Chapter 2.1: Establishing Stakeholder Groups
Successful job access planning begins with stakeholders coming together to address the transportation issues facing the target population. Stakeholders are decision-makers from agencies and organizations involved with providing services to the target population, and those who have a vested interest in the outcomes of job access planning. Stakeholders will vary from place to place, and most successful plans will involve them in a collaborative effort.
For purposes of this job access planning approach, stakeholders from various organizations are grouped into categories according to the type of service they provide to the target population. Examples of stakeholders are listed under the appropriate category below. These categories are referenced again in Chapter III:
Transportation Services Providers - includes stakeholders who provide a direct service. Examples include public and private transportation providers, or job placement organizations.
Transportation Support Services - includes stakeholders providing or administering support services. Examples include guaranteed ride home programs, transportation reimbursements, bus passes and vouchers for long and short-term assistance, enabling individuals to overcome transportation barriers to obtaining and retaining employment.
Transportation Service Coordination - includes stakeholders involved in coordinating services. Transportation brokers, Transportation Management Associations, transportation hotlines and information centers are a few examples.
Target Population Assistance - includes stakeholders who provide financial assistance, training and job search activities, childcare, healthcare and other services designed to enable the target population to become self-sufficient.
A further distinction of stakeholders should be made between primary and secondary stakeholders. Primary stakeholders typically represent the "front line" of services, for those who either interact directly with the target population or provide immediate services. They include case-workers, job placement specialists, employers and transportation providers. Secondary stakeholders are generally those working behind the scenes providing guidance to the front line workers and performing administrative functions. It is important for both sets of stakeholders to be involved; however, this study focuses on primary stakeholders and what they can bring to the planning process.
Communication between two primary stakeholders: transportation providers and welfare organizations, is critical to job access planning. These organizations represent different services; however, welfare reform links them together. Interaction between them is essential to identify needed services and strategies to deliver and pay for the services. Additional participants should include organizations responsible for regional planning functions. Participants may include local units of government or state agencies if they have responsibility for employment, job development, transportation service delivery, financial assistance, or job retention.
Another key element to successful stakeholder participation is the level of interest and commitment of each stakeholder. Members should be focused on identifying specific transportation challenges and finding solutions to those challenges. Successful planning requires commitment from stakeholders in the planning phases, the development and implementation phases, and program evaluation. Stakeholder involvement is discussed in greater detail in Chapter III.
Welfare reform provides states the freedom to develop programs and program requirements. Each state determines how the welfare to work and public assistance programs will be administered and which public agencies will be responsible for program development, implementation, and evaluation. Responsibilities for leading or participating in plan development will vary from region to region with each region selecting the participants, such as service delivery organizations, social service and employment organizations and members of the target population.
Some states place responsibility for transportation planning on one regional organization, and responsibility for employment planning on another organization. In some states, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are encouraged or required to take the lead in transportation planning efforts. One or two agencies typically take the lead in job access planning by providing facilitation and direction to a larger work group.
Role of MPOs, COGs, etc
The role each stakeholder plays in job access planning will vary from place to place. It is often tied to services they provide, the territory they serve, their legal roles and responsibilities, and federal funding requirements/guidelines. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Councils of Governments (COGs) often have responsibility for regional transportation planning responsibilities. Therefore, they may be the appropriate organization to prepare plans, collect and analyze data, develop strategies, and allocate funds. MPOs are responsible for the prioritization of projects that span over a variety of highway, transit, mobility and job access needs. They can play a significant role in stimulating regional cooperation among agencies and help minimize the fragmentation of services provided in a community or region.
Regional planning organizations can improve coordination among public and private sector agencies developing regional welfare reform plans. MPOs and COGs often take a multi-jurisdictional approach to job access planning and problem solving, engaging a wide range of groups including social service, human resource and economic development agencies. Coordination among welfare reform agencies, under the guidance of such regional planning organizations, has led to effective transportation systems for "welfare to work" clients.
This structure is consistent with the planning process mandated by ISTEA and TEA-21. TEA-21 legislation requires that the metropolitan planning process coordinates the delivery of all Federally funded non-emergency transportation services. In addition, the bill requires MPOs to select applicants for FTA Access to Jobs funding on behalf of the region.
The design of new services should utilize the experiences and insights of employment case-managers and target population members. Individuals representing these groups can identify both transportation barriers and successful components of existing services. Involving members of the target population in various ways adds perspective and increases the likelihood that strategies and services will meet the target population's unmet needs for the short and long-term.