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Friday, March 25, 2011

All Dressed Up and No Way to Get There?

“Do more with less” seems to be the mantra these days. Communities and many agencies suffer budget and staffing cuts, while simultaneously facing increased demands for services.

COMPASS is working to help ease some of these issues for small rural communities with its “All Dressed Up and No Way to Get There” toolkit. The toolkit was funded through a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The toolkit is designed to provide ideas, resources, and easy-to-use templates for rural communities and others working to help residents find ways to get where they need to go with or without access to a personal vehicle.

It is specifically designed for agencies with limited funding and staff time. The items in the toolkit are easy to use, low-tech, and free or inexpensive to implement.

The toolkit contains background information and lists of ideas for facilitating and promoting carpooling, walking/biking, using community vehicles, and creating ordinances to promote land use that supports these. Templates can be downloaded and customized for many of the items discussed, including model lease agreements, a model ordinance, and a variety of promotion materials. The toolkit also provides links to transportation resources available in southwest Idaho.

Who would use this toolkit? One example might be a senior center that runs a van into Nampa once a week for seniors to shop. The van runs half-full and is struggling financially. The operator sees an opportunity to open the service to non-seniors. By charging a nominal fee this could help offset costs, as well as provide a community service to other residents. However, the operator is a part-time volunteer with no marketing budget or background, and very limited time. This toolkit can provide that volunteer with the resources to market that expanded service.

Check it out online at www.compassidaho.org/prodserv/mobility_toolkit.htm or order a CD of the materials by emailing litkonen@compassidaho.org.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

COMPASS on the Move

On Monday, March 21, the Meridian Development Corporation, COMPASS, and Valley Regional Transit broke ground on a new building in downtown Meridian that will soon serve as the headquarters for COMPASS and Valley Regional Transit. Meridian Development Corporation owns the downtown lot where the building will be built and will sell the building to COMPASS and Valley Regional Transit upon completion. COMPASS will own the second floor of the two-condo building; Valley Regional Transit will own most of the first floor. The remainder of the first floor will be meeting rooms jointly owned by the two organizations.

This move is an important step forward in the life of COMPASS, and will help us better serve you and fulfill our mission more efficiently and effectively.

After 26 years of renting office space, first in Boise then in Meridian, COMPASS will own its office. Per direction from the COMPASS Board, we have been setting aside funds since 2006 specifically for this purpose, which will allow us to pay cash. Freeing up money that has been used for rent in the past, coupled with the ability to pay cash, saves public money. COMPASS will be able to weather cost increases in other areas of our budget without raising member dues, which is the portion of the COMPASS budget that comes from local tax dollars via our member agencies.

COMPASS has not raised dues since 2008 and cut dues in 2009 to help member agencies as they struggled with decreasing revenues.

This move supports the goals and vision of Communities in Motion, the regional long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon Counties, which COMPASS develops. The building location in downtown Meridian is consistent with the plan vision for compact growth in an already developed area. An additional bonus is that it should also help revitalize downtown Meridian. The office will be in walking distance of goods and services and is located near the current rail line, which may someday be a corridor for public transportation in the valley. The building will be built to LEED silver standards, which will contribute to a more sustainable community.

COMPASS and Valley Regional Transit already work closely on many issues. Sharing a building will increase our efficiency and strengthen communication and coordination between the agencies.

I appreciate the foresight of the COMPASS Board in planning ahead to allow us to make this move, which ultimately will allow us to serve you better.

Please plan to visit us at our new office after we move in next fall.

Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.