Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
This case study discusses how TCSP grantees have implemented transportation and community and system preservation projects. The case study is intended especially for local government agencies, community leaders, and others who want to implement projects that link transportation, community, and system preservation practices. The case study provides examples of how four TCSP grantees have assembled technical resources, financing, political support, and stakeholder involvement to create successful projects, and describes lessons learned from these and other projects.
The Federal Highway Administration's Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Program (TCSP) has funded projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that link transportation, community, and system preservation practices. These projects have been led by city and county governments, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), State departments of transportation (DOTs), tribal governments, and other public agencies in cooperation with private and nonprofit partners. The projects have included innovative regional planning initiatives as well as local planning and implementation actions that address needs related to transportation, economic development, housing, environmental preservation, and community character.
The TCSP program is one of many recent initiatives at the Federal, State, and local levels to bring a more community-oriented and multidisciplinary approach to local and regional planning. It is uniquely focused on enhancing transportation planning at different levels of government to better address community-identified needs and concerns. TCSP projects have demonstrated the benefits of forming nontraditional partnerships and undertaking innovative public involvement and technical analysis approaches. At the same time, project sponsors have faced unique challenges inherent in undertaking new types of planning activities. Some of these challenges include coordinating transportation and land use planning at different levels of government; achieving buy-in from community and private sector interests to affect development patterns; and implementing new transportation design concepts that enhance community character as well as safety and mobility.
The experiences of TCSP grantees provide valuable lessons that can aid other public and private-sector leaders who are working to undertake projects with similar objectives. For example, TCSP project partners have successfully assembled political, financial, and technical, resources to:
Denver's Union Station will become a true multimodal station serving passenger trains, light rail vehicles, buses, bicycles, and electric cars.
Courtesy Chris Porter
An FY 1999 TCSP grant of $170,000 has brought plans for the reuse of Denver Union Station as an intermodal terminal to fruition. Feasibility studies are complete and plans are being implemented to establish an electric vehicle hub and a bicycle station at the terminal, as well as a circulator trolley for the adjacent area. These neighborhood-based transportation options will complement extension of the regional light rail transit (LRT) system to the station, and will help reduce vehicle travel by the growing residential population of the area, downtown office workers, and visitors.
The history of the project dates to 1995, when a feasibility study for the reuse of the station was initiated through a collaboration between the station's owners (a consortium of three private interests), The City and County of Denver, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Regional Transit District (RTD), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No single member of this group was willing to assume responsibility for further development of the project, but the group did identify an outside consultant interested in spearheading the process. After interviewing people involved in the feasibility study, property owners, and other private interests in the area, the consultant recommended the formation of a nonprofit corporation to move the project forward, and at the end of 1996, the Union Station Transport Development Company (USTDC) was formed.
USTDC was funded cooperatively by contributions from RTD, the City and County of Denver, CDOT, private property owners, and grants. Its director's first tasks were to develop a working relationship between agencies and private interests and to identify fresh ideas that might be implementable in the near term to complement existing long-term plans for transit. A steering group was formed to build partnerships with bicycle interests and advance the idea of a bicycle hub. Similar core groups were established to advance concepts for an electric vehicle hub and for the trolley circulator service. These three neighborhood-oriented project ideas were incorporated into the TCSP grant, which supplemented funds from the city and county, RTD, and local property owners to support feasibility studies and operating plans for each of the services.
The TCSP-funded planning studies were successful in creating additional public and private interest. In 2001, the city and county were awarded an approximately $500,000 Transportation Enhancements grant to construct a 2,000squarefoot standalone "full-service" bicycle facility including parking, repair services, and changing areas. Five private companies expressed interest in operating the electric vehicle hub. These facilities are expected to open in 2003 and are intended ultimately to be self-sustaining from an operational perspective. The trolley will take more time to implement because of significant capital costs, estimated at $20 million.
Building on the success of the USTDC is the development of the Denver Union Station master plan, which is the next and key step in planning the future of the station. A public-private partnership is spearheading the master plan. The alliance includes private companies with public partners RTD, CDOT, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), and the City and County of Denver. The plan will serve as the blueprint for redeveloping and preserving Union Station and 18 acres of surrounding land. Included in the master plan will be environmental impact studies, commercial development concerns, urban design and zoning issues, governance and management, and the implementation and phasing of the transportation hub. The plan is expected to be completed in 2004.
Essential Project Elements
Successful TCSP project sponsors have focused on a series of key elements required to bring their projects to fruition:
Also because of USTDC's work, another key piece of the transportation puzzle has fallen into place: a 1.6mile extension of the regional LRT system from downtown to Union Station and through the Central Platte Valley has been approved and funded. Local agencies and property owners viewed the LRT connection as critical to the larger station reuse effort, but faced a challenge in funding the project (which costs an estimated $40 million) given the other various transportation funding needs around the region. The USTDC director brought together the major property owners along the extension, including some "large players," such as a college and an entertainment complex, who met frequently over a two-year period to figure out how to advance the LRT project. In the end, they realized they needed to demonstrate a local commitment to the project. The property owners agreed to donate all of the right-of-way for the LRT extension, valued at about $4 million. The Mayor and Council of the City and County of Denver then agreed to provide $5 million in 2:1 matching funds for private cash contributions. The resulting $11.5 million demonstrated to DRCOG, the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the region, that there was strong local commitment. Considering also the regional benefit of the project, DRCOG contributed $19.5 million in unprogrammed Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds. As a result of pooling funds from a variety of sources, RTD had to provide only $9 million.
Light rail and a signature pedestrian bridge connect new development in the Central Platte Valley to Denver's Union Station.
Courtesy Chris Porter
The Denver Union Station project provides a number of interesting lessons for the redevelopment of historic intermodal terminals. According to Gwen Anderson, the Union Station Master Plan Project Manager for the City and County of Denver, creating a nonprofit corporation was a successful (and perhaps essential) strategy. USTDC served as the "focal point" of redevelopment planning. Its creation allowed all the major agencies and other stakeholders to be involved without any one of them making too great a financial or organizational commitment. The company also served as an effective mechanism for communication, and in particular, bringing people representing a diversity of interests together to make decisions. The particular advantage of a nonprofit agency serving this role was that it had nothing at stake: it did not own property and had no vested financial or political interests, and therefore could serve the role of "honest broker."
The project also demonstrates the importance of key players who are committed to bringing the project to fruition, even over the course of a number of years, and of working patiently with the various stakeholder interests to obtain consensus at each stage of the process. Finally, it demonstrates the value of "seed money" commitments for leveraging other public and private sources. Up-front public agency commitments to initially fund the feasibility study and planning efforts led to private contributions. Similarly, in-kind private sector contributions of right-of-way for the LRT project led to public agency commitments sufficient to implement the project.
"We spent a lot of time just getting people into the same room to agree on something."
- Gwen Anderson, Union Station Master Plan Project Manager
The central Puget Sound region is in the early stages of implementing a comprehensive set of regional transit investments that include a combination of commuter rail, light rail, express bus, and ferry improvements. Funding for the first phase of investments was secured through a voter approved ballot measure that will provide approximately $4 billion over the next 10 years. As part of this investment in high-capacity transit, the region is building 50 new transit stations (including light rail and commuter rail stations, bus transit centers, and ferry terminals) to support expanded transit services.
Agencies and jurisdictions in the region are addressing the challenge of incorporating these intermodal transit facilities within their local communities. An FY 1999 TCSP grant of $400,000 for the Transit Station Communities Project is assisting the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the designated MPO for the Seattle region, in fostering opportunities for transit-oriented development (TOD) in the immediate vicinity of these stations.
The project had two major components: 1) increasing regional awareness of TOD opportunities, and 2) providing technical assistance to local governments. The regional coordination and awareness campaign included outreach to local jurisdictions, community organizations, the development community, and the general public to increase the understanding of potential transit-oriented development opportunities throughout the region. Outreach activities included:
Transit-oriented development adjacent to the Everett Multimodal Station.
Courtesy Puget Sound Regional Council
The second component, local technical assistance, included activities to support four specific TOD projects. The locations of these projects were selected to test the effectiveness of a range of various TOD strategies. PSRC provided financial support to local agencies for:
To launch the Transit Station Communities Project, PSRC undertook a media campaign to introduce TOD concepts to the general public as well as reporters. Working with 1,000 Friends of Washington, a local citizens group, PSRC helped develop a TOD media packet that contained information regarding transit-oriented development in the central Puget Sound region. Follow-up contacts were made to reporters, and news coverage was solicited on a number of current TOD projects, including groundbreakings at station locations, high-profile development proposals, and TOD events sponsored by PSRC and other local agencies. Efforts to obtain coverage were aided by other high-profile activities, such as the opening of a commuter rail line.
Following closely on the media campaign, PSRC sponsored a conference entitled, Real Estate Development at Transit Stations: Seizing the Opportunity. This event provided a general overview of transit-oriented development and focused on introducing people to TOD concepts and opportunities throughout the region. For the conference invitation, they compiled a list of about 2,000 people including local planners, elected officials, developers, and lenders. From the responses to this mailing, they maintained a list of interested people for future conference and workshop invitations.
Existing and funded regional transit centers in the Puget Sound region in 2015.
Courtesy Puget Sound Regional Council
Ned Conroy, a planner with PSRC, believes that the project - in conjunction with other local initiatives and trends - has succeeded in raising the visibility of TOD and assisting local governments and developers in bringing about specific projects. Conroy attributes success in obtaining support for TOD projects to a number of factors:
"We have seen a noticeable change in attitudes in the development community, and most proposals for transit-oriented development are now coming from the private sector."
- Ned Conroy, Puget Sound Regional Council
The effort to change development patterns in the Seattle region is not a onetime event, but rather an ongoing series of activities occurring over many years. The role of the MPO has been primarily to provide technical support to local governments who may lack the resources on their own to develop transit-supportive development tools, and to help educate government staff, developers, and the public about TOD principles.
The Solana Neighborhood Center project in Santa Fe, New Mexico, demonstrates how a TCSP project has evolved to reflect changing local circumstances, while still addressing the original objectives of the program. An FY 2000 TCSP grant of $200,000 to the City of Santa Fe was intended to support a planning and design process for the redevelopment of a 1960sera strip shopping plaza into an urban mixed-use development, as well as the implementation of streetscape improvements adjacent to the plaza.
After a series of discussions with the owner of the plaza, the Solana Neighborhood Center project director with the city's planning department determined that while the owner was open to a study of the site (still a viable neighborhood retail center), he was unlikely to implement any recommendations that incorporated major use changes or new development. As a result, the city decided to focus on improving pedestrian access to the mall and to expand the implementation of pedestrian and traffic calming improvements in adjacent neighborhoods.
The Solana neighborhood that is the subject of the study is centered on West Alameda, an east-west three-lane arterial with bus service ("Alameda" is Spanish for "tree-lined boulevard"). North of the street is a stable neighborhood of single-family homes. South of the street is the shopping plaza, a community park, the Santa Fe River, some undeveloped land, and an older "barrio" neighborhood, predominantly Hispanic, with a mix of single-family and multifamily housing. Neighborhood residents have raised concerns about the lack of pedestrian access, particularly for people with disabilities, from the shopping plaza to the adjacent neighborhood. Residents also have raised concerns about speeding traffic and poor access to the park.
A new pedestrian crossing improves access to the Gonzales Elementary School in the Solana neighborhood of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Courtesy Robin Elkin, City of Santa Fe
Federal-Aid Grant Requirements
TCSP funds include requirements with which new grantees may not be familiar. Becoming acquainted with these requirements can help a potential grantee properly plan and budget for a project, and can expedite the grant administration and project development process.
Some of the most significant requirements include:
The planning process undertaken for this study included a series of neighborhood meetings at which pedestrian access and traffic concerns were raised and solutions discussed. The city already had undertaken a pilot traffic calming project in the Solana neighborhood, including speed humps and intersection circles, and installed two traffic islands along West Alameda. Additional solutions proposed at public meetings and approved by the community included traffic islands in the third (turning) lane of West Alameda; raised crosswalks; crossings to an elementary school; and trail improvements along the river. Pedestrian access to the park also is being considered, and needs and concepts raised at the neighborhood meetings are being brought into the upcoming development of a master plan for the park (a separate project).
The city is working to implement pedestrian access improvements at the mall in conjunction with a new fast food restaurant, by working with the owner to bring the property up to current standards for site design, landscaping, and accessibility, and by providing public funding for additional amenities. To finance pedestrian access and traffic calming improvements, the city will supplement its TCSP funds with money from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). (The city is currently undertaking about $2 million in traffic calming projects throughout the city, with funding primarily from CIP funds.) Also, in upcoming maintenance cycles they hope to narrow the traffic lanes and stripe bicycle lanes along Alameda.
"The TCSP grant is helping us connect different activities, including mall access, traffic calming, and park planning, and leverage other funding sources to make it all work together to improve pedestrian access."
- Robin Elkin, City of Santa Fe
As a longer-term approach to making the city more pedestrian and transit-accessible, the city is hiring a consultant under the TCSP grant to review their development code, identify obstacles to mixed-use development in small neighborhood shopping centers, and develop language to address these obstacles. This will set the stage for future efforts to redevelop older shopping plazas in the city into more urban environments.
Supported by an FY 1999 TCSP grant of $70,000, the City of Troy prepared a land use and transportation study for the revitalization of the South Troy Working Waterfront. The study was part of a comprehensive waterfront revitalization planning effort, supported by nearly $500,000 in funding from a wide variety of private and public sources including the New York State Division of Coastal Resources, the City of Troy, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (a major landowner), and private and nonprofit organizations.
To initiate the land use and transportation study, the city hired a consultant team with experience in community planning, transportation, and architectural design. The lead planning firm, which was responsible for managing the overall process, suggested a strong outreach-oriented approach to plan development. Such an approach, they believed, was necessary to build trust with both waterfront property owners and residents of the adjacent working-class neighborhood, ensure that community concerns were adequately addressed in the plan, and obtain support for plan implementation.
The project first created an 18 member advisory committee constituting a broad representation of private, public, nonprofit and community interests to oversee the project. The team then began to recruit more broad-based community participation by identifying key stakeholders, including residents, clergy members, representatives of nonprofit organizations, and local businesses in the South Troy community. The team conducted nearly 50 interviews and made presentations to six community groups, including neighborhood organizations and senior groups. The purpose of these initial interviews and presentations was to identify key community and business needs and to better understand how to reach members of the community.
The planning process itself included 10 community meetings and two weekend workshops. These were designed to maximize input through small group exercises and feedback sessions. Meeting attendance varied by interest in the topic discussed, with a minimum attendance of 30 people and a maximum of 120 for the weekend workshops and the final community meeting.
Transportation recommendations in the plan resulting from this process included extensive sidewalk repair and construction, streetscape improvements, transit service adjustments, redesign of the proposed waterfront access road to serve additional modes, a bicycle and pedestrian trail, and new streets connecting the community to the waterfront. The plan also proposed new zoning for the waterfront to restrict industrial uses to the southern end of the redevelopment area, while allowing greenspace, restaurants and other commercial uses, office space and some light industrial uses to the north.
To date, the South Troy Waterfront Revitalization Plan has led to over $15 million committed for implementation efforts. To construct the South Troy Commercial Access Road, $6.4 million has been programmed in the Transportation Improvement Program from Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds, including a 15 percent State match and five percent local match. Using the flexible funding provisions of TEA-21, an additional $2.4 million in STP funds has been programmed for a riverfront pedestrian and bicycle path and $500,000 has been programmed for a trail connection from the riverfront to the Corning Preserve trail in Albany. The Department of Housing and Urban Development contributed a $2 million grant and a $3 million loan under the Brownfield Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a Brownfields Assessment Pilot grant of $250,000, including $200,000 for assessment and redevelopment planning and $50,000 for greenspace planning, and a Brownfields Job Training and Development Pilot grant of $250,000. The New York State Department of State (DOS) awarded a $225,000 grant to develop implementation strategies for expanding public access to the waterfront.
Other steps are already being taken to implement the plan: zoning changes are being approved by the city, and property owners are making land transactions necessary to complete cleanup of contaminated sites.
Excerpt from the South Troy Waterfront Redevelopment Plan, showing redevelopment opportunities, linkages to the waterfront, and new public space.
Courtesy Synthesis Architects
Project sponsors attribute their success in developing a broadly supported plan, and their ability to obtain funding and other implementation commitments, to a number of factors. First, a number of the waterfront property owners have been in the city a long time and want to see revitalization efforts succeed. Second, the increased certainty provided by having a master plan for the area has made property owners more willing to invest in cleanup and redevelopment. Third, financial assistance to property owners for cleanup and relocation has further helped obtain private support. Finally, the outreach-oriented process ensured that resident and business interests and concerns were addressed, creating a broad base of political and financial support for implementation.
The single most telling measure of the success of the community outreach effort is the progress made on a long-proposed waterfront industrial access road. Community feedback changed from "but when will you build the road?" to "how do we make sure that this road fits in with the vision we have for our community?"
- Mark P. Pattison, Mayor Troy, New York
The four TCSP projects described here, as well as other TCSP projects, provide lessons for linking transportation and community planning practices. Projects that address transportation and community preservation objectives in an integrated manner cannot simply be completed by applying a set of standard approaches. Instead, they are complex projects, each with unique characteristics, encompassing a diversity of stakeholders, interests, and objectives.
The first key to success is to have a compelling vision, such as redeveloping a waterfront area in Troy, reusing an historic intermodal terminal in Denver, creating a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood in Santa Fe, or ensuring the growth of a region as a quality place to live in Seattle. The vision must be able to persuade others that it is worth spending the time and the energy on the effort. The vision may be aimed at overcoming serious problems (such a truck traffic in a neighborhood) or simply taking advantage of unique opportunities (such as an historic structure or a natural landscape).
The second key to success is a "champion" - a person or small group of people who can take the lead on promoting this vision and developing the necessary support to accomplish it. Champions of TCSP projects have included elected officials, public agency staff, business leaders, and community advocates. A dedicated champion is necessary to build the necessary partnerships, obtain funding, and shepherd what may be a long process of obtaining stakeholder input and building consensus.
|South Troy Commercial Access Road||FHWA-STP||$6,400,000|
|Riverfront pedestrian and bicycle path||FHWA-STP flex funds||$2,400,000|
|Pedestrian/bicycle access bridge||FHWA-STP flex funds||$500,000|
|Land acquisition, investment incentives, infrastructure improvements, remediation||HUD-BEDI||
|Site assessment, redevelopment planning, greenspace planning||EPA-Brownfields Assessment Pilot||$250,000|
|Job training and development||EPA-Brownfields Job Training and Development Pilot||$250,000|
|Implementation strategies to expand public access to the waterfronts||New York State DOS||$225,000|
|Total funds committed||$15,025,000|
The champion is not just a lone wolf, however. He or she must build a broad base of support to increase the chances of the project's success, and to ensure that another champion will emerge if he or she for any reason can no longer be involved with the project. Partnerships are formed not as abstract alliances between different groups, but rather from the development of one-to-one personal relationships and connections. Building partnerships is an essential basis for obtaining technical, political, and financial support to implement a project. The broader the network of people involved, the more opportunities present themselves for public and private funding, key decision-making support from bodies such as local planning and zoning boards or MPO policy committees, or contributions of in-kind resources.
Partnerships must also include all stakeholders with a interest in the project, including groups such as low-income people who may feel politically disenfranchised. The goal is to reach consensus on how to improve the community, rather than to advance a single person or group's agenda. This also means that there needs to be an ongoing dialog between diverse groups in order to better understand each others' positions and concerns (i.e., highway engineers, community residents, business owners, and developers).
"Without public involvement, you can get through the planning process faster, but the plan becomes harder to implement. If you take the time up front to get the community invested and incorporate its feedback, then people will feel like they own the plan and will work for its implementation."
- Marian Hull, River Street, Planning & Development, Troy, New York
Establishing a budget and timeline for the project often must proceed iteratively. The project steering group may initially want to lay out some options: what could we do if we had $100,000? $500,000? $1 million? Funding may only be available at first for a single element of the project, such as developing a conceptual plan or implementing a pilot set of pedestrian improvements. As the first element shows positive results with strong support, it becomes easier to obtain funding for subsequent steps of the process. Successful project partners often maintain an overall vision and set of goals for the project, but work to achieve it in manageable, practical increments. The Envision Utah TCSP project illustrates how an initial commitment of $500,000 led to over $6 million in public and private resources over six years to support a regional visioning effort.
The timeline established for a project should be realistic, yet flexible. One of the recurring themes from TCSP grantees is, "it took longer than we anticipated to build the necessary support for the project." Some projects with a broadly supported and clearly defined objective have benefited from an intense, focused approach, such as the development of a master plan for the Main Street Corridor in Houston, Texas or a design charrette for a mall in Saginaw, Michigan. Others have required a slower, more deliberative process. Urban redevelopment projects in Burlington, Vermont; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Troy, for example, required a considerable amount of time devoted just to building relationships within the affected communities and gaining the communities' trust.
Sometimes, setbacks occur because a key agency, elected official, or landowner fails to support the project's goals or specific strategies, or simply because external factors are not conducive. In Santa Fe, a mall owner showed little interest in making major changes to the property. In Seattle, a softening economy temporarily decreased developer interest in TOD projects. In both cases, project sponsors took the opportunity to advance the project's objectives in other ways - by focusing on pedestrian improvements in the Solana neighborhood, and by furthering local governments' capacity to plan for and support future TOD projects in Seattle. It is inevitable that some projects will need to change course and a few may even fail, often due to factors beyond the control of the project proponents. Project sponsors should not be overly discouraged, but should leave the ideas to percolate and perhaps be resurrected at a more opportune time in the future.
Sound data collection and technical analysis can help to improve peoples' understanding of the project's impacts and demonstrate a project's feasibility and benefits. In San Diego's Mid-City neighborhood, a GIS-based neighborhood planning tool helped convince the community of the viability of three to four-story mixed-use projects as a redevelopment strategy. Travel demand modeling in places such as Charlottesville, Virginia; Lansing, Michigan; and Salt Lake City, Utah helped to demonstrate long-term transportation benefits resulting from more compact development patterns. In Seattle, technical assistance for traffic and parking studies helped mitigate community concerns over the potential impacts of transit stations and transit-oriented development. Visualization techniques applied in areas such as Seattle helped local residents "experience" the look and feel of higher-density development and understand that it is not incompatible with a pleasant neighborhood environment. Of course, project sponsors must always remember that the purpose of technical analysis is to provide sound information a input to decision-making, rather than to support a predetermined alternative.
Project sponsors also should incorporate evaluation as an ongoing activity. At various stages throughout the process, leaders should step back and ask questions such as, what is working and what isn't; who isn't being included that should be; and what fundamental pieces of information or political support are missing that may be required to support adoption or implementation of the plan. An evaluation after each major meeting or event can serve as a time to identify next steps as well as lessons learned. Even after a major milestone has been completed (such as development of a master plan), ongoing action, evaluation, and monitoring is required to ensure successful implementation of the plan.
Union Station Work and Entertainment Connection
Colorado Department of Transportation
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Solana Neighborhood Center
City of Santa Fe
Troy, New York
South Troy Waterfront Redevelopment Plan
City of Troy
Transit Station Communities Project
Puget Sound Regional Council
FHWA - Office of Planning
400 7th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20590