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Webinar: Bridging Transportation and Energy Through Regional Coordination (Text Version)

This is a text version of Webinar: Bridging Transportation and Energy Through Regional Coordination, presented on Feb. 28, 2023.

Stephen Lommele, Joint Office of Energy and Transportation: Thank you for joining us today. We're going to get started in just a minute. Just waiting for everyone to trickle in here. Thanks for joining, everyone. We're going to get started in just a minute. All right. Hi, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us today. I'm Steve Lommele. I'm the Communications and Education Lead for the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. And I will be facilitating today's webinar.

Today's webinar is “Bridging Transportation and Energy Through Regional Coordination.” So we've got some great panelists for you. But before we get started, I'd like to cover a few housekeeping points. So first of all, today's webinar is going to be recorded. And we are going to be taking questions via the chat feature on Zoom. So controls are located at the bottom of your screen. If they aren't appearing, you can move your cursor over to the bottom edge. And you can submit questions using the Q&A window right there at the bottom of your screen.

Next webinar—slide, please. So the webinar is being recorded and might be posted and will be posted on the Joint Office website,, or used internally. If you speak today during the webinar or use video, you are presumed to consent to recording and use of your voice and image. Again, we will be posting these slides on, and then sending out an email, via our distribution list, to make sure that all of you have an opportunity to view those afterwards.

So for today, we are going to do a quick little introduction from the Joint Office. And then we're going to be featuring—we've got some great speakers to talk about, some great work being done in Chattanooga. And I'll talk a little bit more about that in a minute. And then we'll be facilitating conversation among our panelists here at the end.

Now before we get started, I do want to turn it over to the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation Executive Director, Gabe Klein, to kick things off. And for those of you who haven't met Executive Director Klein, he joined the Joint Office back in September of last year. He was the former commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation and Director of the Washington DC Department of Transportation.
And then prior to joining the Joint Office, Gabe was partner and co-founder at CityFi, which is an urban change management group that focuses on helping cities employ new sustainable technologies. So Gabe is really leveraging this background to bring together private and public stakeholders to help the Joint Office achieve its vision of creating a future where everyone can ride and drive electric. Gabe?

Gabriel Klein, Joint Office of Energy and Transportation: Thank you so much, Steve. And also thanks to Steve and Bridget and Justin and the whole team for putting this series together. And I'm really happy about this. And this is one that came about for a few reasons. I was actually in Chattanooga. I was speaking—and it my first speaking engagement in this new job.

And I ran into some of the amazing people in Chattanooga from the MPO, as well as from the city, from Oak Ridge lab, and so forth. And realized that the regional coordination aspect of this was so crucial, was so important. And having worked with MPOs and COGs extensively in my prior lives in Chicago and DC, I know how important it is to have these long-range outcomes-based strategies and plans and to have an organization that is—

I was going to say singularly focused on this. But actually, what they do is pretty—I mean, there's a wide breadth. But fundamentally, thinking about land use, transportation, sustainability, resilience, affordability, economic growth, equity, who else is thinking about these things from a regional perspective, not just a parochial perspective from each jurisdiction?

And so from my experience as a government official, I think they're absolutely essential if these organizations are run well. And everyone I've dealt with, they always have been. And they're really essential to this integrated planning. But also, I would say not just in thinking about the future and planning, but also in seamless cross jurisdictional contracting and partnering on implementation.

When I was in DC, for instance, I worked on putting in the first PayByPhone system in the U.S., the first large-scale PayByPhone system for parking, the first large-scale bike-sharing system. And so whether it's those things or ride hailing your taxis, or now, electric vehicle charging stations, what you don't want is for the public to have a very different experience every time they cross jurisdictional boundaries.

And so the reason we're doing this now is that this type of thinking and planning is absolutely essential. Before the RFPs go out, or when the RFPs go out, to thinking about how is it going to play out regionally, and how is it going to play out along all of those factors that I talked about earlier that the MPOs and COGs think about.

So we have some of the best and the brightest here from Chattanooga, from Oak Ridge, from Sacramento, from MORPC. And so I'm really excited. And I want to thank all of them for coming and spending this time with us. And it's, I think, so much more valuable for them to talk about what they're doing and for us to try to talk about what they're doing. So we're here to facilitate. We're also here to learn right along with everybody that came. So thanks very much. And back to you, Steve.

Stephen Lommele: Thanks so much, Gabe. We're really glad that you joined us today. And we're going to be doing a lot more of these webinars, like Gabe said, in the coming weeks and months focused on different topics that are important to achieving the buildout of a sustainable transportation future.

Before we get started, I did want to ask a few questions just to get a better sense of who we have on the webinar today, and also to help the panelists understand who we've got joining us here today. So with that, we've got our first question up. If you can take a second to answer that: What sector are you from?
All right, we can go ahead and close that poll question and move on to the next one. Oh, that was interesting. If you could go back there for a second. I don't know if that's still possible. All right. So we've got quite a few folks joining us from local governments. Good representation from state governments. A few from the federal government as well. And then I can see we've got many of our other important stakeholders here—utilities, EV charging station operators, manufacturers. So, great to have you all with us today.

All right. How about that next question, please? And what region of the country are you from? The Joint Office has been working with all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and District Colombia as part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program. And, of course, working closely with cities and communities around the country, gearing up for the community—the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Program. And then working also with school districts and transit agencies as part of the EPA Clean School Bus Program and the DOT's Federal Transit Agency Low or No Emission Vehicle Program.

If we can see the results from this one, please. Great. Looks like we've got—most of the country represented here of various regions. I'm happy to have you all with us. I was just talking to North Dakota a minute ago, and they're dealing with heavy snow. I think the Northeast is as well today. So I hope you're all faring well with the weather. Next question, please.

All right. And then we'd like to just understand your relative familiarity with regional planning organizations—what they do, how they factor into transportation planning, that kind of thing. So, if you're not familiar at all, mark yourself as 1. And if you're an expert and extremely familiar, you can select 5.

All right. Let's see those poll results, please. Oh, great. We definitely have some experts on the line. So that's good to see. And then some folks who are learning as well. So, really helpful to have you all share that information. And with that, we'll go ahead and move on to the next slide, please.

Great. So I'd like to introduce our panelists, just as a general disclaimer. The Joint Office doesn't necessarily endorse the specific recommendations of any of today's speakers. But they are subject matter experts, and they do have unique insights into engaging communities, building equity into their programs, working to support transportation electrification, all of that great stuff.

So we know you're going to learn a lot today and leave today with some great ideas that you can consider as you continue your important work. So for the flow of today's webinar, Mina, Melissa, and Rich are going to lead us through a case study. And then we are going to open it up and have Rich and James provide some specific insight on their experiences.

So first of all, we've got Dr. Mina Sartipi. She's the founding director of the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where she's also a Guerry Professor in Computer Science and Engineering. Her research focuses on data-driven approaches to tackle real-world challenges in smart city applications focused on mobility, energy, and health. And she coordinates across disciplinary research teams focused on strategic visions for urbanism and smart city's advancement with a focus on people and the quality of life.

And then we're also joined today by Melissa Taylor. Melissa is the director of Strategic Long Range Planning in the city of Chattanooga. And she oversees big picture plans and programs for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, as well as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization.

She's been in the planning profession for 23 years. And the last 15 of those have been spent focused on direct federal transportation planning and programming for the regions by State Transportation Planning Organization. And she is recognized nationally for her creative and innovative MPO process.

And then we've got Rich Davies from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He's a director of the Sustainable Transportation Program for the Energy Science and Technology Directorate. And he has over 25 years of research and development experience in manufacturing for light- and heavy-duty ground and aerospace vehicles, as well as developing energy saving technologies across the US transportation system. His experience includes over 20 years in the U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, developing and directing federally funded and privately funded research programs.

And then after we hear that case study, we're going to be hearing from James Corless. And he's the executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. And he's overseeing the rollout of one of the nation's most successful bike share systems. He's created the region's innovative Green Means Go program to accelerate infill development. Gabe spoke to the importance of urban planning. And so James can address that.

And then he's also helped the region secure over $1 billion in state funding for local transportation projects, as well as leading the initiation of Civic Lab, which is the region's first government solutions accelerator. And the program's inaugural year, Civic Lab invested $1 million to pilot transportation solutions that leveraged an additional million dollars in external investment in projects such as the autonomous shuttle at the Sacramento at Sacramento State.

And then Brandi Whetstone. For nearly 13 years, Brandi has worked for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. Gabe talked about MORPC, and that's where Brandi comes from. And MORPC is central Ohio's regional council of 80 local governments and regional organizations. So she has served in a variety of leadership roles at MORPC to support regional sustainability-focused programs and initiatives.
And prior to her current position, she served as an assistant director for the former Energy and Air Quality department, which included MORPC's residential energy efficiency program for income-eligible households in Franklin County. So we've got a really great group of speakers here, and I'm really excited to kick things off with the Chattanooga case study. So with that, I will turn it over.

Melissa Taylor, City of Chattanooga: Thanks so much, Steven. Hello, everyone. I'm so excited to be here. Give me a moment to share my screen. All right. I hope everyone can see that there. And again, Melissa Taylor here in Chattanooga. And we're having really nice weather. So sorry for those of you that may not. But let's get started here. We have a packed presentation for you. I will go first. And then I'll turn it over to Rich and on to Mina. And we'll work our way from more of a big picture to more specifics.

All right. OK. I wanted to—big picture here, but—one second. All right. OK. So MPOs. Why are MPOs important in thinking about regional coordination? Well, we are the gatekeepers. Gabe did a fantastic job of setting us up. MPOs are often the conveners. We're collaborators. We bring everybody together. So that's why I feel that MPOs are an important part of this conversation, is that we provide that foundation.
But we don't always know where we're headed. We can't really look into a crystal ball here and have those answers staring back at us, and then we just divvy them out to everyone. So we've got a lot going on. And there's a big changing environment out there in terms of transportation these days and thinking about the future. And especially with a lot of the energy side of the equation and resilience that we're just—we’re sort of—in—I guess my words, planning for the unknown. And I would be remiss if I didn't point out that we are collaborating with Modern Mobility partners on these efforts. And so we've had great success working with them.

I am having a bit of delay so I'm just going to scroll this way. Here we go. And so when we are thinking about planning for the unknown, we don't always know what we don't know. And that means really being open and objective about the process and considering pulling on a variety of different partners.
When we think about electrification and we think about alternative fuels and a number of these other new technologies that are starting to happen in the transportation arena, we don't always have the answers. And so we need to pull on a breadth of people outside of a typical transportation arena. And so we are trying to be very pointed and open about this dialogue.

And then we need to listen to our stakeholders. The public and the people in our communities are the ones using our transportation systems every day. And so we need to be front and center with them and talking about where all are we going and what does this mean for them.

And as we think about that, it's important for us to consider how are we committing to that. What is the assurance that our work will give the public and our partnering stakeholders in the outcomes that we leave with them in these regional transportation plans? So one of the couple of ways that we are doing that, one with respect to smart technologies and the other on the electrification side, is that we're trying to weave every bit of that dialogue through the planning process.

And as I mentioned, Modern Mobility has done a fabulous job working with us to see this as a team approach with all of our stakeholders and our partners, the public involvement processes that we've done. So each step of the way, we're having dialogue about what smart technologies means to us and the community and how will we actually look at electrification as we begin to think about projects.

We engaged over 66 members, I believe, in our Community Advisory Committee. And that's a pretty large committee. But again, as I mentioned, we're really trying to draw on a lot of different stakeholders and professionals in our process, this go-around for our 2050 plan. And as you can see here, we did a variety of public involvement tactics. We used a lot of Miro board doing all of our virtual sessions. And we got a lot of good information, a lot relating to environmental sustainability.

There were plenty of questions and interest in electric vehicles, including electric bike share additions to those stations that we have in Chattanooga. But then also just more along the lines of efficiency, how the autonomous side of the vehicular aspects are changing, and what that may mean for safety, and things like that. So we heard a lot from a lot of different people about these approaches and new opportunities for us in the future.

So setting that up to be successful in our regional transportation plan meant that we really needed to have a good solid vision that incorporated those things into the process. But at the same time, we heard a lot from the public about safety, about equity, and resilience. And so what we have attempted to do with our vision and the structure of our project evaluation process is to have an umbrella of safety, equity, and resilience.

And then among that umbrella, we're looking at all of these different types of projects, including electric vehicles and the electric vehicle network and any policies that we might assemble underneath this umbrella. So we're trying to cross check that we're doing these things all under this larger umbrella.
And I would point out that we have two key pieces of our vision. We have our “propel,” because we want to propel the region into a stronger economy. And we want to do that with efficient and sustainable transportation network. But then we also want to make sure that we're “pioneering” innovative technology. We feel like things are changing rapidly. We feel like there's a lot that we don't know about the future. So we just want to be ready and stand fully charged with moving forward, whatever the case may be.

And so in thinking about that, we needed to make sure that we had a good, robust understanding of what exists now. So you can see there are a few statistics here about our technology and electric vehicle infrastructure. 67% of our 476 signals within our region have known communication abilities. We think that's fairly high. So that's good for us right now. Obviously, we want to move forward and see much more of the system reaching that capacity for actually being able to have communication abilities.

We do have signal preemption for emergency vehicles and also our transit authority. We've had that for a few years now. And then we have 53% of our 66 publicly accessible EV charging locations in the TPO area in equity emphasis areas. So we've done a lot of GIS mapping related to equity and established some equity emphasis areas that we are now going back and doing Justice40 overlay to make sure that we are also looking at some of those more recent additions to equity considerations.

And then also, David mentioned in the introduction about land use and the importance of that. We also have considered our EV charging stations by land use type so that we can get a sense of where they would be—where they're structured now and where we might have opportunity in the future.

And so we took that information as existing conditions, and we hosted a very large transportation summit with partners from all over the region. And we brought in other speakers from the surrounding area. And part of that was really to have this very pointed conversation that's beyond the typical transportation dialogue with people about electric vehicles, sustainability, and resilience.

So as you can see here, we had a number of wonderful speakers. And we also had our mayors and a former retired Volkswagen Group of North America chief operating officer, who spoke to us about the future of transportation and considering autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. So that was pretty exciting for us.

And it helped to actually inform how we were setting up the criteria for our mobility, equity, and economy in the plan and this session that we had to review how are we addressing that with respect to equity. And as you can see here, we established this criteria to look at electric vehicle opportunities following this session with our mobility, equity, and economy panel.

City of Chattanooga is pretty excited by the fact that we just hired past year our first chief equity officer. And so we heard from her directly about her thoughts and sentiments on how we're doing some of these things. And so that is definitely important to keep in mind when we're thinking about moving forward on electrification. We had a number of other partners, as you can see there.

And that all culminated into some very important draft maps for our plan that is not yet adopted. We hope to adopt it by the end of the year. But as part of that plan, we have these two very important maps. And one is what we're considering the electric vehicle opportunity areas. That was where that criteria looked at several factors and considered maybe the best places for us to hone in on future electrification.

And then also the establishment of a Smart Corridor Network. And we feel like that will help us overlay all of the various components when we're thinking about electric vehicles or if we're looking at that alternative fuels corridors. That we're thinking about all of those in a holistic fashion in terms of the smart network.

We also have a number of recommendations coming out of the plan related to carving off some money specifically for this and make sure that there's federal money available to do a variety of these types of projects and infrastructure that will support us moving forward. And then also just considering policies in—like zoning case review and setting up new zoning codes. So we're doing some of those things as well.

Next steps for the plan include—actually, just finishing the writing of the document. We’ve written a lot of technical memorandums along the way so far. But we expect to finish the plan by the end of this year and hope to have a final publication of all of the investments in January of 2024.

Here’s my contact information and my principal staff person, Anne Welch, if you have a need to follow up with us or want some more detailed information. All of this is available on our website. I think I could probably do two full workshops on all of this great stuff that’s happening, but I do want to leave time to turn it over to our other speakers here.

But with that, I’ll just leave you with a couple of things. I want to give a shout out to Electric Power Board. They've been doing some amazing work in Chattanooga to actually keep a repository of all of the various electric vehicle work that's going on, special projects or programs that are going on. And so they're like our—they have created this leaders forum, and they're leading the charge on that. So I want to give a plug for them.

Also a plug for TDOT and GDOT in terms of their national electric vehicle infrastructure plans. As we all know that that was something that needed to happen very quickly. And I believe Tennessee may have been one of the first to get their federal approval. So I want to give a shout out to both of our Departments of Transportation for that.

And then we have a new chairman that's focused on some work in autonomous vehicles with our transit authority. So got a lot of good information out there and things that are going on. So with that, I'm going to turn it over to Rich. And Rich is going to talk about his work at ORNL. Rich?

Rich Davies, Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Thanks, Melissa. I appreciate that very much. And Melissa's down in Chattanooga. They're about 90 minutes away from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. And I'm sitting here at the National Transportation Research Center. We have a great number of collaborations with our colleagues down there and look forward to future collaborations.

In the spirit of regional coordination, we wanted to introduce one of the things that we are doing to essentially bring together stakeholders. We've actually formed a consortia in the state. We've called it TennSMART. It is essentially an incorporated consortia inside the state of Tennessee.

One of the things that we did here was we recognized that as we move forward with commercializing technologies in the future, whether it be intelligent transportation systems, electric vehicle infrastructure, we knew that there was going to be a lot of coordination between state entities, federal entities, universities, national laboratories.

And we really decided that in order to facilitate that commercialization—because much of the commercialization was going to happen under the authority of people that had the commercial authority to operate the roads, which is the TDOTs in the cities. So what we decided to do was to form a consortium. Our mission really is to bring together leaders from the public and private sector to accelerate the deployment and development of new intelligent mobility technologies. And really we're—[INAUDIBLE]

Justin Rickard, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Hey, Rich, looks like you're on mute.

Rich Davies: –DOT, the Tennessee Department of Environmental and Ecology. And maybe go one more slide, if you don't mind, Melissa. I'll talk through some of the things that we're trying to do. Really trying to share knowledge, resources, and identify and build networks inside of this city.

We have the luxury. Because we've built these networks over the past five years, we probably have no less than 10 DOE- and DOT-funded projects in the state and the region, where we're conducting research and trying to do implementations and demonstrations on the road. And really trying to—how to build and interact with the supporting infrastructure, manage the big data that inevitably comes with all this, and looking for efficiency gains in what is an otherwise congested area. Engage policymakers—this is a big deal because the federal government, the state governments, only have so much bandwidth to really talk about policy making. And we wanted to make sure we positioned Tennessee as a leader and model for other states.

So the next slide, if you don't mind, Melissa. We ultimately wanted to make sure that we focused on several things. One of them was, you see electric vehicles and electrification in general is a strong focus of ours. You'll see some of our members that are stakeholders in all of this. And we really are looking at electric vehicles and electrification.

We think connectivity and automation of both the vehicles, as well as the intelligent transportation infrastructure. We're a very heavy trucking and freight corridor state. And we're trying to make sure that we can do research development and implement things to make that safer and make the freight efficiency higher.

Cybersecurity is always a concern of ours when we're getting to more intelligent systems and vehicles. And really in the larger cities, the multimodal commuting and how we can support and enable that, particularly in a very heavily congested Nashville as well as Memphis area inside the state, is a real focus for us.

So ultimately, if—maybe one more slide. If you look at some of the members, this is where our strength is. You look across the top, we have basically fleet operators and manufacturers, people who are moving a lot of materials around the state, a lot of the consulting firms that are trying to understand how to learn and improve. We have Electric Power Board and TVA, who is really trying to understand how are they going to supply the electricity to the system for electric vehicles as well as the system.

And then we come with a lot of supporting and engaging organizations, both from a research and development standpoint. So really, from this, over the past few years, we really have built a fairly excellent portfolio of collaborative research. And the idea was to create a highly efficient and well-coordinated group of people inside of the state that have one phone call away from the people that you need. And that, ultimately, we can effectively compete to make Tennessee more effective in this space.

And I think that was my last side. And with that, maybe we're going to transition to Mina, who's going to talk about some of the specific work that's happening down in their area. And, Mina, take it away.

Mina Sartipi, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga: Thank you, Rich. Good afternoon, everyone. And I think it was a great discussion with Melissa, talking about the regional aspect, and Rich, talking about the state aspect. I will be talking about some of the specific projects that is going on in Chattanooga. Next, please, Melissa.

So you have heard from both Melissa and Rich, actually, about the collaborative nature of city of Chattanooga. And I think that has been one of the main factors that we have been able to do some of these projects, how different teams come together to work on the same mission.

And you heard about EPB, Electric Power Board, which is the power and telecommunication company in this—publicly owned in Chattanooga—is the one that had deployed the fiber a little bit over 10 years ago. So the whole city has fiber. And that has been the backbone or the infrastructure in order to be able to do some of the projects, including the vision that City of Chattanooga has to be a city-wide testbed for next generation of transportation, including electric vehicle, connected, and autonomous vehicle. Next, please.

In order to work toward that, we have been working very closely with the city and different entities to be building testbed. And we call it testbed-as-a-service for a reason that it's—on the left side, you see like a map of where the testbeds are in the city. There are different colors. The green ones are the ones in the urban environment that has been up and running for almost four years now. We have been collecting data from those and then running several projects related to [INAUDIBLE].

The one on the blue dots are the ones along the highway that it's going to—it's in the process of being finished now. And that could be used for more of autonomous vehicles. The ones in the red and the shaded area, when they are all going to be done, we are going to be looking at 100 intersections that are smart intersections, which on the right side, you would see that by smart intersections, we mean there are several IoT devices, cameras, Lidars, radars, and air quality and audio sensors that are deployed at intersections.

We also have different edge computing capabilities. So we process some of the data right there at the edge or using the fiber. We send it back to the data center on campus and process them. And we also have different wireless communication capabilities to be able to test different technologies.
And we built it in a way that is beyond just hardware. We have built a data infrastructure so others have—would be able—and in fact, currently, we have several research labs and universities that are working on this testbed with us. And we are collecting this data, analyzing it. And it can be—raw data or analyzed data that can be available to others.

Next, please. One of the projects that I'll be talking about just related to connectivity is the project that it's—we have several partners on this—is how to improve—in terms of the energy efficiency and the emissions, how to improve their—how to optimize the traffic controllers with the goal of improving the energy efficiency and emissions by 20%.

And this is just one example of the different projects. And we also have projects related to public safety in terms of vulnerable road users—pedestrians, cyclists, and such. And how safe our roads are, or in this case, how are we going to be able to optimize the traffic controllers in a way that we are considering also VR use.

So when we are optimizing these, we are not only looking at the length of the queues and the number of vehicles that are waiting to pass in intersections, but also what's the situation with the pedestrian light and how do we have enough time for, for example, a person in a wheelchair or a parent pushing a stroller have enough time to cross the intersection or not.

And at the bottom, you'll see some of the ongoing results of the research that we have been able to improve the travel time by almost 20%. And what you see on the right bar graph is showing the improvements of the energy that was used—that is the excessive amount of energy that was caused because of the traffic controllers. You see that at different intersections along one of the corridors in Chattanooga.

Next, please. So we—and you can keep going, Melissa, on this one. So this is a work that we've—EPB has been working on in terms of understanding when—so the first part that I talked about was more related to connected vehicles and how can we improve the traffic state and traffic flow and such. So now we are moving a little bit more toward the EV. What is the trend in the state? This shows about how the state of Tennessee that—the number of EVs that are currently about—this actually has improved by over 10% in the last quarter, the number of EV.

So we are expecting the growth on this one. And in the next slide, you see that, more specifically for the Hamilton County, which, the city of Chattanooga is part of Hamilton County, we see the number of EVs and also the type of EVs. It's more than 90 different vehicle models of vehicles we see in Chattanooga. And as I mentioned, these are growing. And in the next slide, it also shows about the—where are the charging stations.

We have about 280 public charging ports in Hamilton County, 35 fast-charging ports, and also 173 Level Two ports. One of the things that—can you continue, please, Melissa? So I'm talking fast because I know we are running out of time. So this is some of the new programs that has been happening in last year about the EV growth credit, commercial charger incentives, commercial EV rates, and also free charging/public-charging stations that—it has a fast charging that it would be available to those that are driving EVs.

So what we are working on is, now, how can we bring this nexus of transportation, energy and people? So in the next slide, you see that what I was talking about at the beginning was the top layer. The transportation layer talks about how can we get data from connected vehicle, how can we get data from different IoT devices, and what you see there, how can we monitor the traffic state and manage the traffic.

But—and also, what you see on the left side is about the grid state. Because one of the things that—when we came together working on this project, bringing nexus in transportation and people and energy together was—when charging stations are being added, as more people are purchasing EVs, charging either at home or public station, how are we going to be addressing the challenge of the grids, and how are we going to be ensuring that we can provide the power that they need?

So that is why we are continuing our partnership with EPB in terms of analyzing the grid layer. And then on the right side, we're talking about the user. So if the user wants to go to a charging station, currently, the charging stations are not all connected with a single app. So they have to—a user has to use different apps to find the available charging stations. And which one are available? What is the actual rate? Are they working or not?

So that would be the part that—I want to get the need for the users and being able to connect that with the real-time traffic and the state of the grid to be able to tell a person that this is a charging station that you can go to, potentially reserve it, and being able to know exactly how long it's going to take for them, and what would be the price depending on the demand at that time, at that location.

This is recently funded. It was in one of Melissa's the slides, that we have quite a few partners both from academia and also industry as well. Thank you. This was my last slide. And I think we're going to be happy to answer questions on that.

Stephen Lommele: Mina, thanks so much. And thanks to Rich and Melissa, too. It's just fascinating to see in Chattanooga how many different things are being taken into account—different modes of transportation, new technologies like connected and automated vehicles and smart traffic control. And then the different types of vehicles—EVs, medium-duty, heavy-duty vehicles, all of that, the grid impacts and accessibility.

So it is really a testament to how much regional planning organizations are thinking about when they're doing transportation planning. And we've got two additional panelists on with us today. James Corless from Sacramento Area Council of Governments and Brandi Whetstone from MORPC in Mid-Ohio. I was wondering maybe James and Brandi—we'll start things off with James. Can you tell us a little bit about how this syncs with what you do in Sacramento?

James Corless, Chief Executive Officer for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments: Sure, absolutely happy to. And greetings, everybody, across the country. So, I really appreciate the focus on regional planning and regional agencies and the great work that Chattanooga is doing. And I'm really interested to hear what Brandi is going to say. But I think—I think one of our challenges, which is an opportunity, is to try to take what we have typically done around transportation and land use and housing and try to figure out how a clean, zero-emission future for mobility fits into that and is not siloed.

And I think—I would say one of the challenges we still have is a lot of our zero emission and tech and autonomous sits in a little—a really cool, interesting ecosystem, if you will, by itself. And on the other end—and we deal with all of this stuff—we are trying to get affordable housing. We are trying to figure out what's the future of public transportation. We are trying to figure out what's the future of point-to-point mobility. So you don't have to own a car, especially if you're in a lower income area. And we're trying to figure out how these two things can actually be synergistic, rather than sit separately.

So a huge shout out, by the way, to the [U.S. National] Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, because I think that just the agencies—HUD, EPA, DOE, DOT—working on that blueprint and going beyond—I don't want to say it's simple, but simply zero-emission vehicles. But to think a little bit about how we can really, truly integrate a lot of these things for the benefit of communities, to put a huge focus on equity and disadvantaged communities and racial disparities. And make that—keep that front and center so we don't keep these things completely separate.

Stephen Lommele: Thanks, James. Brandi, what's your take?

Brandi Whetstone, Sustainability Officer at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission: Oh, yes. Thank you for having me. And, yeah, I also appreciate hearing from our speakers today and from James. I'm the sustainability officer with MORPC. And so I can speak to—at a high level, we're covering a lot of similar types of initiatives and challenges that have already been mentioned. We promote multimodal transportation options across the region. We want to ensure that we have a high quality of life while also making sure that we're being sustainable and equitable and inclusive in our processes.

So it is important to be able to integrate all of these different priorities and help uplift the region and uplift our communities as a result. I think it's interesting the way that things have grown over time. When you talk about transportation planning, that's not an area that I'm very engaged with. I'm not a transportation planner. But from the sustainability programming side of things, I've seen some shifts over time in which these emerging technologies and the focus on climate change and having healthy air quality has really helped to integrate that work even more in thinking about overall quality of life.

So while we have our long-range transportation planning for the MPO, we've also tried to align our regional sustainability agenda with several goals of that transportation plan so that we can work towards some common goals that bridge transportation and energy and all of these important things together. So making sure that we have some aligned goals there. And that we're also focusing on how to integrate partners into this process. And in the end, reducing emissions to help us meet those federal air quality standards and support better public health.

So, yeah, I think there's a lot that—typically, this work has been somewhat siloed in different departments. And we've been able to work over time through the creation of our regional goals to better align some of these areas. But I think it's still a work in progress, and we're still trying to figure out how to best plug in different expertise and different areas to bring them together.

Stephen Lommele: Thanks, Brandi. We did have a question that came in. And I think this is for anyone who wants to take it. Mina, Melissa, and Rich, if you want to come on camera, too. We'd love to engage you in this conversation. But, I mean, we've been thinking a lot about charging along corridors and how that can facilitate vehicle movement, goods movement with light-duty vehicles, medium-duty, heavy-duty vehicles.

But how does Level Two charging play into things? Are you thinking about how you get charging into people's homes or workplaces with multifamily programs? And then how do you balance the need for charging with that equity component, where there may be other needs related to mobility?

Melissa Taylor: So I'd be happy to take that and then let Mina and/or Rich follow up. But I think that we're still in the trying-to-figure-that-out stage. I think that there are programs going on. And EPB is, as Mina mentioned, really looking at a variety of those tactics for us. It is not typically something that we would do in that typical transportation planning arena. And we're trying to do that now or trying to get up to speed and feel like we understand enough about those efforts to actually weave them into the planning process and set the stage for our foundation to be able to do that.

I don't—Mina or Rich, do you want to add something to that? I'm feeling like we're still just trying to get our arms around all of that planning side of the foundation.

Mina Sartipi: Yes, correct. And there are activities going on as we speak. There are a couple of nonprofit organizations, one of them being Green Spaces, that are doing several community engagement in terms of understanding where are the areas to invest in underserved communities to ensure that actually underserved communities will be getting public charging stations.

And working closely with EPB, there are plans on having—using them potentially for microgrid purposes as well for using renewable resources. So there are several moving parts in terms of that. And also going beyond just deploying charging stations, how to ensure everyone would also have access to EVs and not just having charging stations in neighborhoods. So there are also activities in terms of co-op programs, carpooling, talking with employers. So there are several parallel activities and discussions. And some beyond discussions are actually closer to being deployment going on in the city.

Melissa Taylor: Yeah, we also have the entrepreneurial focus as well. And CO.LAB is looking at—they've actually shifted some of their recent work to be starting to consider a launch on sustainable mobility. So I think some of their work will also help set the stage for how we're going to do that well in a more public environment.

James Corless: Steven, if I could just jump in quickly. One of the things we've realized, even though as a regional planning agency just like Brandi in MORPC in Columbus, Ohio, our job is to see across challenges and problems in different agencies. Nevertheless, there are other partner agencies of ours that we need to be really working closely with it.

So we have an MOU with our local utility provider named SMUD. We also have an MOU with an agency here in California that's super important, which is our local air districts, who are responsible for reducing air pollution but also accelerating zero-emission vehicles. And we have a pilot program that has been stood up. Again, not really as a support role with our air district. And, actually, our local housing authority that has put Level Two charging into affordable housing, about 10 sites around Sacramento.

And again, maybe like our partners in Chattanooga, these are experiments. These are pilots, right? We're trying to learn from these and understand usage, understand barriers, understand opportunities. I will say, too, we had a float. This is not—but most charging, at least for us here, the way we see it is at home or at work right now, right? There's a big question about where public charging is, what role that plays, and how do we deploy it effectively.

So the at home, especially, we can work with our affordable housing providers and our housing authorities, those are the places, along with programs, to actually allow for fractional ownership or car rental rather than ownership. We're just trying to figure out that through the pilot program.

Steve Lommele: I think that's really interesting, James. And I want to maybe pose this to everyone else, too. I mean, at the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, we're bringing together energy and transportation at the federal level. We've seen that happen at the state level with the NEVI Formula program, where DOTs are working closely with their energy offices and utilities. So this seems to be like a big priority for regional planning organizations, too, and how are your organizations kind of changing your approach to transportation energy planning to bring these two sectors together as things become more and more electrified?

Just wondering, for example, in Tennessee, one of the participants in today's webinar noted that TVA wasn't mentioned as a partner. Are you working with the utility in Chattanooga?

Rich Davies: So maybe I'll just look at it from a TVA standpoint. TVA is very engaged. They're trying to manage this transition of the power supply across their entire service area. So, understanding where their infrastructure is located, the supply of that power today, where they might need new infrastructure in the future, is a big part of the collaborative discussion we have down here. TVA is a member of the TennSMART consortium. And I think I talk to TVA about every two days.

Mina Sartipi: Steve, I did see that question. And I think, actually, it was in Rich's slide. TVA was, and he mentioned them. But it was both TVA and EPB. They were members, yeah.

Melissa Taylor: Well, and when we're so heavily embedded, it's a little easy to not cite someone who is so upfront and center for us in what's happening.

Steve Lommele: How about you, Brandi? What do things look like in Ohio?

Brandi Whetstone: Yeah, I was going to say speaking to partnerships, more specifically, I really have to acknowledge the importance of those regional partnerships. Back several years ago, an organization called Smart Columbus formed—when they won the U.S. DOT's Smart City Challenge.

So we had a federal investment in the region to help us with this programming and to really catapult electric vehicle adoption in the region, along with goals around decarbonization and electrification with additional investments. That included one of our utilities at American Electric Power. They provided some funding and support, which really helped to advance electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure. They provided incentives to businesses and local governments.

When we talk about aligning around common goals, I think that's really where we had a big push to start to look at—more broadly at sustainability, climate change, and how we can all work together to advance these important initiatives. And then I think something that's been particularly successful has been continuing that partnership beyond that initial federal grant and expanding that partnership moving forward and working with other partners, not only regionally but across the state.

For example, right now, they're conducting a regional electric vehicle infrastructure siting study. It's still in process, but it's going to help us be more proactive about looking at all of the important considerations around where we can have connectivity across political boundaries and looking at where we can have the most benefits to our region. And we have a lot of rural counties in our 15-county service area. So we need to look at what those needs are and where those charging deserts are. And making sure that it's serving everyone.

Steve Lommele: Yeah, maybe a follow on to that. There were a number of participants who noted the maps that you showed in your presentation, Melissa—the opportunity areas and the smart corridors. There was—first question is, are those available anywhere? And then how is that mapping influencing implementation by local governments and private sector companies that fund or operate chargers?

Melissa Taylor: So they are available on the website. They're actually interactive ArcGIS story maps. So folks can zoom in and out. That was one of our efforts to make sure that the public is walking along with us through the planning process and understand the material and information available to them in their neighborhoods or in the region as a whole. So we can get those links out in the chat box here shortly for you guys to go and look at them.

And then as far as feeding into, how does that then translate into projects and implementation? Really, for the Regional Transportation Plan, when federal dollars are a key part of how we deploy any transportation system, having the foundation and money that's going to be set aside and positioned for supporting these things is—probably one of the bigger issues is making sure that we're doing that.
And then trying to utilize the equity emphasis areas and some of these GIS tactics that we've deployed to say, are we doing that well? Are we prioritizing, and are we setting the stage for good projects that are going to happen in the places we need them like the opportunity areas for electrification?

And this is also where the more experienced professionals on the call related to energy or electrification in general can give us more information about—as we move along over time, are there better places for us to be making statements about opportunities? And we'll start to change or shift the location of those things based on the needs that we end up seeing as we move along in time. I hope that answered the question.

Steve Lommele: Yeah, absolutely. And I think maybe a question for all of you, too, a follow on to that is, it sounds like you've all described maybe various types of communities within your MPOs: some larger, some smaller type jurisdictions. And I assume that different communities have different levels of expertise and different resources. So in your opinion, what initial actions should jurisdictions be prioritizing when planning for electrified transportation systems, and how can MPOs or other entities within a region or state support them?

James Corless: Maybe I’ll try to start that one, Steven. And I think—I’m hoping, especially for the poll question earlier, the big part of the audience that is not as familiar with regional planning agencies—I would just urge you to get familiar with MPOs or regional councils. We have different acronyms. And just even in our pretty massive geographic region here in Central California and inland California and around our state capital, going all the way to Lake Tahoe and—my jurisdictions go from 1.5 million people to 800, right? So—

Steve Lommele: Yeah.

James Corless: And I think there's a real—so there's a real role for regional agencies to—in many regards, but especially for EV and electrification planning—to act on behalf of, with, and then on behalf of the smaller jurisdictions. We really do planning services now for a lot of our smaller jurisdictions. We are taking over things, maybe, they used to do 20, 30 years ago. And I think EV electrification is no different.
So I—it's—I just don't think a lot of our smaller local governments have the capacity, frankly, to be able to step forward and figure out their electrification strategy because they've got so many other front burner problems to solve. But that is where—I think even through NEVI and the DOE grants, I'm really hopeful that you can build some capacity regionally and across agencies, not just the MPOs and the regional councils, to be able to act on behalf of our smaller jurisdictions.

Steve Lommele: Yeah, that's really helpful perspective, especially as we think about some of the large federal programs that the Joint Office is supporting like the NEVI Formula Program and the forthcoming Charging and Fueling Infrastructure program. I think a lot of communities are going to look to their regional planning organizations to be helpful partners in helping them think strategically about where charging is needed and what kind of charging is needed.

I know we're about at time. Well, I wanted to give you all just a quick second. If you've got 5 to 10 seconds to share any parting thoughts from today's webinars. And we'll start with you, Melissa.

Melissa Taylor: I don't—I really feel like this is the first of a really important continuous dialogue. There are going to be such big differences in what's happening in every community and region across the United States. And I just—I commend the Joint Office for tackling this in a series of webinars and conversations. So I'm just so thankful to have been able to be here and share some of what we're doing. And happy to help and share our work and learn from others. So thank you so much.

Steve Lommele: Yeah. Thanks so much, Melissa. Thanks for joining us. How about you, Brandi?

Brandi Whetstone: I echo a lot of what Melissa said. I think it's great to hear about—I think we have way more in common than what we think when we start to talk. We really have a core mission of convening our region, and also being a resource to our members and our partners. And also providing that technical assistance and support where it's needed for our members that perhaps don't have the capacity to take on everything.

So we really try to bring together all of the great partners and resources that are needed to move forward. And we try to really build in how we approach sustainability in that process as well. But I think it's still a work in progress. I think that there's a lot more to come here in Central Ohio. And we already have a really strong foundation here with some of the work that's been happening and the progress that we're seeing. So thank you for having me.

Steve Lommele: Yeah. Thanks so much, Brandi. And, James, we'll finish off with you from the MPO perspective.

James Corless: Yeah, I appreciate the question. And I definitely have a thought on this, which is—again, we're really excited about the Joint Office and DOE and DOT starting to work together, that we want to see that keep going. The wonderful thing with the—we're so glad the IIJA infrastructure bill, the Inflation Reduction Act has a lot of these programs now that provide resources.

However, those programs are still pretty siloed. And even the Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, the four agencies of DOT, DOE, EPA, and HUD, I believe, could really stand up something very exciting where some potential pilot programs with metropolitan regions, big and small, urban and rural—much like Brandi's MORPC one, the Smart City's grant, I think you could take that idea and get regions to really come together and challenge us to develop these kind of relationships with their utilities, with our university and our research centers, with the private sector, because we are still way too siloed in these issues, especially around electrification decarbonization and basically everything else we do. So I think many of us stand ready to try to bust down those silos. And thanks for having us all.

Steve Lommele: Yeah. Thank you, James. And we'll definitely take that recommendation to heart. Mina and Rich, I know we're about to wrap up. Anything you want to offer before we close?

Rich Davies: I'm really grateful to have a Joint Office. [LAUGHTER] The decarbonization of the grid, and bringing on electrification of vehicles and the buildings, and—this is going to be a major technological challenge. So regional coordination, I think, is going to be essential.

Steve Lommele: Thanks, Rich.

Mina Sartipi: I'm also very excited. And I think what's—also, I want to echo what James was mentioning that it's—the importance of regional collaborations. And especially for me, coming from the university, collaborations between the university and the regions is a very important thing. And I think Joint Office would provide more opportunities for those.

Steve Lommele: Well, thank you so much, all of you. And sorry to run over on time. Really appreciate you joining us today. We are going to be doing more of these. We've got the slide up here where you can find out about future webinars and subscribe to our email. So thanks again. This webinar will be posted as a recording in the coming days. And I want to thank you all again. Take care everyone.

Brandi Whetstone: Thank you so much.