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Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study (2019)

Chapter: Spotlight: Funding Programs

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Page 123
Suggested Citation:"Spotlight: Funding Programs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
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Page 123
Page 124
Suggested Citation:"Spotlight: Funding Programs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
×
Page 124
Page 125
Suggested Citation:"Spotlight: Funding Programs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
×
Page 125
Page 126
Suggested Citation:"Spotlight: Funding Programs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
×
Page 126
Page 127
Suggested Citation:"Spotlight: Funding Programs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
×
Page 127
Page 128
Suggested Citation:"Spotlight: Funding Programs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25571.
×
Page 128

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123 SPOTLIGHT: FUNDING PROGRAMS BOSTONBRT Within only a few years, the Barr Foundation’s BostonBRT program has propelled bus rapid transit in the Greater Boston area from a topic of conversation and research to tangible projects. In addition to its funding for piloting BRT elements, the program has initiated a station design competition and social media campaigns, and it continues to look for opportunities to support iterations of local pilots. The foundation translated its research into a program that has not just gotten people in Greater Boston excited about the prospect of BRT, but that also makes it more and more of a reality. BOSTON, MA BostonBRT’s Awardees Broadway Bus Lane—December 2016 • Everett, MA Massachusetts Avenue Bus Lane—Oct. 2018 • Arlington, MA Mt. Auburn Street Bus Lanes—Oct. 2018 • Cambridge + Watertown, MA AD HOC INDUSTRIES

124 Implementing BRT in the Greater Boston area has been a goal of state and local entities in Massachusetts for years. In 2009, the Massachusetts DOT made a push for it, but without corridor-level engagement and local political support, community pushback derailed near-term implementation. The Barr Foundation helped advance this conversation as its climate team became increasingly interested in BRT for the Greater Boston area in the face of more intense winter storms that interfered with rail transportation. The foundation set out in 2012–2013 to create a working group to study and report on the feasibility of implementing BRT, which catalyzed a revived push for the system. In April 2013, the climate strategy team, which includes the foundation’s mobility focus area, took a trip to Chicago for a 2-day charrette to learn BRT best practices from entities pushing for the system there, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, and Architects Foundation (the philanthropic partner of the American Institute of Architects). Barr Foundation’s attendees at this charrette formed the basis of its BRT working group. This group devised a work plan to help the foundation understand what governance issues needed to be solved at the Massachusetts DOT and municipal levels to implement BRT and what level of corridor engagement needed to be met to be able to test BRT elements. The foundation put funding aside to study BRT and published Better Rapid Transit for Greater Boston: The Potential for Gold Standard Bus Rapid Transit Across the Metropolitan Area (https://static1.squarespace.com/ static/54784f54e4b01fb132fab284/t/555a5ed1e4b04d1c654a4f1c/ 1431986086477/The+BRT+Report) in spring 2015. This report discusses the feasibility of implementing BRT in the Greater Boston area. By the time the foundation published the report, it had witnessed enough BRT in other places to raise the question, “why not get people to experience BRT here?” The Massachusetts DOT and MBTA committed to being partners to make this happen if there were municipalities capable of and willing to dedicate street space to transit. One of the Barr Foundation’s roles is to catalyze efforts, and it saw an opportunity to bring BRT to the pavement. As a follow-up to its report, the foundation released a request for proposal (RFP) in May 2017 for $100,000 in funding, plus additional consultant time, to implement pilot projects to test BRT elements. In addition to its funding supporting actual implementation of BRT pilot projects, the Barr Foundation hoped that its efforts would improve communication between municipalities, the Massachusetts DOT, and MBTA and increase the ease and likelihood of AD HOC INDUSTRIES AD HOC INDUSTRIES

125 expanding BRT across the region. The foundation wanted people to experience BRT features, and it wanted to continue the momentum its broader initiative had started. Pilot projects were also a way to implement BRT more quickly, as a more immediate follow-up to the foundation’s report and prior research. By the time the RFP was released, the foundation had already done quite a bit of public engagement around BRT, and it was time for people to experience it on the ground. Three municipalities were selected in June 2017 to receive funding from the Barr Foundation to test elements of BRT: the Town of Arlington, the City of Everett, and the City of Cambridge/Town of Watertown. The foundation had made it clear that the grants were to be used for planning, design, and execution, and the RFP required that an explicit political champion be included in the applications. Basically, the applications were evaluated for the municipality’s readiness, or ability and enthusiasm to implement a pilot project within a year. A critical element for the three pilot projects was the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between MBTA and each municipality, which put into writing each partner’s role in the pilot projects. The Barr Foundation did not draft the MOUs, but facilitated the process. Generally, these several-page MOUs outlined the pilot project goals, each entity’s responsibilities (e.g., planning and design, public outreach, implementation, marketing, and evaluation), and joint responsibilities. Each municipality had a project manager who coordinated with MBTA’s director of operations planning and outreach regarding things such as bus stop relocations (if applicable), the education of MBTA drivers, how the operators would respond to the pilot projects, and any physical constraints regarding how the buses move down the road that might influence the pilot projects. The director at MBTA tried to encourage the municipalities to implement some sort of consistency in their striping, markings, and design strategies, as MBTA played the role of regional entity for the pilot projects. Technical expertise from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and from engineering services company Stantec was made available to the selected municipalities, with communications support from Denterlein and creative branding from Ad Hoc Industries. The BostonBRT program is heavily marketed on social media and through the program’s website. The foundation recognized the importance of creative placemaking and contributed resources to make the pilot project launches fun and inviting. The foundation actively promotes Everett, Arlington, and Watertown/ Cambridge’s projects on social media and conducted additional grantmaking to support the installation of bus shelter art in Arlington and a flower bomb at a shelter in Everett. The interviewees believe that their promotion is reaching a broad audience and getting more people engaged in and supporting BRT in the Greater Boston area. They feel as though they have “truly been catalysts.” The foundation wanted to elevate BRT to be considered a viable mode of transportation on par with rail transit, and they think they have really helped moved the needle on this in Greater Boston. Stantec, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the Massachusetts DOT, and MBTA all helped the municipalities collect quantitative data on their pilot projects where necessary. Each municipality produced, or will produce, its own final report or evaluation. The MBTA director of operations planning and outreach said that the pilots have been effective at encouraging municipalities to still make improvements that do not necessitate major capital investments. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit that can be tested or implemented permanently from the outset that would have significant impact. The Barr Foundation measured the success of its program not by how many (if any) pilot projects became permanent, but rather by how many more municipalities it would encourage to test BRT elements. The foundation was open about the fact that it wanted this program to create a bit of competition within the Greater Boston area and an appetite for experimenting with BRT features. As of September 2018, the MBTA director had secured private funding for a tool kit that will summarize the successes and challenges of each city’s project and will be available for other cities that want to learn about the various resources and tools for making buses more reliable. The MBTA director said that one of the challenges he observed for cities wanting to move quickly was that sometimes short-term tests do not lend themselves well to iteration. For example, using cones is a great way to act quickly and collect fast results, but after that, paint is really the only next option. The length of time between the initial test and paint could be long enough to lose momentum. Additionally, the staff time and enforcement required for just using cones can be something cities underestimate in terms of resources to set aside. MBTA also worked with a private consulting firm in 2017 to identify routes in the Greater Boston area that would benefit from dedicated transit lanes, and it would like to secure funding to get these communities working on implementing them once the pilot projects are complete and have been evaluated. Given these next steps, it seems that the BostonBRT pilot projects have certainly helped reinvigorate the region’s interest in and commitment to incremental bus network improvements. The program is a great example of the power of partnerships and how even modest resources in the grand scheme of transit projects can give municipalities the extra push and confidence they may need to employ the Quick-Build methodology.

126 ETC PROGRAM Portland’s Enhanced Transit Corridors (ETC) Pilot Program, a partnership between TriMet and Metro, is gaining momentum as a strategy for increasing the frequency with which cities in the Portland metropolitan region implement low-cost improvements in speed and reliability along some of the region’s highest-priority corridors. With three projects fast-tracked to be completed within 2019, ETC is a strong example of how such a partnership can advance small-scale improvements across an expansive regional network. With additional funding identified, the program is well underway within just a year following its initiation. PORTLAND, OR ETC Program’s 2019 Projects The Enhanced Transit Corridors (ETC) Pilot Program, an initiative of TriMet (the transit provider for the Portland metropolitan region) and Metro (the Portland metropolitan area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization), is a recently developed strategy for encouraging municipalities in the Portland region to incrementally improve their transit networks. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, in collaboration with TriMet, recently wrapped up the planning process for its Enhanced Transit Corridors Plan, which was unanimously adopted by the city council in June 2018 and identifies portions of the existing TriMet Frequent Service in Portland that were deemed high-priority corridors for small and tactical improvements to speed and reliability. These corridors are ones that would benefit greatly from improvements that would be quick to implement for a cost relatively less than that of large transit projects. Burnside Bridge BAT* Lanes • Central City Portland MLK/SE Grand Ave BAT Lanes • Central City Portland NW Everett St BAT Lanes • Central City Portland *Business access and transit.

127 The TriMet service within the City of Portland has slowed significantly in the past 8 years, leaving jobs less and less accessible to the city’s growing population. Realizing that this was something that was happening across the region, TriMet and Metro decided to team up to apply the Quick- Build methodology at a regional level. The project manager from TriMet (interviewee) said that it had been noticing delays and stagnant growth in ridership across the region and thought, “why not set out to try to improve the entire network?” The partners were confident that addressing issues of speed and reliability would also be a great way to improve ridership. Both TriMet and Metro also saw an opportunity to educate both large and small municipalities on treatments that could improve their service. The City of Portland and TriMet had done a lot of work to develop the Enhanced Transit Toolbox—a toolbox of transit priority treatments containing capital and operational strategies that could be deployed at different scales and levels of investment—as a part of Portland’s plan. With a regionwide program that would help fund the application of these toolbox elements, TriMet and Metro conceived of the ETC Pilot Program to bring the toolbox to other municipalities as an educational tool, and to help other municipalities think through how they could integrate the tools into their capital projects. When Metro received $5 million in regional funds, it worked with TriMet to prioritize regional networks investment needs. They broke up the Frequent Service network into 10–15 minutes of travel and analyzed the performance of the routes for reliability and dwell times using a scoring system. The routes that scored the highest were those that had the most issues with delays and unreliability. In spring 2018, Metro and TriMet conducted 12 workshops with the region’s jurisdictions that contained these highest-scoring corridors (a total of 14), and helped them identify tools they could implement to mitigate the issues. TriMet, Metro, and a consultant design team presented the jurisdictions with high-level concept sketches of treatments that could be applied to the jurisdictions’ corridors. Over the course of each intensive 3-hour workshop, the jurisdictions’ engineers and staff worked through issues and possible treatments with the consultant team, with the intent of identifying one or a few projects that would be low cost and quickly implementable and for which they could apply to the pilot program. After the workshops, the municipalities were invited to submit applications for the pilot program to fund the design and issue-to-construction of projects that would address these issues. For the selected projects, Metro would lead the concept design process Central City in Motion project map Central City in Motion infographic CITY OF PORTLAND CITY OF PORTLAND

128 (zero to 15% of the overall project), at which point TriMet would continue to develop the project. The jurisdiction would then be responsible for the implementation. Metro and TriMet received 38 applications for a total of 49 projects in the first round of the program, at which point they conducted a second screening process to determine which projects were the most ready (i.e., implementable within 2 years of selection). This meant that projects that already had funding and/or political support behind them were moved to the top of the list. The program then divided the projects into two categories—ones that were ready for construction and ones that still needed to go through the design process—to clarify to what aspects of the projects funding would be allocated. Following the project evaluation, the program received an additional $10 million in funding (granted to the program from Metro after the state was able to garner more transit funds for its service area) for the implementation of the selected projects, many of which are still being scoped or are in the design process. The partners noted that once a few of the projects had gotten farther along in the design process, they realized that they did not make sense to implement. This is something the partners said is an important component of the pilot program—the ability to be nimble and walk away from projects to allocate the resources elsewhere. As of January 2019, the program selected three projects to fast-track for construction and completion within 2019. These three projects, which are integrated with Portland’s Central City in Motion initiative, are all outbound business access and transit lanes on corridors with a combined 80,000 plus riders per day. These projects will cost about $3 million of the recent $10 million received, and Metro and TriMet are hopeful that the projects will be able to be implemented by the city’s internal crews. The ETC Program is a pilot itself, although most projects funded by it will be permanent from the outset. So far, both TriMet and Metro think the program has been invaluable for the partnership between them. Working out how the program can be sustained has strengthened their collaboration and has helped them come up with a clear strategy of how to tackle regionwide transit issues. So far, the pilot program only educates the jurisdictions on the tools available and supports them through the design process. Getting the jurisdictions to implement a project will be a greater indicator of the program’s success. Both entities think that the program’s focus on scalable treatments will help jurisdictions get in the habit of thinking about transit projects and integrating them into more roadway projects, especially at a time when the appetite for major transit projects is lower. Additionally, the workshops were important for connecting jurisdictions outside Portland with the regional entities and bringing them all to the same table when they may not ever have collaborated with TriMet or Metro or asked for resources. Overall, the program has brought the importance of bus transit back to the forefront of all parties’ interests at a time when transit ridership is becoming an increasingly important climate change adaptation strategy. The TriMet and Metro project managers interviewed both said that they hoped this program would result in a more robust, permanent program and that this process had already helped them envision what that could look like. Both also agreed that a designated project manager for the program should be hired within each agency. So far, Metro and the City of Portland have worked in parallel on transit improvements in Portland. The senior transportation planner for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (interviewee) said that she really thinks their work and the pilot program will have a snowball effect and encourage neighboring jurisdictions to take an equally close look at how to improve transit. TriMet and Metro are still ironing out not just the logistics of the permanent funding program, but also a strategy for how to support municipalities’ implementation of the toolbox on a regular basis. After decades, the two jurisdictions have made great strides in facilitating transit improvements together instead of operating within separate silos. It is hoped that the ETC Pilot Program will be just the beginning of a new direction in regionwide transit prioritization.

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As transit agencies, local governments, and citizens look for ways to improve existing, and start new, transit service, many of them are turning to the Quick-Build (Tactical Urbanism) methodology. This approach uses inexpensive, temporary materials and short-term tactics as a way of implementing projects in the short-term, while longer-term planning takes place.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Research Report 207: Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study documents the current state of the practice with regard to what are called Tactical Transit projects, specifically for surface transit (bus and streetcar). These are both physical and operational strategies that improve the delivery of surface transit projects using this methodology. Tactical Transit projects, operational and physical Quick-Build projects that uniquely focus on transit, have evolved as a way for municipal governments to improve the way they respond to rider needs and increased demand for service.

The report highlights Tactical Transit projects happening in cities across North America and how transit agencies and other entities are using innovative methods to improve transit speed, access, and ridership at a fraction of both the cost and time of conventional projects.

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