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Illinois

Number of Human Services Transportation Planning Regions: 11 Date established: 2008To comply with new requirements for regional-level coordinated human services transportation planning included in the 2005 surface transportation law Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA‐LU), the Illinois DOT (IDOT) opted to contract with a variety of existing organizations to complete coordinated transportation plans for 11 regions.  Illinois does not conduct rural, regional multimodal transportation planning through regional transportation planning organizations, and the state is only partially served by multi-county regional planning and development organizations.  Since 2008, some of the existing regional planning and development organizations have supported coordinated transportation for one or more of IDOT’s human services transportation planning regions, and in other places, single-county regional planning commissions that staff smaller MPOs took on a larger planning footprint to assist surrounding rural regions with developing their regional plan.  The state’s MPOs also develop plans for their urbanized areas.[1]

Regional Coordinated Human Services Transportation Plan Activities

The initial rural coordinated plans were completed in 2008 and are updated on a three-year cycle.  Each region has a policy and technical committee comprising public transportation and human services transportation providers, local officials, higher education representatives, transit advocates, individuals with disabilities, Area Agency on Aging representatives and other human service agencies, and other stakeholders.[2]

The regional human service transportation plan coordinators across the state perform mobility management tasks, including assessing transit needs, inventorying available infrastructure and service to meet those needs, and identification of service gaps and duplications.  The coordinators also develop trainings and toolkits delivered to human service professionals on transportation.[3]

As a local transportation champion and policy leader, the coordinators also develop the coordinated plan and staff the regional committee as a forum for communication and to identify opportunities to increase transportation efficiencies.  Coordinators also conduct program reviews of grantees of FTA Elderly and Disabled Transportation (Section 5310) funds.  They also collect, review, and prioritize transportation projects.[4]

The work of the regional human services transportation committees has been effective at improving and increasing the transportation service available in rural areas.  The Western Illinois Regional Council (WIRC) staffs two human services transportation plan regions covering a total of 16 counties.  WIRC Executive Director Suzan Nash describes the impact, “As a result of the region’s work over the years and the collaboration resulting from the coordinated plans and human services transportation committees, only one of the counties we serve—with a population of just slightly over 7,000—does not currently have some sort of public transportation.”[5]

Other Regional Transportation Planning Studies

Because the state’s regional councils are engaged in broader regional planning and economic development activities, stakeholders and staff have an interest in the supporting role that transportation plays to the regional economy and quality of life.  Periodically, IDOT awards grants for special planning studies to regional councils.  Airport impact studies, highway corridor impact studies (including lessons learned from bypass construction), bicycle plans, freight studies, and other special planning projects are among the assistance that IDOT has provided to connect transportation planning to community and economic development outcomes.  These special studies help communities, counties, and regions to identify key strategies and projects to meet their mobility goals, which assists them in deciding whether to apply for state or federal funds and to prioritize their local investments and match commitments.[6]

For more information on regional planning in Illinois, visit www.ilarconline.org.

[1] Planning for Better Communities: Illinois Association of Regional Councils

[2] Personal communication with Terri Finn, May 2016.

[3] Illinois Human Service Transportation Plan Coordinator Essential Roles & Duties, 2016

[4] Personal communication with Terri Finn, May 2016

[5] Personal communication with Suzan Nash, August 2015

[6] Personal communication with Suzan Nash, August 2015

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