their daily activities.
Specific recommendations will be developed under the following headings:
For more information, please refer to the guidance document produced as part of the project, or contact Rosemary Monahan at (617) 918-1087. The EPA will issue a final report on the project in the near future.
Dan Goodman, Transportation Specialist
FHWA - Office of Human Environment, Livability Team
On August 20, 2013 FHWA released a memorandum expressing the agency's support for a flexible approach to pedestrian and bicycle facility design. The memorandum recognizes the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities and the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities as the primary national resources for pedestrian and bicycle facility design, while also highlighting the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Designing Urban Walkable Thoroughfares documents as resources to inform the design of safe, comfortable, and context-sensitive pedestrian and bicycle facilities. The memorandum also highlights buffered and colored bike lanes as successful examples of innovative treatments that have been introduced, in part, through the established Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) experimentation process.
The FHWA officially announced the memorandum at a plenary session during the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) Professional Development Seminar in Boulder, Colorado on September 10, 2013. FHWA staff organized and led a full conference session, held immediately following the formal announcement, to describe and provide context for the memorandum and highlight FHWA's ongoing and planned pedestrian and bicycle initiatives. FHWA staff also answered questions and facilitated a discussion about next steps. Representatives from AASHTO, ITE, and NACTO participated in the session, providing an overview of the resources highlighted in FHWA's memorandum and discussing opportunities for coordination and collaboration moving forward. FHWA continued its outreach regarding the design flexibility memorandum by hosting a public webinar in partnership with AASHTO, ITE, and NACTO on September 13, 2013.
For more information, please visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian or contact Dan Goodman at (202) 366-9064 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Appel, ITS/Integration Community Planner
FHWA - New York Division
Karen Rosenberger, Intermodal Transportation Coordinator
FHWA - New York Division
Region 2 (New Jersey and New York) reported multiple livability-related updates for April through June. Here are some highlights from the region: