October 2009

We are pleased to present our October 2009 newsletter on Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS). In this issue we discuss:

We are always looking for your help in making the most up-to-date and comprehensive tool for CSS professionals. Please continue contributing any CSS-related case studies, research papers, news items, editorials, presentations, and other content that you think the CSS community would find interesting. We are especially looking for content related to CSS and sustainability, CSS and Complete Streets, Livable Communities, and examples of CSS in rural and natural settings.

If you have any questions about contributing content, or anything else, please e-mail us at or call (212) 620-5660.

The team

USDOT Online Forum on Livability

On June 16, 2009, the U. S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new partnership – the Partnership for Sustainable Communities - to work towards ensuring that housing and transportation goals are met while simultaneously protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and helping to address the challenges of climate change.

USDOT recognizes that in order to meet the goals of the Partnership, it is essential to work with the full range of stakeholders within the transportation community. With that in mind, USDOT has launched an online Forum on Livability  on as a means to communicate, collaborate, and gather feedback from transportation stakeholders across the country.

USDOT has chosen the CSS website as a medium for outreach. This is due, in part, to the CSS approach which involves all stakeholders in implementing holistic transportation planning. USDOT is counting on members of the CSS community and other transportation practioneers to be active in shaping the policy and implementation of future livability efforts.

The first event associated with the online Forum on Livablity was a webinar on September 24th, co-hosted by and the USDOT Office of the Secretary, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Transit Administration. The audience of over 400 viewers included practitioners who will be vital in implementing the goals of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities - agencies at the local, state, and federal level, as well as advocates and nonprofits, academics and policymakers. Assembling these diverse points of view is essential in order to establish a truly representative, and community-driven, transportation policy.

If you missed the original airing of the presentation, you can view a recording of the webinar on the new CSS Livable Communities webpage. The webpage also includes the webinar PowerPoint presentation, and related materials on livability, such as reports, articles, presentations, and calendar events, among other things.

USDOT Livability Outreach and Discussion Forum

In August and September, the CSS Clearinghouse staff worked with the Office of the Secretary of Transportation to gather stakeholder feedback on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and the USDOT Livability Initiative. The outreach, conducted by Project for Public Spaces (PPS), consisted of two activities:  in-depth interviews with many of the most important voices in transportation reform; and three interdisciplinary roundtable discussions with transportation stakeholders in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), Omaha, NE, and Maricopa County, AZ (Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale). Among those individually interviewed were leaders from the National Complete Streets Coalition, Reconnecting America, Congress for New Urbanism, and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.

This outreach turned up some key themes, including:

  • Ensuring future policies foster partnerships with state and local agencies, and other stakeholders, so solutions are flexible and site specific
  • Implementing performance measures and accountability functions to ensure that the intent of the policy is being carried out
  • Reorganizing the priorities of UDSOT policy so that all modes of transportation are supported according to community demand, environmental consideration, and livability
  • Funding mass transit and transportation facilities for biking and walking with an amount that correlates with the requirements of building transportation for livable communities
  • Agreement that local organizations and nonprofits are a key mechanism by which to build the vision and facilitate implementation
  • A belief that federal funding and incentives can unleash local energy in the right direction, including private sector investment
  • Need for local access to expertise, best practices, and training.

Some of the observations from our interviews included:

“Our current approach to alternative modes of transportation (e.g. walking, biking) is similar to spot zoning, we address it as part of individual solutions, sometimes, without incorporating it at the larger system level. Alternative transportation is therefore seen as fringe activities and expendable. That is a very real barrier.”

— Sharon Roerty, Executive Director for the National Center for Biking and Walking

“It is encouraging that USDOT is working to break the agency silos that have gotten in the way of the flexibility that is a hallmark of Complete Streets and context sensitivity."

— Barbara McCann, Executive Director, National Complete Streets Coalition

USDOT is at the beginning of their stakeholder outreach process. To keep the conversation going, we have created a discussion forum on the CSS livability webpage. We have posted a series of questions on the discussion forum to continue the dialogue on livability. Please take a few minutes to engage in the discussion. The responses to the questions will be shared with the DOT. 

NCHRP Report 642 – Quantifying the Benefits of Context Sensitive Solutions

On September 22, 2009, the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) released Report 642: Quantifying the Benefits of Context Sensitive Solutions.

The report “presents guidelines for quantifying the benefits of applying the principles of Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) to transportation projects,” and is of “immediate interest to the staff of state and municipal agencies with responsibility for planning, programming, developing, and operating transportation projects of all types and sizes.”

The objective of this research includes the following:

To quantify the benefits of the strategic, appropriate application of CSS principles in transportation planning, programming, project development, and operations. This objective was accomplished through the development of (1) recommended guidelines for quantifying the benefits of applying CSS principles on a continuous basis in all aspects and stages of a transportation project; (2) reliable performance measures to gauge the principle-based, benefit-justified process and enable its continuous improvement; and (3) supporting commentary and training materials for state and municipal transportation agencies to use in applying the guidelines to their own projects.”

The report also includes thirty-three case studies, which cover a wide range of CSS issues, and a document providing guidelines for assess the benefits of applying CSS.

The report can be found online by clicking here. One of the primary authors of the report, Nikiforos Stamatiadis of the University of Kentucky, will be hosting a CSS webinar on the findings of the report this fall.

CSS National Dialog Update

The CSS National Dialog will host a series of one-day regional workshops, beginning in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, October 20th, 2009. Thanks in large part to the outreach and networking efforts of the National Dialog Steering Committee, the Austin workshop capacity was reached within 10 days of registration opening and an extensive waiting list was formed.

The schedule of workshops includes Portland, OR in December of 2009, Charlotte, NC in February 2010, Minneapolis, MN in April 2010, and another workshop in the Northeast region in early 2010.  Future workshops will build on the 92 projects, plans, and programs that were submitted for consideration as featured case studies demonstrating the CSS Principles. The workshops will provide an opportunity to learn more about CSS and how it can improve transportation processes and outcomes. Workshops are open to government decision makers, community groups, and future transportation professionals as well as transportation agency employees and managers,

The CSS National Dialog was initiated by FHWA and the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) at North Carolina State University to serve as a catalyst for an ongoing exchange of ideas and build momentum for wider implementation of CSS in the transportation industry.  The Dialog sponsors were supported by a Steering Committee of transportation professionals, NGOs, and other agencies, all committed to the principles of CSS.

Members included:

National Park Service
FHWA Environment Technical Service Team

FHWA Safety and Design Technical Service Team

Caltrans Headquarters

National Association of Regional Councils (NARC)

US EPA Headquarters

FHWA Office of Human and Natural Environment

GO Boulder

Center for Neighborhood Technology

Healthy Community Design, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

USDA Forest Service Engineering

City of Terrell

American Council of Engineering Companies

FHWA West Virginia Division

FHWA Arkansas Division Office

University of Connecticut

Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

FHWA Federal Lands Division

FHWA Indiana Division

Minnesota DOT

Congress for the New Urbanism

FHWA, North Dakota Division


Oregon State University

The Conservation Fund

FHWA Office of Infrastructure


University of Minnesota, Center for Transportation Studies

PB Placemaking

FHWA Texas Division

Tennessee DOT

Project for Public Spaces

Scenic America

The Dialog will continue on the CSS Clearinghouse - through discussion forums, the CSS webinar series, the publication of new case studies, and documentation of the workshops. All materials for the aforementioned workshops will also be posted on

A special website has been established for material submission and workshop registration:

To receive information about attending one of the workshops, please send your name, position title, organization, city, state, and phone number to, and you will be notified if space becomes available.

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