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TCSP Grant Workshop Denver, Colorado May 11-12, 1999

Track B: Partnering "Our Town," a Dialogue for Livable Communities


Mariia Zimmerman; Federal Transit Administration, Washington, D.C.


David Clawson; Program Director for Policy and Planning, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

Michael Mittelholzer; Environmental Policy Analyst, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)

Janet Oakley; Director, Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO)

Barbara McCann; Campaign Manager, Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP)

The Partnership session explored the challenges and opportunities inherent in creating meaningful partnerships by making use of a presentation called "Our Town," which emphasized audience participation to explore the concept of partnering. The "Our Town" scenario involved a fictional city with features and situations that emulated a real community. The panel discussed many of the topics facing growing communities, such as a lack of public interest in transportation and land use planning, a change in the economic base, environmental concerns, and social justice issues. The purpose of the presentation was to explore ways to involve traditional and non-traditional transportation partners when addressing transportation and land use issues; to identify common obstacles and pit-falls in partnership efforts; and to give the participants ideas on how they could bring about more and better public and private participation when dealing with similar problems in their own communities.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). AASHTO is an organization consisting of the State Transportation departments in the fifty states, in addition to the Transportation departments of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. It is designed to represent its members by providing leadership, technical services, information, and advice on national transportation issues. The desired result of AASHTO's efforts is to create a safe transportation system that ensures mobility, enhances economic prosperity, and sustains the environment.

National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The NAHB consists of more than 800 state and local builders associations from across the country. It serves the needs of its individual members as well as affiliated state and local associations. Its mission is to enhance the climate for the housing and building industry, and to promote policies that will keep housing a national priority. Chief among NAHB's goals is providing and expanding opportunities for all consumers to have safe, decent, and affordable housing. The organization promotes the use of consumer input in designing smart growth strategies.

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO). AMPO is a nonprofit organization made up of every MPO in the United States. Typically made up of local elected officials, MPOs are part of the transportation planning process in urban areas where federal transportation funds are used. These MPOs come together through AMPO to assist each other in developing plans consistent with TEA-21. AMPO serves these MPOs by offering technical assistance and training, conferences, research, and a forum for transportation policy development and coalition building. AMPO promotes best practices as a way to show successful MPOs' methods for addressing a variety of TEA-21 goals, including sustainable development.

Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP). Created in the early 1990's, STTP is an organization of more than 200 environmental and community groups at both the national and local level. STPP is involved in transportation reform and control of sprawl with the aim of creating liveable communities. The organization disseminates information to interested parties to help them make better transportation decisions. The organization also has resources available for sustainable development.

Our Town - A Dialogue

Getting individuals involved in planning processes can be extremely difficult. Often, people only come together when there is a controversial issue to be debated. However, getting the public involved in long-term planning produces more viable community and transportation plans. Utilizing unique methods and tools can increase the success of participation. It is possible to make use of organizations within the community such as churches, schools, neighborhood associations, advocacy groups, businesses or chamber of commerce, and real estate associations, as well as other community organizations, to disseminate information. It is also helpful to display information at public places or in public forums such as newspapers, at shopping centers, and county fairs. For the TCSP program, applicants are encouraged to involve partners in developing the proposals, and not to only work on with partners on the project once it has been decided.

Partnerships can also be beneficial in economic development plans. A balance must be maintained between the needs of the local businesses and businesses relocating from other areas. When attempting to attract new businesses, one must consider the transportation infrastructure and how freight will be moved. Different types of businesses have different transportation needs. To encourage businesses to develop on brownfield sites, one must provide accurate information about the pollution problems, prior ownership, and any cleanup at the sites. In addition, when planning for new businesses, one must also plan for the people who will be moving into the area to work. When preparing economic development plans, business people, elected officials, environmental advocacy groups, and citizen groups should be involved because they can provide a unique perspective. For example, contacts to the community can be used to determine if amenities such as bicycle or pedestrian paths are attractive to builders. One should also bring in local zoning boards and planners to ensure that a proposed development plan is consistent with the zoning laws that are in place.

Participation is also valuable when dealing with environmental impacts of transportation and development projects. In order to more effectively address environmental issues, local groups should participate along with the more visible large national environmental organizations. Universities can also be useful partners, as they can provide information on planning, community, and environmental issues. One should work to get people involved in all types of environmental issues, such as air quality, water quality, agricultural land preservation, and open space preservation.

It is essential to make an attempt to get all groups in the community involved to ensure that projects are socially equitable. If there are ethnic groups in the area, it is useful to send employ staff able to speak additional languages. In order to improve communication. It is also important to take into account impacts on low income areas. Improvements in transit service often helps lower income populations, which make up a disproportionately high percentage of transit users. One should discourage the pattern of creating projects which benefit the suburbs at the expense of the city.

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