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Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Program Third-Year Report


3. Accomplishments and Lessons Learned

The TCSP First-Year Accomplishments Report identified six types of benefits resulting from the TCSP program:

  1. Encouraging innovation in planning and implementation practices;
  2. Creating partnerships among a broad range of public, private, and non-traditional groups;
  3. Leveraging opportunities by adding value to larger projects;
  4. Strengthening the transportation planning process at all levels;
  5. Building the knowledge base on successful strategies for achieving TCSP goals; and
  6. Demonstrating results that will help other communities develop successful strategies.

These benefits are affecting transportation planning in a way that works towards TCSP’s objectives: to improve the efficiency of the transportation system; reduce the environmental impacts of transportation; reduce the need for costly future public infrastructure investments; ensure efficient access to jobs, services, and centers of trade; and affect private-sector development patterns to achieve these goals. The innovations and accomplishments of TCSP projects are resulting in effective practices that can be applied in transportation planning nationwide. This Third-Year Report takes a fresh look at the impacts TCSP projects are having in each of these areas, and how they are developing effective practices for transportation planning.

Innovation

The TCSP program, first and foremost, is intended to be a demonstration program designed to stimulate new and innovative activities. A review of TCSP projects undertaken to date suggests that the "pilot" aspect of TCSP has indeed encouraged a willingness to experiment and develop new ideas. TCSP projects are demonstrating innovative practices in a variety of ways: by addressing a broader range of issues in transportation planning; focusing attention on the relationships between transportation and development patterns; shifting the mix of projects that are considered and funded; introducing innovations to transportation and community design; and developing new planning tools.

Addressing a broader range of issues. TCSP projects are leading to greater acknowledgment of a broad range of issues to be considered in the planning and design of transportation facilities and services. In particular, many TCSP projects are working to balance mobility needs with environmental quality and community livability. A regional visioning project in Salt Lake City, Utah has developed indicators not only of transportation conditions, but also of air quality, water supply, infrastructure costs, and agricultural and open space land conversion resulting from future transportation and land use scenarios. Watershed-based projects in suburban Illinois and rural Pennsylvania are developing road design and land development standards that will minimize environmental impacts resulting from road widenings and will preserve environmental resources in the face of increased development.

While environmental impacts have been addressed for many years in transportation planning, especially at the project planning level, TCSP projects are introducing these issues earlier in the planning process and addressing them in a more comprehensive manner. In Riverside County, California, the Community and Environmental Transportation Acceptability Process (CETAP) is an effort to identify and preserve transportation right-of-ways that will not only serve future transportation and development needs, but also minimize impacts on sensitive habitats and preserve valuable open space. In addition to addressing technical issues, CETAP project participants have placed a strong emphasis on process, especially on creating dialogue between neighboring counties. The project's involvement of a wide range of stakeholders early in the process allows transportation and environmental issues, concerns, and needs to be raised and discussed from the beginning.

"Through the CETAP process, county planning boundaries have begun to dissolve and a better understanding of the interdependency and regional focus of transportation planning has emerged."

- Cathy Bechtel,
Director of Planning and Programming,
Riverside County Transportation Commission

Attention to transportation and development relationships. Many TCSP projects are focusing greater attention on the relationships between transportation and development patterns. Development patterns affect transportation demand, while conversely, transportation improvements affect the location of development. Yet there is often a "disconnect" between transportation and land use planning: major transportation improvements are planned at a regional-level, while land use decisions are made locally. To address this disconnect, planners in a seven-county region surrounding Lexington, Kentucky are developing strategies and conducting outreach to coordinate transportation and land use policies among jurisdictions in the region. A project in Clark County, Washington is working to develop strategies that balance the sometimes conflicting objectives of transportation concurrency requirements - which restrict development based on local transportation capacity - with growth management - the desire to steer growth into existing developed areas and limit urban sprawl.

Focus on TCSP Objectives:
Improving the Efficiency of the Transportation System

In the Greater Wasatch region of northern Utah, a public-private partnership known as Envision Utah is studying the effects of long-term growth in the region and is developing strategies to address growth-related issues. FY 1999 and 2000 TCSP grants totaling $630,000 are supporting this effort. Through a series of GIS-based modeling systems, Envision Utah participants analyzed the transportation efficiency, land use, air quality, water use, and infrastructure cost implications of alternative regional transportation and land use scenarios. Four combination transportation/land use scenarios were compared, and the findings from this initial comparison were used to develop a final "Quality Growth Scenario."

Photograph showing the Salt Lake City skyline set against the backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains.
Salt Lake City, Utah
(Courtesy of Envision Utah)

The Envision Utah project investigated how transportation system performance varied depending upon land development and transportation investment patterns. Compared to a "baseline" scenario with trend development patterns and supporting infrastructure, the Quality Growth Scenario included an expanded transit system, a higher proportion of multi-family housing and small-lot homes, and greater clustering of new housing in villages and towns along major roads and rail lines. Measures of transportation system efficiency included vehicle miles of travel (VMT), average peak-hour travel speeds, average trip times, and access to transit.

Transportation modeling for the Quality Growth Scenario showed a reduction of 2.4 million vehicle miles of travel per day or 3.0 percent relative to the baseline. At the same time, average speeds increased by 12.5 percent and commute times declined by 5.2 percent. This improvement in mobility came with a reduction in infrastructure costs compared to the baseline scenario. The Quality Growth Scenario included a reduction in regional road spending of approximately $3.5 billion and an increase in transit spending of $1.5 billion, for a net savings of $2.0 billion for transportation infrastructure. The Quality Growth Scenario also was estimated to achieve further savings of $2.5 billion from reduced water, sewer, and utility infrastructure costs due to more compact development patterns.

After analyzing the impacts of future scenarios, Envision Utah participants developed an implementation plan known as the Quality Growth Strategy and are working to promote this strategy throughout the region. Implementing the Quality Growth Strategy will help the region to improve the efficiency of its transportation system, and will significantly reduce the costs of transportation and other infrastructure required to support future growth and development.

Quality Growth Strategy
Transportation Impacts
Bar chart showing transportation impacts of the Quality Growth Strategy as evaluated in the Envision Utah project.

Shifting the mix of projects. There is a growing sense in communities throughout America that while maintaining highway mobility is important, we can no longer "build" our way out of traffic congestion. At the same time, people believe that greater attention to alternative modes such as transit, walking, and bicycling can help reduce the demand on our highway system and make for more pleasant and livable communities. An innovative project in Denver, Colorado, for example, is enhancing the city's historic Union Station to include a neighborhood electric vehicle hub, a full-service bicycle station, and local trolley service. The project will create additional transportation alternatives for a rapidly growing residential community, an established entertainment district, and the region's most concentrated employment center.

TCSP projects in locations such as Anchorage, Alaska; Tempe, Arizona; Washington, D.C.; Omaha, Nebraska; and Arlington County, Virginia are developing and implementing streetscape, pedestrian, and bikeway improvements to make urban neighborhoods more attractive to walking, bicycling, and transit use. Bus and rail transit hubs are the focus of projects in El Segundo, California; Raton, New Mexico; Providence, Rhode Island; and Morgantown, West Virginia. Often, these projects are intended not only to improve the quality of transit service, but to serve as a catalyst for economic revitalization in the surrounding neighborhood.

Design innovations. A number of State DOTs are beginning to apply "context-sensitive design" principles, which recognize that road standards such as curve radii, design speeds, and lane widths may need to vary to better allow the road to fit the character of the community through which it passes. Projects in Mono County, California; Centreville, Delaware; and Cleveland, Ohio are grappling with high-traffic roads running through community centers, and are investigating design changes that can improve safety and pedestrian friendliness while still maintaining traffic flow. Other projects have addressed the design and integration of transit and pedestrian facilities into a neighborhood. New Jersey Transit (NJT) is working with community partners to make New Jersey towns more "transit friendly," by building on NJT's initiatives to make train stations themselves "passenger friendly" as well as on statewide "smart growth" initiatives to reduce sprawl and encourage new development within walking distance of transit stations. TCSP is making an important link between the fields of transportation engineering and city planning by introducing insights gained by urban design professionals (into the design of transportation facilities) such as elements that make a public space attractive, or features that encourage people to walk.

New planning tools. TCSP is helping to introduce a new generation of analytical tools; especially those that link transportation with development and growth, and the use of simplified rather than highly complex and detailed modeling systems. Quantitative models are being developed in Gainesville, Florida and the Willamette Valley region of Oregon to predict the impacts of development patterns on transportation demand and traffic conditions. GIS-based decision support tools are being applied in San Diego, California; Concord, New Hampshire; Charleston, South Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Madison, Wisconsin to provide indicators of a range of transportation, community, and environmental impacts of alternative development patterns. These models are increasing our ability to understand the future impacts of transportation and development scenarios. Furthermore, these GIS-based models present information in a graphical way that can be readily understood. As a result, agency planning staff, elected officials, and the public become more informed and are better able to understand the implications of particular decisions for their community.

TCSP projects in Lexington, Kentucky; Lansing, Michigan; and Charlestown, South Carolina are utilizing visual preference surveys to assess peoples' preferences for alternative growth patterns. "Best practices" approaches to transportation and land development policy are being assembled in Kansas City, Missouri; Hartford, Connecticut; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Perhaps just as important as the development of these tools is how they are being used to enhance planning. TCSP projects have emphasized public involvement approaches that include more extensive and earlier involvement, so that people can use these tools to help understand the impacts of current choices on the future of their community. Furthermore, many of the TCSP projects are producing their findings on the Internet or CD-ROM, so that other communities can benefit from their knowledge.

Modeling techniques have not focused solely on urban issues. Other examples of new analysis methods include a rural traffic shed analysis approach to assess development capacity and transportation needs near Little Rock, Arkansas. This approach allows rural communities to balance development with transportation capacity. In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will be able to use a GIS-based tribal roads management system to track the location and condition of roads, related infrastructure, and development served and to select and implement projects. It also will assist with economic development in this economically disadvantaged area, by allowing the tribe to map and describe to potential businesses where there is good road access. Other tribal governments in western States have expressed an interest in implementing similar GIS-based management systems.

Screen shot of the PLACE3S model showing redevelopment potential of parcels in the Mid-City neighborhood of San Diego.
Screen shot of the PLACE3S model applied in the
Mid-City Neighborhood of San Diego, California.
Shading indicates the redevelopment potential
of individual land parcels.
(Courtesy of California Energy Commission)

Partnerships

One particular innovation promoted by the TCSP program is the creation of new public and private partnerships, especially with non-traditional partners. "Non-traditional" partners involved in TCSP projects include non-profit organizations, community groups, environmental organizations, representatives of the development community, and universities. While some of these groups have had previous involvement in transportation planning, they have not always been a regular and integral part of the project selection and design process. TCSP projects have focused on involving non- traditional partners from an earlier stage of the process, and in a more systematic manner.

The benefits of partnerships. TCSP partnerships are helping link transportation and community preservation in many ways. The formation of partnerships can help build consensus by bringing together groups with different viewpoints to discuss common visions and solutions. For communities discussing alternative transportation investment and land development scenarios, outreach to developers, financial institutions, and real estate professionals is critical. Forming partnerships across geographic boundaries is instrumental to discussing regional issues and solutions. Non-traditional partners also can help broaden the range and depth of issues considered in transportation planning. Community development organizations, for example, can identify needs such as access to affordable housing or catalytic investment to spur economic revitalization; while environmental groups can help identify key environmental concerns and mitigation approaches before a project has reached the design stage. Finally, partnerships can help integrate the needs of business and industry with transportation and community concerns - facilitating goods movement, access to jobs, and economic development.

According to people interviewed for this report, one of the most significant benefits of the competitive grant application process is that it has prompted people to form partnerships with agencies and groups with whom they would not normally interact. Many of these partnerships, awkward at first, have since led to unexpected benefits. Hartford's TCSP project provides an example of these benefits. Two separate FY 1999 applications - one submitted by the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) on regional growth issues, and the other by the City of Hartford on behalf of Parkville neighborhood groups - were combined when the agencies involved realized that both applications were not likely to be accepted. Parkville was selected to serve as one of three "prototype" urban, suburban, and rural communities in CRCOG's regional project. Parkville neighborhood representatives, the City of Hartford, and CRCOG have since established a collaborative working relationship praised by all participants for the level of responsibility given to the neighborhood in helping plan local transportation improvements.

"Because of the TCSP project, we have a better understanding of transportation issues. . . we as a neighborhood are able to take part in what is happening within the neighborhood."

- Joe Langlais, Chair,
Parkville Community Association,
Hartford, CT

The type of collaborative approach exemplified in Hartford can require a considerable amount of time and effort, as well as committed leadership, to maintain. But in Hartford's situation, it also has led to what neighborhood representatives, the city, and CRCOG all agree to be a deeper understanding of planning issues and better planning outcomes. Some of these outcomes have included the redesign of a Connecticut DOT busway station and a new gas station to better integrate with their urban surroundings, as well as pedestrian and traffic calming to make the neighborhood safer and more walkable. Other TCSP grantees have reached similar conclusions: involving a broader range of interests requires time and effort, but pays off in the long run with greater buy-in and better outcomes.

Involving "non-traditional" players. A wide range of groups throughout the country have expressed interest in TCSP. These groups include smaller agencies of local government and organizations traditionally less involved in transportation planning. The result has been to broaden the range of interests that are taking part in the transportation planning process. For example, the National Congress for Community Economic Development (NCCED), which represents 3,600 community development organizations throughout the country, has noted widespread interest in the TCSP program among its members. Outreach by NCCED and the U.S. DOT on the TCSP program has broadened the understanding of the metropolitan transportation planning process among community development organizations, along with their understanding of the potential community benefits of appropriate transportation investment. These organizations, which serve predominantly urban, low income, and often minority communities, view the types of projects funded through TCSP as improving pedestrian and transit mobility in their neighborhoods and providing a catalyst for economic redevelopment - a change from the effects of many past transportation investments on urban neighborhoods.

The involvement of community and economic development organizations also has benefited transportation agencies by providing expertise related to the development of land around transportation facilities. In the Philadelphia region, the Delaware Valley Community Reinvestment Fund - the leading non-profit community development financial institution in the region - has partnered with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to provide its expertise in developing a Location Efficient Mortgage program. This program recognizes that people who choose to live in a transit- and pedestrian-accessible neighborhood will not need to own a car or will drive less, and applies the savings in these expenses towards home ownership.

Facilitating dialogue. The "disconnect" between regional transportation planning and local community planning can be a particular challenge when there are tens or even hundreds of local jurisdictions with responsibility for land use, along with regional, State, and national transportation and environmental agencies interested in specific aspects of each project. A number of TCSP projects, especially those funded in FY 1999, have led to new and expanded partnerships among MPOs, local jurisdictions, community groups, and the business community to address issues of "smart growth," livability, and urban sprawl. Examples of such projects span a wide range of areas - including Phoenix, Arizona; Houston, Texas; Boise, Idaho; New Orleans, Louisiana; Lansing, Michigan; Kansas City, Missouri; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Charlottesville, Virginia. Project sponsors in each of these areas hope that an open dialogue will be the first step in developing mutually beneficial policies and practices among the separate agencies and jurisdictions.

MPOs have a strong interest in these issues, because of the transportation implications of regional development patterns. At the same time, they realize that regional growth patterns are affected not just by transportation investments but by land use policies made at the local level. TCSP funds have assisted MPOs in bringing together all of the actors involved in local land use decision-making - including local jurisdictions, developers, and the general public - to discuss the benefits and impacts of alternative forms of growth from a regional perspective.

Early experiences from these projects indicate that the process of establishing partnerships and dialogue at a regional-level can be slow and painful, but nevertheless extremely valuable in the long run. In Raleigh-Durham and Salt Lake City, efforts initiated in the mid-1990s have paid off through changes to local land development practices. The City of Durham, for example, has established a Transit-Oriented Development/ Compact Neighborhood Overlay District, and two new traditional neighborhood development projects are now being built consistent with this code. In these neighborhoods, changes to design practices compared to suburban-style development will make walking, bicycling, and transit service more viable while reducing land consumption, the loss of open space, and environmental impacts. Raleigh-Durham's TCSP project is helping to spread these innovations to other cities in the region. In the Salt Lake City area, local planners are now approaching the Envision Utah project team and asking them to review their comprehensive plans for consistency with "quality growth" principles. Project sponsors in other areas know that similar changes will not occur overnight, but they are firmly convinced that the only way such change ever will happen is through regional dialogue. In many areas of the country, alternatives (such as a State requirement to establish an urban growth boundary) currently are viewed as politically difficult or infeasible to achieve.

"Partnerships and inter-jurisdictional cooperation are the main ingredients of lasting solutions. Establishing and maintaining these partnerships takes hard work, sweat, and political capital. But we are spending that capital on Smart Growth."

- Brent Coles, Mayor,
Boise, Idaho

Leadership from the private sector. TCSP projects also are resulting in successful partnerships between transportation organizations and the business and real estate development communities. In many areas, private interests have actually played a lead role in initiating and implementing the TCSP projects. The private sector is frequently skeptical of change at first, but in many areas there is an increasing realization of the need to "do" transportation and development differently.

TCSP projects in Houston, Fort Worth, New Orleans, San Diego, and Salt Lake City are examples where involvement from the business community has been strong. In Houston, participants have focused on redeveloping the Main Street Corridor, the historic commercial core of the region. While the City of Houston is the sponsoring agency for the project, a group of local businesses and property owners initiated redevelopment activities in the corridor. The private initiative encouraged the city to form a private-public coalition with the objectives of promoting housing and commercial development; incorporating transit, pedestrian, and roadway improvements; and coordinating the design of development in such a way as to create vibrant public as well as private spaces. TCSP-related objectives for this project include not only to revitalize the area but also to create transit and pedestrian-accessible development in the region's core, as an alternative to sprawling development on the urban fringe. TCSP funds have supported the development of a master plan for the corridor as well as pilot implementation projects to improve pedestrian linkages among neighborhoods.

Focus on TCSP Objectives:
Involving the Private Sector

Motivations for private-sector involvement in transportation and land use planning vary. In some settings, such as older urban neighborhoods of Hartford, Houston, Providence, and San Diego, business owners see public investment in transportation and community infrastructure as a catalyst for private redevelopment. In Laurel, Montana, a town of 6,500 near Billings, the ideas generated by a TCSP project motivated a group of downtown business people to form the Laurel Revitalization League. The League has raised over $100,000 to renovate a vacant lot in the core of downtown and to start other downtown redevelopment projects.

In other settings, such as the Greater Wasatch region of northern Utah, businesses see growth pressures as affecting the region's quality of life, thereby threatening the same growth that has increased their prosperity. Their goal is not to shut off growth, but rather to accommodate it in a manner that preserves mobility as well as community and environmental quality. Businesses in New Orleans also fear "sprawl," but for a different reason: they are concerned that continued out-migration from the city, leading to a further decline of urban neighborhoods, will undermine New Orleans' attractiveness as a tourist destination, threatening their primary economic base. These concerns have motivated the business community to contribute $250,000 to the development of "sustainability indicators" for the region - multiplying the initially modest $50,000 proposed for this effort in New Orleans' TCSP application.

Even where members of the business community are convinced of the need to change practices, the challenge remains of reaching out to the others who actually make development happen - developers and financiers. Developers and financiers are traditionally reluctant to consider new and untested patterns for commercial or residential development. The responsiveness of the development community to new ideas varies from region to region. TCSP project sponsors in Boise and Kansas City note that most commercial development is undertaken by small-scale developers without an umbrella organization. They have had more success involving residential developers in discussions, primarily through homebuilders' associations. Project sponsors in Hartford, in contrast, note that commercial developers have been receptive to ideas such as "town center" - style development (instead of suburban plazas), but that residential developers are skeptical that people will buy anything except a "single-family home on a one-acre lot."

One way of demonstrating that "alternatives" to established practice are marketable and profitable is to sponsor a market study. The Mid America Council of Governments in Kansas City, Missouri included a "cost of development" study in its TCSP project to assess the costs of alternative development proposals for specific sites. In Salt Lake City, the Envision Utah project has conduced a market study for future housing demand. The study found that while single-family housing was expected to continue to predominate, the share of demand for multi-family housing would increase beyond projections, increasing the potential feasibility of transit-oriented development (TOD).

Developers appear most receptive to change in high- growth areas with limited land, favorable policies, and existing or committed transit infrastructure. One example is Seattle, where following a 10-year period of regional commitments to transit and local commitments to zoning changes in station areas, the development community has turned from being skeptical of TOD to actually initiating many TOD proposals.

Photograph of the Metropolitan Place in downtown Renton, Washington. It is a four-story building shown under construction.
The Metropolitan Place in downtown Renton, Washington,
across from the newly expanded Renton Transit Center.
(Courtesy of King County Planning Department)

State DOT involvement. One of the most challenging tasks, especially for cities, counties, and community organizations, has been to fully involve the State DOT in the community-level aspects of a project. A number of TCSP projects involve settings in which the goal of providing traffic mobility appears, at first glance, to conflict with the goal of preserving and enhancing the local community environment. What happens, for example, when a State highway with ever-growing traffic volumes runs through a small town center? Is the road widened, is the town bypassed, or is traffic slowed and pedestrian improvements implemented? The challenge faced by State DOTs and local transportation agencies has been to find the balance between traditional highway design solutions and new creative alternatives. Delaware DOT, for example, agreed to an island gateway with landscaping at the entrance to Centreville, "marking" the border between country and village, and causing traffic to slow down before entering.

When controlling traffic is infeasible, communities have considered land use instead of transportation design alternatives. For example, a conceptual plan for Starr, Idaho, re-orients the business district perpendicular to and one block off of the State highway - providing good visibility and access to passing traffic, yet preserving the commercial district as a low-speed, walkable area.

Conceptual sketch aerial view of a two-lane road as it crosses from the countryside to the village. Landscaping and pavement markings denote the entry to the village.
Concept for a State route entryway to Centreville, Delaware.
Landscaping and pavement markings delineate the boundary between
countryside and village, encouraging traffic to reduce speed.
(Courtesy Wilmington Area Planning Commission)

Leveraging Resources

Consistent with the focus on creating partnerships is the practice of combining funding from a number of different sources. TCSP funding is not sufficient, by itself, to implement new transportation-related community preservation practices nationwide, or in many cases even to completely cover the entire project cost within an individual area. TCSP funding does, however, permit the pilot testing of new transportation approaches as part of larger community development initiatives, and is being used by applicants to leverage other public and private moneys. As a result, many TCSP grants support a particularly innovative portion of a larger project. Project funds most commonly have been contributed by the MPO; city or county; other Federal highway and transit programs such as Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Transportation Enhancements, and Livable Communities; and local businesses. In some cases, grants have added value to activities that also are funded through sources such as EPA grants or Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants. The opportunity to mix funds from different sources has led to projects that cover many different issue areas - for example, transportation, housing, economic development, and the environment - rather than addressing just one area in isolation.

"TCSP funds have been instrumental in helping us undertake the Envision Utah project."

-Kristin Thompson, Governor's Office
of Planning and Budget, Utah

Promoting Smart Growth and livable communities. Many of the efforts that TCSP funds have supported can be described as part of the emerging "Smart Growth" movement. Smart Growth objectives include reusing previously-developed land and infrastructure whenever possible through infill and redevelopment; limiting suburban "sprawl" and designing both existing and new communities to be more accessible to pedestrian, bicycle, and transit travel. These objectives coincide with TCSP's objectives of reducing infrastructure costs and environmental impacts. Other Federal programs related to Smart Growth include FHWA's Transportation Enhancements program, FTA's Livable Communities initiative, EPA and HUD grants for brownfields cleanup and redevelopment, and HUD programs to rehabilitate and create new affordable housing in urban neighborhoods. These have complemented State and local initiatives, such as State-led Smart Growth programs in Maryland and New Jersey to preserve open space and agricultural land and to focus State infrastructure investment in developed areas.

The Watershed Planning System project in Maryland is one example in which TCSP funds are leveraging other Federal and local resources. In this project, TCSP funds are being used to integrate transportation models into a watershed-based modeling system, developed with funding from State agencies and non-profit environmental organizations, that predicts the environmental impacts of land development patterns. This modeling system will allow the impacts of alternative transportation investments on land use and its associated environmental impacts to be tested. The PLACE3S project in San Diego, California has combined funding and in-kind contributions from the California Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, San Diego Association of Governments, and the City of San Diego to add transportation considerations to a study of economic and environmental impacts of redevelopment policies in a San Diego neighborhood. In Houston, $3.4 million in TCSP funds have leveraged over $800,000 in local contributions of cash and in-kind services from the City of Houston, the Houston MEtrO transit agency, the Texas DOT, and private sources to design and implement pedestrian, transit, and urban design improvements to the Main Street Corridor. HUD and local contributors are funding a related study of economic activity and opportunities in the Near Northside neighborhood in this corridor. Interviewees noted numerous other examples of projects that either would not have been possible or where the transportation component has been strengthened because of the availability of TCSP funds.

"Thanks in large part to TCSP, we are able to have a discussion of transportation and land use issues at the regional level."

-Ben Hitchings,
Triangle J Council of Governments,
Raleigh, NC

A seat at the table. Several interviewees for this report noted TCSP's critical role in giving the U.S. DOT, and most significantly FHWA, a "seat at the table" of the Smart Growth movement. Rather than simply being perceived as the "highway builder," TCSP allows the DOT to introduce transportation design and investment policies as a legitimate - and important - component of community preservation activities. While funding for TCSP has been modest relative to many other DOT programs, it is an important acknowledgement of the linkages among transportation, land use patterns, and environmental quality. Interviewers commented that the large amount of overall resources directed by the DOT, as well as the significant physical presence of transportation facilities within local communities, make the DOT's entry into Smart Growth and community preservation concerns all the more significant.

Focus on TCSP Objectives:
Reducing Impacts on the Environment

An innovative project is underway in Tampa, Florida to preserve greenways through the avoidance and minimization of ecosystem fragmentation by infrastructure. The Hillsborough River Greenways Task Force (HGRTF), in conjunction with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is working to develop a model program to coordinate infrastructure projects crossing greenways. The purpose of this voluntary, incentive-based program, known as Coordinated Linear Infrastructure Projects (CLIPS), is to encourage coordinated planning, siting, design, permitting, maintenance and financing of linear infrastructure corridors such as roadways, railways, power-lines, pipelines, and trails.

CLIPS is part of an ongoing effort in Florida to link natural areas with a network of greenspaces of greenways. Inevitably, large-scale infrastructure development will have to cross one or more of these greenways. Providing for a CLIP corridor will decrease the number of linear crossings and avoid or minimize greenway fragmentation. A FY 1999 TCSP grant of $120,000 is helping project participants implement CLIP concepts in a real-world setting in the Tampa area. An approach developed by HGRTF describes siting methodologies, design criteria, permitting issues, incentives to encourage participation, financial issues, and legislative actions required to facilitate CLIP establishment and development. An example CLIP for the Hillsborough River Greenway is going through a mock team permitting process involving the Florida DEP, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, and the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission.

As a result of this project, the built and natural environments are anticipated to benefit from the establishment of a network of corridors that minimize environmental impacts and habitat fragmentation. Project sponsors hope to ultimately develop the process as a national model that can be applied in other areas of the country.

Map of the Hillsborough River Greenway area, showing greenway core and buffer areas, watershed and county boundaries, major roads, municipalities, and the locations of proposed CLIPS projects.
Proposed CLIPS projects crossing the Hillsborough River Greenway.
(Courtesy of Progressive Development Group, Inc.)

Strengthening Planning

The innovations and broader partnerships introduced by TCSP projects are intended to enhance and strengthen the existing State and metropolitan transportation planning processes. TCSP projects are bringing a more holistic approach to planning by considering a broader range of community and environmental impacts, not only for individual projects but for the transportation system as a whole. TCSP projects are also further expanding and emphasizing public involvement, and are developing new analysis techniques to inform the planning process.

A more holistic approach. Environmental, community, and economic development issues have been considered in the planning of individual major projects for three decades because of requirements introduced by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). In some cases these issues are considered in depth only after the specific type of project and alignment have been identified. Much less consideration is given to the secondary and cumulative environmental and community impacts of multiple projects over an extended period of time. TCSP projects are introducing the consideration of a broader range of environmental and community issues, not only in the planning of individual major projects, but also in systems-level planning at the metropolitan or State level. This means, in part, reconsidering the overall mix of projects for an area, including the nature of projects, their location, and their design. It also means more fully considering environmental, community, and economic criteria in the setting of general policies, investment strategies, and design approaches, in contrast to evaluating these impacts only after a specific project has been proposed to address a mobility or safety problem. Finally, this means considering the transportation/ land use system as a whole, rather than proposing transportation projects regardless of their potential impact on development patterns.

An illustration of this more "holistic" approach is provided by the many regional-scale TCSP projects that are developing alternative "transportation and land use futures," assessing the various impacts of these futures, and establishing regional policy directions based on the findings. Many residents of the Salt Lake City metropolitan region, for example, want to see light rail transit and commuter rail as a part of future transportation solutions. The Envision Utah project has helped to educate people that concentrating development around transit stations is an important strategy in reducing vehicle trips, along with their associated environmental impacts and highway infrastructure requirements. The project is resulting in proposed changes to land use regulations that would allow more transit-supportive development to occur in station areas. In Maryland, the development of an integrated transportation, land use, and environmental modeling system is intended to allow the State to systematically examine the secondary and cumulative environmental impacts of highway projects.

Specific changes also may be required to transportation planning procedures to reflect broader regional objectives. In northern New Jersey, sponsors of a TCSP project focusing on freight-related brownfields redevelopment are working to change the criteria for selecting transportation projects within the State and regional planning processes. Their objective is to establish criteria that adequately reflect the benefits of infrastructure projects that facilitate access to the brownfields sites.

TCSP is Strengthening the Planning Process:
The TEA-21 Planning Factors

The TCSP program is strengthening the transportation planning process by supporting the seven planning factors identified under TEA-21. Furthermore, individual TCSP projects are helping introduce greater consideration of these seven factors at all stages of planning. TEA-21 identifies the following factors to be considered in the statewide and metropolitan planning process:

  1. Support the economic vitality of the metropolitan area, especially by enabling global competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency;
  2. Increase the safety and security of the transportation system for motorized and nonmotorized users;
  3. Increase the accessibility and mobility options available to people and for freight;
  4. Protect and enhance the environment, promote energy conservation, and improve quality of life;
  5. Enhance the integration and connectivity of the transportation system, across and between modes, for people and freight;
  6. Promote efficient system management and operation; and
  7. Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system.

The objectives of the TCSP program are consistent with these factors, and grants have been awarded to projects that provide benefits in all of these areas.

Involving the public. In recent decades, and especially following passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991, transportation planning practice increasingly has emphasized the importance of public involvement at all stages of the process. Yet obtaining input from the public is sometimes a challenge, especially when the subject is as abstract as a regional transportation plan or a local comprehensive plan. The challenge taken on by many TCSP projects has been to develop creative and meaningful approaches to public involvement.

"What has been rewarding is seeing the realization by the people of the community that the way a community looks is not something over which they have no influence... The TCSP process has helped empower the people with a sense that they can influence community development for the positive."

- Cal Cumin, Planning Director,
City of Laurel, Montana

TCSP projects in locations such as Madison County, Indiana; Lexington, Kentucky; Saginaw, Michigan; and Charlottesville, Virginia have experimented with innovative techniques such as design charrettes and visual preference surveys to help engage the public in a more hands-on and interactive way. Citizens in Charlottesville participated in a game to create development scenarios for the region. In this game, people worked with different "community elements" that represent prototypical development patterns such as urban mixed use or suburban retail. These elements were arranged to create themes named after old television shows. In the St. Lucie County, Florida Town of Ft. Pierce - where seven of 10 families do not own a car - teenagers were recruited to make recommendations for pedestrian and bicycle improvements and to help engage adults in thinking about the issues facing their community. In neighborhoods of Hartford, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Cleveland, Ohio, a focus on community-identified needs such as traffic calming and pedestrian and streetscape improvements has helped to engage people.

Involving the public from the beginning of a project not only helps to engage people, but also gives people a feeling of responsibility for the project. The objective of the Mapping for a Millennium project in Teton County, Wyoming is to better coordinate the community's land use and transportation planning so that developing land use patterns support transportation goals and vice versa. Local land use plans and transportation corridor plans are being produced via several charrette processes in which citizens participate in designing the plans. Project sponsors note that while Teton County always has invited public involvement in planning, the process for the TCSP project has been more highly participatory than normal. According to the county's planning director, "people are excited; they feel that they are beginning on the ground floor and helping build." In Laurel, Montana, a project to develop a plan for sustainable growth that preserves the character of the community also has helped to increase citizen involvement.

Linking regional transportation planning with community planning. Communities across the country routinely develop comprehensive plans that identify policies and strategies for land use, transportation, infrastructure, housing, and environmental preservation. These plans are integrated across issue areas, but are sometimes developed in geographic isolation from neighboring communities. In contrast, statewide and metropolitan transportation plans focus on one specific issue (transportation), but attempt to link this issue across jurisdictional boundaries.

The challenge taken on by many TCSP grantees has been to link these two levels of planning. Local planning decisions affect regional transportation demand, while conversely, regional transportation facilities affect local community character. TCSP grantees do not want to dictate local land use decisions in order to achieve regional transportation objectives, or to base regional transportation decisions solely on local community concerns. Instead, they hope to increase awareness and consideration of the impacts of regional transportation projects on local communities; and conversely, to better evaluate the impacts of local land use decisions on regional transportation efficiency. Ultimately, their intent is to achieve greater coordination in the development of local and regional transportation and land use plans as well as broader consistency between the objectives of these plans.

"If there are options available to respond to the social, environmental, and economic concerns associated with current growth trends, what makes them difficult to use? Stated another way, what gets in the way of creating the kind of communities described in comprehensive plans throughout the Treasure Valley?"

- Benchmark 3 task description,
Treasure Valley Futures Project,
Boise, Idaho

One way in which TCSP projects have linked local and regional planning is to undertake regional visioning projects and dialogue efforts. In the Salt Lake City, Utah metropolitan area, Envision Utah participants are working with local governments to revise comprehensive plans consistent with principles outlined in a "quality growth scenario" that the participants developed for the region. Coordination and consistency may also be pursued through changes to planning process and structures. In St. Tammany Parish near New Orleans, citizens on the comprehensive plan steering committee now are asking the parish to restructure the comprehensive planning process so that transportation and land use planning are done in combination, by establishing a combined land use/transportation committee, compared to the existing separate "stovepipe" committees. Modeling tools also can help: in Charlottesville, Virginia, the ComPlan model is helping citizens understand the implications of 50-year population growth forecasts, the effects of different land use decisions, and the resulting implications for transportation investment.

Building the Knowledge Base

The TCSP program, as a pilot program, places a strong emphasis on evaluation and learning. TCSP projects are intended to provide measurable results and examples of successful practices that can be adopted by other areas. To achieve this objective, each TCSP grant application is required to include an evaluation component that describes the applicant's plans for monitoring, evaluating, and analyzing the grant activity and for making the results of this analysis available for others to use. TCSP program sponsors have emphasized evaluation because they believe that the benefits of innovation, expanded partnerships, leveraged resources, and a strengthened planning process will be multiplied if more areas can adopt the approaches taken by TCSP grantees.

FHWA has published guidance, available on the TCSP web site, to assist grantees in designing and implementing a project evaluation. The guidance suggests that a TCSP project evaluation focus on three primary components: 1) the process by which a project is implemented; 2) the products that result from the project; and 3) the outcomes in terms of either projected or actual benefits and costs. The guidance further suggests that, within each of these three components, grantees define goals and objectives for their project; identify a focused list of performance measures corresponding to these goals and objectives; and identify evaluation methods for each measure. A review of project evaluation plans as well as discussions with grantees suggest that FHWA's guidance has been useful to grantees in helping them to think through and structure an overall approach to evaluating their project.

Focus on TCSP Objectives:
Increasing Access to Jobs, Services, and Centers of Trade

Planners in northern New Jersey are leading an innovative regional effort to facilitate the redevelopment of abandoned industrial brownfield sites by freight-related businesses. Their goal is to decrease the amount of truck travel in the region by locating distribution and manufacturing sites close to existing seaport, air, and rail terminals, rather than at more distant greenfields sites. In addition to reducing demands on the transportation system and increasing its efficiency, this strategy will preserve undeveloped land and provide greater access to jobs for urban residents.

Northern New Jersey has the largest port on the North American Atlantic seaboard and one of the fastest growing air cargo hubs in North America. Port, air, and rail traffic are expected to continue to grow substantially in the future, generating intense demand for new distribution support services and light manufacturing activities. Planners are concerned, however, that much of the economic development associated with port traffic will occur on "greenfields" on the outer edges of the northern New Jersey metropolitan area, or even outside of the region. Long-distance trucking of goods to and from the core port district will increase, compounding congestion, worsening air quality, and wearing out aging infrastructure. Residents of urban areas near the port will be left with fewer job opportunities.

The alternative that planners hope to achieve is to utilize existing abandoned land in the core area near the port. While there are many promising sites for development in proximity to transportation terminals and arteries, their redevelopment is complicated by the need to cleanup contaminants and upgrade often outdated and deteriorated transportation infrastructure. If cleanup can be achieved and new port-related economic activity created in this area, however, the benefits to the region will be significant. Truck traffic between the port and outlying areas will be greatly reduced; open space in these outlying areas will be preserved; and residents in the older cities in the port area such as Newark and Elizabeth will have access to a broader range of jobs.

An FY 1999 TCSP grant of $700,000 to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and the New Jersey Institute of Technology is supporting this brownfields redevelopment effort. Project sponsors currently are surveying businesses regarding their transportation, land, and workforce needs; selecting brownfields sites for further investigation; and identifying potential strategies to promote cleanup as well as transportation projects to facilitate redevelopment. In the future, they hope to estimate the reduction in transportation and environmental impacts that will result from the brownfields redevelopment strategy.

Photograph showing rail cars in a railyard in Northern New Jersey.
Railyards in Northern New Jersey
(Courtesy of Michael Williamson)

Evaluating the process and products of a grant. Most evaluations carried out within the scope of funded TCSP projects have focused on the first two evaluation components - process and products. Examples of key questions regarding the process include the number and types of groups or persons involved, the manner in which these groups were involved, and the degree to which stakeholder commitment and buy-in were achieved. Product evaluation focuses on what was produced by the planning or implementation process. The evaluation may describe the plan that was developed or the project that was implemented, and how it represents a change from existing conditions.

Approaches to process and product evaluation have differed, with some grantees conducting the evaluation internally and others hiring a consultant or university to conduct an independent evaluation. In Boise, Idaho and Washington, D.C., a consultant has attended all project meetings and activities and conducted interviews with staff of different agencies involved in the project. The result is a critical evaluation of what was effective and what might have been done differently or better. The evaluation reports from each of these projects also have been made available to the public, so that others interested in undertaking similar projects can learn from the grantees' experiences. Internal evaluations also can be effective and - especially when done continuously, rather than waiting toward the end of the project - can help grantees to make mid-course adjustments. In Teton County, Wyoming, grantees are maintaining a chronological notebook that will be used as the basis for an evaluation report. The report will describe each step of the project, how it was originally envisioned, and how it was actually conducted, as well as an explanation of any differences. Grantees in Saginaw, Michigan and Hartford, Connecticut also have taken this internal approach to evaluation. Regular internal evaluation is especially important in projects that involve a range of both traditional and non-traditional partners or the demonstration of new planning approaches or methods. Periodic evaluation allows grantees to address misunderstandings or disagreements that could threaten to sidetrack or even derail a project.

Evaluating project outcomes. The ultimate outcomes of TCSP projects, such as reductions in VMT, increased pedestrian travel, improved access to jobs, or economic revitalization of a neighborhood, may take many years to be fully realized. Furthermore, the effects of the TCSP project may be difficult to separate from the effects of other changes that are occurring at the same time. As a result, most TCSP projects are not attempting to measure actual outcomes. Projects that have attempted to measure outcomes have done so primarily through quantitative modeling to forecast the impacts of the project. A project in Phoenix, Arizona is running a land use and transportation model, based on existing and revised local general plans, to forecast the outcomes of proposed regional growth strategies. Projects in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Willamette Valley region of Oregon are undertaking similar modeling efforts.

One TCSP project that is measuring actual impacts is focused on the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island. In fall 2000, students at a local university collected "baseline" data on travel patterns and on residents' and businesses' perceptions of the neighborhood. After transit, pedestrian, and streetscape improvements are implemented, another set of students will collect "after" data on these same measures and compare changes. Sponsors of a bicycle and pedestrian trail in Pinellas County, Florida are conducting surveys, interviews, and traffic counts before and after construction of the trail. The Oregon Department of Energy, which is developing telecommuting centers in rural Oregon, will conduct telephone surveys of peoples' travel characteristics to determine the impact of the centers on travel patterns. A number of other TCSP projects, including those in New Orleans and Teton County, Wyoming, are establishing a set of "regional indicators" and collecting baseline data on these indicators. Long-term tracking of these indicators will help each region measure their overall success at achieving transportation and community and system preservation objectives.

Experience suggests that some quantitative outcomes are easier to evaluate than others. Transportation models have historically been designed to project overall traffic volumes for the purposes of road capacity analysis; they are less effective at predicting the impacts of pedestrian facilities or urban design changes on travel patterns. Variables such as the ridership impacts of improved intermodal transit connections, the number of people using a bicycle path, or the growth in businesses catalyzed by a renovation project depend on a range of variables that are difficult to forecast. Furthermore, it is important to note that not all benefits of TCSP projects can be readily quantified. Factors such as "livability" or "community character," for example, represent qualitative attributes that are difficult to forecast or measure. Furthermore, the importance that people place on these attributes may change over time. As a result, it is often difficult to objectively or consistently measure the full range of benefits of a particular project.

Commitment to evaluation varies. A review of project evaluation plans and actual experiences suggests that some grantees have made a stronger commitment to evaluation than others. Of the successful FY 1999 and 2000 grantees that included budgets for evaluation activities, these budgets have typically ranged from five to 15 percent of the total grant award. A strong interest in and commitment to performing the evaluation, however, is perhaps even more important than the nominal allocation of resources. Some grantees (such as Providence) have performed insightful evaluations on a very small budget. Sometimes, it can be tempting to spend limited project resources on the project itself, and when budgets are reduced, to view evaluation as a "non-essential" component. Furthermore, grantees who receive earmarks have less incentive to develop a strong evaluation component because their projects were not selected or judged on this application component.

Focus on TCSP Objectives:
Reducing the Need for Costly Future Investment in Infrastructure

The Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments in Shreveport, Louisiana, is working to establish Shreveport’s core inner-city neighborhoods as a regional technology and residential center. Their focus is on the 2,400-acre "InterTech" area that once thrived as an urban industrial district. This area has atrophied in recent years as businesses have moved out to the perimeter into modern industrial parks, and several sites in this area are designated as brownfields sites in need of remediation. The surrounding neighborhoods have also experienced residential dislocation and disinvestment because of the loss of jobs.

Local planners expect that redevelopment of this area will reduce the need for regional infrastructure investment. The InterTech area is in a central location with existing infrastructure that includes electric, water, sewer, gas, public transportation, and two interstate highways. The potential exists to create 5,000 new jobs in this area as an alternative to continued suburban employment growth and sprawl. In addition, economic development in this area will provide jobs for inner-city residents in adjacent neighborhoods, where unemployment levels are high and many people are dependent upon public transit.

The InterTech community redevelopment project is supported by a FY 2000 TCSP grant of $225,000. This grant is being used to create an economic and transportation plan for the InterTech area as well as a community preservation and transportation plan for the surrounding neighborhoods. As part of the evaluation of this project, project sponsors plan to create a "comparative infrastructure index" This index will compare the cost of installing new infrastructure in a comparable greenfield-type development with the cost of augmenting and updating existing infrastructure in InterTech, thus yielding an estimate of the cost savings resulting from the project.

Map showing the Intertech Study Area in Shreveport, Louisiana. The study area is bounded by I-20 on the north and west, I-49 on the east, and Claiborne Avenue on the south, and contains the Louisiana State University Medical Center.
InterTech study area.
(Courtesy of Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments)

Demonstrating Results

Roughly 23 percent of TCSP projects awarded in FY 1999 and 2000 focused primarily on project implementation (e.g., construction, rehabilitation, maintenance, and operations), while the remaining 77 percent focused on planning. (Product types for FY 2001 projects are not yet known.) Especially in the case of a planning grant, it may be five to 10 years before widespread implementation of results are achieved and concrete benefits observed and measured. TCSP planning projects, however, are already demonstrating results in a variety of ways: through new ways of doing business; new partnerships formed; greater understanding of transportation and community and system preservation relationships; recommendations for changes to policies and practices; and plans for specific implementation projects.

On-the-ground products. Examples of specific transportation and community implementation projects completed or underway include the renovation and restoration of an historic roundhouse in Wheeling, West Virginia as an intermodal terminal; the construction of a passenger comfort and information center for a water-based transportation system in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and the construction of a pedestrian/bicycle bridge linking parks and pathways in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. In the Howard University/LeDroit Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., streetscape design, traffic calming, and pedestrian improvements are complementing initiatives to rehabilitate and construct housing in this historic and predominantly African-American community. Construction is scheduled to begin early in 2002 on projects to improve pedestrian safety and streetscape aesthetics along North Street in Burlington, Vermont's Old North End Enterprise Community. The revitalization plan for North Street was developed through an interactive and inclusive neighborhood planning process that has resulted in a high level of satisfaction with the planned components from the community.

Plans for implementation. While some TCSP grants are funding on-the-ground products, the funding available through TCSP is far too small to support a significant number of implementation projects. While implementation projects may illustrate the types of products desired from TCSP efforts, TCSP's more significant influence has been on planning for transportation and community investment. Many TCSP projects are resulting in plans for projects that could in the future be funded through other Federal sources such as Surface Transportation Program (STP), National Highway System (NHS), or transit funds, as well as through State and local matching funds. Examples include designs for a pedestrian plaza in Rockville, Maryland; a system of bikeways proposed for Whatcom County, Washington; and the integration of transit service among parishes in rural Louisiana.

Other TCSP projects have focused on earlier stages of planning, for which the products may be a conceptual plan for an area or a set of recommended policies and practices. In Saginaw, Michigan, participants in a charrette examined possible transportation and land use design changes to make a suburban shopping area pedestrian- and transit-accessible. The outcome of the charrette was a set of recommendations and next steps to facilitate a long-term transition of the area's character; these recommendations include revisions to transportation facility design practices and local zoning codes; public investments; and outreach to property owners and developers. While projects such as the Saginaw charrette have resulted in conceptual plans that stir the imagination, further work is often required to develop more concrete plans and implementation steps to achieve the desired vision for an area.

Conceptual sketch showing the Rockville Pike in Rockville, Maryland, adjacent to a Metrorail station. The sketch shows a grade-separated intersection with a pedestrian plaza over the depressed through traffic lanes of the Rockville Pike.
Proposal for a pedestrian plaza over Rockville Pike in Rockville, Maryland.
The plaza would connect a redeveloping town center with a Metrorail transit station.
(Courtesy of City of Rockville)

Achieving implementation commitments. One finding from this review of TCSP experiences is that commitments to move forward into implementation have been more difficult to achieve, and have taken longer, than initially anticipated. This is partly because the projects often result in proposed changes to transportation and development practices that differ from the usual way of doing business. Implementing entities, such as State DOTs, county road commissions, planning and zoning boards, and developers, are understandably hesitant to make changes to their "tried and true" approaches. Also, the nature of the partnerships involved in the projects is often complex. Regional scale projects, in particular, require obtaining commitments from multiple jurisdictions as well as State implementing agencies. In the Greater Wasatch Front region of northern Utah, participants are working to obtain buy-in to their vision of a preferred "quality growth scenario" from a total of nearly 100 jurisdictions in the region. Obtaining the necessary agreements to change zoning codes, design practices, infrastructure investment policies, or the mix of funded transportation projects therefore can take years.

Houston, TX
From Planning to Implementation

Houston's Main Street Corridor Planning and Research Project demonstrates how a TCSP project can progress from corridor planning, to project design, to implementation of improvements. The eight mile-long corridor, once the economic core of the region, declined in the mid-1900s as development spread outward and shifted to other parts of the region. Renewed interest and private investment in the early 1990s, however, stimulated private and public efforts to guide the revitalization and redevelopment of the Main Street Corridor. As an alternative to continued haphazard and fragmented development, local business and civic leaders formed the Main Street Coalition to create a unified vision for development in the corridor; coordinate development with roadway, transit, and pedestrian improvements; and work with land owners and public agencies to achieve this vision.

The first step in this process, supported by FY 1999 and FY 2000 TCSP grants totaling $935,500, was to create a Master Plan for the corridor. Completed in August 2000, the Master Plan establishes a number of principles for the corridor, such as higher density, a mix of uses, and emphasis on the public environment. It also includes conceptual designs for each part of the corridor showing locations of new development, public spaces, and transportation improvements. To complement the Master Plan, a Strategic Plan was created containing steps to implement the Master Plan.

Following the development of these plans, the Coalition initiated a set of pilot implementation projects. The purpose of these implementation projects is to demonstrate specific physical improvements that can serve as prototypes for additional improvements. One example is the Third Ward Connectivity Project, which will improve pedestrian links between the Third Ward neighborhood and Main Street. This project is supported by $2.4 million in Federal funds, including an FY 2001 TCSP grant of $703,075, as well as $5 to $10 million in local capital improvement funds.

Implementation of the Master Plan will ultimately require a total of $200 million over 20 years in public and private resources and will require the cooperation of multiple public agencies as well as private developers. Staged public infrastructure improvements by the City of Houston, the Houston MEtrO transit agency, and the Texas DOT are central to implementing the plan. These, in turn, will be coordinated with the establishment of guidelines and regulations for specific development districts. The local development community - led by larger institutions and property owners concerned about creating a high-quality urban environment - has played a significant role in planning for the corridor, and will continue to be instrumental in persuading other property owners to adopt and apply Master Plan principles.

Conceptual plan for the Midtown District in Houston, showing existing and new streets, existing and new buildings, public spaces, parks, trees, and light rail transit station catchment areas.
Master Plan for Midtown District.
(Courtesy of Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn Architects)

Broader influence. Despite the often long timeframe to achieve implementation commitments, TCSP projects appear to be influencing, both directly and indirectly, other transportation projects and development programs. Areas of influence include the design elements considered, the manner in which effectiveness is assessed, the approach to involving various interest groups, and the decisions made. In Saginaw, for example, a TCSP-funded design charrette has had broader educational value for local planners and elected officials. The township’s community development director "is now talking about pedestrian issues and building setbacks," and a new master plan for the township is expected to reflect many of the principles discussed in the design charrette. In New Orleans, discussions of regional growth issues are being reflected in a comprehensive plan update for St. Tammany Parish, which is experiencing strong growth pressures. This parish is using a computer model to assess the transportation and other community impacts of growth occurring in different locations and with different densities and design characteristics. In Mono County, California, local planners believe that their community-oriented planning approach, which has focused on improvements related to a State highway through the town of Lee Vining, is beginning to affect the way that the district office of the California DOT (Caltrans) does planning. They believe that the TCSP-funded planning work is resulting in greater community input into projects, rather than taking a "one-size-fits-all" design approach.

Conclusions

An overriding objective of the TCSP program has been to stimulate innovation in transportation planning. In particular, TCSP projects are creating effective practices that link transportation planning with system and community preservation considerations. Projects funded in the first three years of the program have helped to bring innovation to transportation planning by expanding the range of partners involved in planning; by introducing a greater consideration of the relationship between transportation and development patterns; by expanding public involvement, and community participation; and by developing new modeling tools to assess the impacts of transportation and land use alternatives on mobility, economic development, community character, and the environment.

On the implementation side, TCSP projects have demonstrated practices such as traffic calming, pedestrian linkages, intermodal transit facilities, and bicycle paths that are helping to increase travel options and improve the character of local communities. Furthermore, TCSP projects are helping communities as well as the private sector re-examine their land development practices, in order to reduce impacts on the transportation system and to complement public-sector transportation investments. Overall, these TCSP projects are helping to reduce the need for future costly infrastructure investment, increase access to jobs and other activities, reduce the environmental impacts of transportation, and improve the overall efficiency of the transportation system.

The impact of TCSP projects is not limited to the scope of the individual projects funded. Many grantees have noted that the findings and lessons learned from their TCSP projects are influencing other transportation and community planning activities in their area. Furthermore, the TCSP program is placing a strong emphasis on learning and knowledge transfer: by sponsoring the development of planning tools and methods; by encouraging project evaluations; and by making results from TCSP projects available to a national audience. These efforts are resulting in the demonstration of effective practices for transportation planning.

Effective TCSP Practices

Lessons learned from TCSP projects throughout the country illustrate "effective practices" that can improve transportation planning and preserve and enhance communities. Some common themes include the meaningful involvement of key stakeholders and community participants; the use of emerging analytical and public involvement techniques to inform decision-making; the consideration of a wide range of community, economic, and environmental impacts throughout the transportation process; and the importance of a close relationship between transportation and community planning.

Build Partnerships

  • Good projects start - and finish - with strong leadership. Leaders are committed to the concept of the project and follow through with persistence. Leaders network and build relationships with other potential leaders and stakeholders in the community and in agencies with decision-making authority.
  • Identify the key actors and stakeholders with an interest in the transportation/community planning project, i.e., the people, agencies, and groups who should be involved in the project to make it successful. These may include (but are not limited to) the MPO or regional planning organization, the State DOT, transit agencies, city and county transportation and planning departments, elected officials, Federal and state environmental agencies, community groups, nonprofit and environmental organizations, developers, and the business community.
  • Be open to ideas from "non-traditional" groups with an interest in transportation, such as public health organizations, community development organizations, and schools/school children. These groups can help identify needs in the community that are not well addressed (such as a lack of opportunities for physical activity for children).
  • Build in-depth involvement of key partners and allow these partners to take ownership of a project. People will be more committed to a project and its successful implementation if they are allowed to take responsibility of some aspect of it. For example, community residents can be given a role in identifying and designing pedestrian or traffic calming improvements.

Capture the Public’s Interest

  • Meet with the public and interest groups at convenient times and settings, for example, after work at a location within the community. Provide child care, refreshments, and translation if necessary.
  • Provide opportunities for "hands-on" work in identifying and solving problems. Techniques such as design charrettes or facilitated discussion groups can provide an interactive and engaging experience not provided by the traditional "public forum."
  • Utilize visual imaging techniques to illustrate alternatives for transportation facilities or development designs. New computer technologies are making it much easier to create visual representations of the physical environment. People respond well to such visual information and are able to make more informed decisions regarding the aesthetic strengths and weaknesses of alternatives.
  • Provide people with sound technical information about the implications of alternatives. Information on transportation, economic, environmental, and other impacts can help people weigh and understand tradeoffs among various alternatives. People also can benefit from a basic understanding of what the quantitative models are (and are not) capable of doing, which can increase their understanding of the results.
  • Utilize interactive models to allow people to test different solutions themselves. Computer technology is making it possible for citizens to sit in front of a computer and simulate the effects of different alternatives. This technology can provide a valuable learning experience by which people come to better understand the tradeoffs involved in making different choices.

Design Transportation Systems that Enhance the Community

  • Apply context-sensitive design principles for roadways/highways. As an alternative to the practice of applying a uniform design template everywhere, a number of State DOTs are experimenting with design approaches that acknowledge the characteristics of the surrounding community and better integrate the roadway with the community.
  • Use transportation facilities as a focus for inviting public spaces. Highway projects through dense urban neighborhoods have been enhanced by decks that provide valuable public parkland. Locations with concentrations of foot traffic - such as transit stations and sidewalks along business districts - provide a logical place for public plazas where people can gather, interact, or enjoy the outdoors.
  • Consider non-transportation benefits of transportation and related improvements. A transit station can be an appropriate location for affordable housing, while improved truck access may facilitate redevelopment of a declining industrial area.
  • Use transportation investments to help revitalize older communities. Many once-thriving neighborhoods have experienced no significant infrastructure improvements in many years. In certain situations, public investment in streetscaping, pedestrian, and traffic improvements can catalyze development by making the neighborhood more attractive, and by giving private investors confidence that their investment will retain its value.

Plan for Multiple Modes and Users

  • Provide safe and appealing walk, bicycle, and transit options for the carless, elderly, children, and others who require or prefer alternatives to automobile travel. Sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, bicycle facilities, and convenient and attractive transit stops make these modes more viable, safe, and pleasant.
  • Consider the needs of freight movement and its role in economic development. Routes from major highways to industrial areas or intermodal terminals are often congested or substandard for trucks, especially in older urbanized areas. Improving freight access may help stimulate redevelopment of available Brownfields and infill sites.
  • Work to improve the integration between different modes of travel. The effort of using alternative travel modes can be minimized by providing convenient park-and-ride facilities, bicycle parking at transit, and seamless transfers between different transit routes and service providers.

Consider Community and System Preservation Issues in Transportation Planning

  • Consider the impacts of transportation investments on local and regional land development patterns, and the resulting feedback to transportation demand and performance. Apply land use models that work with transportation models to assess these interrelationships.
  • Utilize new GIS-based models that provide indicators of the community, environmental, and economic impacts of alternative site plans, community plans, and transportation investments. Use these models to compare and refine alternatives.
  • Analyze the community, environmental, and economic impacts of future transportation and land use alternatives within the long-range planning as well as the project development process. The general impacts of alternative regional "systems" can be assessed prior to conducting detailed, project-specific environmental and community impact analysis.

Design Communities to Minimize Transportation Investment Needs

  • Cluster housing and commercial development around transportation facilities, especially transit nodes. Clustering development around transit places a greater number of potential users within easy reach of the transit facility or service, increasing its likelihood of use.
  • Design areas, sites, and subdivisions to make alternatives to driving feasible. Community design features ensure that direct walking and bicycling routes are available and attractive, and that development is compact enough to make such trips feasible.
  • Work with communities to revise general plans and zoning to encourage development that minimizes transportation needs through mixed-use, clustered, and pedestrian-friendly development.
  • Work with the development community to build consensus on design principles that minimize transportation needs.
  • Build partnerships to address inter-jurisdictional issues, coordinating both transportation investment and land use policies across jurisdictional boundaries.

Consider Funding, Resource, and Implementation Issues

  • Look for non-transportation funding sources - such as Federal, state, or local government agencies or the private sector - to supplement transportation-related projects that have benefits in other areas such as housing, economic development, or environmental clean-up.
  • Identify how projects may benefit local businesses, and solicit not only funding but also substantive input from these businesses. Businesses are often willing to help sponsor a project if they have a say in the project and also see a direct benefit.
  • Consider operations and maintenance costs as well as capital costs in the evaluation of different transportation and community development alternatives.
  • For projects resulting in plans, consider implementation as well: identify the specific steps required, develop a timeline, allocate resources, and work with stakeholders to achieve commitments to implementation.

Evaluate the Effectiveness of Planning and Implementation Activities

  • Establish indicators of transportation, community, environmental, and economic performance. Working through the community planning process, select a few critical indicators that are most meaningful to project participants, rather than attempting to measure a "laundry list" of impacts.
  • Collect baseline data on these indicators and establish data collection and monitoring systems to routinely update the data. Use monitoring data to identify problems and inform people about continuing needs.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the planning process through periodic assessments and de-briefings. For example, assess whether all key stakeholders participated in the process and whether they felt their views were adequately considered.
  • Measure the actual outcomes of projects, compare these outcomes with projections, and use this information to improve modeling/forecasting systems.

Be Patient and Persistent

  • Obtaining meaningful involvement from multiple partners and stakeholders, while paying dividends in the long run, can take longer than expected. If people are at first reluctant to participate or skeptical of the process, don't give up.
  • Expect setbacks and difficulties; then work to overcome these difficulties and move forward. Good planning requires strong and committed leadership!
Updated: 08/01/2013