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15 Introduction Planning a successful transit system involves several steps to ensure that transportation needs in an area are being met and that the most appropriate types of services are being used to meet the demand and needs of a population. The best plans for transit services are closely tailored to an individual communityâs unique needs, skills, and resources. In this guidebook, each step in the planning process is discussed (Figure 2.1). Examples are provided from the nationwide survey of tribes conducted as part of this study, and references are provided for additional information and guidance. As an overview, the general steps of the planning process are as follows: â¢ Inventory of existing services â¢ Transportation needs assessment â¢ Developing strategic goals and objectives â¢ Transit service planning â¢ Implementation â¢ Working with consultants Transportation systems of all sizes must continuously plan for the efficient and effective delivery of services. New systems must determine what services will be provided, how they will be delivered, when services will be offered, and what prices will be charged to passengers or their sponsors. Existing systems need to decide if services should remain the same or if new or adjusted services will be offered. To best meet the needs of their communities, transit systems should be regularly monitored to ensure that resources are being used wisely in pro- viding transit service. The importance of statistics and data collection cannot be emphasized enough. Detailed statistics, such as ridership records for different trip purposes and by market segment, may be used to better describe to tribal officials the benefits of an existing transit program. Finally, the transit service must be sustainable. Often associated with levels of fund- ing, sustainability also involves sufficient qualified personnel, management, and support of tribal leadership. Inventory of Existing Services The first step in the planning process is to understand the existing resources for transportation in an area. The process of developing an inventory of services is described in Chapter 3. Exist- ing transportation resourcesâfrom volunteer drivers bringing passengers to medical appoint- ments to buses operating a network of fixed routesâinclude a range of services provided by tribal transit systems, local or regional non-tribal transit providers, tribal programs operating C h a p t e r 2 Overview of Planning Process
16 Developing, enhancing, and Sustaining tribal transit Services: a Guidebook transportation (Head Start, Community Health Representatives, Indian Health Services, etc.), carpooling or vanpooling resources, human service agencies offering transportation services, taxi services, casino/tourist or employment transport, and others. From the study, it was learned that most tribes have at least some type of existing transporta- tion program, even if it is not operated by a âtransit department.â For example, 71 percent of the interviewed tribes provided transportation as part of a Head Start program. Additionally, 58 percent of tribes had transit services for senior citizens or tribal elders, 48 percent had transit services operated through the Indian Health Service, and 46 percent had transit services operated through the Community Health Representative program. The existing level of coordination between departments or transit operators is also impor- tant to understand before moving forward with evaluating the feasibility of a transit program. From this study, it was determined that 64 percent of the responding tribes had coordination for transit services either between tribal programs or between a tribal program and an external transit provider. How these existing services are operated, who operates them, how the services are funded, who uses the services, and how many riders are using the services are all important elements that must be understood to establish the baseline conditions that exist in a community. Identifying and understanding transit services being provided by non-tribal operators also will contribute to the overall picture of existing services in a region. To understand existing transportation resources in an area, several pieces of information are necessary. Many agencies possess transportation resources that can be contributed to a coor- dination effort. Transportation and human services agencies may have vehicles, maintenance facilities, dispatching capabilities, drivers, planning staff, and facilities. Coordinated planning maximizes planning staff, tools, and data from various agencies. Through sharing expertise, individual agencies can leverage other agenciesâ insight, data, and experience in solving trans- portation challenges. Working with shared information, planners can develop more responsive yet less redundant transportation systems, identify and fill service gaps, and maximize the num- Figure 2.1. Transit planning process.
Overview of planning process 17 ber of constituents served in a cost-effective manner. This information allows the tribe to see where transportation needs are already being met, where opportunities for improvement exist, and where transportation needs remain unmet. Planning studies in the regionâincluding transportation plans, master plans, and develop- ment plansâalso should be reviewed as part of the baseline conditions analysis in order to get a view of potential changes that may impact transit service. Previous studies also highlight histori- cal issues related to the development of transit service. Transportation Needs Assessment The second step in the transit planning process is to understand the differences between needs, wants, and demand, and the importance of each in the planning process. Needs exist in a community independently of whether transportation exists in that community. Needs include destinations to be reached, time periods during which service is required, and types of service that would be most suitable to meet these needs. Wants are desires, expectations, or services that might satisfy the needs of people. They come from residents and potential users and may include destinations to be served, level of service, and times and days of service. Wants are desires and preferences that cannot be quantified. Demand is the number of trips that will be made on a transportation service given the level of service and the cost to the user. The analysis should start with a needs assessment to understand how many people have a need for transportation service and the characteristics of those needs. From this analysis of needs, the demand for different types of services can be evaluated. For example, a need may exist for a single person to get to a single destination. Although this may be inappropriate for a fixed-route service, it may be appropriate for a paratransit/demand-responsive type of service or a ride pro- vided by a volunteer driver. Demand for transit service requires the determination of popular origins and destinations of trips to serve as many people as possible. In the planning process, both needs and demands are identified and analyzed. The demand estimates can then be used to develop the operations plan for the specific service to be implemented, including an evaluation of how to meet this demand in accordance with the budget and requirements of the service. The transportation needs assessment includes the following components: â¢ Demographic analysis â¢ Peer comparisons â¢ Community involvement â Stakeholder interviews â Public workshops or focus groups â Surveys By generating estimates of population, employment, and the number of people in key transit- dependent groups (for example, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, low-income house- holds, and households without vehicles), and by depicting the geographical distribution of these people within the community, it is possible to forecast transit demand in the study area. Such a forecast develops a temporal and spatial analysis of unmet need that can be mapped and used in the development of service alternatives. Once the baseline is established, population projections from local and regional planning bodies can be used to identify potential for new markets or untapped geographic areas. Data for this investigation comes from a combination of sources, including information gleaned in interviews with providers and stakeholders, study of U.S. Cen- sus data, and updated demographic information from local or regional planning bodies.
18 Developing, enhancing, and Sustaining tribal transit Services: a Guidebook Helpful information also can be obtained through interaction with other tribes, locally, regionally, or nationally. Peer comparisons with other tribal communities show what other tribes are doing to meet similar transportation needs. An important factor in the needs assessment is recognition of which individuals and organiza- tions from the community and region should be represented in this activity. Some stakeholders may already have been contacted as part of the inventory of existing transportation resources. It is important to reach across a broad spectrum of the relevant stakeholders. Representative stakeholders should include, but not be limited to, the following groups: â¢ Tribal representatives (probably from several departments) â¢ Elected tribal officials â¢ Transportation consumers â¢ Transportation-disadvantaged constituencies â¢ Public transit providers â¢ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit providers â¢ State and local human services agencies â¢ State and local human services transportation providers â¢ Private transportation providers (including taxi services) â¢ State and local welfare and workforce development agencies â¢ State and local transportation planning agencies â¢ Community-based organizations â¢ Members of the business community â¢ Economic development agencies â¢ Elected or appointed officials from other local governments with which the tribe may coor- dinate transportation services A primary component of public participation is enlisting both existing transit users and those familiar with transportation in the region to fully understand and identify where gaps in service exist, which needs must be better met, and what direction public or other trans- portation providers should take in the future to most effectively use the limited resources available. Identifying demand for specific trip patterns and origin/destination pairs will be critical to developing and refining service concepts. Two proven tools for soliciting public input in the planning process are stakeholder interviews and public workshops or focus groups. Online and electronic options also help planners solicit public opinions from an array of interests. Stakeholder interviews provide an up-front understanding of key issues and players early in the project. Interviews should be held with a wide variety of individuals and groups that repre- sent current and potential transit markets in the study area. Stakeholder interviews can be con- ducted in group meetings, one-on-one in person, over the phone, or though electronic means, depending on the availability and number of stakeholders. Public workshops or focus groups are used to collect feedback from the current and potential users of the system. Public involvement provides a broader forum and builds on ideas and input gleaned throughout the stakeholder interviews. A focus group can be set up including roughly 10 to 20 members of various community orga- nizations, users of different types of services (ADA paratransit, human service agency, public fixed-route, etc.), and interested parties from the general public to discuss the study process and assess met and unmet transportation needs in the region. In addition to helping quantify transit demand in the study area, the focus group will create a picture of what is needed for improved access and availability of tribal public transportation.
Overview of planning process 19 Focus groups or workshops should be conducted early in the study process as a public par- ticipation tool. Engaging the public and the users of transportation services early in the process is the most effective way to garner this valuable input and set direction before key decisions are made concerning preferred service alternatives. Surveys also can be effective tools for identifying a communityâs transit needs. Surveys can take many formats, including distributing cards to existing transit system users or to people who use âprogramâ transportation from various tribal departments; conducting online surveys or phone surveys of a sample of the entire tribal community; or sending targeted questions to contacts at departments and agencies with clients who require alternative transportation options. Each of the various demands identified through the transportation needs assessment should be summarized and mapped as an estimate of total demand for public transportation services within the study area. Of particular interest will be the areas with the greatest transit needs compared to the areas currently being underserved. Combining the transit needs index with the location of major transit generators, priority service areas can be developed. Doing this aids in prioritizing the transit needs of the service area, both geographically and by service type. Developing Strategic Goals and Objectives Once the needs of the people in the service area have been identified and demand established, a set of strategic goals and objectives should be established to guide decisions on priorities and what can be accomplished by a transit program. Tribal decision makers and stakeholders work together to create functional goals and objectives. The approach for developing goals and objec- tives is discussed in Chapter 5. A Mission Statement establishes the overall direction of an agency and enumerates the most generalized set of actions to be achieved by that agency. The Mission Statement, together with a statement of goals and objectives, typically forms a hierarchical structure. Goals sup- port the achievement of the mission, and objectives support the goals. For transportation planning purposes, a goal is defined as a purpose or need that should be attained to address a transportation issue. An objective is a specific method or activity that is designed to achieve the identified goal. Transportation goals and objectives usually are expressed in terms of service priorities in three areas of emphasis: 1. Service levels and types of trips (which are critical, serious, and optional travel needs) 2. Geographic areas within the community 3. Types of users (passengers or populations) deserving priority treatment Other typical goals often include how services should be funded and priced to riders and how to involve the entire community in the transportation improvement process. Planning through communitywide stakeholder involvement yields consensus-based strategies for near- and long-term transportation investments. Any agency or operator may initiate service coordination efforts, but it is important that the work be coordinated with communitywide transportation planning processes. Fiscal, political, administrative, and geographic constraints must be understood at the very beginning of the process. There is no point in planning a system that cannot be implemented. Potential constraints on transportation services often focus on funding and existing institu- tional structures.
20 Developing, enhancing, and Sustaining tribal transit Services: a Guidebook Transit Service Planning Once goals and objectives have been developed to determine what should be accomplished by a transit program, and transit needs and demand have been established for the community, it is time to start planning potential transit services, as outlined in Chapter 7. All of the previous work leads to recognizing the most valuable and productive markets for public transportation in the region. The demand analysis and goal development should have clarified which types of transit service are most appropriate for the community based on the needs of the tribal population, the resources available in the area, and the types and amount of potential funding. Following are the primary types of transit service (defined in more detail in Chapter 7): â¢ Demand-responsive service â¢ Fixed-route service â¢ Deviated fixed-route service â¢ Checkpoint service â¢ Zone service â¢ Taxi service â¢ Carpooling or vanpooling Multiple alternative service options should be designed and their financial consequences identified. The alternatives to be developed should reflect several possible levels of revenue. For example, they may include alternative systems of different sizes with and without state funding and with or without additional local funds. Each detailed service design should specify the following characteristics: â¢ Service characteristics directly related to users, such as type of service, method of user activa- tion (demand-responsive, fixed schedule), assistance on vehicles, reservation time, routes, headways (if applicable), special equipment on vehicles, hours of operation, and fares â¢ Operational system characteristics, such as number of vehicles (and their condition, age or number of miles on each), radio dispatch, vehicle-miles, passengers carried (including infor- mation on users with special needs), and number of personnel (including paid transportation personnel, paid staff used primarily for other duties, and volunteers) â¢ Administrative features, such as who will manage the service, who will supervise the manager, and how services will be funded Once the alternative service options have been developed, a preferred alternative should be selected. The selection and decision process can be accomplished by general consensus, by detailed mathematical evaluations, or through a combination of these techniques. To evaluate the potential options, it is necessary to specify a set of evaluation criteria for choosing the best service design. Generally, evaluation criteria include the following items: â¢ The numbers and types of riders served â¢ The extent to which local goals and objectives are achieved â¢ The operating, capital, and administrative costs â¢ The anticipated revenues and their sources â¢ Specific implementation issues These factors can be weighted based on the local determination of service needs and resources. Some service options might have excellent program effectiveness but be too expen- sive to fund while others might fall within the budget but not serve enough community travel needs. In such cases, the community may have to reassess its goals and objectives to make them more realistic or develop a more realistic approach to funding the actual costs of trans- portation services.
Overview of planning process 21 At each step in the planning process, stakeholders and representatives of interested groups should be consulted to collect information on existing services and to set up, maintain, and further a relationship with the community. Examples of stakeholders and interested groups are the various transportation operators in the community; agencies that have responsibility for assisting clients with special needs in employment, education, health care, and other human services; members of the general public; members of the local political establishment (the official representatives of the general public); and representatives of the local, state, and federal agencies that are funding sources for transportation and human services. Implementation Once service options have been reviewed and a preferred alternative has been chosen, a detailed service plan for the preferred alternative and an associated implementation plan should be created, as described in Chapter 9. A detailed service and implementation plan will include the following sections: â¢ Operation plan and service expectations â¢ Capital and operating cost projections â¢ Administrative/management plan â¢ Financial plan â¢ Monitoring/evaluation plan For operations, the plan should describe all services to be provided, including functional ser- vice guidelines and maps for fixed-route or demand-responsive services; their hours and days of service; restrictions, fares, eligibility, and other facets related to service delivery and user needs; and the improvement focus areas identified earlier in the study. Estimated capital costs should include the number and types of vehicles required to imple- ment the preferred service alternative. Additionally, future capital needs will be established for vehicle replacement or expansion, and for the purchase of radios, base stations, or other neces- sary equipment. The projection of future capital needs will also include forecasts regarding the ability of the existing physical facilities to accommodate operations, administration, and vehicle maintenance functions. The administrative/management plan will describe the structure of the program and respon- sibilities of the lead tribal department and all regional participants, as well as the management structure for daily operations, reporting, planning, and finance. Relationships among the exist- ing regional service providers and stakeholders will be expanded or formalized based on input and recommendations from those operators, stakeholders, and the advisory committee. The financial plan should provide a short- and long-term budget for the system that details administrative, operating, and capital expenditures and funding revenues. Revenues should be listed by source and matched to expenditures. The budget should clearly identify the anticipated cost to the transportation provider and the general public, as well as all revenue sources, includ- ing local, state, and federal funding. Another important consideration is the need to market the service and educate people on how to use the service. Marketing the service should include printing of brochures or displaying of schedules at local hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, medical offices, major employers, stores, and social service agencies. Finally, the implementation plan should include a monitoring and evaluation program to help the transit service track the efficiency and effectiveness of the preferred alternative program
22 Developing, enhancing, and Sustaining tribal transit Services: a Guidebook in the future. The program should be based on a comparison of the systemâs most recent perfor- mance measures to national standards and the performance measures of peer tribal programs, as appropriate. Such performance measures typically include passengers per mile, passengers per hour, cost per mile, cost per hour, and so forth. The plan should include specific quantitative standards that can be used to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of new transit services over the first 2 years of operation. The monitoring and evaluation program should also detail how and when these measures need to be reported at tribal council meetings or meetings with other agencies or regional interests. Depending on the existing policies and procedures adopted during implementation, additional areas could be monitored as part of this program, such as safety, drug and alco- hol testing, training, maintenance efficiency, service quality, organization effectiveness, levels of customer satisfaction, and budgeting efficiency. The evaluation and monitoring program should conclude with a section on the procedures that the system managers, governing body, or advisory committee made up of key stakeholders should use for amending or updating the service plan. Working with Consultants Many tribes that have successfully implemented transit programs followed plans that were developed with the assistance of consultants. These tribes found that transit consultants were able to provide additional time and expertise that were unavailable internally. Tribes that do not have the staffing level or transit planning expertise to develop a comprehensive transit plan within a reasonable time frame may find it beneficial to seek the aid of a transit consult- ing firm. The technical assistance projects overseen by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) typically are completed by consulting firms. In those cases, CTAA manages the contract and the local tribal staff has oversight and input to the planning process. In other cases, the tribe may need to select and contract with the consulting firm directly. This section is meant to provide guidelines for working with a consulting firm. Project Definition Defining a scope of work to be completed by the consultant is very important. The tribe should determine the desired goals and expectations for the consultantâs assistance. Consultants may supplement staffing and provide expertise, but should not be relied on to set policy. The policy and direction must be set by tribal members and the consultant given the direction to provide technical support. A realistic budget should be set for the consultant contract based on the amount and complexity of the work to be done. Request for Proposals Typically, consultants are selected based on qualifications through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process. Once the project has been defined and the role of the consultant determined, the RFP is prepared. The RFP should provide background information about the project and the role of the consultant. The RFP also should describe the issues to be addressed and the products to be prepared by the consultant. The document should clearly describe the goals for the consultantâs work. The RFP should ask for information about the qualifications and experience of the con- sulting firm, the experience of personnel to be assigned to the project, the proposed approach to accomplish the desired goals, and the cost for the consultantâs work. The RFP should not specify
Overview of planning process 23 the approach to be used, but should establish desired goals and outcomes. In their responses to the RFP, the consulting firms should propose their approaches to accomplishing the desired goals. Proposals should be rated based on qualifications and the proposed approaches. By establish- ing goals and examining the approaches proposed by the consulting firms, the reviewers may be able to differentiate among the proposals, giving higher ratings to those that have a clear approach and show specifically how the goals will be met. Although price may be considered, it is important to select the consultant based on experience and qualifications rather than price. Low prices do not always reflect quality work, and the tribe should look for a consultant with a high degree of expertise and experience to help with developing a transit plan. Managing Consultant Contracts Once a consulting firm is selected, a contract must be negotiated. Tribes have the legal author- ity to enter into contracts with private businesses and may set the terms of the contract for nego- tiation with the consulting firm. Specific requirements of the contract will be determined based on tribal policies, legal requirements, and requirements that may be set by the funding agency. Chapter 8 provides some of the information related to contracting and purchasing if Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds are used. The consultant agreement should provide for regular updates, progress reports, and interim project reports so that the tribe is able to review progress and the materials that are being devel- oped. It is also helpful to establish an advisory committee of elected officials, key staff, and stakeholders to review the work of the consultants and to meet periodically with the consulting team. A close working relationship with the consultant and frequent communication will help ensure that the final products meet the expectations of the tribe. For More Information Organizations Organizations, agencies, and groups familiar with rural transportation needs can also provide information on the planning process and transit service implementation. Among the resources these organizations provide, the following can be found online: â¢ Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). www.ctaa.org. â CTAA. Transportation Coordination Resources You Should Read. http://web1.ctaa. org/webmodules/webarticles/articlefiles/TransportationCoordinationResourcesYou ShouldRead.pdf. â CTAA. Tribal Transit: Accessing Federal Transit Funding to Develop Your Transit Sys- tem. Community Transit Association of America, 2010. http://www.ctaa.org/webmodules/ webarticles/articlefiles/Ag12Tribal_Transit_Funding.pdf. â¢ Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP). http://www.nationalrtap.org. â RTAP. Developing, Designing and Delivering Community Transportation Services. National Transit Resource Center, Technical Assistance Brief No. 22, Revised 2001. http:// web1.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/articlefiles/rtap_developing.pdf. â RTAP. Getting StartedâCreating a Vision and Strategy for Community Transit. National Transit Resource Center, Technical Assistance Brief no. 21, December 2001. http://web1. ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/articlefiles/rtap_getstart.pdf. â¢ Transit Access Project. http://www.transitaccessproject.org/. â¢ FTA. Public Transportation on Indian Reservations (5311[c]). U.S. Department of Transpor- tation. http://fta.dot.gov/grants/13094_3553.html.
24 Developing, enhancing, and Sustaining tribal transit Services: a Guidebook Publications Bruun, E. Better Public Transit Systems: Analyzing Investments and Performance. American Planning Association, 2007. Burkhard, J. E., et al. TCRP Report 101: Toolkit for Rural Community Coordinated Transportation Services. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2004. http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/154971.aspx. Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, Office of the Secretary, U.S. DHHS and FTA, U.S. DOT. Planning Guidelines for Coordinated State and Local Specialized Transportation Services, 2000. http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/19000/19300/19313/PB2002105734.pdf. Creative Action, Inc. Coordinating Transportation Services: Local Collaboration and Decision-Making. Project ACTION, 2001. http://www.transitaccessproject.org/coordinated- transportation.html. Morris, A. and L. Fragala. NCHRP Synthesis 407: Effective Public Involvement Using Limited Resources. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., September 2010. http://www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/163992.aspx.