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C h a p t e r 5 Considering Communities Introduction Assessing Community Quality of Life Visioning offers communities the opportunity to express a desired future quality of life. Understanding, measuring, and Understanding how transportation decisions may affect communicating the concept of quality of life is an important communities begins with identifying quality of life consider- aspect of a visioning process. Transportation is just one of the ations. The term "quality of life" is a simple concept for the many factors and variables that shape quality of life and com- citizen to discern because it represents the sum of his or her munity livability. The relationship between transportation collective daily experiences. If asked specifically about their decisions and community context is complex, and discussion individual quality of life, most people could provide specifics, is often limited to the impacts, costs, or benefits of improve- and potentially a rating. However, the term is not as straight- ments. In contrast, visioning offers the opportunity to under- forward for transportation professionals assessing quality of stand better how transportation systems may shape the life concerns within decision-making processes. preferred future of a community, whether through urban Defining quality of life for a group of people is challenging form, livability, or economic competitiveness. To this end, because the concept is largely driven by both broad commu- visioning processes employ innovative tools and techniques nity values and individual perceptions, and is intertwined to measure existing community conditions, forecast likely with a variety of factors. Within visioning and transportation conditions, and track progress toward reaching the desired planning processes, this challenge is typically overcome by future based on a selected set of shared goals and values. This enabling stakeholders to identify common community val- chapter provides an organizing framework to help the prac- ues, which can be organized within categories of quality of titioner begin considering communities within a visioning life considerations. Defining community values is often an process through the use of tools, techniques, and indicators early product of public involvement opportunities such as to describe community context and quality of life. workshops, town hall meetings, or online discussions. A number of existing processes and established practices These values may then later be associated with perfor- may be useful in considering and establishing quality of life mance indicators and measures that best communicate the values, including community impact assessment and indirect concept, and allow community values to be carried forward cumulative effects practices. The use of performance indica- throughout a visioning process. For example, values may tors also can be an effective tool related to quality of life inform the selection of indicators, which are then used to within visioning processes. Strategic guidance on indicator assess alternative futures and later gauge progress toward selection and sample measures also are discussed here to help achieving the vision. practitioners best employ indicators within the framework of A sampling of quality of life consideration categories and the model vision process. possible community values is described in Table 5.1. Values Existing research on the relationship between transporta- provide a framework to begin considering communities within tion and quality of life is available in an annotated bibliogra- a vision. The terms used here are not comprehensive, but they phy included in Appendix C. In addition, a description of the are representative of potential quality of life value statements available resources and tools to identify and address quality that may be developed during a visioning exercise. of life concerns are summarized. The tools and techniques Several established practices assess the connection between described in this chapter also are available through the inter- transportation and quality of life considerations. Within trans- active TCAPP website. portation project planning and development, community 36

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37 Table 5.1. Quality of Life Categories and Associated Community Values Category Potential Community Goal or Value Economic competitiveness Local businesses are competitive, with opportunities for growth. A mix of jobs is available for all income and education levels. Environmental stewardship Air and water resources are healthy for residents, wildlife, and ecosystems. Natural resources are managed for multiple uses and future generations. Transportation and mobility Access to daily needs (live, work, shop, play) is convenient and reliable. A variety of choices are available for moving people and goods. Public health, safety, and security Health care is affordable and accessible. Well-maintained recreation facilities promote physical activity. Social and cultural resources Opportunities exist for civic engagement and social networking. Historic and cultural resources are preserved and enhanced. Community development Development supports community character and aesthetics. A mix of housing of all types and for all income levels exists. Governance and public services Democratic processes engage citizens. Infrastructure and public services are efficiently managed. impact assessment (CIA) has become accepted terminology Map available community data (e.g., schools, churches, to describe the process used to evaluate the effects of trans- fire, police, and shopping) for presentation to the public. portation decisions on quality of life. This process includes Compile a list of elected officials, staff of participating an examination of not only direct effects but indirect and agencies, interest groups, community leaders, and resi- cumulative effects (ICE). The sections below provide addi- dents that may be affected by the project. Start building tional background on these terms. working relationships and knowledge of the area. Analyze available data and present it to the public, asking them to confirm and add to your information (Center for Community Impact Assessment Urban Transportation Research et al. 2012). CIA is defined as a "process to evaluate the effects of trans- portation actions on a community and its quality of life" The CIA process is a means to develop an understanding (U.S. Department of Transportation, FHWA 2011a). CIA is of a community's context, which relates directly to the early an iterative process that raises awareness and understanding steps in preparing for the vision. Data developed for com- munity profiles can be framed as a set of indicators for later of both positive and negative effects of proposed actions on use in assessing alternative scenarios, creating and communi- the human (social and economic) environment. CIA uses cating the final vision outcome, and tracking the perfor- data analysis as well as community interaction to enable mance of implementation. informed transportation decision making. This process is CIA is closely related to CSS practices for transportation distinct from public involvement in that it relies on data planning and project development. Both practices are consid- analysis to provide a picture of the community, and then ered specific to transportation and represent relatively focused solicits additional comment and insight from the public efforts, when compared with visioning processes. For the trans- based on that data. The assessment should include all items portation practitioner, previous agency experience with CIA of importance to people, such as mobility, safety, employ- and CSS may help inform the agency's involvement in a vision- ment effects, relocation, isolation, and other community ing process. issues. Information developed early in the process can sup- port the development of alternatives, inform choices on Indirect and Cumulative Effects major design concepts, and assist with other aspects of deci- sion making. FHWA and other federal agencies are responsible for address- Community impact assessment involves four steps: ing and considering direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The regu- Gather existing community information from secondary lations define the impacts that must be addressed to satisfy sources. (What major projects have occurred or are planned? the requirements of the NEPA process. What is the accident history and level of service on road- Direct effects are caused by the action and occur at the ways? Where are environmentally sensitive areas?) same time and place. Indirect effects are caused by the action

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38 Table 5.2. Indirect and Cumulative Effects Perception of Project Effects Community Goals Performance Indicators Project Effects Measured by Practitioner More traffic congestion Improve safety Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) Direct: Increased traffic Improve commute time growth as a ratio of population Indirect: Decrease in pedestrian safety growth Cumulative: Auto-oriented development Commute costs Decrease in property Provide a mix of housing Change in location and balance Direct: Acquisition of property values choices of available jobs and housing Indirect: Noise or aesthetic impacts Enhance community Change in property values Cumulative: Redevelopment of properties to character undesirable land uses and occur later or farther removed but are still reasonably academics, and practitioners. For the purposes of this report, foreseeable. Indirect effects may include induced changes in the terms are defined as follows: land use, population density, and related effects on air, water, and other natural systems. Measures are quantitative or qualitative data used to Cumulative impact is the impact on the environment, describe a condition. By themselves these measures are which results from the incremental impact of the action value neutral because they do not reflect an intended direc- when added to other past, present, and reasonably foresee- tion of progress. Examples include vehicle hours of delay able future actions regardless of what agency undertakes for a particular corridor; or the number of housing units other actions. Cumulative impacts can result from individ- within a designated distance of a proposed right-of-way. ually minor but collectively significant actions taking place Indicators are quantitative or qualitative data used to pro- over a period of time. vide information on how well a vision is achieving desired Consideration of indirect and cumulative effects is an goals. Indicators are chosen to reflect community values, important element within the visioning process because quality of life considerations, and other context variables many goals expressed by communities concerning potential that allow practitioners and stakeholders to assess whether futures are indirectly related to transportation projects. The the community is headed in the preferred direction. Exam- ICE analysis framework can be useful in evaluating how dif- ples include the proportion of municipalities adopting the ferent futures perform against the selected performance indi- vision into comprehensive plans, or change in conserva- cators. This can aid with scenario-planning exercises that help tion and recreation lands accessible to population centers. visioning participants see what would happen under alterna- tive futures. The framework is also beneficial in facilitating the Figure 5.1 illustrates the activities supported by perfor- trade-off dialogue between stakeholders and the practitio- mance indicators and how they relate to the Vision Guide's ners or decision makers. Table 5.2 provides examples of the activity areas. relationship between sample public perceptions, community The Vision Guide is based on a process that begins by look- goals, performance indicators, and possible project effects. ing at trend analysis of where a community is, forecasts the Additional information and selected indicators are avail- implications of specific projects and policies, and then tracks able in Appendix C. progress toward a goal. Each of these efforts relies on the pro- vision of contextual, value-based information. Measures and indicators can be selected to track those data points that reflect Defining Community Indicators the conditions of chosen highest value in a community (e.g., Performance measurement is used frequently by transporta- safe streets around schools, transit access to regional medical tion agencies to improve understanding of the outcomes of centers). These same indicators can be used to assess commu- transportation system investments, and to provide account- nity effects under different scenarios, and will then provide ability for decisions. The same principles of collecting and benchmarks of current conditions or desired future points monitoring data can be used in a visioning process to support from which to measure the progress and performance of the several key activities: providing a baseline of conditions, vision. Benchmarks and performance indicators used to track illustrating future trends, assessing alternative futures, and vision commitments may then be used to refresh the original judging progress on implementation of goals and objectives. community goals, completing a cycle centered on the vision- The terms measures and indicators are often used inter- ing process. Chapter 8 (Tracking Commitments) discusses changeably and are employed differently by agencies, the implementation of the vision outputs in more detail.