Atlanta, Georgia Summary
During the Atlanta workshop, the discussion focused on the Federal government's role in helping to advance livability, along with regional/metropolitan planning organization issues. Key discussion points included:
- Challenges associated with interagency/inter-jurisdictional collaboration, zoning and land use changes, plan implementation, developing performance measures and demonstrating benefits, and transit project implementation.
- Solutions associated with educating the public, decisionmakers, and policymakers, increasing collaboration, and incorporating livability into project development.
- Regional livability plans, including how to coordinate these at the appropriate scale, whether to make separate livability plans or simply incorporate them into existing processes, and goal setting and measurement for livability plans.
- Opportunities with marketing and communications, such as alternative ways of describing livability, development of performance measures to sell the concept, and marketing "one pagers" on various components of livability.
As a result of this initial workshop, subsequent workshops focused on exploring these ideas more thoroughly. The meeting structure included a number of presentations on regional practices, as well as a significant amount of brainstorming, facilitated discussion, and idea sharing. A summary of activities and key outputs at each location follows.
Atlanta workshop discussions.
Ann Cramer Room
40 Courtland Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
Date / Time:
April 5, 2011 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Welcome and Introductions
Shana Baker from FHWA's Office of Human Environment welcomed participants and provided a brief overview of the day's goals. Ms. Baker reiterated that FHWA is focused on livability as part of comprehensive planning efforts to generate a framework for transportation decisions that result in safer and more convenient transportation options.
Representatives from the regional HUD/DOT/EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities also gave opening remarks. Steve Luxenberg, Director of Program Development at the FHWA Georgia Division Office, highlighted the importance of partnership and breaking down traditional silos, as well as the benefits of supporting communities that offer a variety of transportation choices. Tom Thomson, the Deputy Regional Administrator for FTA Region 4, spoke on the funding opportunities available for supporting livable communities (e.g. urban circulator program, bus livability program, and TIGER I and II). Mr. Thomson also noted Region 4's current outreach efforts, which include an information toolkit on the Sustainable Communities Initiative. Angie Billups, Project Officer for EPA Region 4, spoke on the benefits of integrating environmental considerations into other efforts such as transportation and housing. Ms. Billups mentioned EPA is currently focusing on, such as land revitalization and re-use, green space enhancement, water quality improvement, and brownfields redevelopment. Facilitators, managers from ICF International and Renaissance Planning Group, and all participants introduced themselves.
Setting the Stage for Livability:
Harrison Rue from ICF International reviewed the purpose and outcomes of both the overall project and the day's workshop. As the majority of participants indicated they had read the background paper developed for this project, The Role of FHWA Programs in Livability: State of the Practice Summary, Mr. Rue provided a brief overview of the paper's content. This overview included a brief review of the Sustainable Communities Partnership and the livability principles, components included in the definition of "livability in transportation," benefits of incorporating livability, overall research findings, and a review of state of the practice examples from areas that have successfully incorporated livability into a variety of efforts.
Identifying Challenges to Livability:
A facilitated large group discussion was held and participants were asked to focus on the following three questions:
- What are the big challenges to implementing transportation solutions that advance livable communities?
- What is one solution that has worked for your agency?
- How do the challenges and solutions differ in:
- Urban, suburban, and rural contexts?
- Local, regional, and State agencies?
Participants identified five main categories of challenges, as well as potential solutions that could be used to overcome some of these challenges:
- Interagency/Inter-jurisdictional Collaboration
- Many barriers exist in trying to develop a true regional partnership where support for cross-regional project implementation is included. Oftentimes plans are developed with cross-regional input, but the projects contained in these plans are not ultimately implemented due to lack of support and funding priority.
- Local governments do not always support regional livability through project selection or land use changes. It is challenging to change "business as usual."
- At both the State and local level, bicycle and pedestrian projects are often viewed as nonessential project components rather than as mandated aspects of comprehensive project development.
- Complete streets projects do not often receive full funding. Instead, only essential road elements are funded and the livability concept behind the project is not fully implemented.
- There is a disconnect between engineering and planning, both in their respective discipline's perspectives and in communication between departments.
- Even with the recent partnership efforts at the Federal level, silos remain. This is particularly an issue when it comes to funding for livability projects, which cut across agency focus. Instead of being able to apply to one source, agencies must apply to numerous funding sources. Not all agencies, particularly at the local level, are able to devote the staff resources necessary to apply to the numerous funding sources required to receive full project funding. Funding does not necessarily reach projects that will provide the greatest community benefits. One of the greatest barriers to breaking down these silos results from the fact that organizations are primarily concerned by their own budget.
- There is often a disconnect between how roadway purpose and function is viewed by local planning agencies as compared to regional planning organizations. Oftentimes, local agencies will plan with the livability principles and interagency partnership in mind while regional planning organizations will remain siloed in their efforts. By focusing on partnership opportunities between local agencies and regional organizations, livability projects could be advanced.
- Railroad companies are not willing to share control over rail line corridors. Many of these corridors either run directly through, or could be directly involved in, neighborhood redevelopment efforts. These corridors could be used to help improve access and provide avenues for alternative modes of transport.
- A significant roadblock facing project implementation includes a lack of communication between State DOT personnel assigned to a project and the local government staff member who has developed a project. This is particularly true for small projects. Part of this issue may stem from a lack of enthusiasm on the part of State DOT personnel to push these projects through, as they have not been as intimately involved in the project development as the local staff member. Some State DOT representatives expressed frustration with identifying appropriate staff contacts associated with and accountable for small projects.
- Local regulations can conflict with one another, particularly where planning and environmental regulations overlap.
- State politics can serve as a barrier to project implementation at the local and regional levels.
- Not enough attention and resources go toward improving the standard of living in communities that have not taken any steps toward being livable communities. Instead, much attention continues to be placed on those areas that have already begun to take steps in this direction.
- Zoning and Land Use Changes
- Many areas primarily implement use-based zoning. Gaining staff approval and changing these regulations to allow for a new way of doing things (i.e. form-based), has been challenging.
- One participant highlighted the resistance of his local Public Works Department to update design standards to meet livable streets criteria.
- Particularly in urban environments, developing projects that meet the criteria imposed by land use separation, has been difficult.
- Form-based zoning is not well understood by many areas, and therefore is not being implemented.
- Simplifying smart growth concepts so that they can be implemented by any region—even those without a land use code, as concepts such as form-based codes can be difficult to implement.
- Land use planning efforts have not been successful in many areas.
- Generating a State policy around land use planning could help remedy some of these negative outcomes.
- One-way street directions have resulted in irreversible, negative consequences in a number of downtown areas.
- Plan Implementation (including plan/project disconnect and incorporating livability into existing planning processes)
- While it is relatively easy to develop and compile plans, it is difficult to gain the necessary approval and funding from management to implement plans and their proposed projects.
- Engineering standards often generates issues for receiving project approval.
- For Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) projects in particular, there is often a narrow window of time between when a project is included in a plan, approval is received, and funding becomes available.
- For complex partnership projects included within the TIP, there is a longer approval time, and more funding is generally required. A number of organizations noted that projects are often moved forward more quickly when using local funding rather than TIP funding.
- There is a disconnect between what is contained in a plan and what is ultimately implemented. The public often raises concerns about projects that were discussed and vetted at public meetings, yet not ultimately implemented by the time the plan is adopted at the State level. There is a disconnect between the visioning process, the funding process, and the project design generated by engineers.
- There is a disconnect at many levels of government in understanding the relationship between plan development, the TIP, and project development. There is a perception that these efforts are unrelated, when in fact they are directly related. Amongst policymakers in particular, there is a greater focus on individual projects rather than interconnected networks. In some cases, planning is viewed as a detriment to economic development. Rectifying this misunderstanding presents a significant challenge.
- Sidewalks and bike lanes are often not considered at the early stages of developing the concept for a roadway improvement project because local comprehensive or transportation plans are frequently not consulted by the DOT engineers, and there is typically little information provided regarding bike/pedestrian facilities within roadway projects in the TIP. The need to add a sidewalk or bike lane may not arise until the first public meeting, which is typically not held until later in the process once the concept report and environmental document have been approved and preliminary plans are complete. To add a sidewalk or bike lane at this stage would require redesign of plans, resubmissions of environmental and ROW documents, and increased costs, potentially delaying the project a year. Therefore, DOTs resist making the changes, and bike/pedestrian elements are often left out of the project. Integrating sidewalk and bike lane construction into earlier phases of preliminary engineering phase is critical to providing complete streets.
- Current planning processes do not fully account for identifying a vision for corridor planning that incorporates the livability principles. This generates a process where livability components are not incorporated at any stage of the process, as by the time that project engineers become involved in the process, the focus is on technical road components.
- Individual landowners retain significant power over planning decisions. If a person does not want to sell their land to accommodate a project plan, the planning agency has no power to force their decision.
- Environmental justice issues can generate a "Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)" effect for livability projects. For example, constructing a high-speed rail line that will border existing personal property lines, or infill and density development within existing neighborhoods.
- Interstate roadways are becoming increasingly clogged, which has generated higher traffic levels on a number of US routes, many of which pass directly through local downtown areas. Higher congestion within small downtowns conflicts with livability principles.
- In a number of areas, regional planning organization (RPO) authority does not extend far. In some instances, RPOs are limited to safety project scope and implementation only.
- There is a lack of affordable housing in accessible locations. Housing tends to be more affordable beyond city centers where land is cheaper; however, these areas are also the least accessible.
- Concerns over liability, more so than safety, drive decisions.
- Difficulty implementing livability-type projects with federal funds: Local governments often have a lack of staff or lack expertise to implement a project using federal funds. The process is overly complicated, requires highly specialized consultants (not just for design, but for environmental process, ROW acquisition, project management) that it is not cost-effective to use federal funds for projects under $500,000 and yet local governments don't have the local funds to do it on their own. The federal and state DOT requirements seem unnecessarily cumbersome for small projects, taking 5-8 years on average) to implement a project that would take the local government 18 months-2 years. Because of slow project implementation, the "livability" momentum built up during the planning process is lost, the public develops a cynical view of government, and from a more tangible standpoint, these delays can tie up millions of dollars in the TIP year after year when projects are not authorized, preventing new "livability" projects from being funded.
- Developing Performance Measures and Demonstrating Benefits
- Developing performance measures that reflect agency performance is challenging, as each agency measures "success" differently. In trying to develop a standard measurement system for a regional or partnership effort, agency needs can be in direct competition with the needs and desires of other agencies. As such, developing performance measures should be an iterative process, with some level of guidance provided at the Federal level.
- Develop comprehensive performance measures that account for multimodal travel. These performance measures could focus on connectivity, mode choice, and/or network choice. Ultimately, these performance measures should be used to develop a framework for evaluating projects as they relate to enhancing a multimodal network.
- Developing performance measures for roadways, particularly as it relates to capacity. There is a potential conflict between providing multimodal options and constraining the current roadway capacity.
- The positive health effects and economic benefits of livable communities need to be marketed more fully to better understand the variety of co-benefits that come from following livability principles. The World Health Organization developed an index to measure the economic benefits that result from increased activity. When this index was applied to regions within the US, areas that promoted walking and biking demonstrated the greatest economic benefits.
- While it is relatively easy to estimate and/or predict a project's dollar cost, defining value, particularly over the long-term, presents a significant challenge. Comparing benefits and costs of transportation projects that incorporate livability components is particularly difficult when the benefits cannot be estimated in terms comparable to that of the project cost.
- In rural Alabama, one of the biggest challenges over the past 15 years has been overcoming the mindset that concentrated commercial development will reduce business visibility and customer access. Many businesses stress the importance of having highway frontage for high visibility and two driveways for easy customer access.
- Road redesign projects that reserve one lane for walking and/or transit may be viewed negatively and perceived as money wasted on a design that incorporates an empty vehicle traffic lane. The public may react negatively to this as well.
- The traditional definition of "road functionality" is no longer relevant. Particularly as it relates to livability, the traditional definition does not capture multimodal use. In some areas, road functionality must also take into account heavy freight traffic as well as multimodal use. Ultimately, each locality should determine what "functionality" means locally and incorporate this understanding into future planning efforts.
- While the mindset of elected officials and general public (who may vote on transit funding) is that the roadway network is a free market product that is funded by the roadway users via the gas tax, there is a lack of understanding about the amount of local tax dollars that go into road building and maintenance. People think that transit is far more expensive to the taxpayer than roadways are.
- Many transportation models are not sensitive to land use or urban form influences on travel behavior, and do not account for bike/pedestrian trips.
- Transit Project Implementation
- Transit project development presents a number of challenges related to inadequate funding, developing effective Transit-Oriented Development, and identifying the type of transit from which a community will benefit most effectively.
- There is a need for more public transportation service in rural areas.
- Transit faces many institutional challenges and barriers to implementation. These challenges are compounding as budgetary concerns grow, particularly given the high costs beyond transit project construction that are associated with transit maintenance.
- In Georgia, money from a regional sales tax would go toward paying for transportation; however, identifying the percentage of money that would be dedicated toward transit as compared to other modes remains in question.
- When compared to the level of dedicated highway funding, transit funding is extremely low. There is significant inequality among mode funding. There is a misconception that roadways are a "free market" product paid by the users through their gas tax, and transit is wholly subsidized. There is a lack of understanding that most of the roadway network is paid for by local property tax money and it does not support itself, and there are greater environmental costs associated with our roadway network, which is also not covered by the gas tax. These views affect how transit is funded, in GA in particular when it comes to support for state funding and voting for the regional sales tax.
- Transit routes in the US often extend for significant mileage and are planned so that they accommodate riders and minimize the distance they are required to walk from their origin to their desired transit station. In Europe, transit routes are planned so that riders are required to walk to the nearest transit station. Transit has tried to become too convenient and the network is suffering as a result. Accommodating riders and route convenience is also present in the school bus system. Because of this route structure, and in addition to the fact that buses use a large portion of the available roadway, a paradigm shift should be considered for how school bus routes are operated.
A summary of the solutions that participants mentioned are listed below.
- Education and opportunity will play a role in encouraging people to support complete streets. This transformation to more walkable streets may occur by encouraging people to park on the street when traffic is high, or by making transportation options more accessible.
- Explore options for tools that local agencies could use during development, particularly in areas where land use does not support livability principles.
- Educate people about land use decisions and the benefits of proposed projects within the area. This may help to eliminate some of the potential barriers faced by landowners who are not willing to sell their land to accommodate project designs.
- To overcome the disconnect between planning and engineering, engineers should be trained and educated early on about livability and the principles behind it so that the value behind incorporating these livability components is fully understood by everyone involved in the project development process.
- By incorporating form-based zoning definitions and concepts into educational efforts related to planning, people will be able to contextualize and understand this process so that it will be incorporated into their future planning efforts.
- Increased collaboration and partnership efforts. States should collaborate with local governments to develop a working definition.
- Project marketing. By taking a retrofit approach to negatively perceived road design projects (e.g. "empty lane syndrome"), projects can be presented as network redesign and system enhancement projects as a way to generate increased public support.
- Changes to the Planning Process. To overcome potential barriers in the current planning processes where livability may not be incorporated adequately into projects, livability principles could be incorporated during the project development phase during discussions with the community of overall concept and measures of effectiveness.
Three of the workshop participants presented on successful livability efforts within their organization, allowing all workshop participants to see and hear about successful livability examples in their region. Three of the workshop participants presented on successful livability efforts within their organization, allowing all workshop participants to see and hear about successful livability examples in their region. Jane Hayse from the Atlanta Regional Commission presented on metro Atlanta's long-range plan, Plan 2040. Emphasizing the livability framework on which the plan is based, the associated work plan for project and program implementation, and the associated funding. In particular, Ms. Hayse focused on program implementation for the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), which ties land use plan implementation to transportation project funding Mary Blumberg from the Atlanta Regional Commission presented on the agency's efforts to accommodate its aging population through the Lifelong Communities effort. Much of this effort is focused on providing accessible transportation and housing options, expanding access to services, and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Amanda Thompson from the City of Decatur, GA discussed how her city used the LCI grant funding that it was awarded in 2002 to improve the city and access to its transit station. Using its existing town center and by focusing on building community, the city redeveloped its surface parking lots and added housing units, retail businesses, and restaurants. The redevelopment efforts have attracted new businesses and generated job opportunities. Norm Steinman from the City of Charlotte, NC presented on the City's efforts to incorporate the Centers, Corridors, and Wedges concept into their planning efforts. The City used this approach to plan a transit system based on available funding resources, develop urban street design guidelines that will promote complete streets, develop thoroughfares, evaluate bicycle and pedestrian Level of Service using a new method they are developing locally, accommodate growth, evaluate preferred block length, and survey the community to gain input on preferred projects.
Participants were divided into five groups for an hour-long small group discussion. As there were a significant number of Federal participants at the workshop, half of the Federal representatives were asked to form a group together. The Federal group was asked to examine challenges and solutions, and answer the questions below from a Federal perspective. Those Federal representatives that did not participate in this Federal-only group chose another participant-majority group to join. Participants and other Federal representatives in the participant-majority groups were asked to consider examples where they had overcome a project challenge and use that experience to answer the following questions:
- What are effective strategies for overcoming challenges?
- When overcoming these challenges, what was important for you to succeed?
- What, if anything, did the Partnership do to facilitate that success?
- How have you measured the success of your efforts?
- What helped you to align or integrate different funding and agency priorities?
- What kinds of public and interagency process worked?
- Do these approaches change in urban, suburban, and rural contexts?
Each group provided a quick summary of their discussion.
- Develop partnerships between stakeholder agencies. These partnerships should be based on the physical and geographic environment rather than jurisdictional boundaries.
- Work to gain buy-in from non-traditional constituents.
- Reach out to technical staff members, as they are extensively involved in project implementation details. Without practitioner-level support, livability efforts may not be effectively integrated into the detailed project components.
- Invest resources in data interpretation, as this information can be used to communicate with the public and demonstrate the importance of livability.
- Develop performance measures that account for, and integrate, livability considerations.
- Develop an image bank of pictures that show what is meant by "livability." This bank could be used by planners and educators to help communicate what is meant by livability and garner support from the public for livability projects.
- Use social media to "sell" the idea of livability. Social media can be an effective tool for reaching out to the public and helping them identify with livability projects.
- To speed up project delivery and fund a broader range of project types involves the MPO "swapping" federal transportation funds with local funds. For example, an MPO could give a toll authority $10 million to spend on interstate improvements and the toll authority would give the MPO $10 million in toll revenue, which are unencumbered local dollars and can be spent on small livability projects, TOD development related projects, or other costs that normally would not be reimbursable under federal guidelines. The greatest benefit of doing this exchange is that a typical sidewalk project could be built in 18 months to 2 years, as opposed to 5-8 years as can be typical with federal funds. A number of MPOs were cited as currently using this practice (San Francisco, Portland, and Dallas-Fort Worth).
- Invest in education efforts, such as organizing bus tours of various communities that have successfully implemented livability so that planners and members of the public alike can see what is meant by the term.
- Develop educational materials that the public can understand.
- Invest resources in coalition building so that planners are not the only group advocating for livability. By gathering support from other communities such as business and public health, the public will receive a more unified message and they will be able to more easily associate livability with a variety of co-benefits.
- Revise environmental standards so that they maintain the same level of environmental quality, but accommodate increased flexibility.
- Consider revising the current definition of "State" and "interstate" roads, as traditional definitions do not accommodate the variety of contexts within which these roads operate (i.e. on the edge versus directly through the center of a community and the surrounding land use).
- Make a conscious effort to keep politics out of the decision-making process. Planning is focused on developing places with a long-term focus while politics change frequently and focus on the short-term.
- Develop relationships with those at the policymaking and decisionmaking levels, as the people within these levels maintain control over funding allocation.
- Leverage public/private partnerships, such as Common Interest Developments, funding swaps with other local governments and agencies (transit included), and nonprofit partnerships.
- Federal requirements surrounding Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funds could be revised to eliminate the time limits placed on these funds so that they roll over even if an approved program is not authorized in that current year.
- To overcome challenges, a greater focus should be placed on using the processes that are already in place.
- Livability policies and mandates often already exist; however, they are not utilized effectively. This is particularly true as it relates to bicycle/pedestrian projects.
- MPOs should be encouraged to provide more leadership and technical assistance to local governments during project implementation.
- The Federal project development process should be streamlined.
- Place greater attention and support on those projects that will generate lasting benefits rather than those that are ready and funded at the present time. In doing so, quality projects will be supported and implemented.
- The conformity process should be adapted to account for livability projects, as livability projects that slow traffic are often in direct conflict with conformity standards related to emissions.
- To help with local, regional, and State livability project implementation, the Federal government could provide additional assistance for rural areas looking to incorporate livability components.
- To assist with environmental regulations surrounding project development, categorical exclusions could be expanded and environmental projects should last for five, rather than seven years.
- Align funding mechanisms, with a particular focus on utilizing existing mechanisms with overlapping purposes and/or goals.
- Develop tools to demonstrate the return on investment from and co-benefits of livability projects.
- Support grassroots forums to educate the public and elected officials about livability principles. These forums should aim to generate leadership at a grassroots level and develop community support for livability projects.
- Planning agencies should work to actively demonstrate their commitment to livability to the public. This could be an article, policy Statement, or guidance Statement.
- Place a greater focus on transportation and land use integration as a way to promote livability.
- Merge comprehensive plans in order to streamline existing processes while accomplishing the same intended outcome.
Federal Observers/Group 5
- Target educational materials to distinguish between those topics pertinent to rural versus urban area.
- Develop standard terminology related to livability (i.e. incorporate the term "underserved").
- Invest resources in grassroots efforts.
- Focus on coalition building in order to develop new connections and break down informational silos.
Regional Livability Planning Strategies:
Two of the workshop participants presented on their organization's success in developing and implementing livability planning strategies at a regional level. Tom Thomson from the Chatham County-Savannah MPO presented on redevelopment efforts by the City of Savannah, GA to expand the 1770 Oglethorpe city plan centered on public squares while providing incentives for mixed use development. Brian Leary from Atlanta Beltline, Inc. discussed how they are using the 22-mile loop of railroad beltline land to create new park and trail development, brownfield redevelopment, light rail and streetcar transit construction, affordable housing development, a jobs training program, and local art sponsorship. Mr. Leary also presented on a separate effort, Atlantic Station. As a transportation control measure, the brownfield redevelopment project is a walkable area and demonstrates air quality improvement through reduced vehicle miles travelled. The project is currently 40% constructed and has already surpassed its original air quality measure goals.
Whit Blanton from Renaissance Planning Group presented on the concept of a "Regional Livability Plan," and the strategies that have proven most effective in supporting regional livability. In examining those areas that serve as best practice examples of regional livability, Mr. Blanton identified three common plan elements: (1) regional analysis, scenarios, and goal setting, which have been used to assess issues such as transportation choices, affordable housing availability, and also to develop performance measures so that planners could more effectively measure livability; (2) policies and plans that have been used to identify areas for implementation and opportunities for collaboration; and (3) programs, which have included educational elements to explain the connections between livability and existing community components, and avenues for exploring and developing collaborative efforts. As many of these elements are present in existing planning requirements and processes, participants were asked to identify frameworks within these processes where regional livability planning efforts could operate. In addition to the plans mentioned in the presentation (long-range transportation plans, comprehensive plans, regional visioning efforts, regional environmental greenprints and watershed planning, and regional transit plans), participants mentioned economic development plans as a potential opportunity for integrating livability considerations.
During an information large-group discussion, participants discussed materials that would be most useful for them in their efforts to successfully implement regional livability, particularly as it would relate to communicating the importance of livability to decisionmakers and policymakers. These included the following:
- Educational materials to explain the importance of locating key centers where investments can be optimized.
- Taking steps to ensure that blueprint mapping includes greenprint mapping.
- Developing maps at the regional level of areas where investment should be targeted to achieve the greatest community benefit.
- Include the energy sector in partnership efforts to ensure a comprehensive approach to livable communities that incorporate energy efficient strategies.
- Develop guidance materials to assist local governments in identifying their role as it relates to livability and steps that can be taken to apply livability at the sub-regional level.
- Develop education materials on accommodating mixed-use along a corridor, particularly as it relates to long-term planning.
Participants broke into the same five groups for an hour-long small group discussion on the following questions:
- Do these Regional Livability Plan elements make sense?
- Regional analysis, scenarios and goal setting
- Policies and Plans
- Are there any overarching issues/principles/approaches missed?
- Can they apply to urban, suburban, & rural contexts?
- How would a regional livability plan fit with existing required plans?
- What processes & implementation strategies work?
- How can performance on livability goals in livability be measured and tracked?
Each group summarized their discussion, and the main points of each summary are listed below.
- Gather data on natural environment, social environment (e.g. develop a community profile), and the existing transportation network. Incorporate the date findings into the plan.
- Consider constructing the plan around system-level policies and plans.
- Incorporate elements such as aging in place, health, accessibility, and transportation services.
- Implementation often happens at the local and neighborhood level—perhaps the regional scale is too large.
- Rural areas in particular have a unique framework within which their plans are operating. There are few best practice examples highlighted at this scale, yet small towns have largely retained their historical structures from the post-WWII era, and can use this to their advantage when considering livability projects.
- Explore public/private and/or corporate partnerships as funding sources for project implementation.
- Identify ways to market the idea of livability effectively. This may include education materials that could provide people with a toolbox of programs and/or projects helping in starting to incorporate livability into a plan.
- Consider development a "Matrix of Livability" that identifies the metrics associated with livability and helps people identify the relationship between these metrics and the agency's planning efforts.
- Rather than developing a new planning requirement for a Regional Livability Plan, focus should be placed on incorporating livability into existing plans, as these often provide an adequate avenue for advancing livability.
- Resistance may be encountered by small jurisdictions that may not support the need for regional planning.
- Better integrate public participation into the planning process, particularly at the local level.
- Devote resources to public education, particularly as it relates to providing context for regional and local spending and project funding. If people understand the costs associated with road maintenance as compared to transit line construction and maintenance, they may be more inclined to support transit projects.
- Many effective performance measures have been developed. There are many opportunities to draw from when developing livability performance measures. For example, industry uses site selection indicators, whose purpose overlaps directly with livability interests.
- Engage the business community in regional efforts. In particular, examine the opportunities for using improvement districts to leverage current efforts. By referring to the Comprehensive Plan as a "Regional Business Plan," the business community may be more inclined to become engaged.
- Develop informational materials explaining the existing planning processes to assist in efforts to identify current overlaps or partnership opportunities among current planning efforts.
- These materials could also be used to identify areas where plans are duplicative and resources could be allocated more efficiently toward development of these planning elements. In particular, these overlaps could be used to support more effective and targeted community engagement efforts.
- Use purpose and need Statements to identify a variety of stakeholders in the beginning of the project development process who are connected to the project. These relationships could be further explored when developing performance measures, to help connect project performance with a wider variety of community partners.
- FHWA could develop a best practices guidebook, including examples of varying partnership opportunities and sponsorship examples at a variety of geographic levels.
- Streamline the funding process, as the current one is resource-intensive and prohibitive for project implementation.
- Develop a manageable number of goals so that resources are used efficiently and those involved in the project development process can focus on a reasonable scope.
- Designate a funding source for livability projects. This funding source should also include guidance for those who apply.
- Recognize the integrated nature of livability project focus by allowing funding flexibility.
- Identify parameters for what would be considered the "livability model."
- Provide implementation assistance for those communities interested in pursuing livability projects. For smaller communities in particular, organizations may lack the resources (both staff and financial) needed to begin implementing livability effectively. Assistance could include identifying experts who would serve as available resources for those areas.
Harrison Rue reviewed some successful communication and outreach efforts to identify some of the options available for messaging and marketing the concept of livability. Successful communication and outreach efforts have included fact sheets, summary brochures, summary posters, Web 2.0, and social media. Considering these efforts, participants were asked to reflect on the following questions in a large-group setting:
- What messages resonate with you and other practitioners to embrace livability?
- What communications and marketing materials would be helpful to help make the case for livability?
- What tools do you need?
- What technical assistance do you need?
- Are there specific products needed in urban, suburban, and rural contexts?
A summary of the discussion is included below.
- Marketing and Branding Tools
- Re-title the comprehensive plan as the business plan.
- Recognize the political context surrounding the term "livability" and consider options for re-titling the effort. In some political circles, "livability" has a negative connotation. Work to de-politicize the term and incorporate the word balance.
- Recognize the variety of names for which people refer to "livability" around the country.
- Invest in branding efforts to associate livability with the following:
- Economic benefits (cost savings from not traveling as far)
- Associate livability with core American ideals such as freedom, choice, prosperity, self-expression, privacy, individualism, mobility, and opportunity.
- If the term "freedom" is marketed as being connected to livability, recognize that "freedom" has traditionally been associated with owning a car rather than walking to transit stations.
- Identify how the average American would identify with livability and sustainability and build on this idea. Everyone can define what is meant by "building a better community" or an "economically vibrant city." By translating livability into terms that associate with these ideas, people are more likely to associate with the term "livability" and support it.
- Health and safety benefits are factors with which every citizen can identify and marketing efforts should connect livability with co-benefits in these areas. Livability should be framed as enabling "complete communities," which includes public safety and neighborhoods where people can live for a lifetime. One option is to refer to these communities as "8-80" communities—ones that offer benefits to children as well as older adults.
- Communities should be encouraged to identify their priorities and begin investing in those choices.
- Identify how livability relates to the priorities of one's leadership and use this to garner support. For example, the negative impacts of wasting time due to congestion are common across all areas and apply to all people. By framing livability as part of solutions to congestion, communities may be more inclined to invest in livability.
- The term livability may not even need to be used. If city and local governments deliver on projects from which the community can identify benefits, residents are more likely to support similar future project efforts.
- There may be a perception that livability harms economic investments. Planners need to focus on explaining how a regional vision that incorporates livability components will affect local businesses.
- Connect livability to climate change, particularly as it relates to residents making location choices in places that are practical for the long-term.
- There is a potential disconnect between how the visionary themes in plans are translated into practice and regulations, which can negatively affect public support.
- There may be an opportunity to associate the idea of "doing more with less" with livability; however, this term should be used carefully. In recognition of the fact that budgets are shrinking, there may be an opportunity to cast livability projects as more efficient. Project construction can involve multimodal improvements rather than focusing only on one mode.
- Make a conscious effort to make people, particularly local staff members, more comfortable with the idea of using multimodal options. Oftentimes people will argue against constructing bike lanes, as this service is viewed as only catering to a minority; however, if more people were aware of opportunities to travel using these lanes, support may become more widespread.
- A comprehensive image library would be extremely helpful to educate elected officials and board members, but also to help implement the "livable centers" charrettes work we are doing around the region. It would need to be organized by category with a top-notch search engine. It should be organized by region, by urban, suburban, rural/small town, old/traditional versus post-war and newer planned developments, everything from streetscapes, roads, parking, development types, public spaces, parks and open spaces, and not only include photos, but also some renderings, diagrams, and before and after shots.
- Invest Resources in Developing Performance Measures\
- Focus on the economic benefits (e.g. bottom line, time savings) associated with livability. Economic messages resonate with a wide variety of audiences and could be effective in promoting livability.
- Elected leaders in particular focus on the economic message, and particularly how jobs and businesses have been generated or supported through livability projects.
- The Center for Neighborhood Technology's Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is a helpful resource that agencies could draw upon.
- Identifying the Product
- Develop a fact sheet showing examples of how agencies have used non-Federal spending for livability projects.
- Develop a one-page fact sheet for decisionmakers showing examples of areas where jobs and businesses have been created through livability projects.
- Develop educational materials to help agencies identify central livability elements that should be incorporated into all planning efforts.
- Explore the option of coordinating planning, public involvement, and funding processes to ensure these efforts are coordinated and efficient.
- For public meetings, this could involve combining requirements for various efforts to help conserve staff and financial resources.
- For planning, overlap exists between current planning requirements and there is an opportunity to suffice multiple requirements by combining efforts. Where these requirements may be associated with different regulatory agencies, a certification process could be developed to ensure that organizations are pre-approved to combine requirements by the regulatory agencies in question. Ultimately, all requirements should be framed as working toward one, unified goal of creating a livable region.
- For funding, the option of creating a more streamlined process should be considered. Currently, there are numerous sources of money, each of which has its own rules. Organizations waste a significant amount of staff and financial resources on learning these rules and applying for funding from multiple sources. By streamlining funding so that there are fewer sources of funding, organizations would benefit.
- Explore the concept of efficient transportation decision-making where varieties of stakeholders are brought to the table in the initial phases of the project development process to ensure the project is comprehensive.
- Consider using Connect CTY to connect with residents regarding local planning efforts and public messaging.
- Blogging can be an effective way to inform people about current efforts and collect public opinion.
- A targeted blog about livability specifically could be helpful, but should be lively and include examples of how livability has been incorporated into local level projects around the country.
- Customer surveys are effective tools for evaluating public response to projects—particularly ones that were controversial. Oftentimes with livability projects, those who were opposed to the project in the beginning are pleased with the outcome. Recording these testimonies and marketing them could be very effective in addressing negative perceptions in other areas.
- Utilize the mainstream media more effectively, as many people use this as their main source of information. In recognition of the fact that many journalists may not be familiar with the terminology associated with livability, planners can develop a resource for journalists that they can draw from when writing about livability. When journalists understand livability, they are better prepared to inform their readers.
- Invest resources in developing media kit that could include an image bank of high-resolution photographs, contacts for quotations, standard text, and terminology.
- Rather than waiting for the media to come to the planners for information, planners should be proactive and take a pre-written press release to the media. Project coverage can be expanded greatly by recruiting television and news stations to report on current efforts.
- Government channels are often a free option that planning agencies could use to show slides, videos, and other informational materials.
- Open a town forum online to allow people to post feedback on project ideas and general community goals. This may allow agencies to gather greater public feedback than would be collected through public meetings alone.
- Charlottesville, Virginia used a teleconferencing line for its school board meetings to allow people to call in and listen to meetings at their own convenience.
- The City of Decatur, Georgia has used a community forum as a way to keep residents informed about ongoing city activities. Community members are able to post comments on this forum as well, which helps inform the city about public opinion.
- Recognize that traditional communication methods may not resonate with persons of all languages. Consider targeting non-English speaking populations through alternative communication methods. For example, one organization successfully used a telenovela style video to communicate their drunk driving campaign.
- Develop a comprehensive list of successful outreach methods and make this available to governments at all levels.
- Actively communicate with other industries. Consider media that is not focused on planners, such as construction journals, concrete journals, engineering journals, etc.
- Also, consider setting up informational tables or booths at Continuing Education Credit classes for other industries. One organization set up an informational booth at a class for engineers as a way to gather input from a variety of industry personnel during a time that was convenient for them.
- Develop a document that is marketed and written for engineers only. It can be very difficult to communicate livability to this industry and it would prove to be a helpful resource when planners are communicating with engineers.
Closing and Next Steps:
To finish the day, the facilitators and FHWA staff thanked participants and explained the next steps in the creation of the supporting guidance materials for organizations around the country that are interested in pursuing or advancing livability in transportation efforts in their community.
Most participants felt that they were well informed about the workshops. They generally agreed that the facilitators were knowledgeable on the topics, and that they presented the information in an organized manner. They felt that the workshop information discussed was useful, the format of the workshop was logical, and their participation was worthwhile. There was greater variability in the responses on how the workshop would help support FHWA's training and support, as participants were less sure on workshop goals. Some specific requests include:
- Sharing the workshop results with the participants (see next steps section).
- Clarify the workshop goals and the desired outcomes from their participation.
- Continue with the case study presentations as those were well received.
- Peer networking was useful, as the participants were multi-disciplinary.
- More guided facilitation during the breakout sessions.
As a result, several changes were made to the Kansas City meeting preparations, including more emphasis on the workshop goals and desired outcomes, added more case study presentations, and clarified the breakout sessions more clearly. Some of the sessions were also changed — shortened the breakouts, added additional smaller exercises, and provided more facilitator guidance — help make the workshop more stimulating. They also presented some results from the Atlanta meeting for response from the Kansas City participants.
||City of Decatur, GA
||Atlanta Regional Commission
||Central Atlanta Progress
||Houston-Galveston Area Council
||South Florida Regional Planning Council
||Atlanta Beltline, Inc.
||Georgia Tech Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development
||City of Suwanee, GA
||Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency
||East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission
||Houston-Galveston Area Council
||Atlanta Regional Commission
||North Carolina DOT
||Kolbinsky Krider Design
||Town of Davidson, NC
||State of North Carolina
||Piedmont Triad, Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Project
||South Carolina DOT
||Atlanta Regional Commission
||City of Charlotte, NC
||Land of Sky Regional Council
||Central Florida Regional Planning Council
||Louisiana Department of Transportation
||Triangle J Council of Governments
||Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
||Chatham County-Savannah MPO
||FHWA — Georgia Division Office
||FHWA — Ohio Division Office
||FHWA — Georgia Division Office
||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
||FHWA — Mississippi Division Office
||FHWA — Alabama Division Office
||FTA — Region 4
||HUD — Field Policy and Management
||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
||FHWA — Office of Human Environment
||FHWA — Georgia Division Office
||FTA — Region 4
||FHWA — North Carolina Division Office
||FHWA — South Carolina Division Office
||Renaissance Planning Group
Livability Examples Provided by Atlanta Participants
In order to draw on the vast experience and knowledge of the selected participants, participants were asked to send the facilitators relevant information on best practices related to livability within their communities prior to the workshop. This information, along with the information that regional representatives presented during the workshop, are listed below. This information serves as an informal collection of examples that could be used in future guidebook/primer efforts when discussing best practices and developing case studies.
- Prowalk Seattle (2008), presentation on Decatur, GA Community Transportation Plan given at the PRoWalkProBike conference in 2008
- "Decatur Bike Lane" (2011)—a two-page handout that shows how Decatur, GA created a Complete Street on West Ponce de Leon/Trinity Place
- "2008 Annual Report," Decatur, GA sustainability-focused annual report
- "2010 Annual Report," Decatur, GA annual report focused on their strategic planning process, which focuses on connecting operations, programs, built environment etc together to create a livable community
- Decatur, GA "Community Transportation Plan," http://www.decaturga.com/index.aspx?page=422
- Sustainable Communities Initiative, North Carolina http://www.onencnaturally.org/pages/SC_SustainableCommunities.html.
- Two communities in NC were awarded Federal funding from the August 2010 grant cycle of the regional Sustainable Communities Planning grants:
- NC Sustainable Communities Task Force was established by the 2010 General Assembly to lead and support a sustainable communities initiative. The Task Force has developed a Community Practices Assessment to assess how well a community is implementing the identified principles.
- Piedmont Triad Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Project – Process Design http://www.partnc.org/TriadSustainability.html
- Piedmont Triad Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Project – Project Overview (February 2011) http://www.partnc.org/TriadSustainability.html
- Atlanta Regional Commission, Plan2040 Vision http://www.atlantaregional.com/land-use/plan-2040
- Atlanta Regional Commission, Livable Centers Initiative http://www.atlantaregional.com/land-use/livable-centers-initiative
- Atlanta Regional Commission, Lifelong Communities, http://www.atlantaregional.com/aging-resources/lifelong-communities-llc
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, "Centers Corridors and Wedges," http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/planning/AreaPlanning/CentersCorridorsWedges/Pages/Home.aspx
- Charlotte Area Transit System, "2030 Transit Corridor System Plan," http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/cats/planning/2030Plan/Pages/default.aspx
- Charlotte Department of Transportation, "Transportation Action Plan," http://www.charmeck.org/city/charlotte/Transportation/PlansProjects/Pages/Transportation Action Plan.aspx
- Charlotte Department of Transportation, "Urban Street Design Guidelines, http://www.charmeck.org/city/charlotte/Transportation/PlansProjects/Pages/Urban Street Design Guidelines.aspx
- Chatham-County Savannah MPO, "Unified Zoning Ordinance," http://www.unifiedzoning.org/
- Chatham-County Savannah MPO, "Tricentennial Plan," http://www.thempc.org/Planning/TricentennialPlan.htm
- Atlanta, BeltLine Project, http://www.beltline.org/
- Atlantic Station, http://www.atlanticstation.com/home.php