Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Kansas City, Missouri Summary

Discussion Summary:

While this meeting was intended to focus on rural and tribal issues, because of the attendee mix, additional issues were addressed. Key discussion points included:

Based on input from this workshop, continued work in subsequent workshops focused on developing these ideas more thoroughly. The meeting structure included a number of presentations on regional practices, as well as a significant amount of brainstorming, facilitated discussion, and idea sharing. A summary of activities and key outputs follows.

Picture of people in a small breakout group at the Kansas City Regional Livability Workshop talking together in a roundtable discussion
Kansas City workshop discussions.

Workshop Specifics:

Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) office
600 Broadway Street
Boardroom in Suite 200
Kansas City, MO 64105

Date / Time:
April 7, 2011 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Welcome and Introductions:

Shana Baker from FHWA's Office of Human Environment welcomed participants and provided a brief overview of the day's goals. She reiterated that FHWA is focused on livability as part of comprehensive planning efforts to generate a framework for transportation decisions that result in safer and more convenient transportation options.

Representatives from the regional HUD/DOT/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities gave opening remarks as well. Cindy Terwilliger, Deputy Regional Administrator for FTA Region 7, highlighted her agency's collaboration in Jefferson City, Kansas, on a diesel reduction grant, and the interagency reviews of grant applications on nationwide basis. Tracy Troutner, Transportation Planner for FHWA's Iowa Division, commended an inner city project in Iowa that is also a brownfield redevelopment project for its good coordination efforts, particularly at Federal level. Derrith Watchman-Moore, Regional Administrator from HUD Region 7, emphasized the focus on the quality of life for children now and in the future within livability. Matt Duran, Acting Deputy Assistant Regional Administrator for EPA Region 7, recognized that collaborating closely with Federal entities is essential to supporting sustainable communities. He mentioned how sustainability is important because where and how you build a community has an impact on public health, highlighting EPA's Greening America's Capitols (including nearby Jefferson City) and their increased outreach to State and local partners. Workshop facilitators, managers from ICF International and Renaissance Planning Group, and all participants introduced themselves.

Setting the Stage for Livability:

Harrison Rue from ICF International reviewed the purpose and outcomes of both the overall project and the day's workshop in particular. As the majority of participants indicated that they had not read the background paper developed for this project, The Role of FHWA Programs in Livability: State of the Practice Summary, Mr. Rue provided a comprehensive overview of the paper's content. This overview included a review of the Sustainable Communities Partnership and the associated principles, components included in the definition of "livability in transportation," benefits of incorporating livability, overall research findings, and a review of State of the practice examples from areas that have successfully incorporated livability into a variety of efforts.

Identifying Challenges to Livability:

During this large group discussion session, participants were asked to focus on the following three questions:

  1. What are the big challenges to implementing transportation solutions that advance livable communities?
  2. What is one solution that has worked for your agency?
  3. How do the challenges and solutions differ in:
    1. Urban, suburban, and rural contexts?
    2. Local, regional, and State agencies?

Participants identified five main categories of challenges, as well as potential solutions that could be used to overcome some of these challenges. During the discussion, participant recommendations were listed on flip charts and posted around the room for participants to reference during discussion. From the Atlanta meeting discussions, greater emphasis was put on identifying priorities among the different challenges through a dot-voting exercise (see description at the end of the section) and expanding the discussion on success stories/practices from the participant's experiences. The categories below of the five identified challenges reflect the voting priorities from this exercise.

  1. Interagency/Interdisciplinary Barriers
    • Many transportation agencies, specifically State DOTs, view livability as a local concern. It is not necessarily incorporated into their design or projects.
    • A disconnect exists between local authority and regional decisionmaking, especially when dealing with land use issues. If all localities assume strong growth, then the regional traffic projects are increased as well. It can be difficult to get everyone to transition from local to regional decisionmaking.
    • Interdisciplinary projects are the anomaly, rather than the norm. It is not as common in practice as everyone would like.
    • Local and regional processes have evolved to respond to Federal requirements and those processes now have their own self-imposed restriction. What are the changes we need to make to leverage the flexibility offered at the Federal level?
    • Local and regional priorities start from different places and are different — the challenge is in reconciling or balancing them.
    • Environmental justice is defined differently by EPA and FHWA, which challenges practitioners.
    • Local governments may not enforce their own zoning and sidewalk ordinances in their own plan, which complicates achieving the regional vision.
  2. Funding Priority Mismatch
    • Particularly on the FHWA side, the funding programs are not very well established to support livability projects. Many funding program are not accessible for community-level projects that support/promote livability
      • With priorities–for example, livable community projects are competing with major bridge projects. DOTs are not hearing from communities that livable communities are higher priority than the bridge. Also big projects have been waiting to be built so they stay on the project list as higher priorities.
    • Specifically with congestion mitigation and air quality (CMAQ) funding, the State gets CMAQ funding which they do not use for bicycle and pedestrian projects in urban areas that maintain their attainment. Those communities are being punished for doing their job well.
    • Different agencies have different requirements at different points in time. They don't have pots of money that come out at the same time that are being used in a given State in a coordinated notice of funding availability (NOFA) so that you can target a local project for a true livable communities effort. Agencies have different implementing regulations and definitions. Even the basic time horizons for the programs are different and uncoordinated.
  3. Making Livability Less Politically "Hot"
    • Too few policymakers and elected officials at local level understand these concepts and their value to the community.
      • Shifting national priorities makes it difficult for local elected officials to grab on to the livability concept and this happens at all levels of government.
      • City staff will be on-board for building complete streets, but it is stuck when it gets to council members who will not vote for new zoning code. (Despite this concern, it was noted that more than six local governments in the Kansas City region have adopted complete streets policies in 2011)
    • It can be difficult to insulate many projects from kinds of political changes mentioned here.
  4. Demonstrating the Value of Multimodal Transportation (in a range of contexts)
    • People do not value multimodal transportation systems, in both rural and urban regions, and all of the related benefits.
    • It is difficult to evaluate multimodal transportation and its benefits.
    • Very common to have conflicts between State DOT and local project sponsor, especially when road in question is a State route but very important locally.
    • Current scorekeeping practices do not recognize economics/pedestrian/health benefits of livability projects.
    • It can be hard to implement many multimodal solutions in the existing right-of-ways.
  5. Cost/benefit Analyses to Quantify the Benefits Related to Larger Community Goals
    • With the cost of building the roadways, many communities are looking at short-term costs rather than long-term benefits.
    • Economic benefits do not officially count in transportation decisionmaking. Most investments do not require cost benefits analysis.
    • Sustainability measures and solutions are not included in transportation analyses.
  6. Other Challenges

    Design standards, manuals, and technical concerns:

    • Real/perceived conflicts with design standards that engineers need to follow.
    • Engineers tend to stick with the most conservative option even within flexible standards.
    • Standards do not differentiate enough between different types of community contexts.
    • Safety is still limited to automobile measures.
    • Planners and engineers are always designing for more growth in 2030, but that is a value judgment and an assumption that may not be true.
    • The goals for highway and transportation officials may not match what the communities and residents want. Many visions for community design in places are controlled by transportation engineers and they do not necessarily have the attitude that we are looking for.
    • Current curriculum for traffic engineers in colleges does not include courses on traffic design and courses on how traffic affects businesses.


    • The environmental scale of the decisions may be different from the transportation scale of decisionmaking.
    • Hard to know how to reconfigure a mile grid structure to a smaller scale, are the tools missing?

    The impacts of changing demographics: Designing and collaborating across sectors for an aging population is not well accounted for.

    Sprawl is still a viable choice: Opportunity to sprawl out in these communities still exists.

A summary of the solutions that participants mentioned are listed below. As many of these solutions are broadly applicable to a variety of challenges, they are not grouped into discrete categories.

Following this discussion, participants received four dot stickers, which they used to vote for the challenges they thought were the most significant. No limit was placed on this voting process, and participants were allowed to use one or all four dots on any one particular challenge, depending on the significance they placed on it. As mentioned above, the categorization of the five identified challenges reflect the voting priorities from this exercise.

Overcoming Challenges:

Four of the workshop participants presented on successful livability efforts in the region, allowing all workshop participants to see and hear about successful livability examples in their region. Tom Gerend from the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) spoke about their Transportation Outlook 2040 as a foundation for public discussion around regional goals, aiming to understand how transportation can be used to leverage us collectively to respond to all of these challenges together. Dean Katerndahl from MARC spoke about their green impact zone initiative, which was a way to concentrate resources in one specific neighborhood area to make a substantial impact — by addressing all those social problems/dimensions simultaneously, the investment could have a bigger impact. Scott Bernstein from the Center for Neighborhood Technology talked about their housing and transportation affordability tool, which analyzes the financial/economic benefits of location efficiency. Janet Attarian from Chicago DOT discussed their streetscape and sustainable design program policies, which use sustainability as a driver for their work. She also emphasized that performance measure ground livability and sustainability to ensure that what is built is performing in the way you said it would, helping to move the practice forward. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion, focusing on the key elements of their success:

Following this roundtable discussion, participants divided themselves into five groups with a mix of State, regional, local, and Federal representatives. During this hour-long discussion, participants were asked to consider examples where they had overcome a project challenge and use that experience to answer the following questions:

Each group provided a quick summary of their discussion.

Funding Priority Mismatch

Making Livability "Apolitical"

Demonstrating the Value of Multimodal Transportation

Cost/benefit Tools for Quantifying the Broader Benefits of Livability for Communities

Interagency Barriers

Regional Livability Planning Strategies:

Four of the workshop participants presented on their organization's success in developing and implementing livability planning strategies at a regional level. Jay Hoekstra from the Grand Valley Metro Council discussed his organization's regional planning process, which uses scenario planning and 10-12 development options. They used a visioning process and asked people to place their population in areas around the region. There was remarkable consensus about where growth should go–into central urban area and the least should go into the agricultural and natural areas. Ruth Ann Wedel from Greensburg Greentown discussed how her town has used sustainability as a planning and development principle after 80% of the town was destroyed in a tornado. Their initiative is incentive and education based, and has been very successful. Stephen Hardy from BNIM discussed his firm's work with the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in southwest South Dakota. One challenge has been to identify who should be in charge of planning and how it is organized; they have also been focusing on using technology in new ways, experimenting with place-based text messaging and different crowd source regional tools to get feedback from people. Kerstin Carr from Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) discussed their lifelong communities' initiative, which links complete streets and healthy communities. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion, focusing on the key elements of their success:

Kate Ange from Renaissance Planning Group provided an overview of strategies and planning efforts that have proven most effective in supporting regional livability within a variety of geographic scales. Ms. Ange examined those focus areas that offer opportunities for implementing livability at a regional scale, and where best practice examples have proven effective: integrated planning processes, including interagency coordination; technical analysis and goal-setting, including translating values and quantifying benefits; plans, policies, and projects, including tapping into flexible funding sources; and program support and outreach such as making livability apolitical and better articulating multimodal benefits. Ms. Ange reviewed that many of these elements are present in existing planning requirements and processes, including long-range transportation plans, comprehensive plans, regional visioning efforts, regional environmental greenprints and watershed planning, regional transit plans, and economic development plans.

Participants broke into five groups with a mix of State, regional, local, and Federal representatives, for an hour-long small group discussion on the following questions:

Each group summarized their discussion, and the main points of each summary are listed below.

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4

Group 5

Identifying Opportunities:

Harrison Rue reviewed some successful communication and outreach efforts to identify some of the options available for messaging and marketing the concept of livability. Successful communication and outreach efforts have included fact sheets, summary brochures, summary posters, Web 2.0, and social media. Considering these efforts, participants were asked to reflect on the following questions in a large-group setting:

A summary of the discussion is included below.



FHWA-specific Technical Tools and Training

Closing and Next Steps:

To finish the day, the facilitators and FHWA thanked participants and explained the next steps in the creation of the supporting guidance materials for organizations around the country that are interested in pursuing or advancing livability in transportation efforts in their community.

Evaluation Forms & Changes for Next Meeting:

In general, workshop participants provided reviewed the workshop favorably. The initial session on "Identifying Challenges to Livability" worked well when divided into two separate discussions–challenges and solutions. Participants responded well to keeping the discussions separate rather than using the combined format from the Atlanta workshop. Small group discussions worked well when groups consisted of around eight people, and facilitators should work to ensure that future workshops maintain small groups of this size. Suggested changes to the format included separating the challenges and solutions discussion more firmly providing more closure to the first discussion session on "Identifying Challenges to Livability."

For the Boston workshop, FHWA conducted additional outreach to ensure greater representation from State DOT and housing agency representatives, as well as rural communities. In response to participant requests for receiving a more detailed agenda up-front, an agenda was provided with more information on the discussion topic areas and questions. A more detailed discussion and greater emphasis on the State and State DOT role in regional livability work will be highlighted. The Boston and other subsequent workshops will continue to build off the challenges mentioned in the Atlanta and Kansas City workshops.

Workshop Participants

Participant Organization
Amy Seeboth Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
Dean Katerndahl MARC
Dianne Dessauer Indian Nations COG
Greg Youell Metropolitan Area Planning Agency
James Joerke Johnson County, Kansas
Janet Attarian Chicago DOT
Jay Hoekstra Grand Valley Metro Council
Jeff Hirt MARC
Kerstin Carr Mid-Ohio RPC
Lee Ann Kell Missouri DOT
Maggie Martino Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
Mercy Davison Town of Normal, IL
Mike Beezhold Camp Dresser McKee, Inc.
Mike Brienzo City of Lincoln, NE
Randy Entz City of Oklahoma City, Planning Department
Richard Jarrold Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
Robert Byers Hennepin County, MN
Ron Achelpohl MARC
Ruth Ann Wedel Greensburg Greentown
Scott Bernstein Center for Neighborhood Technology
Stephanie Watts Kansas DOT
Stephen Hardy BNIM Architects
Steve Rhoades Patti Banks Associates
Terry Kohlbuss Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
Tim Griffin St. Paul Riverfront Corporation
Tom Gerend MARC
Tom Jacobs MARC

Federal Participants

Participant Organization
Amanda Halstead EPA
Cindy Terwilliger FTA
Derrith Watchman-Moore HUD —Region 7
James Thorne FHWA — Resource Center Planning Team
John Donovan FHWA — Illinois Division Office
Justin Luther FHWA — Nebraska Division Office
Laurie Bedlington HUD
Mark Bechtel FTA
Matt Duran EPA
Michael Latuszek FHWA — Missouri Division Office
Paula Schwach FTA
Tracy Troutner FHWA — Iowa Division Office
Shana Baker FHWA — Office of Human Environment

Consultant Team

Consultant Organization
Elizabeth Wallis ICF International
Harrison Rue ICF International
Kate Ange Renaissance Planning Group
Kathleen Rooney ICF International

Livability Examples Provided by Kansas City Participants

In order to draw on the vast experience and knowledge of the selected participants, participants were asked to send the facilitators relevant information on best practices related to livability within their communities prior to the workshop. This information, along with the information that regional representatives presented during the workshop, are listed below. This information serves as an informal collection of examples that could be used in future guidebook/primer efforts when discussing best practices and developing case studies.

HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership | DOT Livability | FTA Livable & Sustainable Communities
Updated: 10/20/2015
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000