How do I work with Livability Solutions?

Livability Solutions offers workshops, tools, and technical assistance to help communities achieve their sustainability goals.

Please contact us at livabilitysolutions [at] pps [dot] org if you are interested in bringing any of our partners or livability tools to your community!

Our Tools

We have a suite of tools that can be customized for use in your community to help you achieve your goals in the below areas.

Creating Walkable and Bikeable Communities
Creating Great Public Places and Walkable Destinations
Supporting Green Infrastructure and Urban Agriculture
Meaningfully Engaging Citizens and Stakeholders
Supporting Smart Transportation Investments and Strategies
Improving Access to Healthy Food

Creating Walkable and Bikeable Communities

The Bicycle Master Plan Roadmap (NCBW) guides communities through and helps them to develop a roadmap for the three phases of Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) development: (1) developing stakeholder buy-in, goals, and staff capacity; (2) developing the plan; and (3) implementing and evaluating the plan. This tool focuses on planning the process of a Bicycle Master Plan, not developing the plan itself.

Civic Engagement for Walkable, Livable Communities (WALC) is a training course to assist communities in planning, conducting, and evaluating effective civic engagement processes. Included in the training are best practices for civic engagement, a walkability checklist, and an evaluation toolbox. The training teaches the benefits of walkability and livability, shows communities how they can design for active transportation, and shares strategies to help develop successful next steps for effective civic engagement. (ex: Big Steps to More Walkable Communities in Arkansas)

Complete Streets Implementation (PPS) helps communities to create transportation systems and streets that welcome pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and others. This training focuses on how advocates, decisionmakers, and transportation agencies can collaborate effectively together and how to create a Complete Streets action plan, which could include steps to retool policies, agency processes, or specific street redesigns.

Safe Routes to School Workshop (ChangeLab Solutions,LGC, NCBW, WALC) provides flexible and comprehensive technical assistance to elementary and middle schools to launch, fund and sustain a safe routes to school initiative. A typical workshop includes: (1) a walking audit of the site area, with observation of student arrival/dismissal; (2) stakeholder interviews with school staff and others; (3) a community workshop, and (4) developing an action plan, including recommendations for policies, plans, and local infrastructure. Students are an integral part of the process.

Safe Routes to School Advanced Planning Workshop (WALC) is a customizable workshop for communities that have already launched Safe Routes to School efforts in one or more schools. The Advanced Planning Workshop is a collaboration with local leaders to: help communities update their Safe Routes to School Community Action Plan or other relevant plans, and assist with ongoing challenges and opportunities; identify supportive policy solutions and troubleshoot policy implementation; and grow, fund and troubleshoot community or individual school program(s) in order to make Safe Routes to School a sustainable, long-term program that will increase walking and bicycling to school and other destinations.

Walk Audit / Streets and Intersections Audit (WALC, NCBW, LGC, PPS) are used to assess the walkability of a street, neighborhood, or entire community. Walk audits engage participants in inventorying and measuring the quality and effectiveness of the built environment for people on foot, bike or other modes of active transport.  A Walk Audit starts with a presentation on how to create more walkable communities followed by a 60-minute facilitated walk with one or more walkability experts and concludes with participants working in small groups and writing and drawing ideas on aerial photos of the area. (Walk Audits can also be conducted with Spanish speaking residents.) Read about a recent walk audit by WALC in St. Louis here.

The Walkable Streets Design Workshop (CNU) is a hands-on, technical design workshop that trains local engineers, planners, urban designers, public officials, and transportation advocates how to design and build better streets. Drawing on recommendations from the FHWA-endorsed Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares manual, this workshop advances the use of context-sensitive solutions (CSS) in the planning and design of major urban and suburban streets and provides tools to design safer, more attractive places for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. (ex: Highways to ‘Destination Streets’: Blue Springs, MO)

Creating Great Public Places and Walkable Destinations

The Place Audit and Street Audit (PPS) are interactive exercises for working with the public or groups of agencies where citizens, in facilitated groups, observe a place or street and use the place evaluation form to diagnose its performance based on four key attributes of successful public spaces: uses and activities, access and linkages, comfort and image, and sociability. Citizens and local stakeholders then work together to develop both short and long term actions that could be taken in order to transform a place, such as a plaza, park, or vacant lot, or a street into a more vibrant, functional space that attracts people. (ex: Turning a Plaza into Premier Public Space: The Porch, Philadelphia, PA)

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (PPS) is a strategy for transforming public spaces with low-cost, high impact materials, design, and programming. Public spaces, streets, and transit stations are all places that can benefit from these types of projects, which can start with new amenities or public art, followed by events and programs, and then light development strategies for long-term change. Through this assistance, communities are introduced to Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) strategies and best practices, audit a small-scale site with local citizens and stakeholders to evaluate its opportunities, and work with PPS to create a LQC implementation plan. Read more about PPS’s recent LQC project in Detroit, MI in Campus Martius plaza.

The  Power of Ten Exercise (PPS) is a spatial self-diagnostic tool for a community to assess what and where its assets and liabilities are, as well as what is missing and needed to help make it a better place to live in and visit. At the core of the Power of 10 is the idea that any great city or town needs to have at least 10 great places to visit, and then each of those places needs to have at least 10 things to do in order to function as a vibrant space that attracts diverse people. This training focuses on identifying strategies and short and long-term actions for communities to achieve the Power of 10.

Shared Use Agreements (ChangeLab Solutions) are a way to maximizing the potential of public and private facilities for healthy eating and active living. “Shared use” – also called “joint use” or “community use” – occurs when government entities, or sometimes private, nonprofit organizations, agree to open or broaden access to their facilities for community use.  Although shared use is most often used as a strategy to increase physical activity opportunities on school grounds, other government agencies, community-based organizations, and faith-based institutions are successfully implementing shared use arrangements to support both healthy eating and active living. This training introduces communities to several tools on shared use, ranging from model agreements to detailed toolkits.

Supporting Green Infrastructure and Urban Agriculture

Green Infrastructure Valuation Guide (CNT) distills key considerations involved in assessing the economic merits of green infrastructure (GI) practices. This assistance provides communities with a how-to training on utilizing the guide to help decision-makers evaluate options for water management and deciding how, where, and when to incorporate GI in development and redevelopment, as well as what local data to utilize in an evaluation.

Green Values® National Stormwater Management Calculator (CNT) is a valuable stand-alone or companion tool to the Green Infrastructure Valuation Guide that allows users to quickly compare the performance, costs, and benefits of GI to conventional stormwater practices. It takes users through a step-by-step process ending in selection of a stormwater runoff volume reduction goal, outlines a range of GI Best Management Practices (BMPs), and demonstrates in layperson terms the performance results and planning level cost estimates of GI versus conventional stormwater management solutions.

Seeding the City: Promoting Urban Agriculture (ChangeLab Solutions) is an in-depth workshop on how to use land use, zoning, and community partnerships to increase opportunities for urban agriculture – including home gardens, community gardens, and urban farms.  Growing food where people live, work, and play provides bushels of benefits, from community building, to food access, to local economic development, to urban greening.

Meaningfully Engaging Citizens and Stakeholders

The Community Image Survey (CIS) (LGC) is a tool for educating and involving community members in land use planning and urban design by using images rather than words to describe planning and community design alternatives. Communities receive a visual preference survey with between 40 and 60 images of different housing types, street design characteristics or amenities, parking types, and other built and natural environment examples, depending on local needs, which is accompanied by training for the community’s staff or volunteers on how to administer the survey.

TransopolySM (CNT) and the associated Neighborhood TransopolySM and E-TransopolySM are public engagement board games that help community members prioritize long-term transportation investment decisions with a limited amount of public resources.  Participants collaborate with one another to ‘purchase’ improvements that range from improved sidewalks to new transit and road projects with given Transopoly dollars, similar to how the board game Monopoly is played.  This helps participants weigh the costs and benefits of different kinds of improvements, as well as discuss with each other the types of improvements that should take priority in a fiscally constrained environment. Because it is as straightforward and fun as a board game, Transopoly is a helpful public engagement tool that helps to build community consensus around long-range transportation planning with limited public resources.

Design Mini-Charrette (LGC, NCI) is an interactive, intensive version of the National Charrette Institute Charrette SystemTM Charrette.  A collaborative design workshop harnesses the talents and energies of interested parties to begin to create and support a feasible plan for transformative community change. In this public engagement process, a 3-4 person Design Team works with local residents to craft a Smart Growth/Sustainable Development vision for the future of the community, along with illustrative specific recommendations for a site, town center, or neighborhood.

The Project Start-up Intensive (NCI) helps communities to create a unified action plan for a project co-authored by its key partners. NCI assembles the partners of a project (such as the sponsoring organization, stakeholder agencies, and non-governmental organizations) at a 1.5 day workshop in order to create a shared understanding and approach to the project. Appropriate during the project planning phase or for a stalled project, the outcome of the Intensive is to establish guiding principles, goals, a stakeholder process, and a process roadmap that will carry the project through its initial phases towards implementation. (ex: Recovering Rich Roots and Vibrancy: Colfax Avenue, CO)

Supporting Smart Transportation Investments and Strategies

Cargo-oriented Development Optimizer ™  (CNT) helps communities identify freight hubs and spur infill logistics and industrial development around them on underutilized parcels of land. The Optimizer tool utilizes available data to identify existing and potential focus areas for cargo-oriented development (COD), which can help breathe new life into the rail and water hubs that anchor many older communities, reduce truck traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, increase the efficiency of the regional freight network, and bring jobs closer to communities that need them. Communities receive the findings from the Optimizer tool analysis, as well as land use, transportation, economic development, and environmental policy strategies to capitalize on environmentally sustainable COD opportunities and locations.

The Housing and Transportation Affordability Index (CNT) is the only affordability index that models the estimates of families’ transportation costs on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.  The typical American household spends 50 cents out of every dollar on housing and transportation, but until recently communities lacked the tools to make data-driven decisions about both issues at a neighborhood scale. By bridging gaps in federal data, the HTAI brings an increased level of transparency to housing transactions that did not previously exist and allows for a holistic approach to transportation and land use planning.  This workshop help communities to analyze housing and transportation affordability trends locally, examine best practices in planning and policy applications for the HTAI, and build support among stakeholders for policy changes to improve community performance.

National Transit-Oriented Development Database (CNT) provides users free web-based access to data on every existing and proposed fixed-guideway (rail or streetcar systems, for example) transit station area in the U.S.  Users can create database reports to conduct peer transit agency research in other regions to benchmark performance. Reports can be used for systems analysis, to evaluate development location alternatives, or to consider policy options.

Moving from Highways to Boulevards (CNU) helps communities explore whether and how to replace 20th century highways with beautiful, cost-effective at-grade boulevards and a network of surface streets. Successful transitions have led to reconnected and revitalized neighborhoods, pedestrian-friendly places, increased economic development, and higher land values. This assistance focuses on the tools and information necessary to convert highways into boulevards, helping communities craft a plan for building support and achieving their goals. (ex: Reconnecting a Historic Town Center: Twinsburg, OHHighways to ‘Destination Streets’: Blue Springs, MO)

Improving Access to Healthy Food

Getting to Grocery: Tools for Attracting Healthy Food Retail to Underserved Neighborhoods* (ChangeLab Solutions) walks participants through the tools and steps involved in creating a successful grocery attraction and improvement strategy. Attracting a grocery store to an underserved neighborhood not only makes fresh produce and other healthy foods more accessible, it can create living-wage jobs, raise the value of surrounding property, attract other businesses to the area, and create a new destination within walking distance of local residents.