Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities: Webinar question and answer

A detailed Q&A from the presenters on the Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities webinar.

On December 11, Transportation for America hosted a webinar to release the new guidebook Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities: How Metro Areas are Building More and Better Bicycling and Walking Projects. To learn more, listen to the webinar, download the guidebook, or read some of the questions answered by the presenters below.

To what degree have you been utilizing recent guidance documents developed by FHWA, ITE, and NACTO in your respective communities?

  • Cortney Geary (CG)- The Chattanooga Hamilton County/North GA TPO uses guidance documents developed by FHWA extensively. Many of the updated performance measures that we have developed for the 2045 RTP Update, which is currently in progress, were informed by the FHWA Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation. We share the latest design guidance with our local jurisdictions and many utilize guides from NACTO and ITE. For example, the City of Chattanooga’s Complete Streets Ordinance, which was adopted in 2014, adopted NACTO’s Street and Bikeway Design Guides and ITE’s Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares as design guidelines.
  • Daniel Kaempff (DK)- Extensively. The City of Portland has pioneered much of the current best practices and we’re in the process of updating our regional design guidance as well.

What strategies can you recommend to engage the community in the various stages of a transportation and planning project?

  • (DK)- Build relationships with community groups from the start. Involve them on your TACs, make them a part of the decision-making process. Ensure your neighborhood coalitions or associations are engaged. We had over 1,000 letters of support for one project, due to a very active, engaged, determined group of neighbors. We use an online “open house” tool that shows projects on a map, and enables feedback. Plus, we hold a public hearing for projects early in the process, right after the technical analysis is completed, so the public has a wealth of information they can use.
  • Jeff Pollak (JP)- As early as possible!  The methods section of our plan ( outlines our engagement strategies; I’d be happy to share any of our engagement tools if anyone is interested!

I’d be curious to hear about any comparison between single direction protected lanes along roadways on both sides vs. dual direction protected lanes on one side of the roadway?

  • (CG)- FHWA developed a Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide. Chapter 5 outlines a four step design process for separated bike lanes. The first step is to establish directional and width criteria. The guide suggests, “The decision of one-way and two-way separated bike lanes should be based on traffic lane configurations, turning movement conflicts, parking requirements, and surrounding bicycle route network options and destinations.”
  • (DK)- We’ve used both designs in the Portland region, mainly based on contextual reasons. Sometimes, dual direction lanes make the most sense.
  • (JP)- In general, 1-way facilities on both sides provide a higher level of service. The utility of 2-way facilities is limited by the frequency of street crossings in so much that users may not have immediate access (or an obvious path of travel) to their destinations if they are not on the side of the street where the facility is located.

What are your thoughts on greenways? We are exploring options to convert under-utilized streets in a community of 10,000 people. Any ideas on how to pursue such concepts and get the community excited about active transportation?

  • (DK)- Again, Portland has used these to great benefit. They are generally a low-cost means of making cycling and walking more attractive. We’ve had success with creating temporary installations of active transportation treatments, getting public input, and then moving ahead with a permanent solution if there’s support. Holding an Open Street event in conjunction with your temporary active transportation treatments might be a way to further get public interest and acceptance.
  • (JP)- Greenways are the ultimate low stress facility in that they maximize separation from vehicular traffic. Their utility as a mobility alternative—i.e. connecting people to the destinations to which they would otherwise travel by car—is entirely a function of available land. To this end, existing utility easements represent a great opportunity. Stormwater easements (which are City-owned/controlled, as opposed to powerline easements, which are not) constitute a full ¼ of our planned bike mobility network. In some cases, the route along a stormwater easement is substantially shorter than the equivalent trip by car. Off-road multi-use trails (greenways) that are sited and designed to meet mobility needs (i.e. access to key destinations) first and foremost also serve as recreational amenities, thus potentially opening up a secondary (recreation focused) funding strategies.

My MPO has 21 municipalities and trying to get support for performance based programming is challenging. How do I overcome the politics of making better decisions?

  • (CG)- The Chattanooga Hamilton County/North GA TPO covers 15 municipalities in four counties across two states, Tennessee and Georgia. The section on ‘Barriers Along the Way’ on page 92 of the guidebook describes the initial resistance to a performance-based project evaluation process that came from the TPO’s smaller jurisdictions and how we worked with them to overcome that barrier. Another key to our success was engaging the jurisdictions, a broad range of stakeholders, and the general public throughout the process and demonstrating how their priorities and the region’s most pressing needs were directly translated into a data-driven project evaluation process. More specifics about the engagement are available in the case study.
  • (DK)- Again, I think leaning on your community groups to the extent you can is a critical part of this. Also, get FHWA involved. Make them enforce their mandates for performance-based planning. But, it’s tough if it’s just the MPO vs. everyone else.

How to you keep your board supportive of this work when the board turns over each year and doesn’t feel work we’ve done supports their views?

  • (JP)- Continue to keep positive news and positive press in front of your board. Give public credit and support of ongoing initiatives, even where it might not be due.

Other than bike lanes, are other bicycling infrastructure such as shelters, water refill, repair stations determined as critical infrastructure to encourage more activity?

  • (DK)- Yes. We generally fund these things with either local funding or through our regional allotment of TDM funds.
  • (JP)- Yes: we used transportation alternative funds (grant to the regional transit authority) to support the installation of trip support hardware—racks, pumps, and FixIt stations—at a significant proportion of transit stops

If the bike lane is right next to the pedestrian pathways, what about the pedestrian safety? Will it be safe enough or will there be a buffer in between?

  • (DK)- We’ve built them with no physical separation. We do use green paint to designate the bicycle portion from the pedestrian portion. There are a few places around the region where volumes are high enough on nice days where there are some conflicts. But generally, people just figure it out for themselves from the context clues and signage.
  • (JP)- Cycle tracks will be green (integrated color mixed into the concrete, not a surface stain) to provide a visual distinction, and a rolled or stamped “soldier course” (5-6” wide pattern in the concrete (on the sidewalk side) will provide a tactile indication for the visually impaired.)

Are any of the bike/ped trail systems inclusive of equestrian access? 

  • (DK)- Yes, we have equestrian access points on the Springwater Trail, which runs east from Downtown Portland out to a rural community 20 miles away. Seems to work fine with horses, bicycles and pedestrians all using the same trail.

Question for Chattanooga: Is there a funding target, for the neighborhood to community level of prioritization or do these compete with the region to region projects?

  • (CG)- There is not a funding target for each geographic scale in the Community to Region Framework. All projects compete against each other for funding based on how well they accomplish the goals of their particular geographic scale. More information about the project scoring and ranking process is available on page 89-90 of the guidebook.

Question for Metro: How did you come up with 530 feet standard for street crossings?

  • (DK)- 530 feet is roughly two city blocks (by Portland standards) apart, which was agreed upon as a reasonable distance that generally guarantees a person wouldn’t have to walk more than a block to cross a major arterial.

Question for Metro:  Does the regional transportation plan for Portland include integration of walk/bike into greenway/green space/parks etc.?

  • (DK)- Yes, much of our AT network is combined with parks.

Question for Metro:  Who are the partners you work with Dan?

  • (DK)- Partners include state DOTs (OR and WA), cities (24), counties (3), state department of Environmental Quality, Port of Portland, state and county public health departments, plus dozens of community and business organizations focusing on equity and the needs of underserved communities.

Question for Corpus Christi: Why wasn’t “work”considered a key destination in the Bicycle Mobility Plan?

  • (JP)- Employment centers encompass a wide array of land use types, so honing in on individual destinations is difficult.  Further, the largest employment centers tend to coincide spatially with other target/priority land uses (e.g. schools/university, medical centers, civic institutions like City Hall).

Question for Corpus Christi:  What community engagement software did you use?

  • (JP)- We created the program website and MapIt! module in house.  We partnered with Strava to track rider movements.

Question for Corpus Christi: Why 1/4 mile for destination? Isnt 1/2 mile considered walkability?

  • (JP)- ¼ mile is about a 5 minute walk and typically means that a destination is within view. We consider ¼ mile a more apt standard given our climate and community culture.  

Question for Corpus Christi: Did you justify your Strava data with tube or IR counts? How did you deal with Strava’s male 18-40 bias?

  • (JP)- We used Strava as a secondary data source to validate the network that we developed using GIS Network Analyst and then refined based on on-the-ground knowledge; it wasn’t a primary determinant of initial route selection.  We also used the Strava network as our basemap in Network Analyst (as opposed to using the a streets layer), and in this way we identified some great connections—goat trails through easements, for example—that are already in use that we would have otherwise missed had we limited the universe of route options to the street network.

Question for Corpus Christi:  How did you use GIS network analysis to determine the bike network?

  • (JP)- For efficiency, I’ll refer to the methods section of our plan, which is online at, but I’d be happy to have a follow up discussion at any point .

Question for Corpus Christi:  Can Jeff re-state the savings they expect from the separated lanes?

  • (JP)- The city’s engineering department determined that when a street with on-street bike lanes (say 4-5’ on each side) comes up for edge to edge reconstruction, if the curbs are moved in to the edge of the outer travel lane (effectively narrowing the roadway and re-apportioning the space dedicated to the bike lanes to space for a concrete cycle track behind the curb without impacting the number or width of the vehicular travel lanes), then the City could save up to $500K per mile with recurring savings during roadway resurfacing because building cycle tracks (essentially a second sidewalk from a construction standpoint) is so much cheaper than building a pavement section designed to support cars.

Question for Corpus Christi: How much engagement was there with people living next to cycle track? How was it structured? Was there general support?

  • (JP)- This discussion was rolled into the public meetings that the City held with residents to discuss the design of bond-funded reconstruction.  Naturally, this engagement is most important when there is a loss of parking on one side or a road diet from lanes to 2 + center turn lane, but we were very conservative in calling for such reductions.  Every single place in which our team felt that VMT and/or parking demand merited a diet or reduction, respectively is listed in a table in the Infrastructure Prescriptions section of the plan . . . we didn’t leave any of this to chance.

Question for Corpus Christi: It seems like your network was optimized for coverage rather than connectivity (being near as many destinations as possible rather than providing the most direct connections between destinations).  Did you discuss trade-offs between these two objectives when designing the system?

  • (JP)- The initial network analysis was destination driven, but the routing and refinement was really a function multiple factors: the ambition to minimize rider stress by utilizing quiet neighborhood streets and off-road connections as well as expediency.  We baked this relative prioritization into the GIS Network Analysis process. For efficiency, I’ll refer to the methods section of our plan, which is online at, but I’d be happy to have a follow up discussion at any point.

Question for Corpus Christi: What flexibility have you left in the details of the planned projects to ensure that the public/stakeholders don’t block a project once it moves into project development? Another way to think about it–some time passes between when you have developed the bike network plans (list of projects) and actually get to constructing. How do you ensure that the project still satisfies the community (and doesn’t get blocked)??

  • (JP)- I think that starting with the right pilot projects is really important, and hopefully we’ve done that.  If residents see a successful project, their less likely to balk when a similar project is proposed in their neighborhood.  Likewise, meeting the neighbors face to face to walk them through the merits of the design as part of the pre-construction outreach helps in cases where they might perceive a tradeoff (loss of some parking).

Question for Corpus Christi:  Jeff- What are bicyclist/pedestrian responses to pulling bike lanes off of the road? Is there pushback from either group or what is the preferred location for bike lanes?

  • (JP)- Far and away the majority of respondents (72%) said they do not feel comfortable with any sort of proximity to vehicular traffic which encouraged the MPO to plan for more separated infrastructure. There was concern among a very few members of the high speed road bike community that creating off-street infrastructure would send mixed messages to the community about where bikers were supposed to be, so we included recommended that the City cycle tracks with road signage stating that “Cyclists may use full lane”.  We also created maps identifying priority sport routes around the community and recommended that where those routes fall on streets where the bike plan prescribes a separated cycle track, then the City should consider maintaining a wider shoulder to accommodate the road bike community . . . basically trying to demonstrate that different classes of cyclist have different needs.  Last point: in visiting with road bike community, I emphasized that the biggest threat to them is poor driving behavior.  Creating more safe spaces for the everyman (i.e. non roadbikers) to ride (and we know that there is a 40% gap between the number of folks who ride regularly vs. those who would like to) will ultimately translate into a more empathetic driving public when those casual riders get behind the wheel of their car.

Where can I find the Network Analyst methodology in the guidebook? Where is the  guidebook available?

  • The guidebook is available here on our website. Information on the Network Analyst methodology can be found on page 23 of the guidebook.
  • (DK)- Or in the methods section of the Corpus Christi MPO plan, available at