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MODULE 2 Getting Started This module has two primary objectives. First, it is designed to help you evaluate the degree to which freight issues and concerns already are being addressed within your transportation planning program. This will allow you to develop a better understanding of where you are start- ing from in terms of freight planning. The module's second objective is to help you use the results of this evaluation to identify specific freight planning activities that are most appropriate for your region and organization. These objectives are accomplished through three specific steps: 1. Freight Self-Assessment. The freight self-assessment is an exercise that will help you assess how well you understand your region's freight system, its characteristics, and its strengths and limitations; assess how well you understand the users of the freight system and their issues and concerns; and identify the types of resources you may have available to develop or enhance your freight planning program. 2. Definition of Freight Planning Program Stage. Using the results of the freight self-assessment, you will be able to describe your freight planning program as being in the basic stage or advanced stage. Understanding the state of your freight planning program will help you better identify the specific freight planning activities that you may wish to undertake. 3. Identification of Program Elements and Freight Planning Activity Guidelines. The final step is to identify the appropriate mix of planning activities to enhance an existing or develop a new freight planning program and direct you to the component-specific guidelines for freight planning activities that are provided in Module 3. These three steps are described in the following subsections. Step 1. Freight Self-Assessment The freight self-assessment is designed to help you 1. Know Your Region. Identify the key freight facilities, industries, freight generators, and con- sumers; understand their transportation needs; and be cognizant of the current political envi- ronment regarding freight in your region (anti-truck, neighborhood complaints, large volume of through traffic, etc.); 2. Know Your Freight Stakeholders. Identify the major freight players in your area, including key freight service providers (e.g., trucking companies, steam ship lines, barge operators, rail- roads, airlines); key freight service buyers (e.g., shippers and receivers); and other stake- holders (e.g., third-party logistics providers, brokers, forwarders); and 3. Know Your Organization. Evaluate how your previous planning activities may fit within a freight planning program; evaluate the degree to which freight interests have been integrated into current policy, planning, and programming activities; identify available funding sources; and determine available staff resources for freight planning in terms of time, interest, and expertise. 2-1
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2-2 Guidebook for Freight Policy, Planning, and Programming in Small- and Medium-Sized Metropolitan Areas The purpose of the self-evaluation is to help you ascertain your current level of understand- ing of freight issues and to document what already has been done by your organization relating to freight transportation. It does not translate into a comprehensive regional freight profile. Rather, the self-evaluation is designed to be completed at a low level of effort and to provide a starting point for developing or enhancing a freight planning program. The following guidelines are provided to illustrate the process: · Step 1. Review the Guidebook. It is important that staff be familiar with the organization and content of the Guidebook because it will provide the overall context of a freight program and will help staff understand the scope of the activities. · Step 2. Identify Examples of Existing Freight Program Activities. It is likely that your MPO has undertaken some activities that will impact freight transportation. These activities may include freight-related research, freight data collection, or improvements to your transporta- tion system that benefit freight movement. This information will determine the response to specific self-evaluation questions as well as determine the existing level of freight activity. · Step 3. Identify Personnel to Participate in the Self-Assessment. It is important that freight planning activities involve a variety of MPO staff across disciplines and incorporate and integrate other local and state freight activities. For example, many state DOTs have someone assigned to freight and intermodal planning; FHWA Division Offices typically have staff that support freight initiatives; and local technical boards and political leaders may have an industry or business back- ground. These individuals can and should contribute to the self-assessment process. · Step 4. Review and Prepare Answers to the Self-Assessment Questions. A series of questions has been developed to guide staff through the self-evaluation process (provided in Tables 2.1 through 2.3). These questions should be used to stimulate dialogue among key personnel to ascertain the current condition of freight transportation policy, planning, and programming activities in the region. Answers should be developed for each question to feed into the next activity. It is not expected that staff have all the answers to these questions. What is important is that the right mix of staff and partners be contacted to determine whether or not the answers are known. These steps may be a challenging task, but should be completed in a timely manner over a fairly short period of time (2 weeks to 1 month based on the availability of key partners). A lim- ited amount of research and a few meetings or conversations with key partners should provide the necessary level of input. Table 2.1. Freight self-assessment questions: your region. 1. Is freight in the news in our area? What are the circumstances? Do they reflect problems/ needs or projects/success stories? 2. What conflicts exist between system users and impacted communities (i.e., at-grade rail crossing issues, noise from airports, highways or trains, high-accident locations, conflicting land uses)? How are the conflicts being mitigated? 3. Are there any major freight-related problems that are known within the transportation com- munity (public and private)? 4. How is freight related to the economic base of the community? What percent of our region's jobs are classified as transportation or transportation-related? 5. Are we a transportation hub? What are the key freight routes serving our region? Do we have a full complement of freight services? 6. Are there major freight terminals or intermodal facilities in the area? Where are they? 7. What is the nature of the freight being carried in our region? Does it originate or terminate in our region or is it just passing through?