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Today kicks off the next round of Vibrant NEO Open Houses

July 29, 2013 in ACT, News, Scenario Planning, Vibrant NEO 2040

Today kicks off the next round of Vibrant NEO Open Houses where we will look at Alternative Scenarios - different potential futures for Northeast Ohio - that could result from different choices.
These are critically important discussions.  The entire Vibrant NEO process is an attempt to help the residents of Northeast Ohio define what we want for the future, and then determine what choices we need to make in order to get to the future. 
The first round of workshops in early May helped to define a baseline for discussion – i.e. what will Northeast Ohio look like in 2040 is we continue our currents trends.  (You can learn more about these findings here.)
We gathered input from residents at those workshops, and later through ImagineMyNEO, our online planning tool which is still open for use.  That input has helped us create Alternative Scenarios that you can view and discuss at our Open Houses.  These scenarios help us see what can happen in the future if we make different choices now.  You can learn more in this comprehensive article from Steve Litt on Cleveland.com today.   
We hope you can join us at one of our Open Houses – the first one is tonight from 4:30 to 7:30 PM at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Here is the schedule for the next two weeks.

AMATS’ 2012 Annual Report now available

May 16, 2013 in AMATS, News

Annual Report 2012The 2012 Annual Report from AMATS is now available.  The report details the agency’s accomplishments during the year that marked AMATS’ 50th Anniversary as a metropolitan planning organization.

Readers can find out why agency leaders agreed that preservation of the Greater Akron area’s existing transportation system should be a priority over costly expansions.

There are also summaries regarding the development of several items integral to the release of Transportation Outlook 2035, the area’s upcoming long-range regional transportation plan.  There’s also information about the agency’s ongoing efforts to promote regional connectivity and sustainability through its various cycling initiatives.

To view the report, please click the graphic above.

A Letter to the Region

April 29, 2013 in Engagement, Scenario Planning

Join Us this week! We all have our reasons for loving Northeast Ohio, and because we love this region, we want to see it thrive and grow, just as we want to see the challenges facing our region addressed and put behind us.

The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC) is working to help residents preserve and build upon what we value, and fix those things that are challenging. NEOSCC is a regional collaboration of public agencies, elected officials, philanthropic and non-profit organizations, colleges and universities and community members. Our mission is the development of Vibrant NEO 2040, a vision for how to make Northeast Ohio a more vibrant, resilient, and sustainable place to live and work.

To develop that vision, we need a solid understanding of the “facts on the ground,” so NEOSCC started by convening over 150 experts from across Northeast Ohio to study over 200 existing policy studies and planning documents and assess the region’s demographic trends and development patterns over the past 4 decades.

The picture that we’ve found, available at cat.neoscc.org, is nuanced. This region, inarguably, has a wealth of assets which are a magnet for new residents and businesses, and a foundation on which to build future endeavors.

There are also clear, unsettling and economically challenging aspects of our region’s long-term development patterns. Over the past four decades, the percentage of our region’s land which has been developed has grown by more than 21%, but our population has declined by about 7%. This means, quite simply, that as a region, we are maintaining more infrastructure and have more housing and commercial property than we can support with a slightly smaller population than we had in 1970.

The consequences of this pattern can be seen throughout the region—from weak housing markets in many of our region’s core city neighborhoods  and first suburbs to the decline of our region’s downtown retail districts and—more recently—the abandonment of shopping malls and retail strips in many of the region’s suburbs.  It can also be seen in the debates—often heated—between the leaders of long-established and newly-developing communities about how best to invest the region’s scare infrastructure resources in their respective communities. The question for the region is stark: How can we maintain the quality and economic vitality of our already-developed communities while meeting the emerging needs of communities experiencing the pressures of new development?

This region’s future will be decided by how we answer that question, how we deal with challenges like development without population growth, and by how we connect and leverage the unique assets of our people and places.  At NEOSCC, we understand that we can only tackle these questions together, as a region.

In order to create a vision for a sustainable future, we have to figure out what choices we can make now that will give us the greatest chance for success.  To do this, we are using a tool called Scenario Planning, and we hope you will be a part of this effort.

Scenarios summarize likely future outcomes based on what we know about the present and what we know about how the world works.  (Every weather forecast, for example, presents a scenario for the future, based on what meteorologists know about the current weather and what they know about how weather patterns develop.)

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 land and how we invest.  Our Scenario Planning process uses different scenarios to try and answer some important questions: What will Northeast Ohio look like in the future if we keep doing what we’re doing? What if we pursue different priorities?  What scenarios and priorities lead to the best potential future for our region? How do we prioritize our choices given limited resources? And finally, what does the preferred vision of Northeast Ohio’s future look like?

The first round of Vibrant NEO 2040 Scenario Planning Public Workshops focuses on the “Business-As-Usual” scenario.  It outlines what Northeast Ohio’s future will look like if we keep doing what we are currently doing – what will our communities look like, how successful will our economy be, and how much will it likely cost us, if we keep our current policies and approaches to land use, transportation and development in place.

Once we know what will happen if we keep doing what we are doing, then we can start to ask how the future might change if we do some things differently.  It’s the first step in a three-phase process that we will be conducting over in the coming months.

As a region, we face tough but important questions, and the answers can only come from the people of Northeast Ohio.  That’s why we hope you will take advantage of at least one of the several opportunities this year to add your voice, perspective and ideas to the Scenario Planning process.  The initial opportunity is just around the corner; the first round of workshops take place across the region at convenient locations on April 30, May 1 and May 2, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  Visit VibrantNEO.org and register for the location and day most convenient for you, and join us as we begin to work toward a common vision for a more vibrant, resilient and sustainable Northeast Ohio.

Less than 1 week… Will you help create NEO’s Future?

April 24, 2013 in Engagement, Scenario Planning

What are you doing April 30, May 1 or May 2?  Creating NEO’s Future Depends on You?

Speak up and voice your opinions about OUR home!

What brought you to Northeast Ohio?

What keeps you here?

What do you value most about Northeast Ohio?

What will keep you and your family here in the future?

The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC) will be hosting a series of workshops to create a vision for a Vibrant NEO in the year 2040. Workshops will be two hours long and will be held at various locations throughout the region.  Please feel free to pick the time and location that is most convenient for you, regardless of your county of residence.

Your help is needed to help NEOSCC focus the workshops on issues that are most important to YOU – today and in the future!

CLICK ON THE BLUE LINKS BELOW TO REGISTER! ALL WORKSHOPS WILL BEGIN 6:30 PM.

April 30

Oberlin (Lorain, Medina, and western Cuyahoga)
The Oberlin Inn, 7 North Main Street, Oberlin, OH 44074

Warren (Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula)
John F. Kennedy High School, 2550 Central Pkwy Ave SE, Warren, OH 44484

May 1

Cleveland (Central Cuyahoga and inner-ring suburbs)
Third Federal Savings & Loan (Auditorium), 7007 Broadway Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44105

Canton (Wayne and Stark)
The Metropolitan Centre, 601 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, OH  44702

May 2

Akron (Summit and Portage)
Akron Urban League, 440 Vernon Odom Boulevard, Akron, OH 44307

Warrenville Hts. (Lake, eastern Cuyahoga, and Geauga)
Corporate College – East, 4400 Richmond Road, Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

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

Stark County Area Transportation Public Meeting on Wednesday

April 8, 2013 in Stark, Transportation

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is developing the State Fiscal Year 2014-2017 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The STIP is the four-year plan listing highway, transit, pedestrian and bicycle projects that will occur throughout Ohio for the next  four fiscal years.

Projects are derived from Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO), ODOT Central and District Offices, and from others throughout the State. This includes projects originated from
the Stark County Area Transportation Study (SCATS), which is the MPO for Stark County. As part of the public involvement process, SCATS will hold a Public Meeting at the Stark County District Library Main Branch on Wednesday, April 10th, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. You are invited to review and comment on the current list of projects scheduled by ODOT for state fiscal years 2014-2017 as well as the SCATS 2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and SCATS 2040 Long Range Plan.

For more information, visit their website.

ACT: AMATS Engaging Public on Transportation in Greater Akron

April 3, 2013 in ACT, AMATS

The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) invites you to participate in the development of two items key to the future of the Greater Akron area: Transportation Outlook 2035 and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for Fiscal Years 2014 through 2017.

Transportation Outlook 2035 is the area’s draft long-range transportation plan of identified needs and recommendations.  The plan includes highway, transit, bike and pedestrian project recommendations that are expected to be completed by 2035.  Transportation Outlook 2035 recommends over $4.3 billion in highway infrastructure investments through 2035, which includes over $2.5 billion for preservation of the existing system.  The draft plan includes investment of over $1.7 billion in the region’s public transportation system and recommends $30 million in bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

AMATS Planning Coordinator Krista Beniston says that the draft plan represents the agency’s focus on using the Greater Akron area’s shrinking funding resources wisely.  “These recommendations reflect a “fix-it-first” approach to pursue needed investments in the area’s existing transportation system rather than costly expansions,” Beniston explains. 

The TIP is the area’s four-year program of highway, public transit and bike and pedestrian projects scheduled to receive federal funding.  The program includes more than $662 million in highway and public transportation projects for fiscal years 2014 through 2017, including nearly $9 million for bike and pedestrian projects.  TIP Coordinator Victor Botosan says that the program – like Transportation Outlook 2035 – emphasizes maintenance of the area’s existing system.

The agency is hosting two public engagement meetings so that residents may share their insights on these items.  Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m. at the following dates and locations.

  • April 9 @ Akron-Summit County Public Library – Main Library, 60 S. High St. in Akron. 
  • April 18 @ Kent Free Library, 312 W. Main St. in Kent.

Drafts of both items are available for review and comment at the following locations:

  • The agency web site – amatsplanning.org
  • The AMATS office -  806 CitiCenter, 146 S. High Street in downtown Akron.
  • PARTA office – 2000 Summit Road in Kent.
  • Ohio Department of Transportation District 4 office – 2088 S. Arlington Road in Akron
  • Twitter – @amatsplanning
  • Facebook – facebook.com/amatsplanning

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

 

Kent’s PARTA Multimodal Transit Center is Underway

February 13, 2013 in Connections, News, Portage

The Kent Central Gateway (KCG) multimodal facility is a planned transit center that will increase transit accessibility and emphasize multi-modal transportation in Kent, Ohio. This is a collaborative project with Portage Area Regional Transit Authority, the City of Kent, and Kent State University. The U.S. Department of Transportation selected the Kent Central Gateway as a recipient of a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant. The multimodal center was one of two transportation projects in Ohio and among 51 nationwide that received $1.5 billion from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Kent Central Gateway will be located between Haymaker Parkway (SR 59), E. Main Street (Kent Ravenna Rd), and S. Depeyster Street in Kent, Ohio. This location lies in downtown Kent within one-quarter mile of Kent State University and the Cuyahoga Riverfront. The Gateway Facility will be a catalyst for economic development that will contribute to a vibrant downtown that is seamlessly connected to the university campus. It will also be environmentally friendly by incorporating “green” design features and a model of sustainable development that emphasizes a diverse transportation system. The project is scheduled to be completed in July 2013. For more information about The Kent Central Gateway, visit the website.

The connection between Kent State University and the City of Kent was also recently highlighted in a New York Times article.

 

Transit Space Race 2013

February 6, 2013 in News, Transportation

At Reconnecting America’s Transit Space Race page you’ll find a map of all the under construction and planned fixed guideway transit projects in the United States.  These projects were gathered in 2012 from local sources including but not limited to, long range plans, discussions with local officials, and newspaper coverage.   We understand that these projects are fluid and the estimates of cost as well as the projects themselves are subject to change frequently.  This list should be seen as a snapshot in time and not a definitive source on the subject matter.

Projects listed within the Transit Space Race are fixed guideway projects including heavy rail, commuter rail, LRT, streetcars, various technologies such as cog railways, and Bus Rapid Transit lines that have more than 50% of their right of way dedicated to the bus alone.  Rapid buses without dedicated lanes are an important part of any transit network however the inclusion of them in this project would have made the list hard to create.   Additionally, this catalog is not a list of projects we would like to see built or an endorsement of any project.  It is simply a list of what regions around the country have listed as potential projects.

Check out Reconnecting America’s page to learn more!