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Livability in Transportation Webinar Series: Planning Approaches that Promote Livability

Part 1 Transcript: Visioning, Planning and Process, and Policy

Hello and welcome to this webinar from the National Transit Institute. This is part one of our livability in transportation webinar series. It will focus on visioning, planning process, and policy. Thank you for participating today.

This webinar is structured based on the Livability in Transportation Guidebook. The three sections in today's webinar are chapters in that guidebook, supplemented by new research and material. The second webinar will cover three more chapters from this guidebook, plus updated material.

First on our agenda today we will have an introduction by Lilly Shoup; then we will have an overview of the guidebook from Shana Baker. Next we will have our three chapters on visioning, planning procedures, and policy and program development. And then we will have a wrap-up and discuss next steps. Our presenters today will include Lilly Shoup, representing the Office of the Secretary at USDOT, Shana Baker, from the Federal Highway Administration, and Jeff Price, from the Federal Transit Administration. And with that, I'd like to hand it off to Lilly.

Great, thank you so much. It is important, I think, to start with a shared definition of livability. Most Americans don't use the term sustainability, livability, and smart growth, and its definition can differ depending on the region and the community. The definition on this slide is condensed from the Livability in Transportation Guidebook. But the one I like to use is that a sustainable community is an urban, suburban or rural community that has more housing and transportation choices, is closer to jobs, shops and schools, is more energy independent and helps protect clean air and water.

Some examples of livability strategies in transportation are: providing more transportation choices; addressing transportation safety and system capacity through better planning design; integrating transportation and land use planning and decision-making; and using the existing system more efficiently through demand management, management & operations, and ITS strategies. Some other livability and transportation strategies are developing seamless connectivity between modes, and enhancing the natural environment by keeping in mind impacts on water and air quality.

As I mentioned, US DOT has been working to promote livability strategies for some time, through a variety of different programs and offices. And what we are seeing is that as communities begin using these tools they are able to support local decision-making and comprehensive planning, while leveraging a variety of financial resources to promote more transportation options. This is especially important right now, when so many transportation agencies are facing budget shortfalls and trying to find ways to achieve more with less.

For example, the benefits of livability include economic growth and development, reduced transportation costs for homeowners and local governments, and air and water quality improvements. In fact, a new area of research is finding a variety of ways that livability can support healthy communities by increasing walking and bicycling as well as creating spaces for social interaction.

Formed in 2009, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities works to coordinate federal housing, transportation, and environmental infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, and allow people to live closer to jobs, schools, and services. The three partnership agencies-HUD, DOT, and EPA-work to incorporate six principles of livability into federal programs, policies, and legislative proposals.

These are the six principles of livability that the Partnership agencies are using. These are defined in more detail and illustrated with case study examples on the Partnership website, which is at But as you can see, transportation is really an integral part of all of these principles. In addition to just providing more transportation choices, the transportation system plays a role in economic competitiveness and community reinvestment.

For more information on all this we've put together a number of resources. These are all hyperlinked so you can access them online. And finally, in addition to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities website, there are three DOT transportation livability websites that you can access here. And now I will turn it over to Shana Baker to give an overview.

Thank you Lilly. I'll begin with an overview of the guidebook and then transition into visioning. The Livability in Transportation Guidebook was developed by FHWA & FTA for use by transportation practitioners to advance livability. The guidebook gives solid examples of how livability principles have been successfully incorporated into transportation planning, programming, and project development in urban and rural contexts. It shows examples of how communities used a balanced approach to maximize the effectiveness of existing resources and targeting transportation funds to support reinvestment in existing communities.

This diagram depicts steps for incorporating livability into transportation decision-making. The steps are key processes or areas to input livability discussions and actions. The diagram shows how livability principles, concepts, and activities can be mainstreamed in each step of the transportation decision-making process.

Visioning. Visioning is a process and a tool that can be used in the transportation planning decision-making process. It strengthens public participation in the project development delivery process and is specifically used to aid the public in understanding proposed plans. Visioning is forward-thinking. It covers multiple generations and it paints a compelling future with follow-up planning, figuring out how to get there. Visioning is unconstrained. It encourages development of innovative solutions that meet the particular circumstances. Visioning is comprehensive. It takes into consideration the land use, environmental, social, economic, transportation and other issues important to a community. And finally, visioning is flexible. It can be used at the beginning of a planning effort to generate ideas and interest, or used as a tool in the middle of a larger project.

Visioning-based approaches in interactive public involvement can help transportation agencies and their partners overcome a range of challenges, especially when used early in the planning process. Visioning includes interactive public involvement, a simpler process to address a specific transportation issue. It also includes scenario planning, which is an analytical tool that provides a framework for developing a shared vision for the future of analyzing various things that affect growth. And finally, visioning involves gathering community preferences and prioritizing issues.

Next we will look at three diverse case studies that used visioning. The first case study is the Gateway 1 Corridor in Maine. The Gateway 1 Corridor spans 110 miles across a segment of Maine's rural mid-coast. It is an example of a larger-scale corridor-based visioning initiative. The effort was led by Maine Department of Transportation, and the vision was created by the Gateway Route 1 Steering Committee.

The vision aligns multiple interconnecting livability issues, such as land use, transportation, environment, and the economy into a cohesive development and investment strategy that was embraced by the state and localities through their respective policies. And extensive community outreach was initiated with more than 50 community and large regional meetings, which led to extraordinary cooperation between the communities and the state to meet their goals of preserving the integrity of Route 1. To meet their goals, the Maine Department of Transportation developed a two-step scenario process to help articulate and synthesize a vision across each of the 20 communities in the region.

The Gateway Route 1 steering committee chose to go with a hybrid approach called the Community Centered Corridor. This approach blends the transit-oriented corridor patterns, more compact development with more likely and politically-feasible low-density patterns. The Community Centered Corridor has the same pattern as a transit-oriented corridor, which is formed by a series of compact, core growth areas along the corridor. The result of the community outreach efforts led to agreement on three long-term outcomes, which were: moving goods and people safely and smoothly; preserving the scenic, rural qualities along the corridor; and expanding the ability to grow jobs in the corridor.

The second case study highlights the Capital District Committee's long range transportation plan update. The Capital District Transportation Committee, the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Albany, Troy, Schenectady, New York region, set out to develop a long range plan based on a broad set of community objectives, allowing for a more prominent connection between transportation, land use, and other specialized areas of planning.

The plan, New Visions, is centered on 31 principles and was grouped into four categories. The plan was created through an extensive, three-year public involvement process intended to articulate a vision for the region's future. While New Vision functioned as the region's long range transportation plan, it also used the goals and desires identified in the vision's statement to establish a philosophy for how transportation planning and project delivery should occur in the region.

New Visions 2030, the current long range transportation plan, focused on regional transportation and land use connections, and introduced scenarios to understand potential future transportation outcomes of current land use and community planning decisions. It also evaluated four growth scenarios: two scenarios using a trend-based population growth rate, and two scenarios with a high growth rate. Capital District Transportation Committee staff used the regional travel demand to forecast traffic patterns and summarize likely transportation investment needs for each scenario. The maps that you see on the slide show population growth from 2000 to the year 2030 under the four alternative development scenarios.

The final case study is Route 50 in Loudon County, Virginia. This project is an example of a corridor visioning process that led to successful implementation of intersection enhancement, and traffic calming measures on the rural state highway. The Virginia Department of Transportation announced a proposal to study transportation issues on Route 50 in Loudon and Fauquier counties, and the potential for building a bypass around the towns of Middleburg and Aldie. Reacting to this, the Route 50 Corridor Coalition was formed as a partnership of five local non-profit groups. The coalition's main goals were to develop a corridor-wide vision for Route 50 that incorporated a long range view of transportation and land use, and provide alternatives to widening and the bypass proposal. This example demonstrates the importance of meaningful public involvement in transportation decision-making, particularly at the outset.

In conclusion, each study exemplifies how a vision is forward-thinking, unconstrained, comprehensive, flexible, inclusive, participatory, and linked to action. The differences include the scale of the vision and its study area, the lead organization, the primary focus, and the funding mechanisms. In each case, the vision creates a foundation for informed, community-based decision-making. Vision-based approaches can help stakeholders evaluate both the quantitative data and subjective qualitative elements that affect the community and its quality of life. Now I'll turn it over the Jeff.

Thank you Shana. Planning Procedures. Today's economic, environmental, and social conditions have created a different set of transportation system demands compared to past years when most MPOs and state transportation planning processes were established. Changing contexts requires a different set of planning processes. Today we will show examples of how state, regional, and local agencies have moved beyond established procedures to better address common transportation challenges. They have changed project delivery processes, including using alternative performance measures, outreach methods, and implementation strategies so that transportation projects can improve community livability.

On the slide is a photo of Baltimore region's long range transportation plan called the Plan It 2035 plan, adopted in November 2011. And really, that's what this livability discussion is about: mainstreaming livability into our goals and everyday activities to provide better outcomes in our planning, projects, and programs.

Planning procedures involve the following: Real Input: avoiding controversy when transportation agencies go through lengthy project development processes but fail to truly capture the community's input. Defining the problem and need. Transportation agencies are often faced with situations where projects have been advanced to a late stage, before stakeholders come to consensus on the problem at hand. Another key planning procedure is partnerships: Planning that integrates transportation, land use, affordable housing, and environmental considerations requires an interagency process to uncover shared issues and "big picture" solutions. Creative, integrated plans: Building interdisciplinary project teams of planning, engineering, and design staff, and working together to develop and test concept plans, is a proven approach to integrating transportation with land use and development, and aligning fiscal reality to reflect actual costs of projects.

For our first case study we'll be looking at Charlotte, North Carolina and their integrated land use and transit planning. The City of Charlotte was looking to move from a road vision to a vision plan to implement transit and transit-oriented development. Charlotte successfully embraced integrated transit and land use planning, producing high transit ridership while accomplishing various livability goals. The city followed required federal and state processes and introduced unique local and regional planning and regulatory mechanisms-based on its transit planning program, on a broad vision that tied the city's land use planning future to a series of growth corridors that featured high capacity transit. On the slide you can see on the left the centers, corridors and wedges plan, and on the right on the slide you see the links and streetcar system map.

More on what Charlotte accomplished. Detailed planning for the transit corridor started immediately after a sales tax referendum passed. Then, major investments studies for all five corridors were conducted in 1999 and 2000, which recommended a combination of light rail, BRT, street car, commuter rail, and enhanced bus service, Following that up, between 1999 and 2003, the city developed a series of land use policies and regulations to enable transit-supportive land uses to ensure transit success and achieve the vision, which included transit station area planning, detailed station area plans for each of the 64 stations, and TOD zoning and other regulatory changes. Overall, the Charlotte case study illustrates successful integration of land use and transportation planning and decision-making from the visioning effort through project development.

The Washington State Department of Transportation Design Assistance Branch provides another example of how land use planning and community visioning expertise can be incorporated within a DOT or a state department of transportation, and how integrated land uses and transportation planning can help address transportation issues. The highways and local program division of the Washington State DOT provides technical assistance to improve roadway design and promote partnerships between state agencies, local agencies, and stakeholders like school districts, tribal nations and other groups. Areas of assistance include: plan and policy development, mediation services, and transportation design charrettes.

The next example is the PlanCheyenne master plan in Cheyenne, Wyoming. PlanCheyenne is a community plan example from a medium-sized city. PlanCheyenne is a comprehensive plan, or master plan, here at the city of Cheyenne, Wyoming. PlanCheyenne consists of three major components: the community plan, the parks and recreation master plan, and the transportation master plan. In preparing PlanCheyenne, the community sought to fundamentally change the typical non-integrative planning process so that land use, parks, open space, and transportation are more closely linked, bringing the concepts of mobility and livable communities into sharp focus.

The community plan provides the following principles: New neighborhoods will be designed to accommodate traffic growth; impacts to existing neighborhoods will be minimized; building multi-modal transportation systems will consist of streets, sidewalks, bicycle facilities, and transit; maintaining a fiscally responsible transportation plan; and finally, maximizing use of the existing road system.

Our next case study is the California Department of Transportation, Caltrans, Smart Mobility Framework. The purpose, or the intent of this program, is to develop a planning framework that will help guide and assess how well plans, programs, and projects meet a definition of "smart mobility". The goal is to ensure applicability of the framework for Caltrans as well as for partner agencies. This Smart Mobility framework will be used to guide development of projects and assess the projects and their criteria. Ideally, the framework will be applied to various levels of plans, programs, and projects throughout Caltrans' project delivery.

Planning procedures conclusions. Incorporating livability goals into the spectrum of planning activities can help define mobility needs prior to developing solutions. Planning activities include public engagement, data collection, evaluation of alternative future scenarios, and adoption of fiscally realistic long -range plans and short-range programs. Third, rethinking the planning process facilitates partnerships necessary to effectively implement an integrated project. And fourth, changes in process ensure helped ensure planning that reflects actual costs of transportation projects. The case studies explored all incorporated livability into transportation projects by integrating mobility goals with other community needs through a planning approach or process that differs from conventional practices. The case studies showed that altering the process for which projects are developed or planned can help stakeholders agree on key issues before advancing to solutions. The Livability Guidebook (chapter 3) is where these case studies were taken from, and please refer to them for more detail. I'll now turn it over to Lily.

Great, thanks Jeff. This last section of the guidebook we'll cover today looks at how policies that support livability can have a lasting and program-wide effect.

Policy approaches can help demonstrate the intention and direction of a transportation agency in a way that can help overcome a variety of challenges-from funding through construction. Changing or clarifying policies can improve concept development and ensure that staff utilize the flexibility in design that they have. It can also recognize and incorporate other context-sensitive design guides and tools. Incorporating livability into policy and program development can also be a way to ensure that transportation investments are coordinated with land use planning and real estate. Doing this consistently across the region ensures that both are integrated and mutually reinforce one another. And of course, because policy and program development involve setting the stage for how projects are implemented, livability can be a way to change standard operating procedures and ultimately save agencies time and money.

Our first case study is the Pennsylvania DOT's Smart Transportation initiative. This was a department-wide policy shift that sought to better align the agency's financial operating budget with statewide transportation needs. The State DOT recognized that without changes to their standard operating procedures, their budget would not be able to meet demand. Declining statewide transportation funding, scarce federal assistance, and increases in construction costs had created a backlog of unfunded projects. Pennsylvania DOT recognized that not only did it not have enough funding to build programmed projects, it was also facing increasing maintenance needs for one of the nation's oldest infrastructure systems.

Since the department's project delivery process was perceived to be a key driver of this problem, the Pennsylvania DOT adopted a new policy direction that had three components: First, incorporating livable transportation principles as the basis for planning and project design decisions. Second, a flexible street design resource that takes into account context-sensitive solutions. And third, changes to the way the DOT considered land use and transportation.

The department adopted this series of Smart Transportation principles that build on FHWA's Context Sensitive Solutions initiative. The principles emphasize overall project cost as a critically important factor in decision-making, considering project context, and prioritizing value-to-price ratio in project selection. The agency is currently working with its planning partners to revise its project delivery process to reinforce these principles. The new process strengthens the role of planning earlier in project delivery to ensure more predictable project schedules, more consistent budgets, and ensuring community goals are met.

The second case study focuses on the Atlanta Regional Commission Livable Centers Initiative. The Atlanta Regional Commission is the regional planning agency and MPO that coordinates land use and transportation throughout the region. The agency developed the livable centers initiative to provide assistance to local governments to develop integrated transportation -land use plans for high-activity centers and corridors throughout the region.

The program is the first of its kind in the Atlanta region to systematically link land use and transportation, and for tying this planning to Federal transportation funding and environmental protection. Since its creation 11 years ago, the program has grown to include over 100 communities, which have used livable centers funding to complete sustainability plans and transportation-related projects.

This initiative by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments aims to improve the quality of life in local communities through a series of tutorial workshops using East-West Greenway's tool, the Digital Design Guide. The tool focuses on answering the question, "What makes a street great?" And through this project, the East-West Greenway facilitates greater awareness from residents, local planners, and community leaders as to how transportation projects and decisions can affect the city's overall built environment.

At the other end of the spectrum, New York City's comprehensive sustainability plan-PlaNYC-is a policy organized into 6 key areas: These are land, water, transportation, energy, air, and climate change. The policy actually includes 127 initiatives designed to strengthen the city's economy, public health, and quality of life. Just a few of the transportation goals include: improving travel times, reaching a "state of good repair" on all modes of transportation, reducing congestion, and facilitating freight movements. More information on PlaNYC is available online, but this really demonstrates how the DOT can set the direction and the tone for future policy investments.

In conclusion, the operational reality is that transportation budgets are not keeping pace with agency costs, particularly with increasing maintenance needs. This underscores the importance of developing policies department-wide that support cost-effective facility design and affordable transportation choices. Incorporating livability into policy and program development can increase political support and staff engagement on these issues. While not everyone in an agency might be convinced of the benefits of a livable transportation policy framework, enlisting key individuals at strategic points throughout the organization can be an effective strategy. Similarly, engaging external partners and coordinating with local jurisdictions can also be a great way to facilitate change and set a new tone and direction for a transportation agency. And now I will turn it back to Jeff.

Thank you Lily. Now it's time for our wrap-up and next steps. In part one of this webinar, we covered visioning, which included engaging community residents and stakeholders, and also using scenario planning and other important planning tools to really bring the community together. Then we explored planning procedures, using an all-hands-on-deck approach to planning, which mainstreams the livability concepts, and includes stakeholders in the decision-making all the way through the process. And finally, Lily covered policy and program development, continually evolving to incorporate best practices and recognize new needs, and establish new and changed programs to implement them.

Upcoming in Part 2 of the webinar will cover the remainder of the Livability in Transportation Guidebook, which will include partnership, design, and implementation and funding. In partnership, we'll be looking at innovative coordinated strategies to advance common goals and collaborate through inter-agency and local stakeholder partnership. For design, we'll be looking at new approaches and guidance, and understanding system users and including them in the process. Finally, implementation and funding. We'll look at aligning transportation investments with livability goals to maximize their effectiveness and looking at a systems approach.

We'd just like to remind you of the agency resources: The website, and the DOT Livability website, the Federal Highway's website, and the FTA livability website. And finally, the Livability in Transportation Guidebook for download on the Federal Highway's Livability website. Thank you for joining Part 1 in the Livability in Transportation Webinar.

Updated: 1/3/2014
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