Research Partners Reunite at National Regional Transportation Conference

David Kack, Lonnie Hunt, and Bob Bashaw at the 2019 National Regional Transportation ConferenceSURTCOM Director David Kack traveled to Columbus, Ohio last week for the National Regional Transportation Conference, which is hosted by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). David caught up with Lonnie Hunt (center) and Bob Bashaw (right) from the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), which partnered with WTI and SURTCOM on a project to create a voucher program in five counties in southeast Texas.   Natalie Villwock-Witte was the PI for the DETCOG project, which won a 2019 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the NADO Research Foundation and Rural Planning Organizations of America (RPO America). In total, WTI worked with the NADO Research Foundation on three projects: the DETCOG project; a transit feasibility Study for Lebanon, Missouri (also led by Natalie); and a feasibility study for a commuter transit service between Cortez and Durango, Colorado (led by David). WTI staff Karalyn Clouser, Laura Fay and Rebecca Gleason also contributed to these projects.

Transportation Voucher Program wins National Award

Image of the front cover of a report called Deep East Texas Council of Governments Transportation Voucher Program Final ReportThe 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.

The DETCOG project page on the WTI website includes more information on the project and a link to the final report.

Travel Voucher Project Kicks Off in Texas

Laura Fay, David Kack and Natalie Villwock-Witte (PI) recently traveled to the Jasper, Texas area for six meetings related to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) transportation voucher program. This pilot project will show how transportation vouchers can be used to provide basic mobility to those who have limited options. Meetings were held in Jasper, as well as Ivanhoe, Newton, Pineland and San Augustine. Similar to many rural areas in Montana, people in the DETCOG area often travel 45 miles or so (one way) for groceries, medical care, and other essential services. Currently, this pilot project is focused on those who are 60 years old or older. The long-term vision is to secure additional funding so that those with low incomes or a disability will also be able to use the voucher program.

Ivanhoe, TX announces pilot program meeting on city marquee

The pilot program should start in May and will include approximately 25 participants. Demand for the vouchers already exceeds existing funding, so data from the pilot project will be used to reach out to potential funding sources. The WTI staff is supporting the DETCOG staff to ensure that this program can grow and meet the needs in this rural part of Texas. The new program was big news in the City of Ivanhoe – the photo shows the City marquee informing community members about the meeting to discuss the voucher program.

Bozeman Receives Grant to Integrate Art and Transportation

Congratulations to the City of Bozeman, one of only three communities across the nation selected to receive State of the Art Transportation Trainings from Transportation for America (T4America). WTI’s Rebecca Gleason served on the team that developed the successful grant application, led by Cathy Costakis of the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program along with Randy Carpenter of Future West, Jim Madden of Mountain Time Arts, with support from Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus. Through this program, Bozeman will receive technical training workshops from T4America on how to partner with local arts leaders and organizations to develop “out of the box” transportation solutions and broaden public support for current or future projects. Bozeman hopes to engage its vibrant arts community into transportation planning efforts across the Gallatin Valley, and in particular, into initiatives to create a first-class regional transit system as the region grows. “We are excited to be selected for this unique program, which is great fit for Bozeman given how rapidly our population is growing,” said Rebecca.

The full announcement and more information is available on the T4America website.

Bozeman’s Streamline to Expand Service

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle recently reported that the City of Bozeman will provide an additional $64,000 to grow services on a busy Streamline bus route that serves both Montana State University and popular shopping districts.  In the article, WTI’s Mobility and Public Transportation Program Manager, David Kack, discusses how ridership has increased over the last three years, and options for funding future expansions.  The full article is available on the Chronicle website.  More information about WTI’s partnerships with the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) and other agencies to develop Streamline is available on the WTI website.

NCHRP Report Highlights WTI Rural Regional Transit Research

TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Research Report 861: Best Practices in Rural Regional Mobility addresses the role of state transit program policies and regional planning agencies in the development of rural regional services. The report provides lessons learned on how to address needs for rural regional mobility, and includes a checklist for developing a rural regional route. It also highlights best practices from a number of states, including Montana.  The Montana case study describes WTI’s work with Opportunity Link and North Central Montana Transit to develop regional services between Havre and Great Falls, Montana. The full NCHRP report is available through the Transportation Research Board.

NEW PROJECTS: WTI to Conduct Mobility Studies in 3 Rural Communities

WTI will provide technical assistance to three rural communities and regions to identify and evaluate expanding transportation options, thanks to a new partnership with the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO)’s Research Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA sponsors technical assistance grants to rural communities and regions for transportation development, and NADO’s Research Foundation, working in conjunction with WTI, was selected to receive roughly $500,000 in grants. WTI will receive approximately $330,000 to conduct technical assistance for three locations:

  • Lebanon, Missouri is interested in developing a public transportation system. WTI will develop a feasibility study that will outline how to plan, develop, and implement a public transportation system within the City of Lebanon (more project information here).
  • In communities served by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), WTI will work with DETCOG to pilot a traveler cheque system intended to provide more mobility opportunities to veterans, persons with disabilities, and older persons. This project is unique in that not only will work and medical needs be addressed, but the system allows users to utilize trips for livability purposes providing they stay within their allotted mileage. The project will include planning, marketing, and public outreach (more project information here).
  • In Southwest Colorado, WTI will assist the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments with the development of a fixed route system between Cortez and Durango. The project will include the identification of funding options and development of a sustainability plan (more project information here).

David Kack will head the Southwest Colorado project, and Natalie Villwock-Witte will lead the Lebanon, Missouri and DETCOG projects with the assistance of Karalyn Clouser and Laura Fay, respectively. “WTI has conducted numerous mobility and public transportation studies,” said Kack; “and we’re excited to be working with NADO’s Research Foundation to use our expertise to assist rural communities throughout the country.”