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Coordination and Mobility Management

Introduction

In addition to Section 5311, transportation services in rural areas are supported by numerous other programs. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that eighty federal programs are authorized to fund transportation services for older adults, people with disabilities, people with lower incomes, and others with limited transportation options. Efforts to coordinate the variety of human services transportation options that are provided through these programs have been ongoing. At the federal level, efforts to break down funding silos and institutional barriers continue through the efforts of the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM).  However, transportation services funded by some federal programs continue to present coordination challenges, and rural transit managers need to be aware of this when seeking to coordinate federally-funded services at the local level. Additionally, many states are facilitating the coordination of human services transportation at the local, regional, and statewide levels, and rural transit managers should become knowledgeable of the efforts in their states.   

Rural transit managers should also be involved in efforts to improve the coordination of public transit and human services transportation in their community, including through the coordinated transportation planning requirement for the Section 5310 Program discussed in the Planning and Evaluation section of this toolkit.  Coordinating other transit planning efforts with human service transportation planning efforts can help facilitate coordination of services.  It can also reduce the burden of the planning efforts, potentially even combining the development of two separate plans into a single combined plan.

In recent years, coordination efforts have evolved into mobility management, a term that has come to represent a formal definition of a transportation strategy that focuses more on the customers and their needs, and the meeting of these needs through the coordinated use of a variety of providers. Mobility management is an evolving concept that aims to improve specialized transportation - particularly for veterans, older adults, people with disabilities, and individuals with lower incomes through a range of activities centers. These activities look beyond a single transportation service or solution to a “family of services” philosophy that can offer a wide range of services and options to meet an equally wide array of community demographics and needs, including access to social service programs, employment, education, and a wide range of healthcare-related needs, such as growing needs for rides to dialysis treatments and opioid clinics.

This section also provides an overview of mobility management, discusses the role of rural transit managers in these efforts, and provides a sampling of how some communities are addressing mobility issues through this strategy.  Importantly, this section includes links to a variety of coordination and mobility management resources available through national transportation technical assistance centers and national transit associations. 

This section is organized in the following subsections:

What is Mobility Management?

The National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM) notes that mobility management is an approach to designing and delivering transportation services that starts and ends with the customer. It begins with a community vision in which the entire transportation network—public transit, human service agencies, private operators, volunteer drivers, and others—works together with customers, planners, and stakeholders to deliver the transportation options that best meet the community's needs. Mobility management:

  • Encourages innovation and flexibility to reach the "right fit" solution for customers
  • Plans for sustainability
  • Strives for easy access to information and referral to assist customers in learning about and using services
  • Continually incorporates customer feedback as services are evaluated and adjusted

The customized approach of mobility management means no two programs are exactly alike, and a variety of entities, including rural public transit providers, can serve as a mobility manager in a community. However, there are some common components that include:

  • Partnerships between multiple agencies and organizations.
  • A customer-driven, market-based approach that provides customers with a variety of transportation options through individualized trip planning.
  • One-stop travel information and trip planning centers that provide information on available transportation options and coordinate requests for transportation services. This may include operation of a central call center for customers to gain information on available transportation options and to schedule trips.

Many communities across the country are seeking mobility management practices that offer innovative approaches for delivering coordinated transportation services, particularly when serving older adults, people with disabilities, veterans, and low-income individuals. In rural areas the challenges to provide mobility for these groups is especially daunting, as trips are often long in duration and may require crossing multiple jurisdictional boundaries. The mobility management focus on meeting individual customer needs through a range of transportation services is vital as communities balance increasing needs with funding and resources constraints.

The Role of Rural Public Transit Managers in Mobility Management

In an age in which more and more people are using local transportation, consumers and transit agencies alike are identifying a need for more highly coordinated mobility options. Many transit agencies are embracing the concept of mobility management. While programs are varied throughout the country, rural transit managers may operate a mobility management program out of their transit system or may belong to a group of stakeholders through a mobility management program facilitated by another organization in your community. 

Shrinking resources have caused communities to think about transportation in new ways, and rural transit managers need to be thinking more broadly than just the current services offered through their organization. For instance, as highlighted by NCMM, technologies, services, and partnerships are rapidly evolving, with the field experiencing the advent of Geographic Information System (GIS) based tracking and monitoring of vehicles, apps that allow customers to more directly interface with services and receive minute-by-minute service updates, and now even automated operations of vehicles.

These advances have been added to the community transportation menu piecemeal, requiring transit managers to figure out how to integrate them into existing mobility options. At the same time rural transit managers need to consider funding, compliance, and other requirements when incorporating these new technologies and strategies.  Information about emerging approaches to shared mobility, including a list of frequently-asked questions about Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding and requirements for non-traditional types of services, can be found on the FTA website. The Shared-Use Mobility Center is another source of information about coordinating shared mobility and new technologies. 

Successful Mobility Management Approaches and Strategies

Recent research conducted through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 20-65 Task 68: Successful Mobility Management Practices for Improving Transportation Services in Small Urban and Rural Areas resulted in a guide that can serve as a resource in the planning, implementation, and assessment of a mobility management practice. 

Successful Mobility Management graphicThis guide notes that while the customized approach of mobility management means no two programs are exactly alike, there are common components and specific strategies that are employed by successful practices -- and that can be considered when establishing, expanding or improving a mobility management program. While efforts through mobility management practices are often interrelated, the successful approaches and strategies are primarily segmented by four key categories that are detailed in the guide along with related resources and examples. 

 

  • Community Outreach and Engagement: Community outreach and engagement is a vital part of any successful mobility management program. The organizations with successful mobility management practices form partnerships with key community stakeholders, promote their services to the community, and lead or participate in coordinated transportation planning efforts. The guide includes a stakeholder checklist with the types of organizations that can help to increase and diversify support for mobility management programs.
  • Needs Assessment and Program Design: Coupled with community outreach, successful mobility management practices are sensitive to local and regional transportation needs, and build their program around these needs. There is a strong emphasis on listening to their local community, conducting ongoing needs assessments, and designing services and programs to fit the identified needs. The guide includes a variety of tools and resources for conducting needs assessments and designing appropriate services and programs.
  • Program Evaluation and Assessment: Monitoring and evaluation are important considerations for any mobility management program, especially as funding continues to be constrained for transportation projects and services.  Successful mobility management practices employ some form of program evaluation and assessment. They track program outcomes using qualitative and quantitative performance measures with established goals and objectives. The guide discusses various tools and resources for assessing mobility management program outcomes.
  • Funding: Not surprisingly, funding strategies are the backbone supporting mobility management efforts. While successful mobility management practices explore a variety of funding sources, often the primary ones are through federal programs. FTA programs that fund mobility management are introduced in the following section.

FTA Funding for Mobility Management

Sections 5310 and 5311 

Mobility management projects are eligible for capital funding under the Section 5310 and 5311 programs (providing up to an 80% federal share).  A list of the types of activities that are eligible for mobility management capital funding can be found in the FTA circulars for each program.  Because each state administers its Section 5310 and 5311 programs differently, transit managers should check with their State DOT for funding eligibility of mobility management projects in their area.

In every state, eligibility for Section 5310 funding requires that the project be included in a locally development public-transit human services transportation plan.  As noted previously, rural transit managers should be involved in the development of this plan, and some states require this for their Section 5311 program. For more information on the coordinated transportation planning requirements for FTA programs, see the Planning and Evaluation section of this toolkit, as well as FTA Circular 9070.1G. Again, transit managers should also check with their State DOT on state-specific coordination and planning requirements.

Access and Mobility Partnership Grants

In September 2018, FTA announced two programs that support mobility management and coordination projects: the Human Services Coordination Research Program and the Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Pilot Program. 

The Human Services Coordination Research Program [49 U.S.C. 5312(b)] provides grants to implement coordinated public transportation projects with innovative solutions to improve local coordination or access to coordinated transportation services. Eligible applicants include State and local governmental entities, providers of public transportation, and private or non-profit organizations.

The Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Pilot Program [Section 3006(b) of the FAST Act, administered by FTA as part of the Section 5310 program] funds innovative coordinated access and mobility projects for the transportation disadvantaged population that improve the coordination of transportation services and non-emergency medical transportation services. Eligible applicants are Section 5310 recipients and subrecipients. The FAST Act authorized this program for five years (FY 2016 through FY 2020).  This program has also been referred to as Rides to Wellness as well as the Transit & Health Access Initiative (https://www.transit.dot.gov/ccam/about/initiatives).

In FY 2016, these programs funded Rides to Wellness Demonstration and Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Grants.

Recent information about applying for funding through these programs can be found on the FTA web site and with more details in the Federal Register announcement of the availability of FY 2018 funding.

The National Center for Mobility Management is likely to post future funding opportunities under these and other programs.

Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Program

The Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Program [49 U.S.C. 5312] is funding 11 demonstration projects across the nation to research new service options in combination with available technologies that allow for greater individual mobility.  To provide an example of one of the projects, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is developing a trip planner that provides access to flexible mobility options. This trip planner, which includes fixed route transit as well as demand response services, will be able to be adapted for use in other areas. The completion of the VTrans demonstration project is anticipated in March 2019.

Although the other MOD Sandbox projects are being conducted in large urban areas, the lessons learned from these projects are likely to be helpful for any area seeking information on new mobility options. Find out more about the MOD Sandbox program.

Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) Demonstration Program

FTA’s Integrated Mobility Innovation Demonstration program, initiated in 2019, brings together the MOD Sandbox demonstrations and several other FTA technology initiatives.  FTA’s Integrated Mobility Innovation Demonstration program, initiated in 2019, brings together the MOD Sandbox demonstrations and several other FTA technology initiatives.  On May 9, 2019, FTA announced the availability of funding under the Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) Demonstration Program (https://www.transit.dot.gov/imi).  Authorized under 49 U.S.C. 5312, the IMI program funds research in the three areas: Mobility on Demand (MOD) demonstration projects, Transit Automation (to explore the use of vehicle automation technologies in bus transit operations), and Mobility Payment Integration (MPI) research.  The MPI area will fund demonstration projects in two categories: Payment Equity and Human Service Transportation Coordination, and Integrated Mobility and Beyond, which will support multi-modal and multi-provider payment integration, including public transit, specialized transportation, and other modes of transportation. Applications for IMI funding are due August 6, 2019. (https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/applying/notices-funding/integrated-mobility-innovation-demonstration-program-notice-funding)

Eligible applicants for IMI projects are providers of public transportation, including public transportation agencies, state/local government DOTs, and federally recognized Indian tribes.  Applicants must identify one or more strategic project partner(s) with a substantial interest and involvement in the project. Section 5311 subrecipients that are not also direct FTA recipients may wish to apply through their State DOT. 

Technical Assistance and Workforce Development Program

Authorized under the FAST Act through FY 2020, the Technical Assistance and Workforce Development Program [49 U.S.C. 5314] funds a variety of technical assistance projects, as well as standards development and workforce development programs.  Technical assistance projects that assist with compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), human services transportation coordination, and meeting the transportation needs of elderly individuals are among the technical assistance activities that are eligible for Section 5314 funding.  To find out about future notices of available funding, transit managers can sign up for updates through the FTA web page on the Section 5314 program.

NCMM and National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) are funded by Section 5314, and both of these centers periodically provide grants that can assist local communities with coordination and mobility management.  The NADTC website provides information about previous NADTC grants and other funding opportunities.  The NCMM website also includes information about grants.

Tips from the Field – Two Case Studies

Case Study - Northern Arizona Council of Governments, Flagstaff, AZ

Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) is the regional planning agency responsible for facilitating transportation planning and mobility coordination activities in the vast rural areas of Apache, Coconino, Navajo and Yavapai Counties. NACOG’s service area encompasses approximately 49,000 square miles (43% of Arizona). The land area is comparable to two states (Pennsylvania and Louisiana), thereby making NACOG the second largest Council of Governments in the United States. While the region is one of the largest in terms of land area, it is one of the least densely populated. Approximately, 530,000 individuals reside within the quad counties, equating to 11.3 persons per square mile, and comparable to the 45th least densely populated state.

NACOG’s Mobility Management Planner, Tod Morris, shared the following thoughts on how mobility management can work in large rural areas and the different roles a mobility manager can play:

NACOG graphic on passenger transportation at the nexus of three common modes of transportationGiven this expansive and isolated region, Mr. Morris notes that there are numerous mobility challenges. Long distances along deserted highways separate many of the region’s population centers and service providers. Therefore, identifying opportunities to collaborate on mobility issues requires a strategic approach. This approach includes incorporating a broad spectrum of transportation options under the premise of passenger transportation. Referring to all transportation options under passenger transportation allows NACOG to comprehensively deploy mobility management strategies with a common goal of addressing isolation via a network of transportation options. The graphic to the right shows how passenger transportation is at the nexus of three common modes of transportation.

In order to communicate this vision across the vast region, NACOG has adopted two key strategies in an effort to bridge the geographic distance:

  • Host Sub-Regional Coordination Meetings
    • NACOG has divided the region into sub-regions based on similar political, cultural and geographic similarities. Local coordination meetings are held to discuss operational issues, planning initiatives and grant opportunities. The intention for these meetings is for service providers and stakeholders to network and discuss shared challenges and collective opportunities. For new mobility managers, developing this type of structure is fundamental to fostering successful relationships.
  • Utilizing Technologies
    • Outside of the coordination meetings, the mobility manager also keeps in regular contact with partners in the region. Many times travel is required for face to face meetings, but often teleconferencing is used reach multiple agencies for specific initiatives. A valuable tool for these meetings is the ability to share screens using web-based technology such as GoToMeeting. Sharing a screen creates a more engaged conversation, especially when reviewing grant opportunities, service designs and needs analysis. Mr. Morris highly encourages visual tools such as maps or other graphics to better communicate strategies and ensure partners are on the same page. Mr. Morris has found that use of visual aids often fosters more robust conversations around passenger transportation priorities.

The Mobility Manager Role
 

In 2012, National RTAP reached out to former NACOG Mobility Management Planner, Jason Kelly, to discuss the many hats a mobility manager wears to build successful partnerships and enhance regional mobility. The seven hats below were outlined by Mr. Kelly as roles a mobility manager may need to play on any given day:

1.  Coach/Mentor
2.  Champion/Captain
3.  Technical Advisor 
4.  Sounding Board to Providers
5.  Planner 
6.  Artist/Salesman 
7.  Moderator/Facilitator 

Adding on the Mr. Kelly’s list, current NACOG Mobility Management Planner Mr. Morris has found the following additional roles for encouraging and sustaining meaningful participation from regional stakeholders and service providers:

  1. Educator: There are many exciting developments in the world of transportation. Partners are naturally curious about the progress and of services like Uber and LYFT and technical advancements like autonomous vehicles. In rural areas partners often turn to their mobility manager to learn the latest updates. Keeping up-to-date on these developments can help keep partners engaged and excited about their role in the changing transportation landscape.

Additionally, service providers can become frustrated by day-to-day challenges and wonder if other agencies are facing similar issues. Networking at national and local conferences and keeping an inventory of other transportation providers can help the mobility manager link with agencies that have addressed similar issues.

  1. Interpreter: State and FTA documents and requirements can intimidate local transportation providers and stakeholders. Language on the rules and regulations of transit services can seem overwhelming and may even discourage agencies from pursuing new opportunities.  A mobility manager can help agencies navigate compliance requirements and assess how they can be incorporated into a service. Furthermore, the mobility manager can help an agency evaluate their capacity to take on additional tasks and identify the feasibility of certain opportunities.

Mr. Morris echoed Mr. Kelly’s earlier statement that inactivity is stifling to progress. Identifying incremental objectives allows partners to tackle larger goals in a manageable and sustainable manner.  Lofty coordination goals are a great example, where agencies can begin by sharing training and marketing opportunities, then grow into larger activities like vehicle and ride sharing.

Case Study – Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Ithaca, NY 

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc. (TCAT) is a not-for-profit corporation providing public transportation for Tompkins County, New York.  In 2018, Tompkins County’s population was 104,000 people, with 51% living in the Ithaca urbanized area and 49% in surrounding rural towns. TCAT operates thirty-three (33) bus routes including one hybrid fixed/demand-response route.  TCAT was formed in 1997 as a merger of the City, County and Cornell University bus systems. TCAT reorganized as a private non-profit transportation corporation in 2005.  Since 2012, TCAT’s ridership has exceeded 4 million passenger-trips and 1.5 million revenue miles annually, with a fleet of 53 buses.   TCAT contracts with Gadabout Transportation Services, Inc. to provide ADA Complementary Paratransit service.

TCAT participates in mobility management programs guided jointly by the County Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC), bringing together a wide variety of service providers, agencies and institutional actors to develop and improve community mobility services. Other partners include Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC), the Center for Community Transportation, Inc. (carshare+), Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins-Cortland Community College, as well as volunteer driver services, taxis, other service providers, the Ithaca Downtown county departments and human service agencies.

Aside from a long-standing commitment to interagency collaboration and the joint leadership provided by ITCTC and DSS, three core principles have been at the heart of the effort to manage the changing mobility landscape in Tompkins County:

  1. A willingness to establish coalitions to assess and address evolving, unmet transportation needs, reinvent existing services, and adopt new mobility service models; 
  2. The creation of non-profit organizations to implement new mobility services and solutions arising out of collaborative efforts, typically with wide-ranging public, institutional and private sector participation; and 
  3. The knowledge, ability and willingness to share and coordinate all available funding sources to support the full range of mobility initiatives. 

 

The services, programs and initiatives currently underway include:

  • TCAT: providing fixed route bus and rural demand response (DR) services and real-time bus location and arrival information to the public with smartphone apps, planning a rural first mile-last mile service pilot, installing Wi-Fi internet access on all buses and buying its first electric transit buses to begin a transformation to an electric bus fleet.      
  • Gadabout: integrating ADA paratransit service for TCAT with its county-wide demand-response service.
  • The County: contracting for the Finger Lakes Rideshare program, led by ITCTC and supported by the Tompkins Rideshare Consortium.
  • Cornell University and the Ithaca Downtown Alliance: operating their respective transportation demand management (TDM) programs.
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC): providing the “Way2Go” community mobility education program and a one-call / one-click service.
  • CCETC: operating Way2go’s MoveTogetherNY regional mobility management program to improve regional mobility for commuting and travel to healthcare in seven counties.
  • County DSS: leading local stakeholders to develop a business model for a Mobility-as-a-Service pilot through participation in FTA’s Mobility On Demand On-Ramp Program.

A community consensus to collaborate, along with an entrepreneurial energy to improve, creates the fertile ground necessary for developing the wide breadth of services that TCAT and its partners provide now and plan for in the future.

Much of the text for this section was based on a former APTA web feature on TCAT, with updates made in 2018 in consultation with Dwight Mengel, Chief Transportation Planner for Tompkins County.  For more information on the TCAT, please visit the TCAT web site.

Section Sources

Updated June 11, 2019