The Steering Committee Transportation and Land Use Subcommittees, Expert Review Panel, Modeling Task Force and the consultant all "kicked it up a notch", dedicating significant time and effort in the last two months of the study. The chronology of events that occurred, from evaluating the preliminary model results to ultimately shaping the corridor plan, were as follows:
*** IMPORTANT ***
With these kinds of estimated results, Collaborative members easily agreed to endorse and pursue all sixteen strategies for implementation (See the following tables for a summary of results).
TRAFFIC IMPACTS OF STRATEGIES
Weekday Peak Period (3:30-6:00 P.M.)
H H H H Very High: 4.0% and greater
H H H High: 2.0 to 3.9%
H H Medium: 1.0 to 1.9%
H Low: 0.0 to 0.9%
OVERALL STRATEGY RESULTS
Through this "Grand Experiment" of collaboration, people from all walks of life, with their own beliefs, opinions and agendas came together and worked towards a common cause -- an achievable plan for Route 1 that met the spirit of our mission. And the Collaborative was reasonably successful at doing that. But during the three or so years that the Collaborative has been working together, there were many trials and tribulations, problems and solutions, successes and failures. One of the goals of this effort was to put forth some guidance in doing collaborative-type studies, so that it could be better replicated elsewhere.
Some advice that Collaborative members thought would be helpful to others was provided in several categories.
We found these to be reasonable and practical approaches to keeping Collaborative members involved, focused...and still members.
Once a study corridor is identified, solicit the widest possible range of parties to become part of the process. Clearly articulate that there will be a need to dedicate staff and resources and that there must be an on-going commitment (i.e., attend all meetings or someone cover to maintain continuity, respond to all requests for input, review participation, etc.).
Buy-in of the effort particularly needs to be achieved early-on with the affected communities. While most towns participated, some were not really involved enough during the course of the study (they came in late in the game). This had the potential to undermine the credibility of the study and hamper implementation efforts.
Develop some core rules/norms for self-governance; establish a clear obtainable goal with well-defined objectives essentially developing a business plan for the group - but keep it simple and use a common sense approach.
Carefully consider how to make decisions consensus-based; voting, etc. Each process has pluses and minuses; our approach was to use a hybrid -- for the most part, consensus-based decision making worked, but on controversial issues, voting became necessary. A decision making process needs to be put in place immediately.
In addition to a facilitator, it may be appropriate to designate (or hire) a "champion" from the group to sit on the Steering Committee, perhaps as chairperson. This person should understand the area, from a "big picture" perspective (transportation, land use, politics) and be a leader -- able to innovate, generate enthusiasm and inspire. The Collaborative is considering a champion as it moves onto the implementation phase.
There needs to be time for education early in the process. This includes participants developing basic knowledge of technical issues, data, analytical techniques, etc., so that their input to study process is "value-added". It also includes participants educating each other on the concerns, values, goals and needs that different people bring to the table, which helps foster shared goals and respect for the legitimacy of differences.
Delegating responsibility to sub-groups, both for more work on particular topics, as well as for leadership and "executive" decision making is effective for keeping things progressing, provided that the sub-groups maintain the trust and credibility of the full group. This calls for sub-groups with "membership balance" (i.e.; representatives from state agencies, private organizations, civic groups, etc.).
The group should strive to stay on task and regularly remind each other of the purpose, scope, and goals of the effort. Its important to avoid drifting into related issues outside the scope; but its equally important that the scope be broad enough to encompass the topics that participants think are relevant to the problem under review.
Participants need to own (feel part of) the process in order to get through difficult times and stay committed to reaching consensus at the end. To help build ownership, the group needs to govern itself and the processes it uses to work together and make decisions.
Starting the decision-making on small, easy issues enabled Collaborative members to help shape group dynamics and get everyone comfortable and participating in making decisions on the bigger tougher issues, without premature facilitator rescue.
Study Area Selection
While corridor studies can be useful approaches to solving localized traffic problems, transportation planning is inherently regional. Land use, pricing, and system issues were difficult to accurately portray at a Study Area level and need to be framed at a regional or statewide level.
Some initial tasks of the Route 1 study, i.e., Define Committee Structure, Refine Study Area, Data Availability, should have been better developed by the client group/partnership in advance of bringing on a consultant in order to better define the work effort, thereby saving time and money.
Goals, Objectives & Vision
Most studies of this nature define the anticipated outcomes through the goals and objectives; and this is an important step. However, adequate time should also be given to defining a more robust image (vision) of what is expected to be achieved. Taking the time at the beginning of the effort to develop a vision statement is a worthwhile effort. It becomes a tool for measuring whether the project is on-track and will ultimately be the major selling point for implementing the recommendations.
Large, all-encompassing efforts like the Collaborative study are "data hungry" and can cost significant time and money. Re-confirm data needs (and sources) early in the process, especially as task methodology is refined, to improve data gathering efficiency. Consider a computerized data retrieval system (DRS) like was developed for this study, to better organize and use information.
Organization of Study Documentation
Because the scope of work is developed as a list of individual tasks, the tendency in implementing the work program is to retain a "single-minded" approach to completing each task. Instead, prior to initiating the problem-solving phase, the tasks should be reordered and/or integrated into a logical narrative that "tells the story" of the study area. This approach is also more supportive of the vision.
Task linkages and feedback loops should be clearly articulated or "mapped". This is especially important for implementing and documenting public outreach activities to show how the general public, business community, and others specifically helped to shape the final product.
Since most transportation problems have a number of underlying causes, we cannot expect a single strategy to produce a complete solution. Therefore, selecting "bundles of strategies" to address complex problems is a more realistic and effective approach.
Do not eliminate a highly effective strategy from consideration just because it is expensive or difficult -- as an example, the cashing out of parking strategy was found to be highly effective, yet was not very well understood (or supported) by most members. Our approach in this case was to conduct a pilot program aimed at educating first, then trying it on a small scale. Conversely, dont drop a project just because the benefits are seemingly insignificant -- a perfect example is pedestrian crossings at intersections; the benefits were calculated to be low but the strategy will be pursued because these crossings are an important piece to building a bike/ped system.
The bottom line is keep one eye on the big picture, use a common sense approach and dont be afraid to take some risks.
This study had a very intensive and complex modeling effort, well beyond most of the Collaborative members understanding. We found using a Modeling Task Force (using experts from member
organizations) to be extremely helpful in helping create, guide and "reality-check" the whole process; and just as importantly, helped keep the costs down.
Along the same line, trying to explain things like modeling procedures, input/output requirements and results interpretations can be extremely confusing to laypeople -- the hard-core analytical information needs to be softened; the "techno-talk" needs to be translated -- as much as possible, distill all this down into simple charts, graphics and plain English.
The public outreach process used in this study was extremely useful in "plugging in" stakeholders and the public into the process, and the Corridor Plan is better for it. It is quite clear that a variety of tactics are really necessary to achieve a good overall level of involvement -- some techniques, like the telephone survey and stakeholder interviews worked very well and provided an enormous amount of insight; other techniques, like the speakers bureaus, were disappointing.
With the definition of the Corridor Plan -- evaluating the modeling results, agreeing to a set of strategies, developing strategy profiles and noting some of the lessons learned -- the consultant-driven technical studies were completed. It was now time for the Collaborative to decide what next steps to take in bringing the results of its effort to fruition; namely, the restructuring of the Collaborative to implement and promote the Route 1 Corridor Plan.
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