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Livability in Transportation Guidebook

3. Planning and Process

3.1. Introduction

Today's economic, environmental, and social conditions have created a different set of transportation system demands compared to 40-50 years ago, when most MPO and State transportation planning processes were established. This changing context requires a different set of planning processes. Established project development processes and organizational structures that worked well in the past may prove limiting for transportation projects to achieve today's livability goals. State, regional, and local agencies have moved beyond established procedures to better address common transportation challenges. They have changed project delivery processes, including using alternative performance measures, outreach methods, and implementation strategies so that transportation projects can improve community livability. Other communities have achieved livability goals working within existing project planning and delivery structures.

3.2. Case Studies

Charlotte Integrated Land Use and Transit Planning

Although Federal policies and guidelines require integration of community goals with transit projects, many communities find this a challenging task. The City of Charlotte has successfully embraced integrated land use and transit planning, producing high transit ridership while accomplishing various livability goals. The city followed required Federal and State processes, and introduced unique local and regional planning and regulatory mechanisms. Charlotte began with a comprehensive regional growth vision, an aggressive policy and infrastructure response to this vision, and an organizational structure of city departments that encourages a broad-based livability focus.

Centers, Corridors, and Wedges Plan

Illustration of a long-term growth framework for the five primary transportation and development corridors in the Charlotte area, from the Centers, Corridors, and Wedges Plan.

Illustration of a long-term growth framework for the five primary transportation and development corridors in the Charlotte area.
Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, 2009.1

Overcoming the Challenge

Charlotte based its transit planning program on a broad vision (see chapter 2) that tied the city's land use planning future to a series of growth corridors featuring high-capacity transit. The 2025 Integrated Land Use and Transit Plan was created to support the regional land use vision; to expand choices in mode of travel, principally through development of a regional transit system; and to support economic growth and sustainable development. An extensive public outreach effort coupled with technical analysis of transit feasibility fostered community understanding and consensus around the recommended plan, which called for phased implementation of various transit technologies along the five corridors. The Plan galvanized community support for sustainable growth supported by transit investments, with a half-cent sales tax passed through referendum providing dedicated revenue projected at $1 billion over 20 years.

LYNX and Streetcar System Map

Map of the LYNX and Streetcar system in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, 2010.2

"The (transit planning) process has helped us broaden our perspective. Transportation is not the only driver but one of many considerations (of community building)."

-Laura Harmon, Assistant Director-Planning Services
Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Department3

Detailed planning for the transit corridors started immediately after the sales tax referendum passed. The major investment studies (MIS) for all five corridors were conducted in 1999 and 2000, and these recommended a combination of light rail, BRT, streetcar, commuter rail, and enhanced bus service. In 1999-2003, the city developed a series of land use policies and regulations to enable transit-supportive land uses to ensure transit's success and achieve the vision. These included transit station area planning principles, detailed station area plans for each of the 64 stations, and TOD zoning and other regulatory changes.

Framework Elements for TOD in Charlotte

This flowchart diagrams the complex process used by the City of Charlotte (between 1994 and 2006) to develop a vision, broad policies, and plans and implementation strategies for transit and land use in metro Charlotte. Click image to view text description.

Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, 2009.4

The city was also careful to ensure that the technical analysis behind the transit projects reflected land use conditions and community vision. It maintains the region's travel demand model, and has developed a better calibrated model that incorporates multimodal travel demand around future station areas to use for transit ridership forecasts. With the Blue Line now built, the Charlotte Department of Transportation and CATS are utilizing data from the Blue Line for even more accurate ridership forecasts for the other four corridors. To ensure that development around future stations was aligned with transit goals and vision, the city created a development response program, a unique process and planning approach to make sure that new transit-supportive development would fit the city's expectations (see Chapter 5, Partnership).

Outcomes and Results

The Charlotte case study illustrates successful integration of land use and transportation planning and decisionmaking from the visioning effort, through project design and planning to project implementation. The decision to build transit was coupled with complementary land use planning, strategic infrastructure investments, and transit-supportive policies and regulations to ensure the success of the project.

The Blue Line light rail transit service opened in November 2007 with 15 stations serving Uptown (Charlotte's central business district) and neighborhoods on the south side of the city. In 2008, a year after its opening, ridership totaled 14,000 passengers daily, far exceeding the 1999 projected ridership of 9,100 trips. The city estimates that more than $400 million in private sector development was realized prior to the line's groundbreaking, and has projected $1.8 billion of new tax revenue for 2005-2011.

Map for NE Corridor and Station Area Plan Rendering for Scaleybark Station
Maps for NE Corridor and Station Area Plan Rendering for Scaleybark Station.  Previously proposed interchange for US29/NC 39 intersection (left image); Station area plans with new network of roads (right image).

Previously proposed interchange for US29/NC 39 intersection (left image); Station area plans with new network of roads (right image).

Source: Glatting Jackson and City of Charlotte, 2009 6


Development Activity along LYNX Blue Line
(for stations outside of Uptown) 2005-2013
Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, 2009.7

Increase Transportation Choices

 

Proposed

Under
Construction

Completed

Total

Construction Cost (millions)

$642.7 M

$522.0 M

$228.2 M

$1.452 B

Acreage

161.43

46.43

40.46

248.47

Residential Units

4,227

773

1,887

6,887

Retail Square Footage

172,800

319,554

101,859

594,213

Office Square Footage

318,340

239,740

80,309

638,389

Despite the recent economic downturn, the city is proceeding with planning for the other four corridors and expects TOD to continue to occur once a cycle of renewed real estate activity begins. Draft environmental documents for the other four corridors have been developed, and preliminary engineering for the Northeast Corridor is underway and scheduled to be completed in 2010. The city expects to advance the Northeast Corridor and/or the North Corridor for applying to FTA for funding through its New Starts program.

Charlotte's planning process has facilitated development that supports transit in two key ways: establishing a technical understanding of feasible levels of development, transit service and technology; and introducing a more collaborative, consensus-oriented approach to development review that facilitates the kind of development the city needs to support its transit investments. This approach to process undoubtedly helped the city secure Federal funding for its first line, the LYNX Blue Line. More important, its integrated transit and land use planning has reinforced its commitment to improve livability.

Gateway Route 1

One of the most common challenges faced by State and regional transportation agencies is aligning transportation investments with community livability goals in the context of regional corridors. State DOTs, MPOs, and communities are confronted with questions when working on corridor projects:

The Gateway 1 initiative is one of the first corridor-wide and multijurisdictional planning processes led by MaineDOT, and is focused on integrated transportation and land use planning to address these key questions.

Study Area Map for Gateway 1

Study Area Map for the Gateway 1 Action Plan in Maine.  The Gateway 1 initiative is one of the first corridor-wide and multijurisdictional planning processes led by MaineDOT, and is focused on integrated transportation and land use planning to address these key questions.

Source: MaineDOT, 2009.9

Overcoming Challenges

The Gateway 1 initiative was enabled in part by changes in State transportation policies promoting integrated land use and transportation planning, including the Sensible Transportation Policy Act (SPTA) amendments of 2003. The Legislature directed MaineDOT and the State Planning Office to link transportation planning processes by aligning the transportation chapters of SPTA and the Growth Management Act. Municipalities that develop plans using the new STPA guidelines are eligible for transportation planning assistance and other investment incentives, such as bonus prioritization points for MaineDOT's competitive programs, funded highway reconstruction and mobility projects, and incremental reductions in local match requirements.10 Gateway 1 towns are ahead of many other areas since they have already done so much work in this area.11

The project was initiated in the context of longstanding differences of opinion among the 21 different communities and MaineDOT, and their dissatisfaction with a proposed widening project as a solution to increasing traffic congestion. The Midcoast region worked with MaineDOT to establish a vision statement for a corridor-wide integration of transportation and community land planning (see chapter 2). In 2004-2005, MaineDOT conducted an extensive community outreach process with more than 50 participant meetings to educate the public about all aspects of the transportation project development process and the baseline land use, transportation, environmental conditions of the corridor. The outreach effort and partnership was successful when, during the first phase of the project, all 21 communities signed MOUs to formally commit to the Gateway 1 planning process (See chapter 6).

The initial visioning and scenario development effort confirmed that the communities along Route 1 are interested in and committed to working toward a common future. The next step evaluated more specific options for the corridor. The preferred scenario includes a series of compact core growth areas selected based on local comprehensive plans, existing development, availability of infrastructure, and location of sensitive natural resources. MaineDOT and its partner communities then formalized the Strategic Corridor Plan, which articulates goals and objectives and identifies projects for future development through State and regional transportation improvement programs.

This represented a different approach to a conventional State DOT planning process. By creating an environment for project development based on corridor-wide integration and project coordination, it allowed MaineDOT to move away from "spot-based" problem-solving projects and think of individual projects as phases of an integrated system. MaineDOT took a more active leadership role in coordinating local land use planning, which is usually a local role. Staff avoided the usual negative reactions to State transportation agency involvement in land use by being clear that their role was coordination and technical assistance, with actual land use decisions remaining with the localities.

MaineDOT: How To Create Scenarios for Useful
and Usable Plans
Maine DOT: How to create scenarios for useful and usable plans. Diagram of how the traffic demand model, origin and destination survey, values survey, market reconnaissance, land use and zoning, speed and truck surveys, visual preference, and phase one analysis such as demographics go into building scenarios.

Source: MaineDOT, 2009.12

Outcomes and Results

To move the corridor plan toward project development and implementation, the Gateway 1 initiative developed an action plan. As of February 2010, 17 of the 21 towns had signed a startup agreement to formally support the action plan and appoint the Implementation Steering Committee. Through future agreements, the municipalities are expected to codify the vision into local land development regulations and comprehensive plans.

Lessons Learned

The Gateway 1 process was unprecedented in the corridor and MaineDOT's history. By taking a positive approach that offered local governments an equal partnership in the Gateway 1 efforts, MaineDOT achieved a more fluid interaction between land use planning, typically administered at the local level, and State transportation planning. MaineDOT's willingness to use a different approach for addressing transportation needs, while embracing the collaborative process to involve land use partners, proved worthwhile. Gateway 1 now provides a long-term strategy to coordinate growth and transportation decisions among the various towns and MaineDOT. As the communities work toward a shared vision for Route 1, they have come to expect a more livable and sustainable corridor.

Albany CTDC New Visions Plan

Many MPOs have difficulty making sure the projects they identify truly respond to community needs. This goes beyond just representing constituent communities in long-range planning and transportation improvement programs; it means identifying projects that fully support community goals.

Overcoming Challenges

One MPO's approach to this issue is to provide direct technical assistance to ensure the transportation plan's fundamental principles and projects are understood by member communities and in line with community needs. Based on its New Visions LRTP, CDTC undertook a similar collaborative approach, providing local area planning assistance through the Linkage program. The Linkage program is a planning assistance program through which CDTC awards a portion of its FHWA planning funds to local governments on a competitive basis. The program was launched in 2000, and projects were selected based on their ability to demonstrate alignment to New Visions principles. Studies are small-scale efforts that include corridor studies, small area plans, or multimodal plans and studies, and can help municipalities articulate planning priorities and test the core elements of the New Visions plan. In its LRTP selection process, CDTC gives a higher priority to projects that have come from Linkage studies.

The grant application process is a simple statement of purpose and ways the study responds to the New Visions goals. CDTC apportions one-quarter of its FHWA funds to the program, roughly $400,000 annually, with local governments required to provide a 25 percent match. Studies are managed by CDTC staff and conducted by consultants, ensuring products that are both useful for the municipalities and consistent with regional policies. Linkage studies have been adopted by municipalities as components of comprehensive plans or area master plans, used to leverage additional support for planning processes, and provide a stream of viable project candidates for CDTC's TIP.

Outcomes and Results

New Visions has been updated three times since the 1997 adoption of New Visions 2015. As of early 2010, CDTC has funded 65 Linkage studies, representing $4.5 million in Federal, State, and local funds committed to the program. The studies also help gather public input and response for the region's New Visions 2030 plan update. The expanded principles of New Visions 2030 incorporate transit service, urban reinvestment, alternative roadway design (especially roundabout intersections), and capacity-adding projects. It included a large-scale scenario planning exercise to consider a range of possible future outcomes. Since many small communities lack their own technical staffs to guide planning decisions, the Linkage Program has provided technical resources to introduce a wide range of planning issues to partner communities.

Lessons Learned

CDTC staff continue to see challenges translating conceptual studies to actual project design. In many cases, a project captures community intent, but the design process may not fully address concerns raised at the planning level. Since the first New Visions plans, many projects have been completed under the Linkage program. CDTC cites these as examples of the kinds of projects this vision can achieve:

3.3. Conclusion

The case studies explored in this chapter all incorporated livability into transportation projects by integrating mobility goals with other community needs through a planning approach or process that differs from conventional practices. Some of the projects were successful outside the responsible agency's established process (especially Maine's Gateway 1, Virginia's Route 50, and Pennsylvania's U.S. 202), while others have institutionalized a change in approach, supporting innovative transportation programs (Charlotte, Albany CDTC New Visions plan and Linkage Program, and the WDOT Community Design Assistance Program).


3. Planning and Process-Endnotes

  1. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, Charlotte Department of Transportation. Transit Ready in Charlotte. Presented at Congress for the New Urbanism. June 2009.
  2. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, Charlotte Department of Transportation. 2010. www.lynxcharlotte.com. Accessed July 29, 2010.
  3. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, Charlotte Department of Transportation. Transit Ready in Charlotte. Presented at Congress for the New Urbanism. June 2009.
  4. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, Charlotte Department of Transportation. Transit Ready in Charlotte. Presented at Congress for the New Urbanism. June 2009.
  5. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, Charlotte Department of Transportation. Transit Ready in Charlotte. Presented at Congress for the New Urbanism. June 2009.
  6. Glatting Jackson. Prepared for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, Charlotte Department of Transportation.
  7. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning, Charlotte Department of Transportation. Transit Ready in Charlotte. Presented at Congress for the New Urbanism. June 2009.
  8. Kimley-Horn and City of Charlotte.
  9. Maine DOT. Gateway 1 Corridor Action Plan: Brunswick to Stockton Springs, Chapter 1. July 2009. http://www.mainegateway1.com/action_plan.html. Accessed June 25, 2010.
  10. Kat Fuller interview (11/19/2008) with Gary Toth and Kathleen Rooney via phone.
  11. MaineDOT. "Gateway 1". http://www.mainegateway1.com. Accessed 10/16/2012.
  12. Maine DOT. Gateway 1 Corridor Action Plan: Brunswick to Stockton Springs, Chapter 4. July 2009. http://www.mainegateway1.com/action_plan.html. Accessed June 25, 2010.
Updated: 01/03/2014
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