Boston, Massachusetts Summary
The Boston workshop discussion emphasized the role that State departments of transportation (DOTs) play in advancing livability, especially in rural communities. Key discussion points included:
- Challenges such as transportation agencies that are focused exclusively on transportation, the backlog of capacity projects that are still programmed but no longer needed, and the perception of livability projects as "luxury."
- Solutions such as incorporating economic development into livability planning, improving community engagement strategies, and quantifying the benefits of livability projects
- Primer attributes such as making the primer web-based or including dynamic visualization materials that are engaging and assist in outreach. Participants were also interested in having the primer include co-benefits.
- Additional livability resources needed, including language to help people in each region explain livability, design guidelines to assist in project design, and coordinated funding programs.
Based on input from this workshop, continued work in subsequent workshops focused on developing 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 follows.
Boston workshop discussions.
John A. Volpe National Transportation
55 Broadway Street
Management Information Center, 12th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
Date / Time:
April 27, 2011 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Welcome and Introductions:
Lucy Garliauskas from FHWA's Office of Human Environment welcomed participants and provided a brief overview of FHWA's current livability efforts, including working to define the concept and its meaning in relation to making informed transportation decisions. For FHWA, focusing on defining livability within FHWA provides an opportunity to advance projects that are multimodal and leverage nontraditional sponsors and partnerships.
Representatives from the Sustainability Partnership agencies provided additional opening remarks. Pam Stephenson, FHWA Massachusetts Division Administrator, highlighted that while it is difficult to define livability, it is a concept that people can identify when they see it. She also discussed Massachusetts DOT's new highway design manual, which focuses on an integrated, multimodal approach, incorporating context sensitive design, and providing a clear project development process. Mary Beth Mello, FTA Region 1 Administrator, provided an overview of New England's partnership efforts, which include technical assistance, a conscious effort to synergize activities, and filtering livability and sustainability down to the State and local levels so that these concepts become a part of everyday operations. Ernie Zupancic, the Faith-Based Liaison for HUD's Manchester, New Hampshire Field Office, stressed that the agency has a renewed focus on urban development, which is emphasized through their sustainability community initiative grants. These grants are supporting efforts toward creating livable communities around the country. Carl Dierker, Regional Counsel for EPA Region 1, highlighted the current efforts of the New England Sustainability Partnership, which include developing a manual for implementing livability at the community level and developing livability performance measures through a current working group effort. Workshop 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 in particular. As the majority of participants indicated that 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 review of the Sustainable Communities Partnership and the associated 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:
During this large group discussion session, 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. During the discussion, participant recommendations were listed on flip charts and posted around the room for participants to reference during discussion. Using a dot voting exercise, the five below reflect the priorities from the participants.
- Interagency Collaboration
- There is often a focus within agencies with transportation as their core business. There is a culture of agency blinders where employees do not bring their whole community awareness into their job.
- Stove piping still exists within funding sources and programs. For example, within a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, land use alternatives are not considered as an option to solve transportation issues. NEPA solutions are restricted to either build or no build.
- Organizations often work in silos, and it can be difficult to get decisionmakers to support integrated solutions. In fact, organizations could benefit by recognizing that transportation can be used to further other community benefits such as public health. Often times, decisionmakers in highway agencies and MPOs do not think livability is worth funding. Rather, they use a traditional way of looking at roads for capacity and project support.
- We often neglect to ask ourselves the "why." This is often due to lack of consensus and guiding vision. The result is a fragmented decisionmaking process where projects are approached on an individual, rather than collective, basis. This can turn into a political process as a result. Projects end up being divorced from the ultimate intended outcome.
- Reaching out to economic organizations and/or utility companies can be an important step in gaining support and identifying a unified, guiding approach for project implementation. Municipalities often face issues in getting to the point where project implementation can begin and cities and States should consider coordination efforts up-front in the decisionmaking process.
- It is important to gain support from laborers and contract unions, as they are often integrally involved in project implementation.
- Agencies are not making connections at a regional level as to those goals that could be supported by a variety of agencies.
- MPO fragmentation presents a number of barriers. Within some States, there is a very high number of MPOs; however, this does not always mean that local projects are elevated to the TIP.
- Make a conscious effort to collaborate with non-traditional partners such as economic development corporations, Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), EPA, and HUD. By taking a broader approach to collaborative solution development, we may be able to identify effective, integrated decisions.
- Engage local funding partners such as local banks.
- Federal agencies should make a concerted effort to communicate with non-traditional partners and break down silos. This can help to reduce many of the issues faced by inconsistent messaging at the Federal level. Flexibility and ease of implementation should be the basis for these collaborative efforts. This consistent messaging and support should be communicated clearly and simply to States, MPOs, and localities.
- Broadening one's constituency base can be effective in gaining new support.
- There is a lack of funding for livability-specific projects. This is true for transportation in general, as many States are unsure as to how transportation projects will be funded in the future. The uncertainty of SAFETEA-LU and gas tax revenues contributes significantly to these issues.
- With the challenge grant, communities were able to choose their own approach to implementing solutions for the first time. Oftentimes, communities will know what solution would work best and how to implement it, but this does not always fit within the box prescribed by the government funding regulations. There is often a disconnect between the funding that is offered and what communities need. There is a need to integrate more flexibility into funding opportunities, as communities often know what they want and the Federal and State governments need to provide support for these solutions more effectively.
- Transportation funding is often already programmed for highway projects that are not helpful and that may even be harmful to livable transportation. For example, there are lists of projects that have already been assigned millions of dollars for road widening that may not even be needed. These legacy projects were often developed during a time when suburban expansion was desired; however, we are now seeing the long-term effectives of these projects and they are not aligned with current livability goals. It is often difficult to change the direction of these projects and re-assign this funding somewhere else.
- In a time when budgets are tight and money is not available to address basic system needs, it becomes difficult to justify spending additional money on medians and other "add-ons." Many livability components are perceived as nonessential. For example, many areas are facing older bridges. Fixing these bridges is not a choice, but rather a necessity. Once these projects are funded, there is often little to no funding remaining for other projects, let alone livability projects.
- Livability projects lack a funding stream.
- It is important to develop a broad awareness for other types of revenue generation schemes such as value capture. Enticing private development to these areas could be an effective funding solution.
- Livability projects are often turned into projects that are larger than necessary due to the extensive review and requirements surrounding the use of Federal transportation funding. Many smaller livability projects (under $500,000) could be made but are not due to extensive review requirements.
- Livability is often discussed as a luxury.
- Funding becomes increasingly competitive when livability projects are compared directly against highway interchange projects. Decisionmakers view it as politically risky to support livability project funding. Providing mechanisms to make it easier on decisionmakers to select those livability projects would help.
- Incorporate life cycle considerations into the decisionmaking process. This could include a cost-benefit analysis or a before/after analysis.
- Accounting for the benefits of low-cost projects, particularly those that incorporate livability elements, can be an effective tool in gaining support from decisionmakers.
- Marketing Livability and Overcoming Negative Public Perceptions
- Connect livability to community visions and economic development goals and/or as part of a local economic strategy.
- Livability projects are often smaller in scale, and smaller projects do not have the political appeal of the larger projects.
- States can do a better job of sending a positive public message about supporting livability efforts. The media is an effective tool for informing people about State priorities on a consistent basis.
- Road diets are often perceived as unsafe. It is important to educate people on the effectiveness and positive benefits of these, and other livability strategies.
- As with the public, policymakers are often hesitant to support big changes in process that livability brings.
- Many dense areas do not allow for mixed use through their zoning regulations. This is often the result of a local aversion to increasing density.
- There is a need for education and advocacy in a broader sense. While many advances have been made, it is still a challenge to gain support for livability.
- Many people view transit in a negative light, as a transportation mode for those who are desperate for a transportation option. Sometimes this means people will wait until an alternate transportation mode becomes available, and they will ultimately not reach the services they need. Changing this stigma toward using transit in non-metropolitan areas requires a targeted communication campaign about these services.
- A balanced approach toward solutions is needed. Often, a long-term view is sacrificed because of the need to address the immediacy of a problem. Taking a two-pronged approach allows for balanced solutions that move away from the either/or approach that is often used currently.
- Both FTA and FHWA face a challenge in communicating to the public the importance of operating in a sustainable fashion. Making every day operating decisions, both for how capital is invested and how decisions are approached to meet customer needs, should focus on sustainability.
- Urban education in public schools is a significant driver for where people decide to live. People often decide to move out of denser, metropolitan areas because of poor schooling options. Attending to this problem can help encourage people to move back into urban areas.
- Visioning is critical in gaining public support. It is important to create visions that are not subjective or vague, as words and visions have different meanings to each individual. Turning these words into specific ideas that people can orient around when making short-term decisions can be an effective tool when gathering project support.
- Guidance for visioning efforts is needed.
- Many municipalities do not support livability efforts and there is a need to overcome this barrier.
- Messaging and marketing are effective tools in working to revise a legacy project.
- Develop a message people can connect with.
- Developing Design Standards and Performance Measures for Implementing Livability
- The capacity standards for roads are not realistic.
- The concepts of livability and complete streets are context sensitive, difficult to define, and do not follow a standard formula for implementation. For people interested in implementing these efforts, there is a more fluid approach in place. Decisionmakers can be supportive of the concept, but uncomfortable with this process, as it is very different from the traditional, step-by-step process. Educating decisionmakers on this process to help them understand it better can be helpful in gathering support.
- It is important to translate the large concept of livability into specific actions to help clarify what it entails so that an agency can tie measurable results to project decisions when asked to justify their actions.
- Many performance measures are auto-centric and congestion-oriented. Performance measures need to be much broader. Federal partners could help with this effort by developing a standard, unified approach.
- Better assess the benefits and impacts of livability on generating revenue and job options in order to demonstrate how smart growth is good for business.
- Tie livability performance measures to location efficiency (i.e. proximity to affordable housing, access to food from local farms).
- Federal agencies have received pushback for trying to provide prescriptive solutions for community decisions related to livability. As a result, Federal agencies are now approaching livability support as a bottom-up approach where providing local level choice and responding to the local vision is the main priority. Federal agencies are focusing on providing resources to help communities plan the places they want. This could prove to be an effective tool at the local level as well.
- For those DOTs where asset management and a state of good repair is the main focus, it is difficult to demonstrate the value of livability, particularly when asked to demonstrate the specific benefits per dollar spent.
- Incorporate equity considerations into the decisionmaking process.
- Develop a new analytical framework for assessing how communities can successfully implement livability.
- Analyze the impacts of single model systems to demonstrate the benefits that are generated by investing in multimodal systems.
- Require triple bottom line analysis for planning and projects.
- Implementing Livability in Rural Areas
- Rural transit in general is a challenge. It is difficult to identify how to make sparsely populated areas more livable for the people, as the solution cannot employ a traditional transit model. Particularly for those residents who are aging and losing their ability to drive, the need to provide access to services to meet their basis needs is a growing challenge.
- Coordinating regional efforts in rural areas can be difficult. Some rural areas serve as a job hub where people drive into town for work, but live somewhere else. Residents of these towns often feel as if they are supporting the business community and therefore it is difficult to get their buy-in for livability solutions that operate at a regional level, across jurisdictions.
- Many rural areas gave up the inter-town bus and rail service they had 100 years ago for highways and an automobile-driven transportation system. Thus, they no longer have the infrastructure to support non-automotive travel. Solutions should focus on looking at how these rural multimodal systems operated in the past and the steps that can be taken to regenerate this system.
- In rural communities, the State highway has jurisdiction over the local streets and thus has primacy over those decisions.
- Other Challenges: Economic development impacts, project timing, over-reliance on models, climate change, zoning, training, and overcome legacy projects
- There seems to be an unwritten understanding that all roadway projects have an effect on economic development. Underlying many transportation decisions is this idea that it is important for our economic development to have a healthy road system; however, we do not have this type of understanding for other infrastructures.
- The timing of transportation projects is not in sync with economic cycles and the local decisionmaking schedule. Thus, it can take up to ten years for a major project to be approved for implementation. There is a need to better align these processes.
- Decisionmakers can be over-reliant on models. They rely on data that are often nuanced; however, we rely on these model outputs when making decisions.
- These models are often not sensitive to compact development.
- Climate change does not often enter into the decisionmaking discussion; however, the resulting impacts could wreak havoc with the decisions that we are making and the construction that we are undertaking.
- Many cities face zoning issues as a barrier to implementing livability.
- Incorporate livability criteria into job descriptions so that there will be a greater focus on training for expertise with livability strategy implementation.
- One group developed a "6-step process for overcoming legacy projects" which included:
- Assess projects against new livability criteria
- Utilize these criteria to assess project alternatives
- Develop a message. Document the drawbacks and benefits.
- Secure a respected champion.
- Focus on education and outreach to help broaden the constituency.
- Advocate for formal consideration in official decisionmaking criteria.
A summary of the solutions that participants mentioned are listed below. As many of these solutions are broadly applicable to a variety of challenges, they are not grouped into discrete categories.
- New road construction may not be the best solution to a challenge.
- All State DOTs should strive to adopt walkable street design guidelines, particularly for urban thoroughfares. This is especially necessary for main streets in small rural towns.
- Higher-level efforts should support ground-level efforts. Use the grassroots level community goals as a guide to developing new initiatives rather than the budget.
- Recognize that livable projects are not always small efforts and can include large projects, too. Livability projects can be regional, inter-regional, etc. By informing people about the regional processes in place, organizations can be aware of other processes and their associated limitations to come together and make informed decisions.
- An informed decision-making process is particularly helpful because we have an aging system and preservation is still an important concern. By taking advantage of other processes, we can be creative and flexible in developing solutions.
- Encourage planners to broaden the discussion and not limit themselves to "business as usual."
- Develop a housing plan and an economic development plan to guide project decision-making across the State. Mirror the process that exists for a unified land use plan and transportation plan that informs decisions in the State. These plans should be developed at the Statewide level and be completely integrated with the land use and transportation plans.
- Incorporate public health into performance measures.
- When making decisions, keep in mind that they should be community-driven. Solutions should be responsive to the preferences indicated by the community. Community desires can be gathered by using a step-by-step process to collect input on how to implement livability at the local level.
- When engaging a community, take a partnership approach to all solutions and identify the role of FHWA, HUD, and EPA. Solutions cannot be looked at as an either/or approach, but rather should be examined from the perspective of what is best for the partnership.
Following this discussion, participants received four dot stickers, which they used to vote for the challenges they thought were the most significant. No limit was placed on this voting process, and participants were allowed to use one or all four dots on any one particular challenge, depending on the significance they placed on it. As mentioned above, the categorization of the five identified challenges reflect the voting priorities from this exercise.
Four of the workshop participants presented on successful livability efforts in the region, allowing all workshop participants to see and hear about successful livability examples in their region. Ned Codd from Massachusetts DOT(MassDOT) provided a brief overview of the recent transportation reform and reorganization that created MassDOT and discussed the department's recent livability and sustainability initiative, GreenDOT, which operates under a triple bottom line framework. Cathy Kuzsman from New York State DOT reviewed the variety of livability initiatives they have undertaken and supported, including a Safe Seniors Pilot Program, GreenLITES in planning, the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, and a pedestrian and bicycle policy. Public meeting attendees have been supportive of these efforts. David Kooris from the Regional Plan Association provided an overview of his organization's efforts as they relate to using roads as an effective tool for improving the range of available services, and thereby shaping livable communities. Mr. Kooris noted that the space in between buildings is one of the greatest public assets, and how this space is used can determine whether it serves as a community benefit or detriment. Rollin Stanley from the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission discussed the financial benefits that come from adopting a smart growth approach. These benefits can be generated by creating a "growth print" to consider environmentally sensitive areas and agricultural areas when pursuing new development, or from thinking differently about how we build schools and taking a multi-story rather than a single-story approach. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion, focusing on the key elements of their success:
- Developing projects that did not create any new funding sources, but rather were integrated into the way that organizations do business.
- Using effective opportunities to grab the bully pulpit and get senior leadership team members to promote efforts.
- In Massachusetts, the State law for global solutions act, which requires GHG emissions analysis, generated an opportunity to take a holistic look at sustainability and livability by connecting these efforts with GHG reductions. MassDOT also enjoyed strong leadership support from the secretary.
- Meaningful public participation is very effective—particularly when it is framed as a conversation about the future of the region rather than discussion on an individual project.
- Education and training is very important in ensuring the public understands what is being proposed. When people fully understand the measures that would be implemented, they are more likely to support them. In New York, for example, when the recent Smart Growth Infrastructure Policy Act was first introduced, there was significant pushback, as many people were unsure what the policy entailed.
- Focus on one benefit of livability and build on that to generate support for future projects. Right now, many people are concerned with the economy. By showing information about how livability can be used to improve the economy, support for livability strategies can be generated.
- To gather funding for livability strategy implementation, the State of Maryland floated bonds to support a local TIP. MODOT assisted with funding efforts by helping localities float bonds to avoid limits on debt capacity.
- Building schools more efficiently can offer a number of benefits. Rutgers University has developed numbers for each State on how condominiums and apartments within walking distance of schools perform better in terms of more schoolchildren within walking distance, as opposed to comparable rural areas.
- Demonstrate the tax benefits of density.
Following this roundtable discussion, participants divided themselves into five groups with a mix of State, regional, local, and Federal representatives. Each group was asked to focus on one of the top six challenges, as voted on by the participants during the dot-voting process:
- Incorporate economic development
- Need models, tools, and measures to demonstrate multimodal impacts/benefits
- See livability/maintenance/fix-it-first as 'mission critical,' not just 'nice'
- Reframe the Federal role as 'in support of' community planning and goals
- Communicate and quantify the benefits of livability projects
- Reassess large legacy/pipeline projects to incorporate livability elements
During this hour-long discussion, participants were asked to focus on one of the challenge areas and answer the questions below. In doing so, participants were asked to consider examples where they had overcome a project challenge in a relevant topic area and use that experience to assist in answering the questions.
- What effective strategies have helped you to overcome challenges?
- What was important for you to succeed?
- How have you measured the success of your efforts?
- What helped you to align or integrated different funding and agency priorities?
- What kinds of public and interagency process worked?
- What, if anything, did the Partnership do to facilitate success?
Each group provided a quick summary of their discussion.
Incorporate economic development into livability planning projects
- Better assess the benefits, impacts of different scenarios, and options so that we can understand why livability is important for economic development.
- The business community has not traditionally been involved in the planning dialogue, and they need to be brought into the discussion.
- There is a need to demonstrate benefits and build confidence in livability strategies.
- Towns and municipalities often view their initiatives as in direct competition with one another. Overcoming this issue can help build regional collaboration rather than competition.
- Municipalities, local governments, and counties should invest their money in local banks rather than national banks as a way to invest in their local communities.
- Develop performance measures that can demonstrate economic developments benefits generated by livability.
- Recognize that one size does not fit all, and that that local economic development needs vary widely.
- Better quantify the jobs that are created by implementing livability strategies. Look at the type and quality of jobs from the perspective of what is important to the local community. Sell this as part of the project.
- Move away from State agency silos and into more collaborative efforts where agencies are working together toward a common purpose. Collaboration is seen as improving governmental efficiency, and can generate increased public support.
- Consider how the Federal partnership can help with economic development. Consider how long-term (e.g. 5 year) housing development plans may help guide efforts in other areas.
- Equity should be considered when making investment decisions, particularly between urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Need models, tools, and measures to demonstrate multimodal impacts/benefits
- There is currently an over-reliance on models/tools/approaches that cannot effectively demonstrate the impacts and/or benefits of multimodal mobility.
- We lack effective models/tools/measures to demonstrate the impacts and benefits of livability.
- State DOTs are very focused on investing money effectively within a particular focus area. Livability is not one of these recognized focus areas. Building a livability management system could help overcome some of these investment barriers.
- Look at lifecycle cost analyses when making investments. Comparing life cycle analyses between livability investments and traditional investments can help to generate project support.
- The traditional process for developing projects is biased toward large highway investments. There is a need for a better way of accounting for the benefits of low-cost projects so that they gain increased support.
- When demonstrating livability benefits, look at the per person benefit that will be derived per dollar investment made. The benefits of implementing livability strategies are significant as compared to major road widening projects.
- There is a need to move from auto-centric to more multimodal performance measures. These measures should account for local efficiency as well.
- If a problem is not defined as a livability problem in the beginning, a livability solution will not result. By identifying automobile-focused problems, an automobile-focused solution is likely to result.
- Many of people's daily trips go unaccounted for because they are part of their daily routine; however, many of these are undertaken using a livable environment. More effectively capturing and documenting the modes that people use when making these trips will provide a better understanding of how and when people use various system infrastructures.
See livability/maintenance/fix-it-first as 'mission critical,' not just 'nice'
- When the focus is on maintenance only, other interests are shut out from the process. On the other end of the spectrum, given the backlog in system preservation needs, maintenance is a necessity and cannot be cut out of the process altogether. We need to identify how we can make our agendas align.
- Integrating the maintenance imperative can be a helpful strategy for elevating the importance of livability. Integrating system preservation concerns with the livability agenda to make those projects more livable. In order to do this, it is important to have meaningful public involvement from a variety of stakeholders, particularly in the early stages of project phasing.
- Having good metrics to demonstrate the importance of livability is valuable. This is often a challenge, as livability is a subjective topic to evaluate.
- Education plays an important role in communication efforts with the public and among stakeholders. Additionally, it is key in efforts to integrate the system preservation and livability agendas.
- In communicating this idea, it is important to recognize the tradeoffs but also focus on how to move forward toward the goals in each area.
Reframe the Federal role as 'in support of' community planning and goals
- Move beyond bureaucracy and toward support for interagency partnership efforts. This includes breaking down silos among Federal agencies, particularly around the concept of livability.
- Regional level implementation and coordination can provide a good example for how project implementation can be approached effectively.
- Focus on coordination efforts amongst and within Federal agencies.
- Using a clear and simple message is effective for communicating with communities.
- Translate planning and goal ideas into projects with some flexibility.
- Do not rely on bureaucracy to move the project process along.
- Identify the problem that you are trying to solve and use a partnership to identify a solution.
Communicate and quantify the benefits of livability projects
- Identify up front who is the main audience for these messages. These messages are often needed for communication from the bottom up and from the top down.
- The public is also a very important audience for gaining support for livability projects. Without support from a variety of stakeholders, particularly the public, efforts lack a backbone. Visualization can be very effective in communicating with the public and demonstrating what is meant by livable communities.
- For decisionmakers, using technical documents and language can be more effective. These documents should articulate the benefits—even the nontraditional ones that are not normally measured. Although some of the nontraditional measures are hard to measure in an objective way, they can be used to communicate more readily.
- Emphasize the triple bottom line—economy, environment, equity—because this concept captures all of the measures that fall into livability and could be an effective way to present the benefits. Public health and safety can also be incorporated into this.
- If livability is applied to all public investments, it could help in building partnerships at other levels that mirror current Federal level efforts.
- Rising gas prices offer an opportunity to cause our communities and regions to look at things differently. Particularly, more attention will be focused on looking at the impact of single mode systems. This attention can be used to help increase attention on the need for more investments in livability.
- Better communication is needed between the Federal level to the State DOTs, particularly for design guides. A standard design guide should be used in all 50 States.
- Defining job descriptions/training course needs could be used to fill the practitioner gap so that livability efforts begin to be implemented on both the State and regional levels.
Reassess large legacy/pipeline projects to incorporate livability elements
- Assess projects against new criteria based on livability standards. These criteria should be clear in order to provide a way to evaluate projects and compare them effectively.
- Generate an opportunity to take projects in the existing pipeline and re-review them.
- Develop and utilize livability criteria to assess project alternatives. The option to simply say "no" should not be allowed. Rather, a solution should be required. To do this, developing messages and documenting the drawbacks and benefits of various approaches would be effective. These criteria and the importance of this new approach should be communicated to the public and leaders.
- Secure a respected champion. Ultimately, getting political buy-in will allow for a change of course.
- Focus on education and outreach as a way to broaden the constituency base. While older projects tended to focus on one single purpose, the new approach moves away from that and is focused on looking at multi-purpose projects. By broadening the constituency, a wider variety of nontraditional groups can be engaged and serve as a source for project support.
- Have the new process formally adopted. Following the new process, ensure that realigned projects meet the new criteria for livability.
Regional Livability Planning Strategies:
Four of the workshop participants presented on their organization's success in developing and implementing livability planning strategies at a regional level. Chris O'Neill from the Capital District Transportation Commission (CDTC) discussed the MPO's Regional Transportation Plan, New Visions, which focuses on developing a quality region by incorporating livability principles. An important component of this effort involved meaningful dialogue with the public, which allowed decisionmakers to make informed, supported decisions, as well as qualitative performance measures that are used to evaluate the community quality of life and support the decisionmaking process. Amy Rainone from Rhode Island Housing discussed their "KeepSpace" initiative, which is focused on overcoming the silo effect and encouraging conversations between representatives from the various issue areas. Ms. Rainone also discussed the organization's recent EPA technical assistance award, which is being used to identify financial resources that can be used to support projects that embrace livability criteria. Dorathy Martel from the Eastern Maine Development Corporation discussed two ongoing efforts: the Penobscot Valley Community Greenprint effort and the Mobilize Maine effort. The Greenprint project focuses on developing a regional vision for pursuing environmental and economic opportunities that will allow for a balance between rural areas and a vibrant economy, while Mobilize Maine is focused on supporting communities coming together to look at economic development and quality of life considerations when making decisions. Gary Toth from the Project for Public Spaces discussed the value of corridor studies in addressing some of the issues that tend to arise during the traditional project decisionmaking process. In particular, the process generates opportunities to leverage new strategies and funding sources, to create a bridge between planning and design, and to incorporate new stakeholders into the process so that the outcome is a well-informed solution. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion, focusing on the key elements of their success:
- Meaningful public dialogue is very effective. Linkage programs can be an effective way to achieve structured, meaningful, public participation.
- Building trust with the customer is a valuable component of public engagement. In many communities, this lack of trust comes from decades of a poor relationship with the DOT.
- There must be commitment and involvement from all State agencies around the table. Having everyone committed to the same vision and participating in the public engagement process is important.
- Identify what works and build on it. By continuing to focus on what is wrong, it is not possible to identify solutions and begin to solve problems.
- For many of the corridor studies discussed, they enjoyed success in part because a number of highly visible improvements were made in the very beginning so that people could view progress and they felt like the project was moving forward.
- In Rhode Island, the Economic Development Corporation has been helpful in responding to the need for workforce housing. Conversations are now underway with community residents to discuss how to better provide affordable housing options and create the kinds of communities that incorporate the community visions and goals.
Kate Ange from Renaissance Planning Group discussed the initial concepts for the FHWA primer on implementing livability, in which FHWA was moving away from the idea of developing a regional livability model plan and more toward a primer or guidebook discussing how to implement these strategies and make it successful, and how best to put existing plans and processes together to start integrating livability efforts. The draft sections of the primer include integrated planning processes; technical analysis and goal setting; plans, policies, and projects; and programs, support and outreach.
The discussion on the primer was split into two separate 30-minute discussions – the first focused on the elements of the primer and the second on the marketing and general tools needed for the primer. Participants broke into six different groups with a mix of State, regional, local, and Federal representatives. The first discussion focused on the following questions:
- FHWA 'primer' on livability planning and implementationâ?¦what new information is needed?
- Is there a consensus on key regional planning process steps?
- Integrated planning process
- Technical analysis, scenarios and goal setting
- Policies, plans, and projects
- Implementation, programs, and outreach
- What new guidance is needed to help practitioners with implementation?
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 format/type of products should any new guidance take?
- What messages resonate with different groups to understand and help explain livability?
- What communications and marketing materials would help you to make the case for livability?
- What tools and technical assistance do you need?
Each group summarized their two separate discussions, and the main points of each summary are listed below.
- Without funding for projects, the importance of identifying effective processes and planning strategies is diminished. Therefore, before the primer topics can be addressed effectively, one must first identify who has money and what they are spending it on.
- One solution to finding funding sources may be to attempt to retrofit livability planning ideals to fit existing projects. For example, ARRA projects represent a missed opportunity to build livability into those projects.
- CDCs could serve as a funding source. They are active in many areas and tend to support livability ideas. For example, a CDC put livability funds into the Fairmount project in Boston through a TOD effort.
- It is important to look at the process from the bottom up instead of the top down.
- Communication plays a vital role. In going out to the community and speaking with them, the idea should be to buy-in to the residents' vision rather than trying to get them to buy in to the agency's plan.
- Work toward positive outcomes.
- Provide tools to help visualize density.
- Identify the role of livability as it relates to demographic shifts.
- Provide assistance for developing indicators.
- The communication format should use web-based and social media, as they are effective.
- Identify a champion who has personal knowledge or is from the local area.
- Be present at stakeholder meetings in order to engage with the public directly.
- Engage people personally.
- The message should be tailored to a specific audience. There should be specific items that reflect a variety of interests and knowledge bases. Within messaging efforts, make sure semantics are consistent across all Federal agencies, especially among all partnership agencies.
- Marketing efforts should use a lot of pictures and dynamic visualization to help convey messages. When people are able to see an idea, they are better able to understand it. Additionally, it is helpful when these materials use tangible, real-life examples to convey an idea.
- One-pagers on a particular item are very effective. By being able to walk into any meeting and have one page of information summarizing key livability connections and benefits, it is helpful in gathering support. For municipalities in particular, they are focused on economic changes, so being able to show economic benefits is key.
- For tools and technical assistance, trainings and workshops are helpful, particularly when they are recorded and available at people's convenience. Peer-to-peer workshops in particular are helpful, as this allows people to meet physically with another organization and hear firsthand what was successful.
- It is helpful to provide a list of best practices and public involvement strategies that worked well in a variety of contexts. In addition to providing a list of things that worked well, it is also helpful to provide a list of things that one should definitely avoid. Having information on challenges people have faced and lessons learned is very valuable for other organizations engaging in similar activities.
- For the step involving "integrating planning processes," the following items are important:
- Define when and the degree to which stakeholders should be involved in supporting livability efforts. Consider involving representatives from organizations involved in economic development, utilities, health, and civic services to address environmental justice concerns.
- More guidance is needed on technical analysis for economics and travel markets. Many organizations face challenges in finding data to analyze alternatives. When this data is available, travel demand models are often outdated, making the outcomes less useful.
- Guidance on indicators for data and tools would help to quantify benefits at system-wide levels. In particular, ranges rather than absolutes would be helpful when analyzing effects at a system level and when comparing projects against one another. It is difficult to come to one single number; having a confidence level would be much more useful.
- For the step involving "policies, plans, and projects," it would be helpful to have language in plans or ordinances that targets municipalities.
- Synchronizing planning efforts with economic development aspects would be effective.
- Developing a matrix would be useful for identifying those policies and plans that would be effective for States looking to incorporate livability.
- For the step involving "implementation, programs, and outreach," the following items would be helpful:
- Develop a communication summary.
- Coordinate communication efforts across and within agencies. Ensure that the Federal division office, the State, and local entities are all speaking the same language.
- Identify specific tactics that local entities could use to increase funding access. For example, some projects may be ideal for Public Private Partnership opportunities.
- Consider livability as an approach to what we already do and "business as usual" rather than as an entirely new concept. Many livability elements have been around for a while.
- Separate spin from reality.
- Keep working to find ways to bridge the gap between planning and project development.
- To assist with the regional planning process, information on the following elements should be incorporated:
- Consider adding a new step at the end for evaluation. Evaluating performance measures and measuring the success of the planning process overall provides closure on the planning process loop. It is helpful to go back and look at the process to evaluate its success and identify areas where revisions may need to be made.
- Focus on public input and provide guidance on new tools and techniques available for enhancing this process. The primer should include guidance on how to effectively seek out those portions of the public that are not traditionally reached.
- In an effort to move toward an integrated planning process, provide a framework for auditing existing planning documents. This may include doing a gap analysis and finding integration opportunities among existing planning requirements. It could also involve developing Federal regulations that allow singular, integrated documents that fulfill considerations related to housing, transportation, and economics.
- Include real case studies that show real world lessons learned—both positive and negative. Include contact information along with these examples so that people can reach out to someone with questions.
- Include an index of resources on funding and/or training opportunities, as well as other resources planners can tap into when pursuing livability projects.
- The product that is ultimately developed should include the following:
- Use new communication technologies in addition to traditional printed materials when communicating with constituents. Webinars are an effective communication tool.
- Provide useful terminology to discuss livability. When discussing livability, focus on the promotion of choice (e.g. choosing where to live, how to get to work). Move away from the planning jargon and into something that people can actually understand. Translate the jargon into laymen's terms.
- Discuss the co-benefits of livability such as health benefits and the cost-effectiveness. Cost in particular is an element on which municipal governments will focus.
- Frame livability as a pause in existing planning processes and a continuation of the way planning has always been done rather than as a brand new approach. Promote the idea that livability is more efficient, cost effective, and can work within existing processes.
- Recognize that the target audience changes depending on the circumstance and who one is ultimately trying to reach (e.g. public versus decisionmakers). The one audience that will likely be prevalent for the primer will be the regional DOT.
- The primer's messaging should recognize this. For the public in particular, livability may be couched in nostalgia for an older audience (e.g. the way things were) as compared to a younger audience, where the emphasis may be on providing connections to desired destinations.
- The primer should come out under the banner of all three agencies involved in the partnership, as this emphasizes the true project goal of breaking down silos. Just having FHWA author the primer does not send the right message.
- Regardless of the primer authors, the principles and criteria included in the document should be consistent with what is promoted across all three agency programs.
- The primer should incorporate visual messaging so that people can see examples of what is discussed in the document.
- Include messaging on fiscal and economic concerns, as this is an important concern for a variety of audiences.
- The primer should be widely promoted. Consider using a media campaign or an ad campaign. One idea for ad campaign is to mimic the one about "this is your brain on drugs" and do "this is you on sprawl" instead.
- Provide information on accessible tools that people can use to start conversations about livability. Many people are concerned with messaging and how to talk about this concept with other audiences. Tools that generate statistics and numbers would be helpful. Help people learn how to recreate these tools within their own jurisdiction.
- Identify strategies for engaging people at the very local levels on a regular basis to get buy-in on project ideas and ultimate visions. Due to anti-NIMBYism sentiments, it is important to have a constant reemphasis on participation.
- The primer should not only discuss the idea of a regional planning framework, but also the variety of ways in which plans could be implemented within this framework once they have been developed.
- Clearly identify the primer's target audience. As the primer will be used by a wide audience, there is concern that it will only include broad information at a high level that would ultimately not be very valuable. To overcome this, the primer should include specific examples. These examples could be presented as a best practice matrix where users could look up specific strategies by concept area, and then further select a strategy based on geographic area in order to gain insight on how different strategies would work under different environments.
- In general, the main audience will be the people to whom the idea of livability is being sold.
- The primer should include links to existing resources so that users can see what has already been done, rather than investing in a duplicate product.
- Include information and guidance on specific tools that can measure the outputs of livability initiatives.
- Emphasize that the primer's content is voluntary.
- The discussion should recognize that planning processes vary by region.
- The primer should be in a web-based format where people can download the document rather than receive it as a printed material.
- Include online discussion groups where people can ask questions on the content and people with similar experience could respond with suggestions based on lessons learned.
- Include web-based applications such as visualization tools that site users could use to see what their community would look like if they implemented some of the strategies discussed in the document. This could include something like Google Earth where users could see what the strategy looks like when it is implemented on the ground or a modeling tool that simulates what a community would look like if residents choose to continue current trends as compared to beginning to implement livability-type strategies right away.
- Include a database of livability projects. Communities could upload details on a particular project and other communities could then access this information.
- Include graphics that clearly demonstrate the benefits of livability so that all audiences can understand these messages.
- The main messages that should be emphasized are public health, safety, the environment, and saving money. The discussion on the economics of scale and resource efficiencies would resonate with the public sector. The business community would likely focus on the environmental benefits generated by supporting livability, as they are concerned with presenting an environmentally friendly image.
- In generating tools and technical assistance to support implementing livability, the focus should be on reaching those who are difficult to engage and/or resist engagement. These people may be within implementing agencies, or among the public.
- Identify new technologies that are being used in communities. For example, concrete sidewalks may not be sustainable because concrete is not a sustainable or environmentally friendly product.
- Include rural considerations in the discussion and identify strategies for communicating livability in these areas. Some rural communities may view livability as something that requires changing lifestyles and moving to an urban area, or one with transit options, when this is not the case. It is difficult to identify what livability means in rural areas, as much of this information has not been synthesized. The profession needs to take a new look at what livability means in a rural context.
- Practitioners face a challenge with public burnout, as there are numerous planning processes in place, which all require public meetings. Requiring another set of meetings to discuss regional livability is not necessarily a good plan. Instead, the focus should be on how to take those existing processes and reshape them to address new needs.
- Emphasize that the primer should be used to assess realistic options that foster a change toward quality of life.
- Recognize the importance of having regional and district offices engaged with local communities and State DOTs early on in the project decisionmaking process so that livability can be considered and incorporated up front, before decisions are solidified.
- The product should be developed to connect directly with customers through every communication format possible. Rather than limiting resources to one format (e.g. a website), use print materials as well. Consider mailing materials to traditional adversaries as well as traditional supporters. FTA has been effective in widespread messaging and this could serve as an effective model.
Briefly, Harrison Rue summarized the previous workshop feedback about the different audiences for the final materials and the list of possible elements in the toolbox that FHWA will subsequently be creating. The potential audiences are FHWA division offices, MPOs, DOTs, local governments, Federal agencies, policymakers/ decisionmakers, general interested public. The draft toolbox concepts are in the table below.
|Livability research paper
||FAQs & fact sheets
- Hypothetical situations/projects
- Multiple audience – public policy
|Success story technical memorandum
||More dynamic website
|Livability in Transportation Guidebook
||Image video gallery
|FHWA livability website resources
Participants were asked to comment on the elements that would be most important to include, and those products that are a high priority for development. A summary of the large group discussion in response to this information is included below.
- There is a lack of money for transportation because we have not been building livable projects and thereby elevating the concept's importance. There is a strong need to build public support for doing things a different way. One option includes beginning to build livable projects and their success will generate more public support. If the public can see examples of a better way of doing things, they are likely to support funding for similar projects.
- Funding options should be re-organized around livability. With livability as the basis for project objectives and goals, a variety of funding sources could be leveraged and utilized.
- If people understood the true costs of transportation projects—capacity projects and livability projects—they would be inclined to support livability efforts.
- The issue does not lie in the lack of funds, but rather how decisions are made to spend this money. For examples, decisions regarding bridge reconstruction are not optional and are not likely to become optional in the future. There are limited choices remaining about system preservation. Incorporating livability considerations, such as adding a bike lane, add costs to already expensive projects. By making smarter decisions, we should be able to accomplish all desired outcomes with the funding that is available.
- Regions should focus on developing and identifying language that can be used to explain what livability means within their particular region. People need to better understand the concept of livability.
- Mandate that certain criteria be considered for project design and provide training for department personnel and municipality personnel to learn about these requirements. This has proven effective in areas with complete streets policies. As people have been developing projects, the burden of proof is on them to show that their project addresses all users. There has been a gradual increase in the number of projects that incorporate livability into their designs. Many areas have seen progress because of these policies. While this has not yet occurred on the corridor-level, it has become more prevalent at the project level.
- Legacy projects have become an issue. There is a strong need to reevaluate these projects. Perhaps this could involve a gap analysis to see if these projects could be altered to incorporate livability elements and help meet additional community needs.
- Road diets should get points in categories for both safety and livability.
Closing and Next Steps:
To finish the day, the facilitators and FHWA 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.
Evaluation Forms & Changes for Next Meeting:
In general, workshop participants provided reviewed the workshop favorably. The facilitators separated the challenges and solutions discussion more firmly and provided more closure to the first discussion session on "Identifying Challenges to Livability." In response to participant requests for receiving a more detailed agenda up-front, an agenda was provided with more information on the discussion topic areas and questions. The subsequent workshops will continue to build off the challenges mentioned in the Atlanta Kansas City, and Boston workshops. A few participants suggested less regional presentations. One participant suggested that a quick update on the Partnership's activities would be useful. Because of these recommendations, the Sacramento meeting will reduce the number of regional speakers and the format of the afternoon will be changed to introduce breaks between the afternoon speaker presentations. Additionally, small group discussions in the afternoon will focus on gathering feedback on the primer content, as identified from the first three workshops.
||Rhode Island Public Transit Authority
||Rhode Island Housing
||City of Ranson, WV
||New Jersey DOT
||Burlington, Vermont Public Works
||Central Transportation Planning Staff
||New York State DOT
||Capital District Transportation Committee
||Upper Valley Lake Sunapee RPC
||Regional Plan Association
||City of Burlington, VT
||Eastern Maine Development Corporation
||Project for Public Spaces
||Philadelphia Water Department
||State of Rhode Island
||Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
||State of Rhode Island
||Smart Mobility, Inc.
||Central Transportation Planning Staff
||Downeast Transportation, Inc.
||New Jersey Future
||Civic Eye Collaborative
||The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
||Capitol Region Council of Governments
||Central Transportation Planning Staff
||Wilmington Area Planning Council
||New Hampshire DOT
||FHWA – Rhode Island Division Office
||FHWA – Maine Division Office
||FHWA – Vermont Division Office
||FHWA – Rhode Island Division Office
||FHWA – Massachusetts Division Office
||FTA – Region 3
||FHWA – Headquarters
|Mary Beth Mello
||FHWA – Massachusetts Division Office
||FHWA – New York Division Office
|Rosemary K. Monahan
||FHWA – New Jersey Division Office
||FHWA – Headquarters
||FTA – Region 2
||EPA – Region 2
||FTA – Region 1
||Renaissance Planning Group
Livability Examples Provided by Boston 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.
- Transit-Oriented Development PowerPoint Slideshow (file sent by Joe Cosgrove), Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
- City of Burlington, Vermont Efforts
Sidewalk Strategic Plan Implementation
Complete Streets Demonstration
- Colchester Avenue Complete Streets Demonstration Project PowerPoint Slideshow (file sent by Carol Weston), City of Burlington, VT Department of Public Works, the Chittendon County MPO, and the Resource Systems Group, Inc. (January 2011)
- Comprehensive streetscape improvement projects that Burlington has undertaken over the last 10 years include Lake Street, Main Street, North Street, and Riverside Avenue. Changes were made to increase multimodal transportation, aesthetics, pedestrian safety, and traffic calming.
Burlington Legacy Project: http://burlingtonlegacyproject.org/ (articulates Burlington's long-term vision as a sustainable community)
City of Burlington, VT Municipal Development Plan:
http://www.ci.burlington.vt.us/planning/comp_plan/municipal_development_plan/ (put the Burlington Legacy Project vision into a land use planning context and serves as the City's central policy guide regarding future land use and development)
Burlington Transportation Plan, "Moving Forward Together" (file sent by David White) (newly adopted plan, now the Transportation chapter of the City's Municipal Development Plan; the first to articulate a complete streets policy for Burlington).
Chittenden County Transit Authority's Transit Development Plan: http://www.cctaride.org/resources/documents.html (describes plans for the City's regional transit system and how it integrates as an essential component to fulfilling some of Burlington's land use and transportation goals).
Burlington's Downtown and Waterfront Plaster Plan Project:
http://www.ci.burlington.vt.us/planning/comp_plan/downtown_waterfront_plan/ (file also sent by David White) (Will place an emphasis on ways to promote and improve mixed uses and quality urban design, affordable and workforce housing, transportation and parking management, and the quality and capacity of public infrastructure. This HUD Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant-funded effort is specifically intended to address the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities six livability principles.)
- New Jersey DOT and NJ Transit Efforts
- Central Transportation Planning Staff (Boston Region MPO) Livability Program: http://www.ctps.org/bostonmpo/3_programs/5_livability/livability.html (draft website)
- Started in 2011 and seeks to support livability throughout the region by way of three program components: regional forums, community workshops, and a website of online resources. CTPS recently completed a draft website that includes a database of livability indicators. The database provides access to data regarding demographics, available transportation options, and existing transportation patterns by municipality to begin to better understand the necessary conditions to facilitate livability. CTPS' intent is for the website to serve as a source of information for all, from State, regional and municipal officials and staff to individual residents.
- Capital District Transportation Committee Efforts
- New Visions for a Quality Region (Regional Transportation Plan): http://www.cdtcmpo.org/rtp2030/brochure.pdf (PDF)
- The CDTC Congestion Management Process PowerPoint slideshow presented by CDTC at a recent FHWA-sponsored webinar (file sent by Chris O'Neill) (the CMP is strongly integrated with the New Visions plan)
- Linkage Program (used to implement the New Visions plan): http://www.cdtcmpo.org/linkage/brochure11-12.pdf (PDF)
- Addressing Livability and Sustainability in MPO Regional Transportation Plans: New Visions for a Quality Region PowerPoint slideshow (file sent by Chris O'Neill)
- Massachusetts Deparmtent of Transportation, "Transportation Reform Legislation" (2009), http://www.massdot.State.ma.us/main/Documents/HealthyTransportationCompact/TransReform_Ch25_Sect33.pdf (PDF)
- Massachusetts Department of Transportation, GreenDOT Initiative, http://www.massdot.State.ma.us/main/greendot.aspx
- Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Livability and Sustainability Initiatives, http://www.mhd.State.ma.us/default.asp?pgid=content/environ/sustainability&sid=about
- New York and Connectivcut Sustainable Communities Initiative, http://www.sustainablenyct.org/
- Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Annual Growth Policy, http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/research/growth_policy/growth_policy09/agp_growing_smarter.shtm
- State of Maryland, GreenPrint, http://www.greenprint.maryland.gov/
- State of Maryland, Transit-Oriented Developent Designations, http://www.mdot-realeState.org/tod.asp
- Capital District Transportation Committee, "New Visions 2030," http://www.cdtcmpo.org/rtp2030/nv.htm and http://www.cdtcmpo.org/rtp2030/brochure.pdf (PDF)
- Capital District Transportation Committee, Linkage Program, http://www.cdtcmpo.org/linkage.htm
- Rhode Island Housing, http://www.rhodeislandhousing.org/
- The Penobscot Valley, ME Community Greenprint, http://tplgis.org/Penobscot_Greenprint/