Transportation Coordination:

Benefits and Barriers Exist, and Planning Efforts Progress Slowly

RCED-00-1: Published: Oct 22, 1999. Publicly Released: Oct 22, 1999.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on federal agencies that provide nonemergency human services transportation, focusing on: (1) the benefits and incentives to human services transportation coordination; (2) the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) and the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) efforts to identify barriers to transportation coordination; and (3) HHS' and FTA's efforts to enhance transportation coordination through state and local transportation planning.

GAO noted that: (1) transportation coordination can reduce federal transportation program costs by clustering passengers, utilizing fewer one-way trips, and sharing the use of transportation personnel, equipment, and facilities; (2) in addition, people in need of transportation often benefit from the greater and higher quality transportation services available when transportation providers coordinate their operations; (3) the most concerted effort by HHS and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to identify barriers occurred in 1988; (4) at that time, acting through a Coordinating Council established in 1986, the agencies identified 64 factors that transportation and human services representatives believed were barriers to transportation coordination; (5) for each barrier, the Council offered a federal response that, in some cases, simply attempted to clarify misunderstandings about program requirements; (6) other responses, however, did not resolve the barrier because the issues required legislation, needed additional study, or were outside of the control of the Departments; (7) the Coordinating Council held transportation meetings with most states in 1995 and 1996, but when barriers were addressed in these meetings, the comments were often limited to a word or phrase; (8) this level of generality made a federal response difficult, and none was undertaken; (9) since 1996, HHS and DOT have been directed by congressional committees to advance state and local transportation coordination through joint planning guidelines that would address issues such as the expanded use of public transportation; (10) in response, HHS and DOT, through the Coordinating Council, began developing planning guidelines in the spring of 1997; (11) while some progress has been made, the joint planning guidelines are still under development; (12) the Departments recognize that progress on the guidelines has been slow and have assigned a contractor to work with agency officials so the guidelines could be issued by the end of 1999; (13) the agencies have also concluded that as an entity, the Coordinating Council needs to be strengthened; (14) the two departments are working on a draft strategic plan for the Council that not only lists goals and objectives, but specific tasks intended to make the goals and objectives a reality; and (15) however, this strategic plan has been in draft for several years, and it is unclear if and when any of the plan's proposed tasks will be undertaken.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2000, the Coordinating Council adopted a prioritized strategic plan for fiscal years 2000 through 2004. The Council's strategic plan essentially provides an action plan as it delineates specific tasks to be accomplished on a yearly basis, including the development of an annual report. While the strategic plan provided for a targeted date of October 2000 for a Council annual report, this target date was not met, and it is uncertain when an annual report will be issued.

    Recommendation: In order to improve transportation coordination through better planning and enhanced accountability, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Transportation should: (1) require the Coordinating Council to issue a prioritized strategic plan by a specific date; (2) charge the Coordinating Council with developing an action plan with specific responsibilities; and (3) require an annual report from the Council on its major initiatives and accomplishments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2000, the Coordinating Council adopted a prioritized strategic plan for fiscal years 2000 through 2004. The Council's strategic plan essentially provides an action plan as it delineates specific tasks to be accomplished on a yearly basis, including the development of an annual report. While the strategic plan provided for a targeted date of October 2000 for a Council annual report, this target date was not met, and it is uncertain when an annual report will be issued.

    Recommendation: In order to improve transportation coordination through better planning and enhanced accountability, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Transportation should: (1) require the Coordinating Council to issue a prioritized strategic plan by a specific date; (2) charge the Coordinating Council with developing an action plan with specific responsibilities; and (3) require an annual report from the Council on its major initiatives and accomplishments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility adopted planning guidelines for coordinating transportation services in December 2000. These guidelines provide information to facilitate the coordination of transportation services for 12 HHS and 10 DOT programs. In addition, in August 2000, the Coordinating Council adopted a strategic plan that provides for regional coordination action plans, including the identification and assessment of barriers to transportation coordination. However, an internet site developed for the Coordinating Council was discontinued due to lack of funding for this activity.

    Recommendation: As part of these planning efforts, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Transportation should: (1) make sure that transportation coordination planning efforts under development reinforce one another; (2) direct the Regional Working Groups to assess barriers to transportation coordination; and (3) make information on coordination barriers and strategies for overcoming the barriers readily available through the Council's Internet site.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility adopted planning guidelines for coordinating transportation services in December 2000. These guidelines provide information to facilitate the coordination of transportation services for 12 HHS and 10 DOT programs. In addition, in August 2000, the Coordinating Council adopted a strategic plan that provides for regional coordination action plans, including the identification and assessment of barriers to transportation coordination. However, an internet site developed for the Coordinating Council was discontinued due to lack of funding for this activity.

    Recommendation: As part of these planning efforts, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Transportation should: (1) make sure that transportation coordination planning efforts under development reinforce one another; (2) direct the Regional Working Groups to assess barriers to transportation coordination; and (3) make information on coordination barriers and strategies for overcoming the barriers readily available through the Council's Internet site.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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