In a recent article, High Country News provides an update on the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, a Montana coalition that is working to revive a passenger rail line that would span 600 miles across the state. “Montana Counties Band Together to Reinvigorate Passenger Rail” summarizes efforts to secure local, state and federal support, as well as funding, to restore Amtrak service that would connect residents to some of the larger cities in the state, including Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings. WTI Director David Kack was interviewed for the article, discussing how rail service can provide valuable mobility options for people in rural towns who can no longer drive or who lack access to a vehicle.
WTI is launching a new project to provide technical assistance to a small county in southern Ohio. Led by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, the research team will work with the Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Meigs County, helping to coordinate mobility, economic resilience, and substance use disorder workshops. In addition, the project will support the initiation of a mobility management program.
This project is part of an ongoing collaboration with the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Since 2017, WTI has conducted five technical assistance projects in rural regions around the country to enhance access to transportation. The Ohio study is one of four new NADO projects launching in 2021.
Project Page: Supporting Mobility Options in Meigs County, Ohio
WTI is launching a new project to investigate innovative “last mile” package delivery systems and how rural public transportation systems may have a role in the process. Led by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, the project will include a synthesis of current last mile package delivery practices through public transportation systems in rural states; an analysis of state policies regarding the use of public transportation for package delivery; and an estimate of demand, capacity need, and revenue generation for rural transit systems in regard to last mile package delivery. This feasibility study is sponsored by the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM).
Started: December 2020
End Date: November 2021
Project ID: 4W8852
WTI recently launched a new project to conduct a transit study in Humboldt County, a coastal county in northern California. The goal is to provide the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) and the Humboldt Transit Authority with a review of all current transportation services, and to investigate the potential for new service in the town of McKinleyville.
Led by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, the study will begin with the collection and analysis of data from the existing public transportation services in the county and a review of demographic and travel data to explore new transit service scenarios within McKinleyville as well as between McKinleyville and other communities in the region. Tasks will include the development and assessment of potential service and route options, preparation of cost estimates, identification of management impacts, and development of recommendations based on the findings. The project is jointly sponsored by HCAOG and the Small, Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM). As the study progresses, updates will be available on the project webpage.
WTI Mobility researchers Rebecca Gleason and Danae Giannetti traveled to Fort Smith, Arkansas last week to help launch a rural transit hub feasibility study. They gave an overview presentation to the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is partnering with WTI on the project along with Western Arkansas Planning and Development District. The goal of the project, which is sponsored by a grant from the National Association of Development Organizations, is to investigate whether it is feasible to create a “smart” transit hub to connect rural communities in western Arkansas with larger metropolitan areas. The meeting was covered by local news outlets, including the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: “Frontier MPO in Fort Smith talks rural transit.”
The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation will partner with the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM) to assist rural communities with passenger transportation projects that enhance economic development initiatives. This collaboration will encompass projects in two locations:
- Natalie Villwock-Witte will lead a project to develop a rural transit hub in eastern Georgia.
- Rebecca Gleason will lead a feasibility study for a “smart” transit hub in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.
Additional information is available on the webpage for each project:
SURTCOM 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.
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.
The DETCOG project page on the WTI website includes more information on the project and a link to the final report.
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.
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.
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.