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Tribal Transit Planning and Management

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has compiled best practices and helpful tools for Tribes. In this section you will find highlights from some of these materials as well as information on technical assistance centers in your state.

Best practices of tribal transportation program management

In putting together a guidebook on tribal transportation program management, the FHWA found the following six best practices in all of the successful cases of its study.  Each should be kept in mind while managing your own tribal transit program (the following list is taken directly from FHWA’s "Transportation Best Practices Guidebook"):   

  • Leadership – all of the tribal transportation programs were guided by the vision and direction of a working group, a program director or both.  Under their leadership, the program progressed from an initial concept to a successful strategy for achieving a specific transportation program goal or objective. 
  • Problem Identification – all of the tribal transportation managers in the case studies focused on solving a clearly and concisely defined problem.  By clearly defining the problem, they found it easier to identify the best program solution.  
  • Resource Allocation – to achieve the tribal transportation program goal and objectives, the managers allocated an effective mix of staffing, funding and/or technical resources.  This added value and support to the tribal transportation program. 
  • Creative Problem Solving – the tribal managers in the case studies successfully stepped ‘out of the box’ in developing creative solutions to address their program needs and to solve problems. 
  • Collaboration and Partnership – the tribal managers in the case studies reached outside of their tribal organizations to external agencies and officials for assistance and support.  This enhanced the tribal program, supplied additional program resources and produced good will among the agencies.  The collaboration built lasting and respectful agency relationships. 
  • Communications – the tribal managers effectively communicated the purpose of their program to the audience that it served.  Program information was conveyed at different levels and to different audiences- internally (within the tribal organization), to the external partner agencies and/or to the larger tribal community.  Effective communications is a helpful tool in the management of a tribal transportation program. 

To continue to read and find examples of each of these best practices, please click here

Developing a Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)

Whether or not it is a federal requirement for your program, developing a long-term transportation plan will assist you in setting goals and implementing programs that are effective and sustainable. Public involvement is crucial for developing this plan, and all relevant stakeholders should be brought to the table to capture the tribal community’s values and perceived needs, establish consensus and identify issues and concerns.  

The FHWA lays out eight steps to developing and implementing a successful LRTP (the following list is taken directly from FHWA’s "Developing a Long Range Transportation Plan" document): 

(1) Establish Policy, Goals and Objectives – set overall goals for how the tribal transportation system should be designed, built, operated and maintained over the next 20 years.

(2) Analyze Transportation System Conditions – evaluate existing conditions to determine what future investments to make. 

(3) Perform Needs Analysis – compare the goals and objectives for the transportation system with the existing baseline system conditions.  The needs analysis addresses the gap between current conditions and the future. 

(4) Set Priorities – prioritize the needs identified during the transportation planning process. 

(5) Establish a Funding Plan – to create a realistic transportation plan, conduct a financial analysis of the specific projects included in the plan. Without identifying reliable funding sources, the recommended solutions that are developed can easily become a ‘wish list.’ 

(6) Develop the Plan – have a systematic approach for developing the plan document. 

(7) Develop the Program – this includes data assessment, appraisal of identified planning needs, and consideration of available or anticipated fiscal resources to result in the development, scheduling, and planning of a list of identified transportation improvements. 

(8) Implement and Monitor the Plan– for a plan to be successful it must be implemented effectively, and the performance should be regularly monitored to ensure that the plan meets the intended objectives.   

The FHWA document concludes with this piece of advice:  “As you set out to develop the LRTP for your tribe, remember that the process does not need to be complex to be successful.  There is no set length of pages.  Through a focused set of tribal meetings, your tribe can develop a transportation plan that is suited to meet the unique needs of your tribe and can be developed with a minimal budget. “

For more information about the steps of developing and implementing a long range transportation plan, please see the FHWA’s Developing a Long Range Transportation Plan

Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP)

Currently there are seven Indian Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) centers.  You can contact these centers for assistance with training, technology transfer and research opportunities.  Assistance is provided for both roadway/bridge programs and transit programs.   

Find a TTAP center near you

For more information about general transit service planning, please see the Service Planning and Evaluation section of this toolkit.

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