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NEOSCC Board approves and endorses Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products

February 26, 2014 in News


Yesterday, the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium voted to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  This marks the culmination of three years of work since being awarded a $4.25 M grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the new federal Sustainable Communities Initiative. The Sustainable Communities Initiative is an interagency collaboration among HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In their vote, the NEOSCC Board resolved the following:

NEOSCC’s Board of Directors accepts and adopts the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products as fulfilling the local objectives of the HUD grant award and further endorses for consideration by the region.

 It also resolves to make the Vibrant NEO 2040 objectives, recommendations, initiatives development strategies and action products available for use by metropolitan and local decision makers at their option and to advocate for the use of Vibrant NEO 2040 to create a more vibrant, resilient and sustainable Northeast Ohio. (More details about the Vision Framework and Action products can be found in the Vibrant NEO Guidebook here.

“Over the course of the last year, NEOSCC has engaged residents, elected officials, and experts throughout our 12-county region in a rigorous scenario planning process to identify the choices we can make now to help create a Northeast Ohio that is more vibrant, resilient, and sustainable in the future,” said Hunter Morrison, NEOSCC Executive Director. “Based on input and feedback from residents and leaders, the overarching objectives of the Vibrant NEO 2040 Regional Vision seeks to pursue are:

Promote investment in Northeast Ohio’s established communities;

  • Protect our soil, water, air, and ecologically sensitive areas;
  • Improve our regional fiscal health;
  • Develop our regional economy with accessible employment opportunities;
  • Enhance our regional transportation network;
  • Cultivate and celebrate our local assets and places of public value;
  • Expand our parks and open-space network; and
  • Preserve and value our prime farmland as a regional economic asset.”

In the weeks preceding the vote, The Center for Community Solutions, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Lorain County, Mahoning County, the Northeast Ohio Four County Regional Planning and Development Organization (NEFCO), the Regional Prosperity Initiative and the City of Youngstown have each passed resolutions supporting the Vibrant NEO Objectives.

“We recognize the recommendations and initiatives are not “one size fits all” solutions,” added Grace Gallucci, NEOSCC Board Chair and the Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.  “We also understand that some of the initiatives will not be applicable to all parts of the 12-county region. Lastly, we emphasize that implementation of individual initiatives will be a decision at the local level. The intent of NEOSCC in developing the Vibrant NEO 2040 regional vision and framework is that its recommendations, development standards, indicator targets, and action products be available for implementation at the Metro and local levels at the option of their respective decision makers.”

Steve Hambley, Medina County Commissioner and also the Chair of NEOSCC during 2011, noted, “Everyone has a role to play in creating a vibrant and prosperous future for Northeast Ohio.”

All of the work including detailed plans for implementation, development strategies, indicators and action products to move forward on these objectives are posted on vibrantneo.org.   NEOSCC will now focus on communicating the vision and explaining the available products throughout the region.

An Initiative A Day 6.3: Promote “Complete Streets” through regional policy and the identification of local champions.

February 21, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks, we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 6.3: Promote “Complete Streets” through regional policy and the identification of local champions.

WHAT THIS MEANS: “Complete Streets” refers to the practice of building streets that embrace a full range of mobilities – walking, cycling, and transit, in addition to driving. Historically, streets accommodated all of these functions. It was only the early decades of the 20th century that roadway design began to rigidly segregate users, and apportion more space to the rapidly evolving technology of the automobile. This move initially was framed as a protection of pedestrian health and safety: early campaigns for separated rights-of-way cited ghastly collisions as the reason for embracing a street design philosophy that ultimately settled in decisive favor of the car.

In recent years, the notion of streets as multimodal places has enjoyed resurgence nationwide. Early complete streets efforts, in metro areas like Portland, Oregon, were championed by municipal governments and supported by regional planning agencies. These focused on reclaiming sections of roadway, especially overbuilt ones, for bike and bus lanes, streetcar tracks, and an expanded, landscaped pedestrian realm. Taking heed of successes by early adopters, countless communities have adopted complete streets ordinances that compel city planners and engineers to design streets to accommodate multiple users. As of January 2013, over 500 local jurisdictions and 27 states have adopted complete streets policies. The City of Cleveland is the only community in Northeast Ohio to have a complete streets ordinance, which was passed in 2011 (citation: City of Cleveland Office of Sustainability, http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/CityofCleveland/Home/Government/CityAgencies/OfficeOfSustainability/SustainableMobility?_piref34_1131668_34_1122491_1122491.tabstring=Tab).

Encouraging complete street design has many positive transportation, economic, and health benefits. Complete streets help to reduce congestion and encourage mode shift, thus contributing to a virtuous cycle whereby modal utilization balances to maximize existing roadway capacity. Investment in quality streetscapes also has proven economic value, with various studies documenting 10-15% value premiums for homes and businesses in places with high WalkScores and cycling access (citation: Litman, Todd, Evaluating Non-Motorized Transportation Benefits and Costs, Victoria: Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2013). By encouraging walkable, bikeable communities and contributing to air pollution reduction, complete streets help to activate citizens and improve public health.

With an historical focus on highways and automobiles as the nearly unanimous means of transportation in the United States, many state and regional transportation agencies have not adequately identified where non-vehicular transportation can help to meet regional transportation needs. As a result, projects that would facilitate public use of alternative travel modes are not given the same level of attention and funding priority. Promoting complete streets policies corrects this imbalance, setting the stage for more holistic and integrated transportation policymaking.

GETTING IT DONE: Local jurisdictions and MPOs are the logical entities to lead implementation of this initiative. MPOs play a powerful role by setting regional policy and programming federal transportation funds for investment in the transportation system. MPOs in Northeast Ohio should consider adopting regional complete streets plans and modifying project selection criteria for regional Transportation Improvement Programs to privilege projects that integrate multimodal improvements and complete streets principles.

Amending MPO project selection criteria to emphasize non-motorized transportation and transit projects help to give these project types a place in regional decision-making and underscore their importance in a regional commitment to a concept of mobility that extends beyond vehicular travel. This is also a critical first step in allowing those projects that are more costly and complex—especially those needing bridges, grade crossings, and other extensive engineering—to have access to a greater pool of potential funding beyond what individual local governments may be able to provide. Local governments often carry the responsibility of building bicycle and pedestrian networks, but a more holistic set of project selection criteria can help to advance those projects with truly regional significance and implement a balanced transportation system.

While MPOs can spearhead initial efforts to adopt complete streets, promoting the practice will involve extensive engagement of stakeholders. MPOs should work closely with local governments to engage economic development agencies, school districts, law enforcement, Metroparks authorities, land conservancies, public health districts, social service organizations – any entity with a stake in the region’s streets.

POLICY: Adopt a Complete Street policy: Local governments should integrate a complete streets” approach into their transportation planning and funding decisions. These policies require agencies to balance the needs of all users in the planning, design and construction of all transportation projects. This allows users of all ages and abilities including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit riders, older people, children and those with disabilities – to move safely along and across a network of complete streets. Good multimodal facilities along major roads can reduce congestion by providing an alternative to short-distance car trips.

BEST PRACTICE: City of Cleveland Complete and Green Streets Ordinance: The City of Cleveland passed a Complete and Green Streets ordinance in September of 2011. The ordinance requires implementation of sustainable policies and guidelines in all construction projects within the public right-of-way. This ordinance will create a walking, biking and public transportation-friendly city while reducing environmental impact by incorporating green infrastructure. Additionally, the city completed a Complete and Green Streets Typologies Plan in 2013.

http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/CityofCleveland/Home/Government/CityAgencies/OfficeOfSustainability/SustainableMobility?_piref34_1131668_34_1122491_1122491.tabstring=Tab

Lead Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

An Initiative A Day 6.2: Repair existing sidewalks and crosswalks and add new ones as needed wherever a fixed-route bus service is in operation.

February 19, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks, we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 6.2: Repair existing sidewalks and crosswalks and add new ones as needed wherever a fixed-route bus service is in operation.

WHAT THIS MEANS: It is a truism to state that walkability and walking are dependent on availability of a quality pedestrian realm. Even though the notion of “walkable communities” is enjoying renewed popularity and expression in new commercial and residential developments, many places remain profoundly unfriendly to pedestrians. Northeast Ohio is no exception.

Quality pedestrian facilities are especially important in areas with high rates of transit utilization, or prevalence of transit-dependent populations. Walking is central to the “first mile-last mile” problem in transportation planning, whereby transit users often have to walk to and from transit stops to access their homes, places of employment, and shopping and entertainment destinations. When pedestrian facilities are lacking or in disrepair, this can be at best unpleasant – and at worst unsafe. In either case, transit users suffer a distinct disadvantage compared to motorists. Sidewalks and crosswalks in areas served by fixed-route transit should be repaired, and if necessary installed, with a design up to national Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: In addition to redressing a genuine equity concern, bringing the pedestrian environment up to standard in transit-rich areas can have several positive side effects. First, it can help to catalyze other investments such as a complete streets retrofit or broader streetscape design, as well as new infill or redevelopment. It can also help to induce more transit ridership by changing perceptions of accessibility, especially if paired with such additions as bus shelters and other streetscape infrastructure that improves the waiting experience. Finally, it induces more walking and physical activity, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites as one of the most powerful preventative measures of chronic disease.

GETTING IT DONE: Since the pedestrian realm is the responsibility of the local municipality, a coordinated effort is needed between the municipalities to provide and repair sidewalks and crosswalks, and the transit operators who provide transit service. With already stretched municipal budgets, Northeast Ohio communities may want to consider forming Transportation Improvement Districts in districts and possibly corridors to help finance sidewalk and pedestrian realm improvements.  http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/JobsAndCommerce/tid/Pages/default.aspx

MPOs can play a valuable role in facilitating analysis and planning efforts, and may be best-positioned to jumpstart efforts by providing research support and facilitating stakeholder exploration of the needs. An example of this was a survey and study commissioned by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) in 2011, which evaluated pedestrian safety near bus stops throughout Northern New Jersey. The report featured recommended standard street treatments to improve accessibility to the state’s extensive bus transit assets (citation: North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority,)

Lead Municipalities; Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

An Initiative A Day 6.1: Expand the existing bicycle lane and trail system and connect it to regional transit hubs via on-and-off street facilities.

February 14, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks, we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 6.1: Expand the existing bicycle lane and trail system and connect it to regional transit hubs via on-and-off street facilities. 

WHAT THIS MEANS: Existing bicycle route and facility networks may not currently offer the best connections to transit infrastructure. Identifying key opportunities to enhance these system connections—either through on-street bicycle facilities or off-street trails and paths—can define a concise set of system enhancement projects to better tie transit’s regional connection potential to the greater reach afforded by bicycles. This involves coordination between the agencies providing service (who define transit route alignments and who often own and maintain transit stop and hub facilities) and local and state government agencies (who have responsibility for building and maintaining the roadway system). For this initiative to be successful, there must be an ongoing partnership to ensure that public funds are invested in the right places and in a way that provides benefit to all partners.

When combined with a revised set of project selection criteria at the MPO level emphasizing alternative modes in transportation decision-making (refer to Initiative 5.2), an approach based on transit access helps to define a focused strategic direction that increases regional travel choice and ensures that public investment in transportation infrastructure has the farthest-reaching regional benefit for its cost. Being able to access funding at the MPO level unlocks opportunities for making these kinds of connections to transit facilities.

Taking on this initiative may also involve identifying the key transit hubs for which bicycle investment needs to be prioritized. This in turn may involve coordination of transit service so that hubs of regional significance can be defined. (Refer to Initiatives 4.1 and 4.2, which discuss investment in a regional system of core connecting routes between major economic centers and service enhancements along these routes and other high-performing transit routes.) It also means defining clear policies and design guidance on how bicycles will be accommodated at the end of the biking trip. In general, urban buses throughout the United States are equipped with on-vehicle bicycle racks to allow bicycle riders accessing transit service to carry bicycles with them. This approach has capacity limitations that are directly related to the frequency of service provided. Transit agencies, local governments, and other partner organizations can invest in bicycle parking and storage facilities that increase the ability of transit service to serve patrons connecting by bicycle.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Bicycles are a form of connecting to transit service that is underutilized in Northeast Ohio communities. Due to the greater travel speeds they offer, they can extend the potential reach of transit stations from the half-mile distances comfortable for pedestrians up to three miles in the same 10-minute travel time. Since these bicycle links are still comparably short distances compared to an overall commute trip, weather issues do not significantly limit these trips. As a result, bicycling enables potential increases in transit ridership without a need for corresponding investment in road projects or additional connecting transit service. Many communities have provided demonstrable benefits with respect to mobility and accessibility though resourceful and incremental additions to the bicycle network. Bicycle lanes may be striped on a street with a wide outer lane when that street is being resurfaced, or individual travel lane widths may be reduced across the street’s width to fit bicycle lanes.

This initiative is a useful investment that is likely to offer even greater benefit as cycling increases in the future. National Household Travel Survey data have shown an increase of nearly 50 percent in cycling as a commuting travel mode between 2001 and 2009 (citation: TCRP Report 163, Guidelines for Providing Access to Public Transportation Stations, p.66). Although the size of the Northeast Ohio region may not readily facilitate commuting exclusively by bicycle, strategic actions would connect local and regional bicycle networks to the transit service envisioned in Recommendation 4 and its supporting initiatives.

GETTING IT DONE: This initiative should be led by Northeast Ohio’s MPOs, in close collaboration with local jurisdictions where proposed connections would occur. MPOs are best positioned to scope and secure funding for a regional corridor and connection identification process, and prioritize projects for construction utilizing their established committees and procedures. MPOs should engage key implementing partners and stakeholders, including local jurisdictions and Metroparks authorities. Funding for planning work can be secured through normal MPO funding channels, or via discretionary grant applications, such as the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Transportation, Community, and System Preservation (TCSP) program.

Lead

Nonprofit Organizations; Metropolitan Planning Organizations; Metroparks Authorities; Municipalities, Counties

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Low

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

An Initiative A Day 5.4: Evaluate the condition of all existing rail trackage and rail crossings to determine what investments would be necessary to bring substandard infrastructure up to standard for freight and passenger service.

February 13, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 5.4: Evaluate the condition of all existing rail trackage and rail crossings to determine what investments would be necessary to bring substandard infrastructure up to standard for freight and passenger service.

Photo: All Aboard Ohio

WHAT THIS MEANS: Similar to other proposed asset inventory initiatives (3.1, 3.4), a rail network inventory is a necessary first step to considering regional-scale investments in capacity expansion. This initiative would first involve a survey of the current extent of the rail network, including closed and abandoned corridors, using existing geospatial data assets maintained by rail companies, transit operators, port authorities, and MPOs. A field survey should accompany secondary data collection, with particular focus on evaluating the conditions of tracks, bridges, and rail crossings. This process should engage all stakeholders involved in development and maintenance of the rail system, including rail companies, port authorities, transit operators, and MPOs. Once data are collected, stakeholders would evaluate findings and prioritize investment areas based on market demand, safety needs, and prospective future uses.

The evaluation effort should include analysis of the following elements:

  • Condition of all rights-of-way including their carrying weights and opportunities for strengthening to increase freight transport demand;
  • Opportunities for removal of at-grade crossings; and
  • Opportunities for construction of sidetracks to improve operational effectiveness.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT:  Rail is a vital component of a region’s transportation system. Rail utilization has picked up appreciably in recent years thanks to the price volatility of fuel. This followed years of shrinking in the physical extent of the rail network nationally and regionally, as well as considerable business consolidation in the freight rail industry. An in-depth evaluation of the current state of existing rail assets would help to guide identification and prioritization of strategic opportunities for investment. This could include developing a regional commuter rail network linking various job centers, as suggested in the Vision Map, as well as a larger effort such as developing intercity passenger rail service between Cleveland, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh.

GETTING IT DONE: This initiative should be led by the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC), an entity housed within the Ohio Department of Transportation. ORDC is uniquely positioned to engage rail companies as well as the necessary public sector stakeholders in a way that organizations in Northeast Ohio are not. It also warehouses extensive data resources pertaining to the state’s rail assets.

NEOSCC consortium members, particularly MPOs, should initiate outreach to ORDC highlighting the need for such an inventory and evaluation process. This initiative should, to the greatest extent possible, interface with other initiatives addressing the disposition of vacant land to inform investment priorities in particular kinds of improvements to the rail system. Once under way, a short-term moratorium should be placed on creating new at-grade crossings and converting freight rail rights-of-way to any other use, until the evaluation is complete.

Lead

Ohio Rail Development Commission; Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

An Initiative A Day 5.3: Coordinate the region’s transit systems for joint marketing, information technology, and fare media, including information regarding private transit resources such as university/health system shuttles, private bus services, airport transportation, etc.

February 12, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

 On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO Recommendation and Initiatives.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 5.3: Coordinate the region’s transit systems for joint marketing, information technology, and fare media, including information regarding private transit resources such as university/health system shuttles, private bus services, airport transportation, etc.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Transit users want the same ease of planning their travel as a motorist. Regardless of what operator is driving the bus and how many transfers are needed, riders should be able to plan their trips at one common website, pay with one common fare media, and track their trip on one mobile app. While transit ridership grows based on frequency, span, and location of service, transit ridership is kept through high quality of service. The infrastructure required to implement this initiative exists and requires only the common agreement to direct resources to implement it.

Information technology can contribute immensely to improving the experience of transit. The widespread deployment of computer aided dispatch (CAD) and automatic vehicle location (AVL) information infrastructure can be translated into a solution for resolving uncertainty associated with frequency and wait time. Many transit systems with high-capacity bus and rail service have implemented a “next bus” or “next train” information system that reads and broadcasts data from a CAD/AVL system onto station monitors. Greater Cleveland’s Regional Transit Authority implemented such an information system on the HealthLine BRT. In recent years, with the rise of mobile technology, some systems are implementing “real time arrival” information systems that broadcast vehicle location and estimated arrival times at stations and stop in a dynamic, real time environment. The rapid evolution of this technology, especially Google Transit, which operates on the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) information indexing system, promises to bring real time arrival technology within budgetary reach of smaller transit systems.

Fare technology has also advanced rapidly, making farecard deployment and inter-system fare integration much more technically and financially feasible. for medium-sized transit system. Washington, DC’s SmarTrip card, for instance, integrates farebox payment systems between the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Maryland Transit Authority, enabling seamless transfer between systems for riders.

Beyond technology-based enhancements to the customer experience, transit operators frequently coordinate operations with private transit operators such as university and health system shuttles, private paratransit services, and airport transportation. Public operators also occasionally engage in joint marketing campaigns to encourage ridership of transit in general. Joint marketing campaigns are frequent occurrences in Los Angeles and San Francisco, large metro regions with a decentralized transit operator network much like Northeast Ohio’s.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: With financial resources for transit already scarce and growing scarcer, r transit operators must make savvy investments in improvements to “soft” infrastructure that can attract more customers to the service. Social media has created new opportunities for budget-friendly, cross-platform marketing and promotion of transit service, which, compounded with participation from multiple partners, can yield savings in marketing budgets that can be channeled to other uses. Investing in fare integration technology extends the spatial reach of transit systems, but arguably the highest-return investment is in real-time arrival information systems.

GETTING IT DONE: Transit operators should lead implementation of this initiative, evaluating their current information infrastructure, upgrading needs, and communications budget. MPOs can help to offset the cost of such investments through allocations of Congestion, Mitigation, and Air Quality (CMAQ[1]) funds or flexing of Surface Transportation Program (STP) dollars to transit agencies. CMAQ funds have been used elsewhere in the country to support everything from summer air quality awareness campaigns promoting transit to implementation of fare integration technology.

Lead

Transit Operators; Metropolitan Planning Organizations; Municipalities, Counties; Universities

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

 

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.


 

An Initiative A Day 5.2: Create a network of high-frequency express and local transit routes connecting the region’s job centers.

February 11, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO Recommendation and Initiatives.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 5.2: Create a network of high-frequency express and local transit routes connecting the region’s job centers. Prioritize infill development in the corridors served by these routes. In the short and medium terms, upgrade high-performing existing bus routes and create new bus routes in designated corridors. In the long term, upgrade the highest-demand routes into commuter rail service.

You can access a full size version of this image by downloading the Vision Chapter at bit.ly/1eBGUZ0

WHAT THIS MEANS: Drawing on the approach of Initiative 5.1, this initiative calls for a focus on bus and rail routes that already carry high levels of ridership and serve critical connection needs within their communities, expanding the service on these routes and corridors to make transit a means of travel that is competitive with automobiles. Expansion of service means both increasing service frequency at key times of the day as well as extending the hours of the day that service is provided. In the case of inter-jurisdictional service coordination, this also means extending the length of service so that single routes are bounded by major origins and destinations—and not simply by political boundaries. It can also mean introducing express or limited-stop service between key destinations so that places with high concentrations of rider activity (such as major employment and shopping centers and university and college campuses) can be connected in shorter times. This also means investing strategically in relatively low-cost capital improvements—such as traffic signal infrastructure that gives priority to transit vehicles —that can improve the performance of transit service and offset the operational delays of frequent stops and starts that can come from high ridership demand.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Transit providers focus on high-performing routes and services to retain existing riders and attract new riders. They often prioritize service enhancements on these routes and strategic routes that connect to them so that transit becomes a more attractive and convenient travel option. When partnered with a regional approach to providing service between key activity centers (and focusing less strictly on adhering to county boundaries), many of these high-demand services can form the basis of a series of ‘trunk routes’ that orient transit service within a community and even throughout the region.

GETTING IT DONE: As in 5.1, this initiative must be led by transit operators with planning support as needed from the region’s MPOs. But whereas 5.1 focuses on service between major regional job and activity centers, this initiative involves recalibrating the county-level networks to optimize connections local and express services and a broader regional transit network. In this respect, initiative 5.2 should follow planning and institutional coordination work occurring in 5.1, and involve tighter collaborations between individual transit operators and MPOs.

BEST PRACTICE: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority completely refurbished 8.3 miles of historic Euclid Avenue as part of the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, which opened fully in 2008. A bus rapid transit line, the HealthLine, now connects the central business district with major cultural, medical, and education users – all at one-fourth the cost of light rail. The transit project has helped catalyze $4.7 billion in spin-off investment and 11.4 million square feet of new and planned development, offering a successful example of the economic leverage potential for BRT. http://www.riderta.com/routes/HealthLine

http://www.rtahealthline.com/healthline-what-is.asp

 

Lead Transit Operators; Metropolitan Planning Organizations; Municipalities, Counties
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

 

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

An Initiative A Day 5.1: Invest in a regional network of bi-directional public transit connections between Northeast Ohio’s major job centers.

February 7, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO Recommendation and Initiatives.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Recommendation 5: Enhance and coordinate the region’s rail and bus services

Transit is an important layer of infrastructure and community services throughout the region because it carries a large number of people in a small amount of travel space. This allows dense concentrations of employment—a hallmark of a vibrant economy— accessible to a larger workforce without an accompanying expansion to the road network. In Northeast Ohio, taxes raised at the county level support transit service within that county. With notable exceptions, there is limited inter-jurisdictional crossover or coordination of service between counties. Strategic coordination and connection of different transit systems can offer one of the prime assets of any region: seamlessly connecting people to jobs across county and municipal lines. This would allow the region to take advantage of its multiple employment and activity centers and position itself as a dynamic, integrated regional economy.

This kind of coordination happens at multiple scales: it involves regional route planning to coordinate and enhance services along important regional corridors, but it also involves inter-jurisdictional coordination of service schedules, stop locations, common information sources, one fare media for all providers, branding and marketing, and other more detailed factors of transit service to ensure that different transit agencies’ local systems work together to provide high-quality region-wide service. At its heart, though, this recommendation is intended to take advantage of the ongoing commitment of Northeast Ohio communities to public transit, find greater strength in this service through strategic coordination, and enhance the existing transit services to become more than the sum of their parts.

POLICY: Create a comprehensive regional transit plan that crosses county boundaries. Regional public transportation coordination focuses on maximizing the benefits of the public transportation investment through the coordination of services. Currently, there is no overall regional transit plan for Northeast Ohio.

TOOL: AMATS Public Transportation Needs Assessment: The Public Transportation Needs Assessment report identifies and describes the public transportation needs of the AMATS Area between 2010 and 2030. In the process of identifying the area’s transportation needs, several important AMATS transportation objectives were considered:

• System Preservation
• Basic Mobility for All Persons
• Cost-Effectiveness and Efficiency of Travel
• Coordination among the Area’s Transportation Providers
• Safety and Security
• Environmental Impacts
• Support for the Planning Objectives of the Area Communities
• Support of the region’s Economy

A transit needs assessment like the one employed by AMATS that expands beyond an MPO’s planning boundaries to encompass the needs and patterns for the entire region, especially as they relate to commuting, would be a good first step in identifying ways to improve accessibility and mobility. http://www.amatsplanning.org/

TOOL: ODOT Program Resource Guide

TOOL: Unlocking MPO Funding Tools to Support Sustainability

Northeast Ohio should consider the following specific initiatives to achieve this:

Initiative 5.1: Invest in a regional network of bi-directional public transit connections between Northeast Ohio’s major job centers.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Transit today in Northeast Ohio is made up of a series of county-based authorities that offer limited services to other counties. Although this responds to the primary service needs within an individual county, it does not necessarily respond to the dynamics of the regional economy, especially when residents of a particular county may work in another part of the region.

This initiative would maintain all transit operators’ primary missions of serving their local communities, while expanding the traditional service area boundaries to connect the region’s primary job centers. This initiative would allow transit to better respond to the region’s existing and emerging economic driver industries and extend the range of modal choice available to Northeast Ohio employees. It does not need to mean that each transit agency commits to offering extensive service outside of its core boundaries, but rather that a regional system of high-frequency express services becomes part of the regional transportation network.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT Economically strong and vibrant regions offer multiple transportation choices. In an era of growing travel demand but increasingly limited funds for transportation infrastructure expansion, transit service utilizing existing corridors and infrastructure becomes a key approach to offering transportation choice beyond local services in a way that is responsive to the needs of a regional economy. It also provides a basis for focusing land use and economic development policy on the region’s key employment and activity centers, as transit represents a public investment that must be managed to return the greatest possible value to the counties that support it.

Strategic integration of services also offers a potential benefit to individual transit agencies: as transit becomes a more convenient and attractive travel option, agencies are likely to see an increase in their overall ridership. This introduces economies of scale to an otherwise separated set of transit providers and offers the potential for a greater return on the funding committed to transit service. Northeast Ohio’s expansive geographic area likely means that there will continue to be a need for inter-system transfers in using transit, but the coordination of service and location of route transfers at key regional centers—especially centers of employment—may reduce the number of transfers being made and reduce the time a given rider spends on a transit commute.

GETTING IT DONE: This initiative will require leadership from transit operators, with support from NEOSCC and regional planning partners, particularly the region’s four MPOs, TeamNEO, and the Fund for Our Economic Future. NEOSCC and regional planning partners can pursue further study of the corridors highlighted in the Vision Map, leading corridor identification and analysis studies. With transit operators serving Northeast Ohio communities generally incorporated by county, however, it is advisable for the partnership to first explore and identify a range of suitable organizational structures for operating continuous service across jurisdictional boundaries in critical employment corridors. This will ensure that planning proceeds with sensitivity to institutional parameters.

A number of stakeholders must be involved in implementing a truly regional transit system that connects the region’s major job centers. Given the complexity of the task and the scale of the region’s geography, implementation should build on existing partnerships and begin with small, achievable steps. The region’s transit agencies meet regularly on operational issues and have participated in crafting the Vibrant NEO 2040 Recommendations and Initiatives through a “transit caucus” convened for that purpose. This caucus could collaborate on the implementation of these Recommendations and Initiatives. The MPOs have the capacity to bring together transit, business, and community interests within their jurisdictions: the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency’s Transit Council is a functioning partnership that could serve as a model platform for identifying and addressing the practical issues of creating the public/private and interagency partnerships that will be required to implement this recommendation.

Lead

Transit Operators; Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas

Implementation Complexity

High

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

An Initiative A Day 4.4: Offer financial literacy and housing education programs for tenants and homeowners.

February 6, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO Recommendation and Initiatives.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 4.4: Offer financial literacy and housing education programs for tenants and homeowners. Focus on areas in established communities where investments in housing are underway.

You can access a full size version of this image by downloading the Vision Chapter at bit.ly/1eBGUZ0

WHAT THIS MEANS:. Financial literacy can be a tremendous barrier to entry into home ownership. Recognizing this fact, national organizations like NeighborWorks have partnered with local governments and philanthropic foundations to research, develop, and implement curricula aimed at building financial literacy in low-income communities. This has been especially needed since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, causing many low-income homeowners to lose their homes. Cleveland and other communities in Northeast Ohio were particularly hard-hit by the crisis, which has caused vacancy and abandonment to reach near-epidemic rates.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Doing a better job of reaching and educating low-income communities on good financial management practices will help to prevent future crises like the one recently suffered in Northeast Ohio and many other places around the country. These efforts should not stop with current homeowners, but extend to tenants who may one day become homeowners.

GETTING IT DONE: Public housing authorities and community development corporations are best positioned to offer financial literacy and housing education programs to low-income communities, possibly in cooperation with local universities and community colleges. Local philanthropic foundations can be engaged as funding partners for these efforts.

TOOL: The Fair Housing Contact Service (FHCS) is an independent non-profit agency which provides comprehensive educational opportunities, counseling and support services to people concerned about fair housing in our communities. FHCS offers several programs under Housing Counseling Service. http://www.fairhousingakron.org/

TOOL: Cleveland-based KeyCorp is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $91 billion. Learn and Earn is KeyBank’s comprehensive financial education and awareness program, designed to address the growing need and desire of consumers to improve their financial management skills. Their goal is to provide access to resources that create a strong foundation for economic stability and growth in the communities they serve. Classes are free and open to the community. Also, you do not have to be a KeyBank customer to attend.

https://www.key.com/personal/resources/learn-and-earn.jsp

https://www.key.com/personal/resources/financial-education-classes.jsp

 

Lead Public Housing Authorities; Municipalities; Universities; Nonprofit Organizations
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas
Implementation Complexity Low

 

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

An Initiative A Day 4.3: Offer financial incentives to developers that incorporate affordable housing units into their projects and implement inclusionary zoning in markets with widespread affordability gaps.

February 5, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO Recommendation and Initiatives .

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

Initiative 4.3: Offer financial incentives to developers that incorporate affordable housing units into their projects and implement inclusionary zoning in markets with widespread affordability gaps.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Housing affordability is an issue that every community faces regardless of its location in a region. Age and value of homes, distribution of housing by tenure (e.g. apartments), employment, and income levels are factors in determining affordability. All of these factors are present in the housing issues facing Northeast Ohio communities. In legacy cities, the affordable housing problem centers on an oversupply of older single-family housing relative to new construction, which tends to be expensive condominiums and apartments beyond the financial reach of working families. In suburban communities, affordability problems present through a monoculture of housing types with insufficient range of tenure models; and in rural communities, affordability may be related to a net undersupply of all housing types.

Local jurisdictions, public housing agencies, and housing organizations are finding innovative ways to incentivize developers to “set aside” units at affordable price and rent points in their projects. These incentives can involve direct cash subsidies, though typically manifest as tax credits or tax-increment financing. Federal programs such as New Market Tax Credits and Low Income Tax Credits are popular incentives for encouraging housing affordability; local governments can also utilize state resources to offset project financing gaps, including grants and loans from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

Other valuable offset strategies that don’t impact local government finances but do have monetary value to developers include:

+        Density bonuses – grants developers the ability to exceed density limits specified in zoning without acquiring additional land;

+        Unit size reductions – permits reasonable reductions in area of affordable units relative to market-rate units;

+        Required parking reductions – grants developers the ability to build fewer parking units based on proximity to fixed-route transit stations and high-frequency bus service;

+        Design flexibility – grants flexibility in design review standards;

+        Fee waivers – reduces developer costs by waiving certain permit or infrastructure fees (such as sewer connections); and

+        Fee deferral – allows developer to defer fee payments until development is fully occupied.

(citation: Policy Link, http://www.policylink.org/site/c.lkIXLbMNJrE/b.5137031/k.8659/How_to_Use_It.htm)

Some municipalities may wish to consider formalizing affordability into their zoning. This would be best suited for municipalities with substantial investments in public transit, or districts that function as major regional and community amenities. Such practices, labeled “inclusionary zoning,” ensure that a percentage of housing units remain affordable to individuals or families earning less than 80% of area median income.

Preservation of housing affordability is a major determinant of regional livability. The Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice conducted as part of Vibrant NEO 2040, available in the “Technical Appendix”, provides a snapshot of the region’s housing affordability issues as well as a road map for rectifying them. Northeast Ohio communities must consider the findings of the analysis carefully, and marshal resources to fill any affordability gaps. Ensuring affordable and accessible communities of choice is essential to maintaining Northeast Ohio’s economic competitiveness as well as the fiscal solvency of all of its communities.

GETTING IT DONE. As in 4.1 and 4.2, this initiative must be led by local jurisdictions, including municipalities, townships, and counties. Regional planning entities such as MPOs and COGs can play a more active role in this initiative, however, especially in places where major regional transportation investments are being made, such as regional centers and transit corridors. Regional centers and transit corridors are ideal locations for affordable, workforce-oriented housing; municipalities in which such centers and corridors are located should take action to ensure that new housing development responding to future transit investment can accommodate individuals and families of all income levels.

Lead Public Housing Authorities; Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.