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The Future of Transportation: Partnership and Collaboration

The Future of Transportation: Partnership and Collaboration

Between Communities, Across Modes

Each year, the Transportation Research Board's Annual Meeting brings thousands of professionals to Washington, DC, to discuss an extraordinary range of transportation topics from the 30,000-foot policy view down to the minute details of pavement performance data. It's a real highlight of the calendar for many in the transportation community, including a lot of us here at DOT.

If you attended TRB this week, you probably heard the words "partnership" and "collaborate" more than once. And if you work in transportation, you'll probably be hearing a lot more of them.

COllage of logos from various M.P.O. across the U.S.

At one of the TRB sessions, a team of DOT leaders talked about the future of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. MPOs bring together representatives from many different communities to collaborate on regional priorities. After all, the roads, parking, and transit in one community can make a difference in a neighboring community and in the economy of an entire region. Because the transportation ideas that have regional support tend to be successful, MPOs that represent full regions and include all stakeholders in decision making also tend to be successful.

You can see evidence of this success among the grantees in DOT's competitive TIGER program. For example, in Florida, the Lee County MPO proposed an integrated system of walking, bicycling, and transit facilities that connect major commercial, residential, and recreational centers. The MPO's Complete Streets initiative--agreed upon by the communities of Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and unincorporated parts of Lee County--will connect the entire region. That serves the interests of downtown business districts as well as the commuters and customers who fuel those businesses.

In the Kansas City area, the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) brings together 119 cities, 9 counties, and 2 states into a single, effective MPO. With support from MARC, Kansas City's Green Impact Zone was selected for one of our first TIGER grants in 2009. And last year, the downtown Kansas City Streetcar project also earned a TIGER grant. If you want to see a great example of a regional partnership truly serving its constituents, we encourage you to read MARC's Transportation Blog.

We're happy to be able to look forward to another round of TIGER in 2014, with additional funds to support repairing existing infrastructure; connecting people to new jobs and opportunities; and contributing to our nation’s economic growth. TIGER grants will receive an increase of $126 million, or 27 percent, above the FY 2013 operating level for a total of $600 million.

Photo collage of various modes of transportation

In his remarks to TRB yesterday, Secretary Foxx referred to another kind of collaboration that MPOs are already familiar with: cooperation across modes of transportation. As Secretary Foxx noted, "Americans don’t only travel by car or only travel by bus. They use all the modes, and we need to make sure they can do that more easily."

It makes sense. Some modes of transportation are more situationally appropriate than others, but to get people and freight where they need to go, we need to ensure they can transfer between modes as easily and seamlessly as possible. From car to rapid transit to sidewalk, and from port to rail to truck.

We also need to make sure that freight and passenger transportation interests cooperate. In Austin, Texas, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working on a upgrades that will enhance freight and commuter rail in Central Texas. And, by imporving signal timing, the "Moving Central Texas" initiative will also reduce delays on the region's roads. That's a single partnership that combines regional cooperation, partnership across modes, and an effort to improve both freight and passenger transportation.

As we've been learning at TRB this week, that could very well be the future of American transportation.

Todd Solomon works on digital media in the DOT Office of Public Affairs.

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Interstate 35 between Dallas and Austin is a terrible experience, nothing but bumper to bumper traffic for 3 hours. Moving Central Texas couldn't come fast enough, too bad the high speed rail connecting Dallas to Austin to Houston hasn't happened. This country needs new and improved infrastructure, if we could only get our politicians on the same road.
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