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MassDot Greening the State Transportation System

April 18, 2013 in Transportation

 

Massachusetts Department of Transportation launched GreenDOT, a comprehensive environmental responsibility and sustainability initiative that will make MassDOT a national leader in “greening” the state transportation system. GreenDOT will be driven by three primary goals; reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, promote the healthy transportation options of walking, bicycling, and public transit, and support smart growth development.  In May of 2012, MassDOT released a Draft GreenDOT Implementation Plan for public review. The Plan was written to embed the sustainability vision of GreenDOT into the core business practices of MassDOT. According to the website, GreenDOT calls for MassDOT to incorporate sustainability into all of its activities; from strategic planning to project design and construction to system operation. The initiative includes greenhouse gas reduction targets mandated under the Global Warming Solutions Act, signed by Governor Patrick in 2008. GreenDOT was designed in response to several existing state laws, Executive Orders, and MassDOT policies.

For more information about GreenDot visit the website at http://transportation.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2013/03/greendot-plan-leads-the-way-sustainable-transportation.html

Imagine MyNEO!

April 2, 2013 in Communications, Engagement, News, Sustainability

In May, NEOSCC will be launching an on-line engagement tool entitled Imagine MyNEO! Based on an open source software called Crowd Gauge, Imagine MyNEO! will allow the entire region to share their priorities with the Vibrant NEO process.
As an introduction to the new tool, we have included an article by Sarah Madden of Sasaki Associates (our Scenario Planning consultant).  It includes background about the creation of the tool and some examples of its previous use.

Gauge the values, priorities and preferences of the crowd.

by Sarah Madden, Sasaki Associates

Web-based technology can help planners promote literacy about planning issues and increase public engagement. We already deploy sophisticated data analysis and modeling tools, but many of these tools are more suitable for back-of-house number crunching than for interactive public engagement. This divide between tools for technicians and tools for engagement is significant:  despite all of the public- and client-facing communication work we do, few of today’s data modeling or scenario planning tools were built to be inviting to lay audiences. We need to apply our technological design prowess to facilitating interaction and better engaging the very people our work supports.

Faced with the challenge of engaging people across a spread-out region, Sasaki, PlaceMatters, and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (DMAMPO) partnered to build a new tool—called CrowdGauge—to help communities achieve better public participation and understanding of trade-offs. CrowdGauge is an open-source framework for creating educational online games. It first asks users to rank a set of priorities, then demonstrates how a series of actions and policies might impact those priorities. The third part of the sequence gives users a limited number of coins, asking them to put that money towards the actions they support most.

We first developed the platform in partnership with the Des Moines Area MPO (DMAMPO) as part of The Tomorrow Plan, a regional plan for sustainable development in the Central Iowa region. The original game, named DesignMyDSM, can be played at designmydsm.thetomorrowplan.com. The study region included 480,000 residents, 17 cities, approximately 540 square miles, and parts of four counties—requiring an outreach strategy that went beyond in-person open houses and workshops. DesignMyDSM captured over 1000 unique users in the region, and was especially effective in the under-40 demographics who typically would not have participated in a traditional community engagement process.

CrowdGauge is entirely open-source and available under the permissive MIT license. Currently, Sasaki is preparing to apply the CrowdGauge platform to the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium Initiative (NEOSCC) in spring 2013, and Denver-based PlaceMatters is beta testing the software for use on other HUD-funded regional planning projects.

As web-based technologies grow in both functionality and beauty, planners have the opportunity to create new places for people to enjoy expressing ideas, solving problems, and realizing goals. Most importantly for planners, web technologies offer the opportunity to help ask interesting questions and confront tradeoffs. Visual design, information architecture, and usability are increasingly important to match the strength of our technical muscle with the complexity of the human experience—which means designing with clarity and user experience in mind.

In the spirit of open source, we are pleased to share this front-end tool with the planning community. We are excited to see the clever applications and brilliant new iterations we will all build next.

 

Credits for information and photo/graphics: 
Sarah Madden, Sasaki
smadden@sasaki.com
crowdgauge.org
designmydsm.thetomorrowplan.com

 

City of Cleveland Seeks Input: Climate Action

March 18, 2013 in cleveland, climate action, Environment, News

The City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is leading a community process to create a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to not only reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also plan for changes in the climate that will affect Clevelanders. The CAP is crucial to making Cleveland a more sustainable community. The City of Cleveland is examining how planning, policy, funding, infrastructure and land development decisions affect GHG emissions and local resilience to the impacts of climate change. The City of Cleveland needs your input to help create goals, actions, and policies that are both bold and achievable, to tailor national best practices to Cleveland, and to take Cleveland to the next level with an integrated and more detailed approach to sustainability and climate action planning.

There are two ways to get involved in this process:

  1. Participating online at The Civic Commons. Join the conversation here. 
  2. Save the Date and attend the Public Meeting, on April 11, 2013, from 5:30-7:30pm at Tri-C Main Campus

Digi-NEO…facts about Northeast Ohio

March 15, 2013 in Conditions and Trends, Connections, Engagement, Environment, News, Quality Connected Places, Transportation

During the course of developing the NEOSCC Conditions and Trends Platform, we developed 33 findings across the subject matter areas of economic development, transportation, housing, the environment and quality connected places in Northeast Ohio.  In order to communicate some of these findings, we have developed the Digi-NEO program which highlights different facts about the region’s successes as well as its challenges.

Visit our Digi NEO Gallery to learn more about our region.

Hey! – SAVE THE DATE – Vibrant NEO Public Work Shops

March 6, 2013 in Engagement, News, Scenario Planning

What are Vibrant NEO 2040 and Scenario Planning?

VibrantNEO 2040’s scenarios will tell stories about our possible futures, based on where Northeast Ohio is today and the choices we might make about how we use our land and how we invest our resources. Once we create these scenarios, we will be able to compare how successful they are at achieving our common goals for the region, judge which choices would be best for Northeast Ohio’s future, and create a shared vision and framework for the future around those choices.

You are invited to attend an upcoming workshop to share your voice in the conversation. We have selected six city locations throughout the region for your convenience. Pick a date and location that works for you!

April 30:

Oberlin (Lorain, Medina, and western Cuyahoga)

Warren (Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula)

May 1:

Cleveland (Central Cuyahoga and inner-ring suburbs)

Canton (Wayne and Stark)

May 2:

Akron (Summit and Portage)

Warrenville Hts. (Lake, eastern Cuyahoga, and Geauga)

ALL WORKSHOPS WILL BEGIN 6:30 PM.

Exact locations and registration will be available soon.

Streetcars resurfacing in Cincinnati, Ohio!!!

December 18, 2012 in News, Sustainability, Transportation

The Cincinnati Streetcar is an electric mode of transportation operating in its first phase on a 3.6-mile loop connecting key communities in the city’s urban core. The streetcar will be a vital complement to the city’s existing Metro and other transportation systems. The vision remains to create a streetcar system that spurs development and is part of a larger multimodal transportation system that links areas outside the downtown core and throughout the region. Each streetcar will hold about 165 passengers and will easily accommodate wheelchairs and bicycles.

The streetcar is expected to generate 3,700 trips per day, and it will provide residents using the bus system with more accessibility options. By creating denser, mixed-use development with a population that is less reliant on automobiles, the streetcar will reinforce the walkability of the City. Whether travelling to work, school, shopping, restaurants or social activities, all residents will find use for the streetcar. The Cincinnati Streetcar will connect many of the major investments in housing retail, greenspace, and commercial activity currently under way in the Downtown, Uptown, and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods.  For more information about the Cincinnati Streetcar, visit the website at http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/streetcar/.

What Can I Do Today?

Explore, Live and Transform at Green City Blue Lake

November 5, 2012 in Communications, Environment, Toolkiit

NEOSCC Consortium Member, the Green City Blue Lake Institute has launched a wonderful new website:

 

The new site is based on a three-step process:

  • Explore: Until you experience Northeast Ohio and the natural systems that support life here the soils, the water, the plants and animals, the climate it’s hard to know how to take care of this place. So the first step is to explore the bioregion, root yourself here, learn to love your home territory.
  • Live: Empowered with the intimate knowledge of place, you can begin to improve your own life. You can lead a healthier, more fulfilling life that has less environmental impact.
  • Transform: Beyond the changes you can make in your own life, we all need to work together on big, complicated things like the design of more sustainable cities, buildings, and transportation systems. We need a sustainability policy agenda and projects that transform the region.

 

What Can I Do Today?

Learn and Share: Are environmental conditions in Northeast Ohio getting better or worse?

October 31, 2012 in Conditions and Trends, Environment

Photo by Peggy Turbett, The Plain Dealer

With the weather, rainfall and flooding in the news, we thought it an appropriate time to discuss the Environment Work Stream findings.  Are environmental conditions in Northeast Ohio getting better or worse? The answer to that question depends a lot on the type of environmental issue being considered.  Here is a bit of a summary for rainy day reading.

Since the 1970s, the region has made a lot of progress cleaning up what is typically thought of as “pollution.” Industry has reduced emissions from smokestacks and effluent pipes. Wastewater treatment plants are doing a much better job treating sewage. And some of dirtiest sources of industrial pollution have closed down or moved to places with lower environmental standards. As a result, the air and water are cleaner than they used to be.

But other types of environmental issues have been harder to address. These are “nonpoint” sources of pollution — sources that are numerous and dispersed rather than a single point that is simple to regulate and control. For example, the region’s lakes and streams are impacted by polluted stormwater runoff, which flows off countless streets, parking lots, and farm fields. Similarly, the big problem affecting the region’s air quality now is the motor vehicle pollution from more than two million cars and trucks.

Environments Work Stream

These nonpoint sources are a big reason why the region struggles to make further environmental progress. Most Northeast Ohio counties still fail to meet federal air quality standards for ozone and fine particulates. Flooding from stormwater runoff is a persistent and costly problem. And there are disturbing signs that the health of Lake Erie, which had been improving for several decades, may be deteriorating again (lack of data further frustrates understanding of potential trends).

It is important to note that these environmental problems are related to patterns of land use. As development has spread out over more land, there are more paved surfaces and rooftops to shed rain, and people have to drive farther to reach far-flung destinations. The spread of development also affects the diversity of plants and wildlife. And it impacts emerging environmental issues, such as the rising level of carbon emissions that impact the region’s future precipitation patterns and conditions for agricultural production.

Visit our Conditions and Trends Platform to Learn More!

What Can I Do Today?