Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Program
The TCSP First-Year Accomplishments Report identified six types of benefits resulting from the TCSP program:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.