Committee on Public Transportation Planning and Development (A1E02)
1998 to 2002 Strategic Plan
Revised Draft -- January 14, 1998
Previous Committee Approach and Objectives
Background and Context:
The proposed Strategic Plan was prepared by the Committee on Public Transportation Planning and Development (A1E02) within the framework of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) adopted Strategic Plan and the adopted Work Program of the Public Transportation Section.
In furtherance of the TRB’s Strategic Plan, all TRB committees are required to periodically assess their membership and to establish and refine their overall mission, objectives, strengths, challenges, opportunities and activities within the context of present and future (five years) operating environments. This self-assessment is intended to be participatory and comprehensive, leading to preparation and adoption of a Committee Strategic Plan for TRB evaluation. In addition, the Strategic Plan will facilitate the Committee’s pending Triennial Review.
In fulfillment of this charge, the Committee on Public Transportation Planning and Development established a subcommittee at the 1997 TRB Annual Meeting to prepare a draft Strategic Plan and to conduct a survey of its membership. Follow-up discussion on the December 1997 Draft Strategic Plan was held at the 1998 TRB Annual Meeting. The Committee’s changes have been incorporated in the current Draft, which is being circulated for final review and comments. Following adoption, the Committee will present the Strategic Plan to pertinent TRB staff and committees, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the contents.
I. Mission Statement:
The Committee adopts the following Mission Statement to guide its overall work program within the structure of the Transportation Research Board:
To examine, discuss and disseminate public transportation ideas and issues from planning, development and implementation perspectives.
The Committee will strive to accomplish the following goals in fulfillment of the adopted Mission Statement:
- Identify, articulate, and stimulate follow-up activities on emerging trends, new ideas and innovations;
- Foster topics for future research;
- Assist in defining public transportation’s role(s) and direction within the overall transportation system;
- Coordinate and partner with other TRB committees, organizations and governmental entities to accomplish the Committee’s overall mission.
III. Environmental Scan (The Climate for the Committee’s Activities)
As background and context for development of the Committee’s Strategic Plan, the following summary of the current climate for Committee activities is provided.
The current environment for public transportation planning and development activities is somewhat "schizophrenic":
- While policy-makers, private sector interests and the general public are increasingly recognizing and demanding a first class transportation system for goods movement and personal mobility needs, the prospects for strong Federal policy support and funding are uncertain, and the picture at the State and local levels is mixed.
- There is widespread and renewed interest in growth management strategies, neo-traditional development concepts and transit-oriented development approaches that are predicated on a strong role for public transit and close linkage of land use and transportation planning. At the same time, there is still a strong suspicion of government-imposed strategies to manage growth and a NIMBY response to many proposals to increase densities or promote transit-oriented development.
- The failure to reauthorize ISTEA and the direction of the debate that prevented achieving consensus on the policy thrust and funding priorities of a new surface transportation act, reflect deep philosophical and policy divisions over how to fund national transportation needs, infrastructure improvements and what the nation’s transportation investment priorities should be.
- Within the overall debate about the Federal role in transportation policy and funding support, the bigger issues of the allocation of state shares of Federal dollars, deficit reduction and Trust Fund integrity have overwhelmed questions about the funding, content and direction of national transportation research, as well as key policy questions like better integration of transportation and land use planning and implementation.
- While the innovations and new directions of ISTEA appear secure for at least the next few months, the coalition of support for their retention in new legislation is somewhat fragile. This fact threatens to undo the gains made over the past six years and, particularly, the strong emphasis on public transit research through such new ventures as the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).
- State and local policies and programs on public transportation planning and development are mixed and vary by geography, developmental character and history. Some are quite supportive of the need to develop multi-modal and intermodal transportation strategies, with a strong if not central role for public transit, while others are primarily uni-modal with a continued emphasis on highway capacity expansion solutions for every transportation problem.
- Increasingly, the emphasis of public transportation research activities at the TRB and in academia is encouraged to be "practical" and focused on "real world" issues that will yield beneficial information to support policy formulation or daily operations. The "market" for the kinds of issues that the Committee usually pursues is growing, and the need for continued research on emerging trends and issues is high.
- The need to maintain and expand a strong public transportation research program at the national level is critical. A concerted effort and coalition of support are needed among the academic, private consulting and public agency practitioners to make the case as the reauthorization debate continues in 1998. The Committee can play a key role in accomplishing this objective.
IV. Previous Committee Approach and Objectives
In 1993, the Committee proposed (but never formally adopted) the following Approach and Objectives to guide its activities. This statement serves as the departure point for the 1998 to 2002 Strategic Plan.
1. Assemble a committee of diverse, interested individuals who are willing to continually seek out and use a network of other professionals and academics across the country (and in other countries) to keep us current on innovations in public transportation options and institutional arrangements.
2. Develop an on-going set of research ideas and topics for investigation that will lend themselves to development into calls for papers, conference sessions, Newsline articles, TCRP problem statements, special conferences and publications. Specific objectives would include:
- Complete a set of updated Committee research statements for TRB.
- Develop a Call for Papers each year (which could be co-sponsored with other committees) and orient TRB staff to our committee’s interests so that we receive and review papers that lend themselves to cohesive sessions.
- Improve long-term paper quality by developing paper review guidance and encouraging our paper review teams to develop consolidated paper feedback, so that final papers reflect committee standards.
- Develop at least one or two TCRP problem statements each year for submittal to TRB.
- Prepare one committee or "state of the art" session for each Annual Meeting.
- Continue Newsline as our on-going tool for quarterly outside communication on innovations and ideas in public transportation.
- Develop potential topics for the biennial, mid-year Public Transit Committees Conference.
3. Increase intergroup liaison by:
- Committee member involvement in ITE, ASCE, AASHTO and APA activities related to Committee interests (for example, public transportation and land use, transit mitigation measurement, pricing strategies and multi-modal decision-making).
- Committee member involvement as "friends" of related committees (for example, Bus Transit, Planning Methods, Paratransit, Ridesharing, Statewide Multimodal Planning and Intergovernmental Relations and Policy Processes) for potential joint topics and investigations, as well as preventing overlaps or gaps in topics.
4. Increase Committee communication throughout the year by using technology -- fax, conference calls, teleconferencing -- as well as encouraging Committee attendance at the annual, mid-year conference of the Planning Committees.
V. Performance Assessment
Through a survey of its membership in October 1997 (see Attachment I) and discussion at the Committee’s meetings at the 1997 and 1998 TRB Annual Meetings, the following Strengths; Limitations; Challenges and Threats; and Opportunities were identified.
- The Committee’s members and friends have a broad focus that transcends public transit’s traditional modal interests and disciplines. Consequently, the Committee can develop solutions and approaches that would not be possible with a narrower focus.
- The Committee’s history and recent practice are strongly based on cooperation, collaboration and consultation with other disciplines and committees, some of which were formed ("spunoff") from the original Committee. Thus, the Committee is well positioned to continue and expand an emphasis on multi-modal and intermodal approaches.
- The Committee’s unique role is to focus on planning techniques and implementation of service delivery options. This central role should be continued and expanded in response to the changing environment described above.
- The subject matter of the Committee’s activities is enjoying increasing support and interest among transportation and land use professionals, as well as public and private interests who shape and are shaped by the outcome of public transportation planning and development policies, actions and decisions. Additional information and research in topics under the Committee’s scope can help to shape both future policy and implementation activities.
- The Committee’s membership is used to working with representatives from other public transit and modal interests, both within the TRB structure and outside, and is used to working proactively on creative partnerships that expand the Committee’s role and scope.
- Active Committee members are few in number, which may inhibit the breadth and scope of any potential expansion of the Committee’s role and involvement.
- Funding uncertainties for research and planning may limit the ability of the Committee to expand much beyond its traditional roles and activities.
- The constraints of time, cost and distance inhibit the ability of Committee members to interact and participate in an ambitious agenda of activities and outreach to potential partner organizations and committees.
- Limited resources may serve to inhibit broader communications efforts both within the Committee and beyond.
c. Challenges and Threats
- Development of a balance for Committee activities between a broad range of interests and the need to develop a more focused agenda.
- Definition of the Committee’s role and responsibilities in the TRB structure and research agenda.
- Encouraging active and timely Committee member participation to accomplish the Committee’s agenda.
- Potential impact of funding cutbacks on active public sector member participation and on the overall research agenda.
- Impact of new technologies and other innovative issues (mobility manager concept, transportation/land use linkage, new intergovernmental/interagency relationships) on transit services and better serving existing and emerging markets.
- Committee’s role in identifying a future-oriented research agenda and disseminating results that are useful to practitioners and policy-makers.
- Pending reauthorization of ISTEA and possible new directions for transportation research and funding.
- Exploration of new institutional relationships to accomplish needed public transportation improvements and services.
VI. Gap Analysis
From the analysis of the 1997 Member Survey and the Strengths, Limitations, Challenges and Threats and Opportunities outlined above, the following gaps in Committee activities by various Constituencies and Service provision were identified. The intent of the Gap Analysis is to identify those constituencies of the Committee’s work who could be better served or more fully involved than at present and strategies for accomplishing improved involvement. Also, the Gap Analysis can identify current Committee services that could be improved, expanded, reduced or eliminated, as well as potential new services.
In the responses to the Member Survey, the Committee’s "customers" were defined as public transit agency practitioners and policy makers, the academic community, TRB, TCRP and planning and development agencies.
- The Committee’s membership is composed primarily of public transit agency staff, with transportation planning and engineering consultants as the next largest concentration. A TRB staff liaison provides a link to the TRB and TCRP programs. The academic community has some representation, while planning and development agency staff and transit policy makers are not represented.
- Adding representation from the planning and development agency sector (most likely a Metropolitan Planning Organization representative) would be desirable. However, the addition of a "policy-maker" representative would seem to be less critical at this time, since the outcome of the Committee’s activities is intended to influence the direction of policy formulation, while simultaneously maintaining a primary focus on technical issues and practitioners.
In the responses to the Member Survey, expectations of the Committee’s customers were defined as:
(1) information on trends and new ideas;
(2) policy support and objective research with practical, easily implementable recommendations; and
(3) papers, publications and panels at conferences.
In furtherance of the Objectives proposed in 1993, the Committee has accomplished the following:
- Worked closely with other TRB Committees to develop Annual Meeting and mid-year panel sessions, Calls for Papers and proposed research topics.
- Restablished a centralized paper submission and review process (the Committee Secretary is also the Publications Chair), which has increased the quality of submitted papers and provides effective, constructive feedback to paper authors.
- Published occasional issues of Newsline annually, that focus on the dissemination of current research both to Committee members and the entire TRB community.
- Prepared proposed TCRP research topics (an average of two per year) with at least one project accepted for research (TCRP H-3 -- Incentives to Attract Auto-Users to Transit).
- Worked closely with other TRB Committees to develop various "state of the art" panel sessions for the TRB Annual Meeting.
- Developed topics and participated in panel sessions at the mid-year Committees Conference.
- Increased member involvement in the activities of other organizations and TRB Committees on an informal basis.
- Increased use of alternative means of communication (fax, Internet and E-mail Reflector) to facilitate member communication and to undertake the Committee’s work program.
d. Items Not Addressed
Only one item was not specifically addressed by the Committee. Also, as noted in the proposed Action Plan, some items that were accomplished on an informal basis are now proposed for more formal action.
- Complete the required TRB list of annual Committee Research Focus Areas.
VII. Action Plan
The Action Plan that follows will enable the Committee to continue its traditional roles within the structure of the TRB, while endeavoring to accomplish a broader mission in response to the findings and opportunities revealed by the strategic planning process.
a. Core Strategies:
- To continue to provide a forum for the advancement and communication of research on emerging public transportation issues and ideas.
- To strengthen the Committee’s role as a catalyst for identifying and promoting public transportation planning and development’s contributions to overall transportation research and policy formulation.
- To encourage and expand opportunities for participation and interaction by the Committee’s members, friends and other interests in the fulfillment of its Mission.
- To develop an outreach and communication program that encourages more widespread awareness of and participation in Committee activities by the broader transportation community.
1. Maintain and expand the diversity of the Committee’s membership to include at least one representative of planning and development agencies.
2. Continue to develop a research agenda of both "state of the art" and practical topics of importance to the current operation and future development of public transportation. More specifically:
- Prepare an annual set of updated Committee research statements for TRB.
- Continue to improve the number and quality of submitted papers by monitoring and refining the current paper review guidance process, encouraging paper review teams to develop consolidated paper feedback and continuing to develop periodic Call for Papers, co-sponsored with other TRB committees, where possible.
- Continue to develop at least one or two TCRP problem statements each year for submittal to TRB.
- Incorporate at least one TCRP project into a TRB Annual Meeting session.
- Continue to organize at least one significant policy or research topic panel session for each Annual Meeting, working in partnership with other TRB committees or related organizations where possible.
- Continue Newsline (goal of four issues a year) to communicate Committee research activities, pending and completed research topics, possible Call for Papers notices and transit innovations.
- Develop a Committee Newsletter (goal of two issues a year initially) to serve as a forum for new ideas and feedback, primarily oriented to Committee members and friends.
- Explore establishing a Committee Web site as a means to enhance and facilitate member information and interaction and outreach to others.
- Continue to develop potential topics and panel sessions for the biennial, mid-year Public Transit Committees Conference.
3. Increase intergroup liaison:
- Strive for more formal Committee member involvement in ITE, ASCE, AASHTO, APTA and APA activities related to Committee interests. Formally appoint liaisons to other organizations.
- Continue and expand Committee member involvement as "friends" of related committees for potential joint topics and investigations, as well as to prevent overlaps or gaps in proposed topics.
4. Continue to expand Committee communication throughout the year by using technology -- fax, conference calls, teleconferencing, E-mail -- as well as encouraging Committee attendance at the mid-year conference of the Planning Committees.
VIII. Evaluation and Monitoring
The following actions will be taken to ensure the timeliness and usefulness of the adopted Strategic Plan:
- Progress to accomplish the goals and actions identified in the Strategic Plan will be monitored periodically but no less frequently than annually.
- Discussion of Strategic Plan implementation will be a specific agenda item at the Committee’s meeting at the TRB Annual Meeting.
- Communication of the evaluation and Committee actions that result to all members and friends (most likely electronically).
- The Strategic Plan will be formally evaluated, updated and refined every five (5) years, in accordance with TRB Committee requirements.
The Committee believes that development of a Strategic Plan has been very helpful as a means to evaluate what it has accomplished and to discuss where it should be going over the next five years. However, it is recognized that an ambitious or even modest action agenda can only be accomplished with the dedicated and voluntary support of the Committee’s membership and friends.
Questions about the proposed Strategic Plan and additional information about the Committee should be directed to the Chair. A copy of the current Committee roster is also attached (see Attachment II).