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traffic and domestic electronic devices could contribute to hearing loss over time, compromising the health of individuals and their ability to enjoy their living environment. METHODS Table 8-3 provides a brief summary of the methods presented in this chapter. Table 8-3. Summary of methods for analyzing community cohesion Assessment Appropriate Use Data Expertise Method level uses when needs required 1. Focus groups Screening Assess current Planning phase when Low Group level of cohesion; project may impact facilitation identify sensitive community cohesion issues 2. Personal Screening Assess current Low Conduct interviews level of cohesion; interviews identify sensitive issues 3. Deliberative Screening/ Assess current Low Television polling detailed level of cohesion; production; identify sensitive polling issues techniques 4. Travel Detailed Estimate travel Planning phase when High Standard demand demand (TD) project may impact travel demand models with between census community cohesion modeling; geographic blocks and a high level of census data information detail required analysis; GIS systems (GIS) 5. Stop watch Screening/ Evaluate Planning phase when Low None and distance detailed pedestrian travel a project may impact wheel times and community cohesion distances Method 1. Focus groups to identify interaction patterns To adequately understand the desired spatial linkages of a particular area of the community, there is no substitute for directly communicating with members of the affected area. When to use. Focus groups are a practical means of gaining an understanding of how cohesive an area of the community is, how dependent this cohesiveness is on specific types of interaction, and the spatial extent of common patterns of interaction. If there is a potential for spatial disruption of an area of the community, especially one occupied by minority populations and low-income populations, focus groups are a sensible means for acquiring information that can be useful in designing the project or mitigating unwanted impacts. 207
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Analysis. When community cohesion is the concern, a one-size-fits-all approach is certainly not appropriate. Rather, a series of issues and concerns should be addressed, some of which cut across most possible types of projects and others that may or may not apply in a particular instance. First, participants of the focus group should help define the perimeters of the area of the community of concern. Then, they should be asked about frequency of trips and important destinations in the environment that could potentially be affected by the proposed transportation project. Once the spatial nature of the affected population is deduced, potential impacts can be discussed in terms of how they may affect community cohesion. Earlier in this chapter, various types of impacts were briefly discussed. We now translate them into a series of questions that can be used in the focus group discussion: 1. Would a physical barrier be created between members of the community? 2. Would the travel time to residences of close friends living in the community increase? 3. Would access to any neighborhood/community child care facility be diminished? 4. Would the risk of physical injury increase to those accessing regular meeting places, houses of worship, community centers, recreation centers, open spaces, and other common congregation sites? 5. Would there be a decrease in accessibility to usual congregational centers? 6. Would any changes in the spatial arrangement of community activities discourage participation in these activities? 7. Would increased noise levels reduce residents' ability to communicate outdoors? 8. Would changes to the visual aesthetic environment in the community make it less desirable for community members to spend time outdoors in places where persons often congregate? 9. Would persons feel like their community ties would be broken if they were relocated to other nearby housing or to another neighborhood? 10. Would a reduction in open spaces, such as parks or undeveloped parcels cause residents to spend less time with their neighbors or other community members? 11. Would allowing mixed commercial/residential development or nearby commercial/industrial development cause residents to feel that their community has been changed in a significant manner? Data needs, assumptions, and limitations. Focus groups provide opportunities for open-ended responses and discussions that are typically not possible in surveys. The groups are usually small--often not more than six or eight persons. They are thus typically used when the need for detailed information outweighs the need for statistical analysis. Focus groups are desirable when agencies are in the exploratory phase; often the information gathered can be used in later research. The most important considerations in forming focus groups are the following: · Ensure that minority populations and low-income populations are properly represented. 208
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· Select people whose activities would be in the area likely to be affected by the project. · Include representatives of nearby businesses that serve the affected area. · Include people whose responsibilities extend to members of the affected population, such as school administrators, parks and recreation staff, public safety personnel, neighborhood leaders, and human service staff. · Enlist the services of a facilitator who is known to, and trusted by, the participants. A member of the clergy, for example, may be a possibility. Results and their presentation. The central purpose of focus groups is to acquire a clear understanding of the general attitudes, concerns, and preferences of minority populations and low-income populations regarding a proposed transportation project. The results can be used to help assess whether the project would have a generally positive or negative effect on the well being of these populations. They can also help to identify changes in the project or measures that could be taken to mitigate undesirable effects. Often, the analysis of data gathered in focus groups involves summarizing responses for the population. For environmental justice analyses, responses will typically be summarized by geographic area, income, or race. This requires that data be collected on locations of participants (firms or households) and on income or race for individuals or for firm owners, employees, and clientele. Assessment. If carried out well, focus groups can provide first-hand information on the distributive impacts of transportation projects, and the results can be used to modify the project or to design mitigation measures. A delicate balance must be achieved, however, between providing the focus group sufficient information to foster a productive discussion, while being careful not to lead the group to conclusions. Method 2. Personal interviews Fully involving stakeholders by conducting personal interviews with them provides the basis for acquiring a sound understanding of the potential issues and perceived impacts from the community's perspective. A good place to start selecting appropriate people to interview is with identified community leaders. When to use. Personal interviews are especially helpful early on in an effort to assess the approximate geographic area of concern and the current extent of cohesiveness in the area. Questions can then be asked regarding the common activity space of the affected populations to gain insight into how the proposed transportation project would affect community cohesion. Analysis. A community leader can be anyone who is both knowledgeable about the community and its issues or objectives and who exercises some influence over others within the community. Ideally, the individual should have lived in the community for several years. Potential subjects include religious leaders, school principals, local business owners, recreation center organizers, executive members of community organizations or neighborhood associations, or owners of child care facilities. Those persons contacted initially may also be asked to name others who 209
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could contribute to the research. Social welfare personnel responsible for persons in the community may also provide some useful information about the community's networking system. Predictors of level of impact that should be addressed in personal interviews include the following: (1) extent to which the completed project would act as a barrier; (2) changes in accessibility to usual congregational centers; (3) effects on the spatial arrangement of functions and probable effects on participation in community, commercial, and cultural activities; and (4) changes in travel time to residences of close friends living in the community or displaced from the community. These interviews do not lend themselves to statistical analysis or measurement, but they provide perhaps the richest source of available information related to community cohesion issues. One needs to review the information collected and develop a catalog of potential effects. This can take the form of a list or database. The database might include information on the type of activity or facility affected, the location of that facility, the location of the affected population, and the utilization of the facility. Using this database, and with help from community leaders and residents, one can then begin to identify the most critical effects, as well as potential mitigation measures. Data needs, assumptions, and limitations. To collect information using personal interviews, two initial steps must occur. First, you must identify interview subjects; second, a questionnaire or interview guide must be designed. With personal interviews, the information collection protocol should be loosely structured, with open-ended questions that allow for follow-on discussion. Often it is through discussion, not structured questions, that real concerns regarding community cohesion effects are uncovered. Subjects that should be addressed in the interviews include the following: · Location of community-serving stores and services; · Location of community service facilities such as houses of worship, senior centers, day care centers, and youth centers; · Location of community recreation facilities and parks; · Special populations served by these facilities and their location within the community; · Identification of pedestrian pathways and commonly traveled routes; and · Other issues specific to the community and relevant to community cohesion that might not be known until the interview process begins. Results and their presentation. Personal interviews are a valuable means of learning about the nature of community cohesion among protected populations in the area likely to be affected by a proposed transportation project. These can interviews help the researcher identify sensitive issues that will need to be addressed fully and carefully. Well-advised design modifications and mitigation measures can then be devised. It is very good practice to present a summary of the insights gained to local community and neighborhood leaders. These leaders can then validate the findings and offer suggestions as to 210
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how the results can most accurately be interpreted. Working with them also strengthens one's association with them and keeps the lines of communication open. Assessment. Personal interviews offer a rich perspective as to the perceptions of members of minority and low-income populations regarding their community and how a proposed transportation project would affect it. These perceptions should be related to objective data on distances and travel time to important functions. Of course, without the personal interviews it would be difficult to know what all these functions are or where they take place. In a sense, then, it is wise to regard the personal interviews as one critical step in the process of understanding how a project would affect the daily living space of protected populations. Method 3. Deliberative polling This technique is designed to incorporate the best characteristics of polling and television and apply them to facilitate community engagement. Whereas town hall meetings tend to attract the most engaged citizens, who often already have well-established opinions, deliberative polls seek to bring participants of diverse backgrounds together with the objective of broadening the extent to which citizens become part of the planning process. The technique has certain features in common with a charrette. When to use. This method is especially appropriate when there is concern that a proposed transportation project could adversely affect community cohesion. In this process, a stratified random sample of citizens is brought together for one or two days to discuss the proposed project. The stratified random sampling process ensures that women and men, minority and low- income groups are represented in numbers equal to their proportion in the affected population. Analysis. The random sample of residents is brought together for one or two days. After completing a survey, participants are briefed on issues related to the possible impacts of the project. The briefings should contain a full disclosure of the costs and benefits of each alternative for the project, including the "no action" alternative and identifying the preferred one. Of great importance is a description of the possible adverse impacts (economic, social, cultural, and environmental) that could affect the cohesiveness of the community and the quality of life within it. Possible means for addressing and mitigating any impacts that participants determine to be significant can be presented. Each alternative may include a number of opposing opinions for and against it. The issues in the deliberative materials should be presented in a neutral and unbiased manner, with care given to the language and expression used so as to ensure that the participants, coming from all walks of life, obtain a sufficient grasp of the issues involved. After studying the materials, the group of residents is given an opportunity to ask questions of experts, including those from interest groups. The fully briefed and informed participants then take part in a televised session for broader dissemination of the relevant issues and ways to address them. During the television session, members of the public are given contact information for each member of the group so that, within 24 hours after the session airs, they may communicate their concerns on any issue to the group member with whom they feel the greatest connection. 211
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Later, a second televised session is convened and begins with the local planning department providing a summary of the pros and cons, costs and benefits of each alternative and any suggested modifications that arose out of the discussions and expert testimonies. The citizens involved in the process are then surveyed (polled) to determine if and how their opinions have changed as a result of the discussion process and, ultimately, their most favored alternative. This allows for ranking of the issues as well as the alternatives and provides a broader basis for decision-makers in selecting their course of action. Data needs, assumptions, and limitations. There may be significant expenses involved in this approach including (1) television airtime, (2) transportation of participants, (3) catering for participants, (4) interpreter services (if matter concerns non-English-speaking residents), (5) possible wage/salary compensation for participants, and (6) daycare costs for children of participants. Quite possibly, the television airtime costs will be minimal because such an exercise should be viewed as a public service by the producing station. Working flexibility into the scheduling times for discussion meetings may also reduce wage or salary compensation. A better outcome probably would be achieved, however, if full compensation were given to participants so that they were able to remain focused on the issues before them and to be available to receive feedback from callers. Results and their presentation. Deliberative polling is rooted in the concept that a representative group of local residents can become well informed about the probable impacts of a proposed transportation project. This group of people can then become a practical conduit through which information can be presented to the general public. Analysts can observe the process and learn a great deal about aspects of the project that might jeopardize community cohesion. They can also gain a clear sense of the likely support for modifications to the project or specific mitigation measures. Assessment. Because of the expense involved, this approach to engaging residents may be best suited to implementing high-cost projects and those that are likely to generate considerable popular concern and resistance, particularly where the affected communities are large and where citizen involvement may be problematic. Method 4. Travel demand models with GIS capability An important issue in estimating the effect on community cohesion of a proposed transportation project is how it would affect area residents' ability to interact. To interact, these residents must be able to move conveniently between desired origin-destination pairs. Newer travel demand models such as TransCAD that have a geographic information system (GIS) interface are useful in measuring changes in distance and travel time between places of importance to affected residents. Preferably, census-block data should be used and the existing road geometry, including local streets and avenues, must be accurately input into the model and matched with the census data. When to use. This method is most appropriate in cases where the project would be sizable and may impact a relatively large community of residents, including protected populations. While the travel demand model cannot be expected to estimate microscale impacts, it can give a general 212
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approximation of the extent to which movement to and from specific areas of concern would be affected. If such movement would be inhibited, an adverse effect on community cohesion is a potential result. Analysis. The method here is much the same as that outlined in Chapter 7, Method 2, Adaptation of transportation demand models. In that method, traffic analysis zones (TAZs) are defined based on protected and nonprotected group criteria using census-block data. Travel times and distances traveled by those most sensitive to change--including the elderly and mothers with infants and preschool children among protected groups--should be a major concern. The focus here is on changes in distance traveled and travel time between regularly traversed points within the community or to destinations close to the community. Change is observed by first running the model and recording times and distances under existing conditions and then comparing these results with those obtained from a second running of the model that yields projected times and distances that reflect the impact of the intended transportation project. Any significant deterioration in travel time or extended distance to be traveled may be considered as a potential environmental justice problem because it makes the affected individuals worse off. However, it is only through consultation with community members that a meaningful conclusion regarding the nature and magnitude of such a problem can be ascertained. The travel demand analysis, therefore, should be regarded as an initial approximation of travel time and distance impacts. Also, it may be found that what is intolerable or offensive to one group may be acceptable to another group, and so the extent of mitigation methods required may differ considerably. Data needs, assumptions, and limitations. The data required for this approach are quite similar to those needed for other routine travel analyses. The distinguishing assumption here is that persons in the area of interest may have to travel relatively long distances compared to those in smaller communities to access child care, shopping centers, community and recreation centers, places of worship, and schools. Consequently, they drive their own vehicles, carpool, or use public transit quite frequently. Thus, information on what percentage of the population in each TAZ has regular access to a private vehicle is important, as well as what proportion relies primarily on transit services. This method is limited in that it does not take adequate account of persons who use nonmotorized transportation. Consequently, this method may be combined with the following method, which is better suited to walkable communities. Results and their presentation. Evaluation of the tabulated results representing before and after scenarios is made convenient by the output derived from travel demand models. The additional ability of these models to graphically portray the results using GIS capabilities is a further asset because the visual representation facilitates discussion as well as joint decision-making by professional planners and stakeholders. After identifying potential problem areas, the GIS technology further enables the focus to shift towards mitigation measures that are agreeable to various parties. In situations where changes impact a significant number of persons who walk, the results obtained from the method that follows may be combined with the tabular results generated by travel demand models to ascertain the overall magnitude of the change in travel time or distance traveled. Assessment. This is a reasonably accurate method for determining actual changes in travel time and distances, and it could be easily adopted by many planning departments without any 213
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significant increase in costs because of the ubiquitous use of travel demand models. For those using the state version of the Highway Economic Requirements Model (HERS-ST), a unique roadway identifier may be used with the database and a beginning and ending log mile to allow the model's output to be attached to a geographic (GIS) mapping system using a routing system and dynamic segmentation. Planning departments that currently use activity-based models that can generate even more accurate results should also conduct dual scenario analyses as described above. Activity-based models also facilitate GIS mapping of results. Method 5. Stop watch and distance wheel After extensive discussions have taken place with minority and low-income populations in the area that would be affected by the transportation project, simple methods are appropriate to estimate the changes in accessibility that may result. Specifically, once these residents have indicated which of their important destinations would become less easy to reach, you should estimate how great the impact would be. You also should evaluate the efficacy of possible mitigation measures. This very basic method entails use of a stopwatch for measuring travel time and an engineer's distance wheel for measuring the distance traveled between origins and destinations on a small scale. When to use. If the project impact area is relatively small and involves a clearly defined geographic area, changes in the distances that must be traveled can be assessed using this method. Greater distances and travel times between essential activities within an area can be disruptive to community cohesion. Analysis. This method is best applied in two phases: the first dealing with existing conditions and the second forecasting project impacts. In order to become more aware of how an intended project would affect the most sensitive groups in the community, average travel times between important points--residences, schools, daycare facilities, neighborhood shopping centers, community and recreation centers, and places of worship--are recorded. As could be expected, one needs to have intimate first-hand knowledge of the community and to walk the routes regularly traversed with timer and distance wheel in hand. Estimates of changes in times and distances likely to be caused by the intended project can be computed based on plans and graphs, and a comparison made with the outcome obtained under existing conditions. Significant deviations can then be identified and used in discussions with affected residents. Data needs, assumptions, and limitations. Information on the location of important places relative to residences may be obtained directly from residents or through an analysis of GIS maps of the area configured at the census-block-group level; a combination of both may be even more helpful. Times and distances under existing conditions are recorded using the abovementioned pieces of equipment. The primary assumption is that the facilities that contribute significantly to community cohesion and connectivity are within walking distance of residents. One advantage of this method is that it can be adapted to take into account shortcuts that may have been created by pedestrians over time and any associated impacts of the intended project. The most obvious limitation of this method is its reliance upon computed estimates of changes in travel time that may be somewhat susceptible to human error. 214