Evaluating the State of Mobility Management and Human Service Transportation Coordination

(Center Identification Number: 79050-02-A)

Problem Statement

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has been engaged, as part of its livability goals, in helping persons with disabilities, older adults, low income persons, and other transportation disadvantaged populations be to active and engaged in their communities by having access to the mobility options that make it possible to connect to employment, community services, and activities.  The alternative is isolation or institutional care for these individuals, which drains governmental resources, thwarts individuals from contributing to their communities, and results in diminished health and unfulfilling lives for those who are not able or cannot afford to drive.

To pursue this objective of community connectivity through mobility, the Secretary of Transportation chairs a Federal Interagency Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) that strives to coordinate federal programs funding transportation to improve community mobility options for transportation disadvantaged populations.  Coordination and mobility management programs improve cost-effectiveness and quality of service. The FTA and its Council partners have worked to build a transportation coordination infrastructure that includes establishing coordinated transportation planning processes, mobility management coordination practices, one call/one click transportation management centers, and state leadership activities, including the development of state and regional transportation coordinating councils.

However, a 2011 GAO report suggests that duplication still exists and many improvements could be made to the coordination efforts. The GAO did recognize that improvements had occurred, specifically at the state and local levels, but suggested Congress may want to consider requiring federal funding programs to participate in coordinated planning. A 2012 GAO report further analyzed the issue by examining federal programs that may fund transportation services for the transportation disadvantaged, federal coordination efforts undertaken since 2003, and coordination at the state and local levels. In doing so, the GAO interviewed program officials from eight federal agencies and the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination, state and local officials from five states, transportation researchers, and representatives from relevant industry and advocacy groups. Previous research has also examined the state human service transportation coordinating councils.

While interviews of federal, state, and local officials have been conducted, less research is available regarding the impacts of these programs on end users. To that end, this study proposes to conduct a series of surveys across the country of human service transportation users. The effectiveness of these programs can ultimately be evaluated based on the economic and quality of life impacts they have on their users. This study will attempt to answer these questions and investigate quality of service and ease of access from the perspective of the user.

Research Objectives

The proposed objectives of the study are as follows:

1)      Synthesize previous research on the effectiveness of mobility management and coordination programs.

2)      Develop an onboard survey instrument that could be used in different locations and across time to evaluate the impacts of mobility management and coordination programs on end users.

3)      Determine the impacts of mobility management and coordination programs in meeting the goals of efficiency, ease of access, and quality of service.

4)      Assess the effectiveness of mobility management and coordination programs in meeting the needs of transportation disadvantaged populations from the perspective of the end users.

5)      Develop and test an evaluation model that could be applied to other communities across the country.

Research Plan

Task 1) Develop project advisory panel

The project panel will help provide insight and information as well as review drafts. Approximately 10-12 members will serve on the panel. Potential panel members include representatives of stakeholder groups and individuals from organizations such as United We Ride, the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination, and Easter Seals Project ACTION.

Task 2) Literature review

Previous literature on human services transportation coordination and mobility management is useful for evaluating what is known about these programs and where gaps in knowledge exist. This study will take advantage of research and resources that are already available. Findings from the literature review will be helpful in identifying current practices and what types of programs exist, what previous evaluations have found, and what information needs to be found, and these resources can provide guidance in creating surveys to be conducted in later tasks. Key resources to review include, but are not limited to, the following:

GAO Report:  GAO-11-318SP – Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenues, March 2011.

GAO Report:  GAO-12-647, Transportation Disadvantaged Populations – Federal Coordination Efforts Could be Further Strengthened, June 2012.

State Human Service Transportation Coordinating Councils:  An Overview and State Profiles, prepared for FTA and US DOL by the National Conference of State Legislatures, April 2010.

State Coordination Model for Human Services Coordination, prepared for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation by KFH Group, Inc., DRPT staff, and Cambridge Systematics, Inc., April 2010

United We Ride Logic Model and Measures, January 2007.

TCRP Report 144: Sharing the Costs of Human Services Transportation, 2011.

TCRP Report 91: Economic Benefits of Coordinating Human Service Transportation and Transit Services, 2003.

Performance Measures for Public Transit Mobility Management by Lalita Sen, Sarmistha Rina Majumdar, Meredith Highsmith, Linda Cherrington, and Cinde Weatherby. Texas Transportation Institute. December 2011.

Preparing Coordinated Transportation Plans: A Guidebook for State Departments of Transportation, NCHRP Research Results Digest 331, April 2009.

“Performance Measures for Mobility Management Programs,” by Jon Burkhardt and Joohee Yum. December 2010.

In addition, the minutes from all the meetings on the Council of Access and Mobility, and any plans that have developed since 2004, will be reviewed.

Task 3) Design and implement end-user survey

A series of end-user surveys will be conducted across the country. Approximately 10 surveys will be conducted, including one in each FTA region. The communities to be surveyed will be chosen based on discussions with the project advisory panel. Onboard surveys of riders will be conducted at each of the chosen sites. The exact number of locations to be surveyed will be determined based on input from the advisory panel. Fewer locations will be surveyed if it is deemed that higher quality data can be obtained by focusing resources on a smaller number of sites. Both urban and rural areas will be studied.

Onboard surveys will collect information from riders to help evaluate the effectiveness of mobility management and coordination programs. Specifically, it will be used to assess the effectiveness of these programs in meeting the needs of transportation-disadvantaged populations. Development of the survey will be based on input from the project panel and the review of literature, including a previous survey of users of JARC services conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago. Information collected will include trip purpose, access to other forms of transportation and ability to make trips, ease of using the transportation service, satisfaction with service, unmet needs, characteristics of the individual, etc.

Task 4) Survey stakeholders

Stakeholders in the communities identified in task 3 will also be surveyed or interviewed. Key stakeholders include funding agencies, transportation providers, and human service agencies ordering transportation service. Different types of programs and human service agencies will be represented. The advisory panel will provide assistance in identifying stakeholders to survey.

Surveys will be designed for each stakeholder group. The objectives of the survey will be to determine the effectiveness of mobility management and coordination programs in meeting the goals of efficiency, simplified access, and quality of service. The results from these surveys will be useful for determining if these programs are working and what types of results they are producing.

The survey of transportation providers will collect information regarding services provided, mobility management and coordination activities, performance measures used, etc. A previous survey conducted by TTI of transit providers in Texas can serve as a starting point for developing the survey.

Task 5) Evaluate impacts of mobility management and coordination efforts on end users

Results from the end user surveys will be used to assess the quality of service, ease of access, trips created, and the economic and quality of life impacts on users. Results from the stakeholder surveys will be used to access the impacts of these programs on reaching the goals of efficiency, simplified access, and quality of service.

The methods used in this study will be developed such that they could be employed by other communities or used over time to track progress. It will provide a model that other communities could use to access the effectiveness of their programs.

Task 6) Prepare final report

Deliverables will include a full technical report, a shorter executive summary, and a PowerPoint presentation available online, and findings will also be presented in a webinar and at conferences.

Project Schedule

August 2012 to January 2014

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