Getting Everyone on Board: Coordinating Transit for Human Services

An updated transit plan for the Arrowhead Region has just been released for public review.  It’s a plan that’s aimed to coordinate resources and cover more ground with less.

Woman with walker being assisted by the driver of a lift-assisted bus in Duluth, MNThe 2011 Local Human Service Transit Coordination Plan for the Arrowhead Region outlines broad strategies as well as specific project ideas to help the transportation-challenged – elderly, disabled, and low-income – get to medical appointments, services and jobs.

The strategies and project ideas identified in the plan will be used to set priorities and support competitive bidding for certain Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds that are dedicated to assisting these groups.

Leveraging shared transportation resources

The Arrowhead Region comprises seven large, mostly rural counties – 10,635 square miles!  Providing transportation services throughout this enormous area is a daunting prospect.  And a few economic trends are making this challenge evermore daunting:

1)  A large percentage of the region’s population is entering old age (and reduced income)

2)  The per/mile cost of service (particularly due to fuel prices) has been increasing at a significant rate while

3)  Federal and state transit assistance is facing significant cuts.

And that’s where the value of this transit plan comes in –  to leverage existing resources (vehicles, drivers, etc.), to provide services more efficiently throughout the region with those limited resources.

Regional coordination is the essence of this plan

Many of the strategies identified in the coordinated transit plan call for projects that create more resource-sharing opportunities, or create “one-stop-shop” call centers that can assist with organizing and lining up ride opportunities.

Perhaps the most important project idea in the plan, however, is to convene a regional coordination body, bringing together the region’s service providers every year to continue to find ways to work together to overcome challenges. And that’s a big move forward!

Draft plan is open for comment

Can you think of another way to take on the daunting challenge to get everybody on board?

This plan is open for public comment until 11/10/11.  For those of you interested, the plan can be reviewed on ARDC’s Regional Planning website.

Photo credit: Arrowhead Transit

Now Accepting Comments on…What?

From now until Friday, June 24, the MIC is accepting public comment on the draft Duluth 2012-2015 TIP.  No, this TIP is not a hot piece of insider advice.  It’s a bureaucratic document, and admittedly it can be quite dry.  But it’s much more important than it sounds, and we think it will be of interest to you as something that impacts your day-to-day life.  Want to get a road repaved?  A trail built? A new traffic signal on a route you take everyday?  There’s a good chance that project has to make it through the TIP process first.

Transportation Improvement Program

TIP stands for “Transportation Improvement Program” and it’s an annual document that lists what local transportation projects will be receiving federal funding in the coming years.

The current TIP (2012-2015) for the Duluth area contains a total of 36 projects planned to receive approximately $45 million in federal funds.

In actuality, $45 million is just a portion of what’s being spent on transportation improvements in the region, with federal funds typically accounting for less than 25% of what’s spent on road improvements in Duluth in any given year.  And yet this federal money can have a very catalyzing effect.

80% Federal Funding = Incentive for Innovative Local Projects

It’s often this federal TIP money that incentivizes more comprehensive, and often more innovative projects.  That’s because local governments are only required to match those funds 20 cents to the dollar. Or another way to say it: the federal government funds 80% of the project.  This can make an improvement like the upcoming Cross City Trail (an exciting new link between the Munger Trail and the Lakewalk) a more feasible project for the City of Duluth to pursue. 

The other projects in this year’s TIP are aimed at preserving existing roads and bridges, as well as strengthening connections among alternative modes of transportation.

Virtual Public Meeting – Seeking Your Questions and Comments

You can take a look at the list of Duluth area projects for 2012-2015 and consider using Open MIC like a ‘virtual’ public meeting by leaving us any questions or comments you might have about the projects.

Public comment period runs until Friday, June 24, 2011.

Bike To Work – With a Little Help from the DTA

Tote Your Bike on the DTA

Friday, May 20th is Twin Ports Bike to Work Day.  If you’ve stopped short of riding your bike around Duluth because of the prospect of riding back up it, the DTA (Duluth Transit Authority) can help with that.

 A growing trend

You’ve probably seen the DTA driving around the Twin Ports with bikes mounted to the front of its buses for a while now, but did you know the DTA has been providing that service to its riders since 1994?  In 2009, with input from local bike riders and sustainability groups, the DTA made the decision to keep the bike racks on their buses all year round, a move which has helped to increase the number of bikes the DTA transports yearly from 0.48% of its total passenger trips in 2006 to 0.72% in 2010.

Now, 0.72% may not seem like a big deal, but it represents nearly 23,000 bikes being bused around the Twin Ports on an annual basis, and that’s an impressive number when you consider the challenging terrain, inclement weather and unfriendly temperatures we often encounter around these parts!  Yet, it’s those very conditions which make DTA bike racks worth celebrating.

Best of all, your bike rides for free. Using a DTA bus to transport your bike doesn’t cost anything more than the price of your bus fare.  More information about routes, fares and schedules is available at the DTA website.

Options, Options, Options

We at the MIC are all about improving your transportations options here in Duluth and Superior.  If you’re looking for alternatives to high gas prices and driving your car, here are five choices for you to consider right now.  And you can add the DTA’s bus-mounted bike racks to your list of alternatives for local travel this season. 

Considering that May is National Bike Month, why not participate and use the DTA’s bus-mounted bike racks as a way to support your commute?