The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Transportation Voucher Program has been selected for a 2019 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). DETCOG and the Area Agency on Aging launched the pilot program in 2018 to provide monthly vouchers to seniors in five counties to pay for rides to medical appointments, shopping trips, and social events.
WTI, in partnership with the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation and the USDA, provided technical assistance to help create and launch the program. The project was a team effort by Principal Investigator David Kack, who spearheaded the partnership with NADO; Project Manager Natalie Villwock-Witte, who worked closely with Laura Fay to develop the program framework, conducted outreach to potential program participants, and analyzed the use of the program; and Neil Hetherington, who created numerous original training and promotion materials. “It’s rewarding to develop an effective public transportation program for a rural area where there are so few travel options,” Natalie noted; “it’s even more gratifying when you find out that it’s making a real difference in the lives of residents who may use the program to go buy fresh, healthy food or to connect with friends and family.”
NADO is a Washington, DC-based association that promotes programs and policies to strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies. The Excellence in Regional Transportation Awards showcase organizations for noteworthy projects and practices in rural and small metropolitan transportation planning, program delivery, and special initiatives. Winners will receive their awards at the 2019 National Regional Transportation Conference in June.
As part of Women’s History Month, the Montana State University Women’s Center invited WTI Researcher Dani Hess to make a presentation last week on the bicycle and its key role in the women’s suffrage movement. She detailed how bicycles provided women with a means of solo travel to political, educational, and employment opportunities, which inspired Susan B. Anthony to say that bicycles have “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”
Last week, the Whitefish Pilot reported on efforts by the town of Whitefish, Montana to address growing congestion in its downtown area. WTI is conducting an alternative transportation study to evaluate transportation and transit issues that impact parking in the downtown core. Principal Investigators David Kack and Laura Fay have conducted commuter surveys to determine the number of downtown workers who are driving solo, carpooling, and taking the bus. The findings will be used to explore alternative transportation pilot projects and develop the downtown parking plan. The Whitefish Pilot article is available on the newspaper’s website.
A new traffic calming device is making its debut in Helena! WTI, Bike Walk Montana, and neighborhood volunteers teamed up to install a pop-up traffic circle, which is designed to slow vehicles on a road near a popular trail head where there are many pedestrians. The circle will be in place for one month, during which time a camera will record traffic speeds and researchers will gather public feedback on potential long-term solutions. KTVH Montana posted a news report showing the installation on its website. WTI has participated in similar neighborhood traffic calming projects in Bozeman.
Winter Bike to Work Day and new campus shuttle promote transportation options
Snow is falling and so are the temperatures, but hearty Bozeman residents never shy away from going outside in the winter. With that in mind, the Bozeman Commuter Project is sponsoring Winter Bike to Work Day on March 8, 2019 to encourage local commuters to continue (or even start!) cycling to work through the winter months. Participants who register at bozemancommute.org can earn reward coupons for local coffee shops and breweries. The project also provides cyclists with tips for cycling safely in winter conditions. WTI is a partner in the Bozeman Commuter project and is helping to promote this event. “We always get a great response to our commuter challenges in the summer months,” said project coordinator Dani Hess; “we want to keep that momentum going and keep encouraging the folks who choose to get around by bike in the winter months as well.”
In other commuter news, the Associated Students of Montana State University have launched a campus shuttle that makes loops around the perimeter of campus every 20 minutes on weekdays from 7:40 a.m. until 5:40 p.m. The service is free to students, staff, faculty and visitors, so check out the route map and additional information here. WTI has also provided support to this pilot effort through the Bozeman Transportation Demand Management project. “We’re excited to see the growing interest in transportation options at MSU from student leadership and are happy to be a part of piloting and evaluating new services like the campus shuttle,” said Hess.
Natalie Villwock-Witte traveled to San Augustine, Texas in January to report on a rural transit pilot program to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG). DETCOG and the Area Agency on Aging launched a pilot program in 2018 to provide monthly vouchers to seniors in five counties to pay for rides to medical appointments, shopping trips, and social events. WTI, in partnership with the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation and the USDA, provided technical assistance for the program. Natalie reported that more than 50 area residents aged 60 and older signed up and used the program during the pilot period. “Thanks to the support of the Area Agency on Aging, the program will continue to provide rides to seniors,” said Natalie; “if DETCOG and other partners are able to secure additional funding sources, there may be opportunities to expand the program to serve other populations with transportation needs.”
DETCOG recently highlighted the project presentation on its website. Additional information about WTI’s other NADO technical assistance projects in rural communities is available on the WTI website. The pilot project final report is also available on the SURTCOM/WTI website.
WTI, Bike Walk Montana, and neighborhood volunteers are teaming up to install a pop-up traffic circle in Helena,Montana in March. The traffic calming project is designed to slow vehicles on a road near a popular trail head, and to gather public feedback on potential long-term solutions. The Helena Independent Record provided a recent update on the joint effort. WTI has participated in similar neighborhood traffic calming projects in Bozeman.
Last week, Explore Big Sky published a special feature on its picks for the most important local news stories of the year. Top of the list – the $10 million federal TIGER grant awarded to the Big Sky, Montana region for roadway, transit, and trail improvements. In the article, WTI Program Manager David Kack discusses working with partners in the Big Sky community to identify critical transportation needs and develop the successful proposal. More information about the grant is available on the WTI news page.
Natalie will be presenting about her recent work; Characteristics & Reported Bicycle & Pedestrian Infrastructure for Communities of Less Than 10,000 People in Maine, Minnesota and New Hampshire. The project and report can be viewed here.