Evaluators Sought for Active Transportation Program Applications

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Volunteers are needed to review projects that aim to improve conditions for bicycling and walking. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) is seeking to expand its team of volunteers that will help evaluate and score applications for the second round of Active Transportation Program (ATP) funding.

Last summer, the ATP received over 770 applications for programs and projects aiming to encourage bicycling and walking, and CTC staff anticipate receiving a similar number of applications in 2015. To help them determine the best projects, they are looking for a large group of volunteers to evaluate projects against the recently released guidelines and help determine which projects to fund.

There was only enough funding for one third of the projects that applied last year, and both the amount of funds and number of applications should be similar this year.

To be as fair as possible, applications will be distributed to reviewers so that no one evaluates a project in which they may have a personal interest. In addition, evaluators will team up with at least one other person to talk about the application and come up with a consensus score.

“Last year, some of the scores were very widely different for some of the applications, and we didn’t know why,” said Laurie Waters, a transportation planner working on the ATP. “That’s why we want the reviewers to talk to each other.”

Volunteers “don’t have to have incredible expertise,” said Waters. But they should be generally interested in active transportation modes, be able to be objective, and “they really have to be sure they can do the time commitment.”

Applications are due to the CTC on June 1. It takes about a month to prepare them for evaluation, so reviewers start some time around the end of June. The deadline for finishing the evaluations is July 31.

Waters says that on the last round, reviewers averaged about one to two hours per application, and each person worked on twenty to forty applications. The total time commitment this year will depend on how many applications are received and how many reviewers volunteer.

“We hope to get a mix of people from agencies, cities, and counties, as well as advocates and others who are interested,” said Waters.

Our own Damien Newton once volunteered as a scorer for the Caltrans District 7 Safe Routes to Schools grant review committee and believes the collaborative process is key.
“Maybe it was low expectations, maybe it was erring on the side of being nice, but some of the individual scores were kind of nuts,” writes Newton. “Some of the worst applications were scored in the 90s and some of the best in the 80s (on a scale of 1-100). We had to start having two or even three people review projects to help balance some of the crazy scoring. You need to have enough volunteers so that every project gets thoroughly vetted.”

Reviewers will be trained by teleconference in May, and CTC staff will provide support throughout the process.

Interested parties should send an email stating their interest and including their contact information to Waters here by April 15.

  • Chris Morfas

    It’s a good learning opportunity for those who want to see the state-of-the-practice in terms of what cities and counties are proposing…One wonders if the CTC and Caltrans need volunteers to review their highway project proposals; perhaps those programs, unlike the Active Transportation Program, are adequately staffed.

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