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Toolkit Introduction 1 TOOLKIT INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND Mobility issues can be particularly challenging in rural America, which has 80 percent of the nationâs land, 20 percent of the nationâs population, and communities that vary widelyâeconomically, geographically, and demographically. Nearly 40 percent of rural residents live in counties with no public transit service. Many small communities have no taxi service; in recent years, intercity and interstate bus, train, and air service to rural areas has greatly diminished. Across the United States, transportation dollars spent per capita in rural areas are a fraction of the same dollars spent per capita in urban and suburban areas. Thus, most rural residents have fewer transportation options than their urban or suburban counterparts. Many rural residents face the challenges of long trips to get to needed employment, commercial, medical, or governmental destinations. Some rural residents have special transportation needs; because of advanced age, lack of income, or disabilities, they can encounter real difficulties in providing their own transportation. In the face of significant transportation needs and severely limited resources, a key challenge for rural communities is to use existing resources as effectively as possible. Transportation coordination strategies help address this cost-effectiveness mission. Many rural communities do receive some small amounts of transportation funding, from Federal, state, and local governments and private charitable groups, to provide trips in their localities. For the most part, these services address the needs of individuals who have disabilities or are elderly; to some extent, trips for members of the general public are also provided. Consequently, there has been a proliferation of small organizations that provide transportation, often with inadequate capital Toolkit Introduction
and operating funds, each owning a few vehicles that can be used only for their agencyâs own designated clients and purposes. In such communities, coordination strategies such as pooling vehicles and combining administrative operations could provide significantly better transportation service for everyone. In fact, many rural communities are now seen as some of the best available examples of successful coordinated transportation systems. The Toolkit for Rural Community Coordinated Transportation Services is intended to be a user-friendly resource for successfully building and maintaining sustainable, cost- effective transportation services in rural communities. The Toolkit is intended to be useful to the widest possible audience, from persons never previously involved in coordinated transportation services to those who have been working in the field for many years. THE ROADMAP FOR THIS TOOLKIT This Toolkit gives transportation system planners, operators, and funders information on how to coordinate transportation services in rural communities. That information, summarized here, is presented in the following major sections of this Toolkit: â¦ Introduction to basic coordination concepts, â¦ Information needed for implementing new coordination efforts, â¦ Information needed for fine-tuning existing coordination efforts, â¦ Case studies of successful state and local coordination efforts, and â¦ Appendices of detailed information. This chapter is intended for all readers, both those looking for an overall introduction to coordination concepts and others looking to brush up on some fundamental issues. Other sections are keyed to specific audiences (see Table 1). The first two sections of this Toolkitâinformation needed for implementing new coordination efforts and information needed for fine-tuning coordination effortsâare intended for readers who may be new to coordinated transportation operations. Section III is focused on information needed for improving already coordinated transportation operations. Section IV should be of interest to everyone. 2 Toolkit Introduction
Toolkit Introduction 3 Sections of this Toolkit Detailed Contents Primary Audience for this Section Toolkit Introduction Overview of this document All readers Section I: BASIC COORDINATION CONCEPTS Basic concepts; details concerning benefits, costs, and barriers Persons not yet actively engaged in coordination Section II: IMPLEMENTING NEW COORDINATION EFFORTS Building blocks for new systems; frequently asked questions Persons not yet actively engaged in coordination Section III: IMPROVING CURRENT TECHNIQUES FOR COORDINATION Strategic approaches; some pitfalls; detailed coordination issues Persons now involved in coordinated systems Section IV: CASEBOOK OF STATE AND LOCAL COORDINATION MODELS Successful state and local coordination models All readers Bibliography, Abbreviations, Glossary, Contacts All readers Appendices: A: Stakeholder Interview Guide All readers B: Survey of County Transportation Services C: Sample Transportation System Survey Forms D: Identifying Best Practice Systems E: Coordination Workshop Facilitation Guides F. Detailed Operating Cost Categories for Coordinated Transportation Systems G. Example of Various Interagency Agreements to Enhance Coordination H. Sample Transportation Coordination Plan Report I: Example of State Legislation Creating Statewide Coordinating Council Table 1: PRIMARY AUDIENCES FOR SECTIONS OF THIS TOOLKIT
Newcomers to coordination issues should find inspirations in the many possible paths to success, and âcoordination expertsâ should find insights in these state and local case studies that will enable them to obtain even greater levels of performance in their own communities. Persons really interested in how and why coordination works eventually will want to read all parts of this Toolkit. We see the Toolkit as a tree, with the trunk representing the fundamental understandings involving coordination, the branches representing required components and conditions, and the leaves representing the fine details. Note that different kinds of trees thrive in different environments. The detailed elements (leaves) of each tree often determine how people view the entire structure; the flow of information and resources from the treeâs roots to the leaves and back again determines the overall strength and health of the living organism. The point here is that you, as an interested observer, have a variety of elements to examine, and you can do this in your own sequence of interest. You could start with basic definitions, then move on to the more detailed components and conditions, and finish with the finest details. Alternatively, you could proceed directly to the details, returning to the other elements for a more complete understanding of the fundamental framework. The choice is up to you, this Toolkitâs user. WHAT IS COORDINATION, ANYWAY? Coordination is a technique for better resource management, in which improved organization strategies are applied to achieve greater cost-effectiveness in service delivery. Coordination is about shared power, which means shared responsibility, shared management, and shared funding. Coordination of transportation services is best seen as a process in which two or more organizations (who may not have worked together previously) interact to jointly accomplish their transportation objectives. Coordination is like many other political processes in that it involves power and control over resources, and coordination can be subject to the usual kinds of political problems and pressures, such as competing personalities and changing environments. 4 Toolkit Introduction
Coordination can be used to improve transportation system performance by eliminating duplicative efforts and improving the efficiency of transportation operations. Coordinating transportation means doing better (obtaining more results, like trips) with your existing resources. It requires working together with persons from different agencies and backgrounds. Coordination has been said to be âthe best way to stretch scare resources and improve mobility for everyone.â Adopting the broadest possible perspective is a key element of successful efforts. Effective coordination will require a focus on not just a few agencies or client types, but on your entire community and maybe even on multiple communities. WHAT ARE COORDINATIONâS KEY BENEFITS? By addressing inefficiencies in the current use of transportation resources, coordination can lower the costs of providing services. Most communities apply these cost savings to increase the numbers of trips served, thus increasing overall service effectiveness. The combination of increased efficiency and increased effectiveness can create great improvements in unit costs, such as costs per trip, per mile, or per hour. Benefits commonly observed from coordinated transportation services include â¦ Lowered trip costs for travelers and for human services agencies; â¦ Extended service hours, services to new areas or new communities and to more people; â¦ More trips made by persons needing transportation; â¦ Services more responsive to schedules, points of origin, and destinations of customers; â¦ Greater emphasis on safety and customer service; â¦ More door-to-door service; and â¦ More flexible payment and service options. Toolkit Introduction 5
HOW DO THE BENEFITS OF COORDINATION COME ABOUT? The most powerful coordination strategies for reducing inefficiencies are reducing the number of drivers and the total driver wages paid, reducing the number of vehicles and other capital costs, and reducing administrative staff and administrative labor costs. The most powerful coordination strategies for increasing service effectiveness include extending service hours and boundaries, offering services that are more responsive to customer needs, and offering higher quality and safer services, all of which will attract more riders. THE COSTS OF COORDINATION Coordination certainly has its costs. Coordinated transportation services may be more expensive, more difficult, and more time-consuming to achieve than most interested stakeholders initially expect. While coordination will most likely increase overall cost-effectiveness or reduce unit costs (for example, costs per trip), coordination may not necessarily free transportation funds for other activities. Some agencies have hoped to see money returned to themâthis has seldom happened because any cost savings realized are usually devoted to addressing the many unmet travel needs found in most rural (and urban) communities. Also, coordination agreements can unravel over time, so that constant work is necessary to ensure that all parties keep working together. Coordination depends on mutual trust, respect, and goodwill among all parties involved, so long-standing coordination arrangements can be jeopardized if antagonistic or self-serving individuals become involved in transportation activities. WHEN IS COORDINATION EFFECTIVE? Coordination needs to be seen as one of several possible management or problem-solving tools; it will not solve all transportation problems in all communities. Coordination has its most substantial impact where transportation efficiency can be improved. In communities where persons who need transportation are not being served but existing 6 Toolkit Introduction
services are already highly efficient, coordination by itself is seldom an effective strategy: in these cases, additional resources are needed. WHAT ABOUT BARRIERS TO COORDINATING? Some local transportation operators have claimed that they would like to coordinate their service with those of other providers, but that they are ânot allowed,â âprohibited,â or otherwise unable to do what it makes sense to them to do by âbarriersâ in the legislation or regulations of programs through which they receive funding. But many other local operators (see Section IV of this Toolkit) have succeeded in coordinating the transportation resources of various programs by working through the same administrative, personal, and institutional obstacles which other operators have found more difficult to surmount. Much of the funding for specialized transportation services originates with Federal programs aimed at specific client groups and needs. This means that recipients of such funds need to pay close attention to the specific objectives and regulations of these programs. While this can be a complex process, it is certainly not an impossible one. There definitely are âchallengesâ regarding coordination, but it would not be accurate to say that there are barriers that cannot be surmounted. SUMMARY Coordinated transportation services offer many benefits to many rural communities, but the coordination process takes real work. Many of the challenges faced will involve ways to forge cooperation among individuals who are not used to working with each other. Successfully addressing these challenges can create transportation services that serve more persons at lower unit costs. This Toolkit shows how to make coordination succeed for you. Toolkit Introduction 7