Monday, February 13, 2012

An Opportunity To Improve What We Do And How We Do It

An article in the Spokesman-Review's 'Getting There' column today talks about SRTC's recent Federal Certification Review. The Certification process takes place every four years and is a review by the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Washington State Department of Transportation to make sure we're doing everything we're supposed to be doing. It's so basically a performance evaluation for the entire agency.

As I've said here before, SRTC has gone through some big changes recently. Our former director left last year and our new Executive Director has been here about four months. He's working with us to take a look at where we're going as an agency and how we do things. However, based on where we've been, we knew in advance that there would be some changes recommended in the certification review. So I wasn't too surprised today when I saw the Spokesman article saying SRTC "is getting its knuckles rapped" in the review. We prefer to look at it as "getting new direction."

A couple of things the review pointed out and that are in the Spokesman article include that we failed to include public transit and other alternatives to automobile travel in our main transportation plans,
our Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) fails to account for fiscal constraints on its proposed projects, and the MTP doesn't adequately address how public comments are handled.

There were also some positive aspects noted in the review, including SRTC undertaking the Inland Pacific Hub study, a business-inspired planning effort to identify freight mobility needs, and conducting the Transportation Vision Project to identify the region's transportation future for the long term.

As I said, we've known this was coming and have already been working to address the issues, even before receiving the certification report a couple weeks ago. For instance, there is a huge effort underway here to revamp the Metropolitan Transportation Plan. We're not just redlining the old one, we're starting over completely, beginning with identifying our 'core values' and how they translate into guiding principles. The new MTP will be developed around these guiding principles and be a completely different document than the one we have today.

We're choosing to view this review as an opportunity. It's an opportunity to improve the way we do things and the service we offer. It's an opportunity to take a close look at how we do things, and why, and determine if that's still the best way to do things. Times change and you have to change with them to a certain degree, and this is our chance to do so.

So enough of me rambling on, here's the article if you want to read it. Have any questions?


FixMe said...

Thanks Staci, As a (former) community activist, I tried to steer Spokane into the community that I wanted it to be - a community that benefits all - there were certain road blocks (no pun intended) along the way. The most difficult to deal with was SRTC because because of the dificult Al Gilson and that the "important" meetings were held during regular business hours, which, unfortunately, I could not attend because of my pesky job..after 10 years in various capacity (Bicycle Advisory Board, Neighbourhood Council, All City Traffic & Transportation Committee, Spokane Trafic Safety Commission...) I grew weary of fighting. I sit back and let the younger activists take charge, and speak up when needed. Being a community activist is always an uphill battle because the activist are volunteers and the "powers that be" are paid, a distinction that works in their favour. I would be weary of being advised by Former Director Gilson. He drove this commision into the reprimand, (knuckle wrapping or new directions or whatever euphamism you are comfortable using) He was most difficult to get through to. His car-centric ideal was part of this problem. The name is "Spokane Regional Transportaion Council" NOT Spokane Regional Car Council...

SRTC Staff said...

Thanks for the comment @FixMe. You've got your transportation folks confused though- Al Gilson is the Public Information Officer at WSDOT. Glenn Miles was our former director. No big deal because it doesn't change the message, just didn't want to cause Mr. Gilson any trouble.

We've been discussing more and more often here at SRTC ways to weigh non-motorized transportation projects with road building projects when ranking and prioritizing projects to receive funding. There's a definite recognition that the times have changed and we're not all going to be driving alone in our cars in the future, so we need to do some planning to get ready for that.

We're also working to make the whole planning process easier for the average person to understand and more accesible. When I started at SRTC about six years ago, many people didn't know who/what we were. Now I go out in public and many more people recognize the name, although we've still got some work to do so they know exactly what it is we do. Staff here works really hard though and is willing to do the leg work so I think we'll make good progress.

About SRTC

SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

SRTC offers services including transportation monitoring, transportation modeling, census information analysis, travel demand forecasting, historical traffic count analysis, geographic information systems, and trip generation rates.