Denver, Colorado Summary
The Denver workshop discussion emphasized concerns of small towns and rural areas in trying to implement livability. Key discussion points included:
- Challenges such as lack of funding both for livability and in general, a lack of "out of the box" thinking about traffic flow and transportation solutions overall, and staff capacity and time in rural areas.
- Solutions such as context sensitive messaging and messaging that demonstrates government's ability to help, funding and focusing on problems rather than projects, engaging developers and other private sector partners, and reimagining state roads that run through small towns.
- Key primer elements, which include making the document comprehensive and useful for planners in a variety of contexts, providing information on how to begin as well as case studies and examples of successful implementation of livability projects or programs.
- Communication and outreach methods, particularly visualization techniques and tools to support scenario planning, web integration for the primer, and performance metrics for livability.
This workshop culminated with the full development of ideas by the participants, building on the previous workshop participants' efforts. 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.
Denver workshop discussions.
EPA Region 8 Office
1595 Wynkoop Street
Denver, CO 80202
Date / Time:
May 5, 2011 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Welcome and Introductions:
Lucy Garliauskas, Director of FHWA's Office of Human Environment welcomed everyone to the workshop and thanked EPA for hosting the workshop at the Region 8 office. Ms. Garliauskas discussed the USDOT's role in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which focuses on encouraging and facilitating a national dialogue about how to make wise decisions about using scarce resources, particularly as it relates to transportation investments. The Office of Human Environment has recently focused on defining the role of FHWA in advancing livability, which centers on facilitating people's mobility rather than the mobility of cars. The Office is also emphasizing a multidisciplinary multimodal approach to transportation decisionmaking.
Representatives from the regional Partnership agencies provided additional opening remarks. John Cater, Division Administrator for FHWA Colorado Division Office highlighted Region 8's efforts related to the Partnership. The regional partnership members have met regularly since the partnership started and they have also developed a common site where relevant information and resources are posted and shared. Charmaine Knighton, Deputy Regional Administrator for FTA Region 8 noted that FTA has been working on livability-related concepts for a while, but the new partnership efforts have highlighted the silos that still exist and need to be eliminated in order to help communities implement livability. For example, interagency grant review and selection is helpful in bringing people together to discuss practices and how they can be implemented across a variety of contexts. Eddie Sierra, Acting Assistant Regional Administrator for EPA Region 8 discussed the use of brownfields funding to support charrette efforts that are focused on building most sustainable communities, particularly as it relates to energy and stormwater management. Additionally, EPA is focusing on helping provide people with choices on how they arrive at their destination so that community residents can live, work, and play as they desire. Richard Garcia, Regional Administrator for HUD Region 8 Office noted that the mountain west has a number of opportunities for infill development and transit construction, which can help advance the partnership for regional sustainability. In the long term, many of these projects will help to create livable communities with a mix of housing, a range of incomes, various economic development opportunities, and transit access. Following these opening remarks, participants introduced themselves, as did the meeting facilitators and managers from ICF International and Renaissance Planning Group.
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. Mr. Rue noted that the day's workshop would focus in particular on rural areas and the livability concerns facing those areas.
Identifying Challenges to Livability:
Harrison Rue from ICF International reviewed the primary challenges identified at the four previous workshops. Keeping these challenges in mind, participants were asked to focus on the following three questions during a large group discussion session:
- What are the big challenges to implementing transportation solutions that support and advance livable communities?
- How are the challenges different in rural areas (including towns and small cities)?
- What is one solution that has worked for your agency?
Participants identified six 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.
- Funding tailored to projects → not solving problems from a broad-based multimodal perspective
- The lack of dedicated livability funding presents a barrier to working on multimodal complete streets projects. It is difficult to identify ways to complete multimodal projects with the funding that is currently available.
- It is difficult to coordinate different types of funding sources for livability projects, as they tend to take an integrated approach and cross a number of topic areas. It is important to consider thinking about solutions from a systemic approach rather than an individual project approach. Without a change to funding, the ability to implement systematic change is limited. This change in approach may or may not be more difficult to implement in rural areas.
- Rural areas face a continuous barrier to implementing livability due to lack of funding. Many rural areas are interested in livability planning, but are unable to pay for implementation or maintenance.
- There is a lack of follow-through from design through to construction.
- Smaller communities need help in brokering access to the different funding opportunities and pots of money so that they can pursue livability.
- Many people have been trained in an old transportation paradigm where they view every problem as a transportation problem. In order to overcome this view, it is important to identify broad purpose and goals in the beginning so that the project is not narrowed to one mode from the very beginning. By keeping the goals broad, it reduces the probability that there will be a guaranteed outcome before the approaches have been examined in terms of cost effectiveness and ability to address the need.
- To ensure a broad perspective from the beginning, it is important to have discussions early on in the project development phrase in order to define the project and make sure that a variety of features are considered and discussed. Through defining the project scope, these discussions should also identify whether or not the project would duplicate prior efforts.
- It is important to involve nontraditional players who are interested in advancing livability projects so that the resulting TIP or STIP is truly reflective of what is going on in the State.
- Develop meaningful performance measures so that practitioners can draw on concepts that are meaningful to people.
- In rural areas, it would be helpful to provide access to expertise for those planners who are unaware of how to go about addressing livability issues. This could be addressed by hiring a livability "generalist" At the regional or county level. Given the lack of expertise with livability in rural areas in particular, it is important to have generalists who understand the overall concept of livability, but are not dedicated to one area. This can help to eliminate silos. As many rural areas rarely have a separate departments dedicated to specific functions, it is important to have someone dedicated to this issues.
- Measures of traffic flow → speed and capacity dominates livability considerations
- Measuring traffic flow should account for alternative modes of transportation. There is currently a dominance of an automotive vehicle traffic flow approach to planning. There is a need to overcome the idea that traffic flow should only focus on vehicles and that vehicle capacity/speed should not account for alternative modes. Altering these measurements can help support alternative performance measures as well as help to shift funding priorities, as many funding sources are tied to traditional vehicle traffic flow measurements.
- Consider that standards may not work across all community contexts. In many areas, the State and local standards are very different.
- Identify how to begin the conversation about what is really needed and paying for this through local funds.
- Single-minded approach to solutions → need a broader framework to meet needs
- Identify how programs can help align livability principles and project focus. For those projects operating within existing developments, there is an opportunity to retrofit existing infrastructure to be more multimodal-friendly.
- When developing solutions, keep the perspective of the customer in mind. It is important to start simply and build from that. The end goal should be to help people have the best day possible.
- Even within local jurisdictions, it is difficult to get partners to discuss ideas related to livability with one another. Going beyond this to collaborate on a regional vision in order to elevate these ideas and market them at the State level is even more difficult. The challenges are not limited to interagency collaboration between jurisdictions, but rather between the different agencies within one locality.
- Help local communities understand that they are involved in the conversation about regional livability, and that the results of decisions made in other localities extends to their local community. Regional players need to understand the benefits to implementing livability projects in their community, as well as in other regional communities.
- Recognize that very different approaches work in different contexts. For example, the tools and approaches that work within urban areas do not necessarily work within rural areas. In many cases, this even requires a completely new and different set of approaches and tools for each area.
- Many small towns in rural areas are struggling with population growth related to the retirement community development. This adds a new dimension of the unique needs of an aging population.
- Some of these needs include developing bus and van services to ensure that those residents who cannot drive can still access the services that they need. While it is likely that multiple modes will be needed, it may involve an on-demand service approach. This approach is very different than what would be used in an urban area. It is important to gain support from congressional leaders to build in new types of requirements related to these needs.
- Transforming the "project pipeline" into a "problem pipeline" is an important switch that needs to occur. This approach of identifying a solution to a problem rather than to a project will require new tools.
- Master planning can play a role in this change; however, until the TIP and STIP are no longer the focus for funding, steps cannot be taken to move forward.
- Construct a framework for advancing projects by identifying the assembly of needs, clarifying what the pipeline would look like, and determining how it would function. The challenge will be in finding the right kinds of projects that support and facilitate both rural and suburban needs.
- It may be possible to have a new framework by changing the dynamic and reframing the pipeline discussion early on, before the TIP and STIP are developed. The reframing should happen during the comprehensive and/or general plan development, before project money is assigned. Communities can then focus on developing a broader vision for the community in response to current, identified challenges. Changing this framework will allow for the TIP and STIP to be responsive to the community and/or general plan.
- For rural communities in particular, the framework may need to be different, as these areas tend to identify projects based on the funding outlined in the TIP and STIP. Rural areas generally respond to the conditions on the ground when money becomes available. It would be helpful to allocate money in a different way that is responsive to a community's values.
- To overcome interagency barriers, become more aware of what is going on in the community, including identifying the customer and the customer's needs. Identify what the choices are and how to make appropriate investments based on these choices.
- Rural areas do not have the ability to measure across all modes; therefore, in order to develop solutions, metrics should be reported in a more comprehensive way.
- Changing land use policy and engaging developer and private sector partnerships
- Changing land use policies present a challenge to implementing livability.
- Stress the importance of land use as it relates to supporting transportation decisions. Housing choices must be incorporated into the decisionmaking process, as housing location factors directly into transportation trip decisions. Simply providing transportation land use and mode choice is not a sufficient choice in itself. People must have the option of living close to their ultimate trip destinations so that they have the option of making shorter trips.
- It is difficult to secure buy-in for changing land use policies. The local communities must be involved in the land use decisions, particularly about how they relate to the community's vision for livability. Private sector involvement from developers and lenders is also very important. Government resources alone will not allow many communities to achieve their visions, so having the private sector involvement will play a key role in implementation. Having a working partnership with local government involvement allows for an integrated approach and helps to eliminate many of the barriers that could arise when working to implement livability principles.
- Retrofit State highways running through small communities → local capacity to initiate change
- Communities that were overdesigned in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s with a highway as their main street struggle with retrofitting this development pattern. Many of these communities struggle with identifying ways to change this pattern. Sometimes these communities are not aware of what change they want to put in place. Additionally, barriers arise when working with the State DOT to gain support for making a change, as many State DOTs view these places as capacity corridors rather than areas for placemaking. As is proposed with the reauthorization bill, it would be helpful to have a way to tie Federal money to placemaking, particularly for communities with high capacity roads running through them. With this new plan, application-based grants would be used to fund livability projects that include a broader variety of components that is not just limited to one mode. Many State DOTs are opposed to this change, as it takes away their contract authority and their funding to address basis system preservation needs. To avoid this issue, a new category of funding would need to be made available.
- As there have not been any major State highway projects constructed for a long time, the current challenge is working with the existing system and identifying ways to retrofit these highways to accommodate new purposes beyond moving cars through towns. Existing highways do not serve any of the local multimodal transportation needs. While State DOTs have generally been open to these changes, one of the barriers facing this change is the institutional capacity of changing the roads. For smaller towns, the county transportation department could become the planning department and begin addressing this issue.
- Many State DOTs have focused solely on highways, and this focus needs to shift to accommodate a new focus in many rural communities on livability. State DOTs should begin a discussion with rural areas about what is needed and what the current budget can accommodate. Many of these areas are interested in enhancing different components such as sidewalks, bike/pedestrian, and their downtown core as a part of livability, and the State DOT can play an important role in implementing these changes.
- For those towns where State roads pass through the downtown, it is often difficult to gain support for adding a sidewalk along these routes. Often, the local highway technical engineers do not view sidewalk requests as a priority, even though it is a minimal cost. It is important to address the funding silos and the lack of lifecycle analysis as it relates to funding approval. Altering how project value is defined so that it accounts for long-term and lifecycle costs will be important in helping to shift the discussion. For sidewalks in particular, FHWA requirements are in place that require sidewalk construction unless the developer can identify a reason why it should not be constructed. It is important to educate FHWA staff about these policies so that they begin asking questions about why livability measures such as sidewalks are not being supported. This cycle needs to be changed.
- It is important to demonstrate the use of funds.
- Communication Efforts to Support Livability Implementation
- Communicate and quantify the benefits of livability projects.
- Recognize that messaging will need to change in response to local differences and contexts.
- Educate local decisionmakers and State decisionmakers about the concept of livability so that they are informed and can make the best decision possible.
- Better define the size of a rural community. For regional planning grants, a population of 200,000 and below is considered rural whereas FTA considers 50,000 and below to be rural. This interagency disconnect on definitions presents challenges for planning.
- Recognize that rural is not a blanket term that can be applied nationally. There are many gradations of what is meant by "rural," and community resource needs vary based on these differences. This is particularly true when comparing rural communities on the east versus those on the west.
- It is difficult to identify what a "rural housing program" includes, or how it is defined. More research is needed on figuring out how housing functions in rural areas.
- Greater public engagement and involvement is needed. Simply informing people about proposed plans without a discussion does not quality as public engagement. The public needs to be part of the planning discussion so that beneficial outcomes result.
- Rural Issues
- Rural States have limited capacity, staff resources, or staff knowledge to address the lack of capacity at a local level. Particularly for small cities and towns, there is lack of staff and exposure to new, innovative ideas.
- For those gateway communities near national parks and refuges, there is a need for further engagement with Federal land management agency partners. There are many unique challenges related to land use, economic development, and local engagement. The dynamics for these communities are very different, as these areas succeed based on visitation numbers.
- Capturing the differences in what is meant by the term "rural" becomes a problem when identifying how to award funding. Rural areas want to be viable competitors for grants; however, given resource and expertise limitations, some of these areas may not be well situated to address livability challenges effectively.
- Many issues in rural areas stem from the fact that the local economy has collapsed. Without rebuilding these economies, it is difficult to address any of the pressing issues. Given that, when funding does become available, these areas do not tend to focus on the quality of the result or the long-term effects. Identifying a larger, regional economic development strategy that includes rural communities would be helpful. This would help rural areas to identify those value-added projects that should be pursued.
- Many tribes have very large sections of land in the western States, and the roadway capacity in these tribal communities is minimal to nonexistent. Oftentimes these communities must decide between one road or another, so one roadway is usually left out. Among tribal communities, there is a wide range of sophistication and level of relationship with regional areas. There are very different processes and timelines. Tribal communities are very different than rural or small town areas, and therefore require unique descriptors and tools.
- Keep in mind that rural towns do not have the training, staff, and/or resources to do much visioning or plan development. Identifying a way to provide those services to rural communities would be helpful.
- Now that gas prices are high, people want to move in closer to town, which can help generate support for livability.
- It is important to identify ways to get people out of their cars and convince them to use alternative modes.
- Recognize that, beyond 2014, the STIP will only contain projects related to system preservation, as there will not be any funding for new projects, capacity, etc. The biggest challenge will therefore be developing accurate methods for cost/benefit analyses to determine those projects in which areas should invest.
- How livability is defined within this context will also change.
- Funding requirements will likely shift to incorporate a method for vetting how funding will be spent up-front in the process.
- Recognize the shift in demographics. Traditionally, retirees have moved out of town into rural areas; however, this may change when they realize access to services is limited. The suburban demographic is also shifting. More research is needed on these populations and demographic shifts to understand the housing choices that the younger generation prefers, and the future trends. Reaching out to the variety of populations requires significant amounts of money and time.
- Currently, many of these rural areas operate by planning in response to the money that is available in the TIP and/or STIP rather than waiting for appropriate funding to address pressing needs.
- Many areas are struggling with their maintenance responsibilities. Particularly for those areas that have been built to high standards, the cost of maintaining this infrastructure has become extremely high. In some areas, these costs are so high that they cannot afford to plow and/or shovel the sidewalks or maintain the landscape. The issue of maintaining roadways needs to be expanded to other facilities in order to generate other, viable maintenance options.
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.
- There are a number of opportunities for combining public and private funding sources; however, many people are unaware of these options. One example of combined funding is long-term maintenance money.
- Alter marketing and messaging efforts to convey that the government is here to help the community (both public and private partners) develop solutions rather than saying that the government is here to tell the community how to make a sustainable community.
- Marketing messages should include how implementing livability can help communities be more efficient and save on infrastructure costs.
- Frame livability planning as a business plan.
- Change the message so that it is responding to people's interests and desires, including the ability to make the system more efficient.
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 six identified challenges reflect the voting priorities from this exercise.
Three 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. Sandi Kohrs from Colorado DOT discussed a number of the Department's sustainability and livability initiatives, including the Transportation and Environmental Resource Council (TERC) sustainability subcommittee, their main streets initiative, and a land use and transportation planning integration study. While the governor supports these initiatives, they have largely been successful due to community support and active involvement. Jill Locantore from DRCOG presented on the Board's collaborative approach to addressing regional challenges through Metro Vision, an integrated plan that seeks to incorporate planning elements related to transportation, growth, and environment. The plan emphasizes livability for all ages, with a particular focus on older adults and aging services, in response to growth projections for Denver's older adult population. DRCOG has developed evaluation criteria for the plan's elements based on desired outcomes, which were subsequently tied to quantifiable goals. Will Toor, a Boulder County Commissioner, discussed how the City of Boulder is using an urban growth boundary in order to ensure development is focused in certain areas. As part of the City's approach to transportation, Boulder is focusing on transit service and is working with major employers and the university to redesign the transit network so that it is more bus-based. The City of Boulder measures its improvements through performance measures focused on a variety of topics, including unemployment, foreclosure rate, and the change in mode share. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion, focusing on the key elements of their success:
- For Colorado DOT, small town involvement and local interagency coordination led to the success of the main streets program. The governor provided necessary support by emphasizing key locations for implementation.
- The Colorado Department of Local Affairs was instrumental in bringing partners together and providing leadership for the main streets program.
- DRCOG's plan has been successful due to the inclusiveness of a wide variety of stakeholders during the initial plan development phases. Widespread involvement that was not limited to elected officials enabled the plan to be a truly regional plan. This inclusiveness has also contributed to the fact that the plan is still in place 20 years after its development.
- The City of Boulder has built upon small successes to demonstrate improvements to the public, which has generated continued public support. Starting with incremental changes has enabled them to convince people that doing things differently can actually work.
- Enabling flexibility and valuing community input led Colorado DOT to generate excitement on the part of the agencies involved. These agencies celebrated Colorado DOT's new approach of listening to the town about their desires rather than identifying what the town should do up front. Many of these towns had minimal resources and staff, but with their vision and funding from a variety of agencies, Colorado DOT was able to help the community implement their vision. Due to the success of this model, Colorado DOT hopes to implement the main streets program again.
- In response to the densification of downtown Denver resulting from the Urban Growth Boundary, Denver has adopted an approach similar to Boulder's through their Strategic Transportation Plan. This plan includes a stipulation that, due to the negative impacts that would result—both from a funding and community perspective—roads will not be widened. The focus has shifted to the capacity of roadways and how to move people instead of cars. FasTracks has played an important role in this new focus, as has the bicycle and pedestrian origin/destination program and increasing the cost of parking to make driving downtown less convenient. Denver's approach is based on recognition that congestion will always be present. Recognizing this, the city is identifying methods to improve the options that people have for arriving downtown that are not based on congested roadway routes.
- For Boulder, the way that efforts are funded has changed dramatically. It used to be much more difficult to fund complete streets projects. Twenty years ago at the MPO level, STP dollars were not flexed to go toward bike/pedestrian or transit projects.
- The shift in the way that State DOTs function has helped to advance livability efforts. Whereas State DOTs used to be highway departments that were not focused on initiatives outside of that domain, leadership has shifted to become more supportive of these efforts.
- The threat of smart growth legislation helped to motivate many local areas into demonstrating that they could manage their growth cooperatively and that mandates were not needed. The threat of legislation could potentially work for other initiatives as well. For rail in particular, the threat of legislation helped to motivate the Colorado DOT to create the Division of Transit and Rail. The Department's mission changed because of this threat, and it is transitioning away from solely focusing on moving goods and people toward an idea of supporting communities and enhancing the journey.
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 five challenges, as voted on by the participants during the dot-voting process:
- Funding tailored to projects → not solving problems from a broad-based multimodal perspective
- Measures of traffic flow → speed and capacity dominates livability considerations
- Single-minded approach to solutions → need a broader framework to meet needs
- Changing land use policy and engaging developer and private sector partnerships
- Retrofit State highways running through small communities → local capacity to initiate change
During this hour-long discussion, participants were asked to focus on identifying solutions to one of the challenge areas and answer the questions below. In doing so, participants were asked to focus on the rural area perspective and 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.
Funding tailored to projects → not solving problems from a broad-based multimodal perspective
- Fund outcomes rather than projects. One way to do this is to require corridor planning with extensive public involvements as a prerequisite to project planning. A corridor plan that is accomplished and adopted with a large amount of participation from stakeholders should then be awarded funding.
- Consider creating a new job title for something similar to a "funding concierge," a person who would look at the projects that people want to accomplish and work to apply the different funding programs so that a project can be put in place.
- Livability should be institutionalized as a given and/or primary focus and not just an add-on to a project. By starting a project with the perspective that it is an add-on, livability will always be marginalized.
- When funding is awarded for a project, the assumption is often that a complete street will be constructed. When working with stakeholder groups, it is common to only take implement what makes sense locally.
Measures of traffic flow → speed and capacity dominates livability considerations
- It is important to define a problem and not a solution. By identifying the problem and defining it clearly, it is more likely one will be able to identify the most appropriate solution. Currently, the system works to define the project first.
- There are not currently any performance measures that address livability. The performance measures are still focused on volume capacity and congestion. When capacity and congestion are the only things measured, they are the only things solved.
- There is a strong need for different metrics other than trip delay and congestion that are focused on moving people, not cars.
- There is a lack of education across the board, particularly for community leaders, engineering students and/or decisionmakers. The education flow should be increased so that people understand the concept of livability better.
- While there is a movement toward complete streets and Context-Sensitive Solutions, there is a problem of who maintains that. There have been pilots around the country to identify funding sources for these projects and examine the criteria that should be considered when awarding funding. Currently, there is a strong focus on the up-front expenditure and on trying to figure out how a project will pay for itself over the long term. There should be more of a focus on interagency solutions and on identifying cost-sharing opportunities between agencies to fund similar outcomes.
- Projects should be driven by a broad range of interests, of which transportation should be one component. When beginning the project development process, it is important to reach out beyond the partners who are traditionally involved.
- Public involvement needs to happen up front in the project development process.
- Use scenario planning.
Single-minded approach to solutions → need a broader framework to meet needs
- At the visioning level, it is important to expand the process in the early stages of the development process in order to get input from a diverse group of stakeholders. When the process is more inclusive in the beginning, it can help carry forward various values and guiding principles. It is important to bring in broad perspectives at the project level so that the scope is more inclusive at the project delivery level.
- Use communication and messaging to prevent siloed solutions. At the implementation level, use capacity building to generate broader concepts. Having common language and concepts to connect across disciplines or political differences can begin to deconstruct silos. When problems are discussed from a broad perspective at the beginning of the process, it builds ownership and buy-in so that a prescribed solution is not guaranteed.
- It is important to have an expectation of collaboration from the beginning so that the collaborative vision carries through the entire process down to the micro level and project delivery.
- Choices play an important part in the collaboration process.
- One option would be to have agency representation from a variety of agencies participate in the grant selection process.
Changing land use policy and engaging developer and private sector partnerships
- It is important to incentivize private investment, as this plays an important role for land use. Density bonuses, parking reductions, shared use agreements, allowing increased height, permitting different forms to accommodate greater density, and using tax increments or urban renewal options could be effective tools.
- Reduce risk and rezone travel corridors primarily around mixed use.
- There is a need for administrative approvals. People will not necessarily be willing to put money into projects if everything goes to one governing body, and there is only one public forum for which to comment on public projects.
- Encourage involvement from an economic development institution and/or group that would allow the articulation of a commercial vision. Many western communities have a disconnect between the suburban residential interest and all other interests. There are silos of communities where people whose interests are residential judge the commercial plan.
- Traditionally, there has been a strong focus on who wants to do business where. This should not be promoted further.
- Reach out to the private sector to see the amenities they identify as important. For example, in one community the chamber of commerce has closely identified with trails. Committing to certain modes of travel caters to particular people's interests.
- Adopting a form-based code would take us away from Euclidian zoning and would be a benefit for livability, particularly for travel and transit efficiency. County and city land use plans are often not consistent and thwart development in areas where planners may like to see it.
- There is a need for acceptance of smaller lots and higher densities. These concepts need to be communicated in a manner that suggests they are not applied in single neighborhoods, but rather across a broader community.
Retrofit State highways running through small communities → local capacity to initiate change
- Develop very distinct engineering and/or construction design guidelines that can be modified for small towns where the highway is the main street. Identify modifications so that small towns can stretch their resources and experience cost savings. Identify a flexible, tiered system that discusses these design solutions based on the type of main street and the type of small town. For example, if there is parking on a main street, there may only be one option for parking rather than considering other options.
- Work with State DOTs to help them embrace livability principles. For example, expand uses and increase the flexibility for using State monies. Many communities might be able to come up with the money to pay for plan, but often cannot pay for the engineering to implement it.
- Explore outside funds for enhancing engineering and planning. Identify whether there are outside funds that could be used from other agencies such as an economic development administration. A community could be cleared to use this money if they met grant guidelines for funding from another agency.
- Support successful hand-offs from the planning department to the engineering department to generate continuity for the project going forward.
- Educate State DOTs on the options for greater design flexibility to generate better livability projects. For example, if there is a mixed use environment, highway guidelines require certain street lighting; however, the looms might be extremely high and might create light pollution for people living in the residential context within that main street.
- Define the community more broadly to balance decisionmaking. Engage beyond transportation professionals to include a large group of stakeholders, including those involved with parks and recreation, merchants, and those who work with open space. Use a more holistic view of how the project would work together.
- Design innovation guidance for communities so that engineering staff is more engaged. Oftentimes a State DOT will approach the engineering department to request involvement, and the engineers will response that they are unable to help for various reasons. There is a need to create an environment where people are willing to be flexible and think outside of the box.
- The Colorado Department of Local Affairs has a helpful model that could be used as a toolbox for other States. In addition to the toolbox, there are some legislative initiatives on creating special improvement districts that could be included.
- Identify opportunities to create a regional transportation authority to enhance opportunities to use the funding opportunities that State DOTs have.
- Recognize that certain things that happen on our roadways are not always bad. For example, congestion indicates there is business in the community and is not necessarily a bad problem.
- Instead of always using standards, assess design innovations to FHWA guidance.
- Support more robust transportation planning.
Regional Livability Planning Strategies:
Three of the workshop participants presented on their organization's success in developing and implementing livability planning strategies at a regional level. Patrick Shea, Project Manager and Technical Transportation Specialist for the National Park Service discussed two alternative transportation projects: Zion National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. At Zion, there is a partnership effort between the gateway community and the National Park Service to generate a common solution for transporting visitors while at Mount Rainier, the National Park Service is applying corridor strategies to accomplish solutions. Elaine Clegg, a Boise City Council Representative presented on the region's livability efforts, which included using strategic planning to identify the best places to grow in the region and the best places for transit. Boise is using infill for placemaking in the region. Tom Mason from the Cheyenne MPO highlighted the regional livability efforts, which are built on Plan Cheyenne, a master plan based on various scenarios that are that are planned to work best for the community. This plan has allowed the community, for the first time, to look at how they would want the local public and private lands to be developed. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion, focusing on the key elements of their success:
- In Boise, stakeholders began talking to one another and having discussions in the same room, which enabled leadership across the valley.
- Cheyenne used a large public input program, which was very successful. This program helped demonstrate the strength that comes from tying community values to livability efforts. In addition to this program, many other initiatives were put out by the public planning agencies. The city focused on improving walkability and health impacts. For the small size of the community, they have achieved great success, including 30 miles of greenway.
- The National Park Service has been able to look beyond agency boundaries for constituent and resource support. Connections from the bottom up have lead to greater constituent involvement and people have begun to connect the dots between ongoing efforts. Organizations that are not normally in a collaborative environment are now working together, which has generated new forms and visions for the future from different participants.
- In designing their transit system, public involvement played a significant role for Boise. Over 2,000 individuals were involved from a variant of places.
- In Cheyenne, context sensitive solutions played a role in project and coordination success. The City allowed the MPO to take a center lane that was not serving a functional purpose and apply it to a sidewalk extension. The City realized it would improve pedestrian mobility and have positive safety implications. By connecting the planning efforts to local safety efforts, the MPO was able to meet theirs and the City's goals through one project. One of the keys to project success is identifying another agency's concerns and making connections between one's own concerns and the other, potential partner agency.
Harrison Rue directed each participant to turn to the person next to them and, for one minute, discuss the question: What is the single most important thing that needs to be in the primer? Selected participants shared their responses. A summary of these responses is listed below.
- Education needs to occur at the leadership level and State level about what a livable community looks like.
- Help agencies reach outside of their normal boundaries and have the necessary dialogue. Agencies need to be more informed about how to partner with new people and new entities.
- Focus on addressing the needs of emerging places, particularly rural areas that are growing, but have not yet reached the size of a city.
- Understand the objectives and techniques of a variety of stakeholders.
- Provide more information on the use of performance measures. Consider using case studies as a way to convey this information. Providing guideline-based information is very helpful, as these give practitioners ranges of possibilities rather than prescriptions for applicable. It is helpful to offer a context-based approach to solving issues.
- Work more in the planning realm among all of the different stakeholders. Recognize that there is a continuum of conversations that occur from planning through project development.
Whit Blanton from Renaissance Planning Group discussed the initial concepts for the FHWA primer on implementing livability, in which FHWA is 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 key elements of the primer, as identified through prior workshop discussions, could include the following: planning processes, including community visions and goals, integrated planning processes, technical analysis and performance measures, and plans and policies; implementation and programs; and messaging, communications, and outreach. Mr. Blanton reviewed that the primer is intended to provide some basic information that communities at all scales can apply to their local planning efforts. For this workshop in particular, participants were asked to consider the level of attention that should be devoted to discussing rural elements.
The discussion on the primer was split into an hour-long discussion on each of the key elements. Participants broke into five different groups with a mix of State, regional, local, and Federal representatives. Harrison Rue guided the discussion by breaking the discussion into two, twenty-minute segments where participants were asked to focus on particular elements and answer tailored questions about each. The first discussion focused on the following question, in the context of how they could be applied to integrated planning processes; community visions and goals; technical analysis and performance measures; and plans and policies:
- Which existing planning process should we focus on? Which ones need the most guidance?
- Which plans/processes will benefit the most from an integrated approach?
- In addition to scenario planning, what other kinds of analysis support livability?
- Which policies or programs are most effective in sparking and sustaining livability initiatives?
Following this initial discussion, Mr. Whit Blanton reviewed implementation strategies. In particular, he highlighted the value of multimodal corridors and networks, as they provide funding opportunities, leverage existing infrastructure, and can help to reduce capacity needs. When focusing on the maintenance needs of a project, livability is often a more cost effective option. To help with implementation, there is a need to address policies, guidelines, and standards so that they are appropriate to the scale at which they are being applied. The second discussion focused on the following questions, in the context of how they could be applied to implementation strategies:
- How do you most effectively bridge the gap between the plans/policies and project development/design?
- Where are the key implementation decision points?
- What interagency practices best support implementation of livable communities outcomes?
- How can the funding be better coordinated and leveraged?
Each group summarized their discussions on each of the potential key primer elements. The main points of each summary are listed below.
- The guidance should be comprehensive, as practitioners often plan in a vacuum. This is particularly true of the transportation industry.
- Education should be a primary focus, as citizens and elected officials know very little about how land use and transportation is connected. Make sure there is a strong emphasis on comprehensive planning in all of the elements discussed within the primer.
- Provide a menu of options so that the public and elected decisionmakers can use a simplified selection process for solutions. In order to implement the primer and have it spread to a broad audience, it is important that people will be motivated to read and understand it.
- Keep in mind that staff shortages are prevalent.
- Identify how the primer will be read and the intended audience.
- One of the main messages should be that, in the long run, the livability approach is worth it.
- Focus on scenario planning.
- Leverage ongoing activities in other agencies to achieve broader objectives. For example, consider approaching a utility company to partner on a project in the beginning stages of the project development process.
- Provide a checklist of attributes that are specific to livability (e.g. pedestrian circulation and safety). Develop a matrix that captures this information. With a matrix, people can check off the components they have considered already and then identify what they are missing. This matrix should include web links on where to find information so that people can access resources.
- Note that there is a need for a new job title—someone who brokers funding resources and brings together the financing for livability projects. Multiple agencies have different views on livability, and it is helpful to have someone who understands the differences.
- Stress the importance of identifying a leader—someone who will take risks and pushes ideas forward.
- Planning is not enough—there is a need for mechanisms that will put these ideas into action.
- Develop a standard set of codes so that developers are aware of design standards when implementing projects. It is helpful when a project is predictable for an investor.
- Provide guidance on how to get started, as people get overwhelmed with the process. This guidance could be something as simple as, begin implementing and build priorities from there. Provide simple guidance that people can use to get started.
- Highlight catalyst developments where a central, focal point is used to be the starting point for future efforts. In a very small town, it is important to have a project like this. For rural areas, the main street is often the community's best asset, and be used to build off.
- Highlight the benefits of using public private partnerships.
- Discuss how to engage nontraditional partners to cultivate champions. It is important to have diverse activists to work together. Sometimes, if there are only one or two people dominating a project, it is helpful to bring in other parties to help balance the discussion and make it more objective.
- Take an offensive approach to outreach and marketing. Getting the right people involved from the beginning can help with this strategy.
- Planning process
- Emphasize the public stakeholder planning process. Describe how an agency would get to the right people. Provide examples of agencies and/or entities who should be involved. Note when to get these groups involved, as there may be certain times when it is more appropriate or inappropriate to get a stakeholder involved.
- Stress the importance of being detailed in outreach plans.
- Babysitting services can be helpful in motivating and allowing members of the public to attend public involvement sessions.
- Coordinate education efforts so that different messages are not floating around. With a road project, for example, it can be difficult to figure out how to combine the messages so that everyone is on the same page.
- Use visual preference studies, and include a description of the context and tradeoffs of the impacts. Visualization is very important for small communities, as it enables planners to describe why certain strategies work and the context that helps make projects more successful.
- Highlight scenarios that are tied to metrics (e.g. Envision Utah). Readers will want to see statistics that can connect benefits with cost and hold planners accountable.
- Stress the importance of having consistency between plans.
- Implementation strategies
- Ensure the budget reflects the plan, and vice versa to ensure accountability. Beyond having a great plan, it is important to be able to implement the plan.
- Develop performance measures tied to livability.
- Planning Process
- The primer should provide an organizational framework as to how planning can be implemented in a variety of geographic settings. There is concern that small towns that do not have an MPO will be at a disadvantage to achieve some of the livability goals, and the guidebook should cater to these areas as well.
- Provide tools to help areas establish a vision and explore potential concepts through the various steps of the public engagement process. These tools could include charrettes and workshops.
- Coordinate tools and strategies to highlight other focus areas like economic development. It is important to quantify livability for people who are focused on the bottom line.
- Identify tools that can be used by multiple types of rural areas. For example, tools tailored to those areas that are second home communities as compared to those areas that go through boom and bust economies.
- In addition to discussing cost/benefit analyses of livability, provide a focused conversation on quality of life issues, as this is very important when talking with the public and decisionmakers. Storytelling can help demonstrate the importance of livability issues from a quality of life perspective.
- Deemphasize congestion in the project and funding prioritization process. It is important that reducing congestion is not the most important goal of a livability project from the onset.
- Implementation Strategies
- Identifying someone who can be a catalyst for a project is very helpful for implementation, as this person can instigate the process for change and encourage the institutionalization of different types of livability concepts.
- Examine possibilities for reallocating local transportation funding to support livability. Projects that address multiple focuses should be highlighted.
- Leverage and direct public investments to align and/or complement planning efforts. Look at bringing in multiple agencies to work on a project in order to collaborate and get a bigger bang for the buck.
- Identify how to incorporate livability into the project prioritization continuum, through to when the projects are included into a plan.
- Flexibility is important. Particularly when dealing with legacy projects, many investments may not be representative of livability and could be altered to incorporate livability principles. Currently, it is difficult to change these projects without changing the TIP or the overall program.
- Provide a matrix for messaging and communication so that users can draw on key messages when having conversations with different audiences.
- Focus on the regional Long Range Plan and the importance of having a diverse group of stakeholders. Within this discussion, highlight the cyclical nature of the plan and how this can be helpful for linking it with comprehensive plans. Note that the regional plan can also be used to elevate local needs to a higher level.
- Make multimodal data readily available so that practitioners are not constantly asked to justify the need for livability. Currently, it is easy to collect data on the number of vehicles, but it is much more difficult to find data on other modes. The lack of data makes it difficult to justify support for advancing multimodal efforts.
- Provide a cost/benefit analysis as relates to livability. Discuss the positive impact that livability investments have on the market, and how these investments pay for themselves in the long term.
- Highlight the importance of having a leader or a champion in an institution. It is not helpful when no one is in charge. Practitioners should understand the importance of starting to identify and institutionalize a champion for livability.
- Highlight the importance of including design and investment perspectives in the project decisionmaking process. These perspectives need to be solicited so that they can be institutionalized and drawn upon year after year.
- Planning Process
- Provide information on how to guide on visioning and scenario planning. Within this discussion, highlight the importance of involving the business perspective as well as others so that the process is driven by an integrated approach. While it is important to recognize that a lot of information is already in existence, users need to understand where to access this information.
- Discuss the role of economic impacts in the decisionmaking process, particularly as it relates to transportation projects. Consider return on investment, potential impacts on the tax base, maintenance costs, and infrastructure construction costs. Provide tools that users can draw on to help ensure that economic considerations are included in the process.
- Note the importance of having local buy-in from the business community for livability projects.
- As there is a significant amount of data and information available, discuss those aspects on which users should focus for the livability discussion. Given that livability crosses a range of issues, it can be difficult to corral this information together and translate it into an output that is meaningful for the decisionmaking process.
- Implementation Strategies
- Stress the importance of making communication and collaboration a continuous process throughout the entire decisionmaking process, and one that is inclusive of all stakeholders. During the beginning of the process, it is important to have buy-in from a variety of people. In order to do so, the decisions and visions should make sense to all of those involved. Maintaining communication efforts throughout the process enables community engagement throughout the process, which increases the likelihood of project success.
- Highlight accountability and the need to make sure those things are consistent throughout the process so that the values that the community established at the beginning are present at implementation. There is often a disconnect in bringing the vision through to the end of the process. One way to ensure continuity is by incorporating performance measures that are tied to the values and goals that motivated the process initially.
- In particular, the Federal government needs to incorporate accountability to ensure that project processes are consistent.
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, and assuming an engaging public involvement process, 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?
A summary of the participants' discussion is captured below.
- Visioning is very effective in securing project buy-in, as residents are able to see what is meant by the terminology. Particularly for transportation planning, it can be difficult for residents to imagine the proposed result. One of the challenges with using this process is that it is very expensive, and therefore may not be a feasible option for rural areas. It would be helpful if visioning tools were more widely available, such as through a home office program that could be licensed out inexpensively to small towns.
- Develop an accessible photo library with descriptive captions that practitioners could drawn upon when discussing livability. It would be helpful to have photos showing different typologies and the different contexts so that there are readily available options to tell the livability story.
- There is a need for economic data to help support the conversation. This need is even more pressing now that people are so focused on the economy. The data should focus in particular on the economic benefits (e.g. overall economy, tax base, business development) that result from implementing various livability projects. Local residents and business owners are very concerned about the answers to these questions and providing real examples is helpful in demonstrating the benefits.
- Develop a framework for looking at different options and identifying what the multipliers on some of the different decisions might be.
- Develop a set of basic metrics that are officially approved by FHWA or the Partnership. Gathering these metrics takes a very long time, but if this information was readily available, it could be used in preliminary discussions with community and elected officials when discussing project benefits.
- This information could be made available through a clearinghouse and/or through a fact sheet that lists economic benefits.
- Examples of useful metrics include:
- Main street revitalization benefits
- By building a $5 million project, X number of people will be employed on average
- Percentage of population that drives for one to two mile trips, and the associated economic advantage of providing bicycle facilities.
- Cost/benefit analysis for infrastructure investments.
- Provide tools that support scenario planning. In order to keep a project moving forward, it is helpful to use scenario planning to adjust the project as needed and keep the project moving forward.
- Demonstrate how livability responds to the market and the demographics. Oftentimes the decisionmakers involved in market decisions have a very traditional point of view and are resistant to changing their practices to incorporate livability concerns. These decisionmakers often say that people do not want communities that incorporate livability, and that livability is not in line with the market. Research points in a different direction and it would be helpful to have information readily available about these demographic trends to help have this conversation.
- If the primer is directed to all audiences and constituencies, stories must be included in order to capture the segment of the audience that is not familiar with the technical language. These stories could be included in the sidebars and could include examples of community diversity in project implementation.
- Throughout the primer, indicate where Federal agencies may play a role and be involved. It is often a struggle for Federal partners to know where to enter the process, as they want to be helpful, but do not want to be too involved.
- YouTube videos can be very effective for messaging. For example, Congress for the New Urbanism created an upbeat video called "Sprawlanta" that discussed a mixed use project downtown. Similar videos could be used to show to a steering committee or planning council to help convey the message in a fun way with which people would connect.
- Social media is often underutilized for livability projects. The social media network is extremely powerful in connecting to people—particularly young generations. By tailoring messages appropriately, younger generations can be engaged so that they feel a part of the process and are excited about the outcome.
- More clearly identify the format of the primer, as it is currently unknown whether it will be a website or a published book.
- Consider changing the term "primer," as it is a very traditional word that does not make evoke engaging thoughts.
- Websites are very effective tools. Even just a simple website is a good way to share information.
- Most of the transportation engineering standards and standardized plans are aimed at urban areas and are not useful for rural areas. For example, many small towns have unpaved roads where sidewalks, street edges, and stormwater gutters are not applicable. The engineering standards and planning efforts do not apply to these places. It is important to identify real, practical, low-cost, environmentally friendly solutions that work for these rural areas.
- Develop a matrix that practitioners can use to identify different design treatments for various roadway typologies. Particularly for rural areas, it would be helpful to have solutions that communities of different sizes could easily apply to their community.
Closing and Next Steps:
To finish the day, the ICF facilitators 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.
Lucy Garliauskas thanked everyone for coming. She highlighted that the main goal of the Partnership effort is to promote a new way of thinking about how problems are defined and how practitioners arrive at solutions. This new approach relies heavily on interagency collaboration and involvement. To help advance livability efforts, US DOT has been working to characterize the benefits of livability by gathering statistics and by developing performance measures that help demonstrate these benefits. Ms. Garliauskas reviewed the categories of statistics on which US DOT is focusing: 1) making the case for livability—emphasizing that sustainable communities are in demand; 2) sustainable communities reduce costs for households; 3) benefits to growing regional economies; 4) increase in home value; and 5) increase in health choices. She also highlighted some research efforts that support each of these benefits. This information will ultimately be posted on the USDOT livability partnership website.
In general, workshop participants reviewed the workshop favorably. The facilitators altered the afternoon format for the "Regional Livability Planning Strategies" discussion so that there were two, twenty-minute small group discussion segments rather than four, fifteen-minute discussion segments. This was the most significant format change from the Sacramento, CA workshop. Regarding the workshop focus, one participant noted that they did not feel well prepared to discuss rural issues and would have enjoyed more notice and guidance about the workshop focus. To help with the rural discussion, one participant requested greater representation from small towns. In addition, two participants requested more of a presence from HUD and EPA as workshop participants to help emphasize the Partnership goals and to balance the high representation from transportation professionals. A number of participants noted that the discussion was very high level and it would have been helpful to narrow the focus. Particularly for the small breakout sessions, some of the participants felt that there was limited guidance and they would have benefited from clearer guidance and desired outcomes. Particularly for the primer discussion, participants were unclear on the task with which they had been provided and the desired outcome from the facilitators. A number of participants requested more peer-to-peer exchange and an opportunity to share stories and experiences.
||Wasatch Front Regional Council
||City of Cheyenne, WY
||City of Billings, MT
||Regional Transportation District
||Pikes Peak Council of Governments
||Denver Public Works
||City of Cheyenne, WY
||City of Boise, ID City Council
||Denver Regional COG
||City of Casper, WY MPO
||City of Wheat Ridge, CO
||Denver Regional COG
|Kristen Keener Busby
||City of Cheyenne, WY
||City and County of Missoula, MT
||Salt Lake City Planning Division
||Boise City Planning and Development Services
||Regional Transportation District
||McKibben + Cooper Architects/Urban Design
||Boulder County Commissioner & DRCOG Board Member
||FHWA – Colorado Division Office
||FHWA – Colorado Division Office
||FTA – Region 8
|Guadalupe M. Herrera
||FHWA – Wyoming Division Office
||FHWA – Colorado Division Office
||FHWA – Central Federal Lands
||FHWA – Headquarters
||National Park Service
||HUD – Region 8
||FHWA – Headquarters
||FHWA – Central Federal Lands
||FHWA – Utah Division Office
||Renaissance Planning Group
Livability Examples Provided by Denver 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.
- Wasatch Front Regional Council, "Wasatch Choices 2040," http://www.wasatchchoice2040.com/.
- Missoula County, "Envision Missoula" (2008), http://www.co.missoula.mt.us/transportation/lrtpu1.htm.
- City of Boulder, "Transit Village Area Plan," https://www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/transit-village-area-plan-1-201304181551.pdf.
- FasTracks (Denver, Colorado), Transit-Oriented Development Policy, http://www.rtd-fastracks.com/main_45.
- "RTD expands role in TOD with focus on 'communities'" (article sent by Patrick McLaughlin via email)
- East Billings, Urban Renewal District," http://ci.billings.mt.us/index.aspx?NID=843.
- City of Tucson Department of Transportation
- Colorado Department of Transportation
- Cheyenne MPO, "PlanCheyenne," http://www.plancheyenne.com/welcome.cfm.
- City of Boulder Livability Initiatives, Land Use Department, http://www.bouldercounty.org/government/dept/pages/landusemain.aspx.
- Countywide Intergovernmental Agreement set Urban Growth Boundaries around every community
- Boulder County Comprehensive Plan
- Strong use of performance measures
- Denver Regional Council of Governments
- National Park Service, Alternative Transportation Projects
- Boise, Idaho Region