Happy Transit Thursday, Triangle!
We’ve been singing telework’s praises all week, and rightfully so. New figures show that over the four days since December that DC federal offices were closed for weather, teleworking saved federal agencies $32 million. Those savings already are greater than estimates of the entire cost of implementing telework throughout government (Nextgov). Not a federal employee? Not a problem. Recent telework findings impact you too, monetarily and emotionally.
PGi, a global provider of collaboration software and services, surveyed their customers and uncovered the following:
- 80% of respondents report that their office allows telecommuting
- 71% participate in the telecommuting program
- 50% telecommute one day per week
- 22% telecommute five or more days per week
Like in our Two Link Tuesday infographic, the PGi study also found that employees experience these personal benefits from teleworking:
- 82% experienced improvement in stress levels
- 80% experienced improvement in morale
- 70% experienced improvement in productivity
- 69% experienced improvement in absenteeism
And some of our followers are already teleworking:
Telework Week may be almost over, but you can still pledge to telework and join the 162, 852 workers who already have pledged to work from home. So far, $13,959, 296 has been saved thus far and we still have one more day to go. Visit mobileworkexchange.com to sign your pledge and help them break $14 million!
Although this is National Telework Week, companies and governments (including their tax payers) are saving money and increasing productivity and satisfaction year-round. Look for more information about teleworking from GoTriangle this year: local companies who use telework, companies starting new telework programs for their employees, and companies who want to review their programming and make sure they are using best practices. If you’re interested in participating – let us know with this quick form. It’s only 6 questions. We will share the new, free Telework Toolkit for Triangle employers with everyone once it’s done!
Does this graphic look familiar? You may remember it from my very first Fortify Friday post, where I explained how if 10% of drivers carpooled or took the bus just one day per week, it would remove 14 miles of double lane traffic from our roads daily.
At the time, convincing 10% of drivers in the Triangle to carpool or take the bus sounded more than a little daunting. How could we convince people to change their routines?
The answer was, and still is, beautifully simple: we have to start by convincing ourselves.
This month, one man has taken on that challenge.
Meet John Tallmadge, Director of Regional Services Development at Triangle Transit. Throughout the month of March, John will be completely carless. For 31 days, he’ll solely rely on the bus and other alternative forms of transit to get him from place to place. He’s quitting cold turkey and turning over the keys – and taking us along with him!
Every Wednesday in March, John will check in with the GoTriangle blog and post his most recent challenge updates. Read his first one below:
I’m four days in to #carlessmarch and I can already say this, getting myself around is the easy part. The harder part is that my decision doesn’t just affect myself, but also my family. My three daughters still have activities after school and on weekends, and so I’ve been relying more on my wife and our friends to get the kids around. On Saturday, I did bike to pick up our 7-year old from a sleepover and then we walked and took the bus home. My reasons for #carlessmarch are to more fully understand the experiences of our customers who do not drive, and to reduce carbon emissions from my own choices. So far, so good, but I think the real challenges will come deeper into the month. I’ll keep you posted.
Think John can make it all 31 days? Find out by following him on Twitter where he’ll be tweeting his daily progress with #carlessmarch. If you have any transit tips or suggestions for John, tweet him @jdttransit! Just remember to include #carlessmarch in your tweet.
Have a great Wednesday,
Happy Monday everyone!
It’s the start of a new month, a new week, and our new Monday blog series, “Top 10 Things You Want to Know About Project Development.” Over the next few weeks, Triangle Transit environmental planner Meghan Makoid will be answering the ten questions you may have asked (or should be asking) about the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project. Also the #TransitThursday creator, Meghan has a knack for explaining transit’s technical side and making it relatable as well as easily understood.
Read on for her break down of the information discussed in last Thursday’s light rail post:
1) First of all…why are there SO MANY steps to build a transit project?!
Meghan: Well, we are talking about a MAJOR transit investment! A decision to pursue a major transit investment is not taken lightly by Triangle Transit or the federal government.
Think of this process as similar to when you go to the bank to apply for a mortgage or a construction loan to build a house. Much like the bank, the federal government (represented by the Federal Transit Administration [FTA] for transit projects) wants you to demonstrate that you have what it takes to receive the money. They want to know not only that you have income and good credit in place, but that what you are proposing to do with the money has merit.
Additionally, the federal government needs to know that:
- The project you are proposing has a purpose and that there is a demonstrated need in the community for the project;
- The transit agency identified and evaluated all of the potential effects of the proposed project (both negative and positive on the human and natural environment);
- There is community support for the project;
- The transit agency has what it takes to design, build, operate and maintain the project; and,
- The proposed project rates well in the areas of mobility, cost, congestion relief, land use, economic development and environmental benefits.
Ultimately, by looking at all of these things, the FTA wants the agency to demonstrate that the project is worth investing federal money.
To do this, the federal government requires transit agencies who wish to build a major transit project (like a light rail line) using federal money (called “New Starts” funds) to complete a series of steps. These steps are meant to ensure a “level playing field” and fair competition for the funds between many projects across the nation. All projects are held to the same requirements, must complete the same project phases, must receive federal approval at each of the key decision points, and are evaluated using the same measures – no matter if the project is here in North Carolina, in Hawaii, New York, or Washington State. These milestones are uniform and required of every transit project requesting grant monies under the “New Starts Program” (The steps are outlined in the legislation authorized by Congress, called MAP-21).
2) What are the steps/phases and the major milestones in the “New Starts process”?
Meghan: Project Development, Engineering, and Full Funding Grant Agreement.
The law (called MAP-21) authorizes the money for major transit capital projects (known as “New Starts” grant funding) and establishes the requirements necessary to compete for “New Starts funds.” In order to enter the “New Starts Pipeline” (i.e., the MAP-21 Core Capacity Process) and compete for “New Starts funds,” the transit agency must first “Request Permission to Enter Project Development” from the Federal Transit Administration. This requires the agency to write to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and receive “FTA approval.”
The diagram above illustrates the major phases of the process, key milestones, and decision points at which the federal government grants approval, evaluates, rates, and approves the project. As shown in the diagram above, in order to move forward with the project, the project must achieve each milestone (Project Development, Engineering, and Full Funding Grant Agreement). In order to move forward to the next phase, Triangle Transit must demonstrate the continued merit of the project to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). With each step, the project becomes more and more refined, the competition for the funds gets greater, and the evaluation by the federal government gets more stringent.
Achieving each of these steps is necessary to stay in competition and ultimately to be awarded the funds, which are necessary to build the project. Therefore, each of “New Starts process” steps is equally important and each milestone must be achieved.
3) What is a “Request to Enter Project Development” anyway?
Meghan: Essentially, it is when the transit agency asks the federal government if the proposed transit project has what it takes to officially enter the ring of competition for federal funding. This first step demonstrates that the project meets the minimum requirements outlined by the law. The Federal Transit administration then responds by deeming whether the information provided is sufficient or not. If the information provided demonstrates the proposed project’s merit, then the agency is granted permission to enter the Project Development (PD) phase.
Triangle Transit sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration in December 2013 to request entry into Project Development. After substantial review, the Federal Transit Administration sent a letter to Triangle Transit.
It may still be many years before the first light rail tracks are installed, but that doesn’t mean Triangle Transit isn’t already breaking ground.
On Tuesday evening, Triangle Transit received word that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had approved the agency’s request to enter Project Development on the 17-mile Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project. In a Triangle Transit press release, Fred Day IV, Chair of the Triangle Transit Board of Trustees, announced, “We are pleased with FTA’s decision. This represents an important milestone in the course of this project.”
Now that this milestone has been reached, what can we expect in the next phase?
First, let’s locate where we are on the project timeline:
The FTA website includes a diagram (shown above) of the updated New Starts Project Development Process, the program that Triangle Transit initially requested entry into in December.
The Project Development phase is scheduled to take two years, followed by a three-year engineering phase. Per the diagram, once the engineering phase is completed, construction would commence under a full funding grant agreement and likely take four to five years before light rail service began.
In a November 2013 project update, a similar timeline was also shared on the Our Transit Future website:
As you can see, Triangle Transit is right on schedule with Project Development approval. The two years of Project Development are estimated to end by 2016, with the three-year engineering phase continuing between 2016 and 2019. Construction will begin after the engineering phase and wrap up by 2025. In 2026, the Durham-Orange light rail line is expected to fully operational.
Now that we know where our current Project Development phase puts us, we can examine how the phase moves us forward.
During Project Development, the light rail route and train station locations will be determined and a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision will be completed. The Durham Orange Light Rail “fly-through” video below offers a better look at what that route may be:
Slowly but steadily, Triangle Transit planners are maneuvering through the FTA planning and Project Development process. The FTA Project Development approval is an early result of much behind-the-scenes work. Next week, we’ll further examine that work by exploring the roles both the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision play.
To see more of what the future Durham-Orange light rail may entail, check out the images below.
Artist’s rendering of a Durham light rail station: