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Planning for Transportation in Rural Areas

Appendix B: Some Additional Tools for Planners

Considerable input from rural transportation professionals and interest regarding special topics for inclusion in this document requested discussion of: transit system planning concepts, an introduction to rural intelligent transportation systems, and some consideration of access management as additional tools for rural transportation planners. These topics are presented in this appendix.

A. Rural Intelligent Transportation Systems

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) represent the application of information processing, communications technologies, advanced control strategies, and electronics to the field of transportation.

1. Ways Rural ITS Can Help

A divided highway going through a mountain pass with a variable message sign to the right.Rural ITS applications have the potential to make dramatic improvements in safety, mobility, and tourist information services. These applications have been categorized into the following elements:

Rural ITS Can:

  • Enhance safety; improve emergency response.
  • Provide information - especially road and weather conditions.
  • Make public transportation more available and accessible.
  • Enhance the tourism/recreational travel experiences.

2. Benefits of Rural ITS

The potential is great for rural ITS applications to address the varied needs of rural travelers. Rural ITS services can provide the following benefits:

Resources for more information on Rural ITS are listed in Section VII: Resources for Rural Transportation Planning.

B. Transit System Planning

Buses parked at a bus station

The following section on transit system planning was adapted from an article published by the Community Transportation Association of America entitled Rural Transit Service, Design and Scheduling (1998). This article is useful for rural transportation planners and was recommended through consultations with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) during development of this document.

Transit system planning is important for many rural areas. There are three levels of detail possible in transit planning: aspects of each can be appropriate to include in the transportation plan. All three levels of transit planning require coordination with existing transit operating agencies if they are to be implemented. The three levels of detail are:

  1. Strategic planning
  2. Functional planning
  3. Route design

At the strategic planning level, the relationship between transit service and land use is developed and the type and level of service planned by corridor and area is described. As a minimum, the transportation plan should include a strategic planning level of discussion of transit service. The level of detail and analysis at the strategic planning level will vary. The level of analysis will be more general where there is no existing transit service.

A transit functional plan provides information on the route location within the general corridor or area of service, as well as the level of service on the route in terms of headways between transit vehicles. Size and seating capacity of transit vehicles by route, the times of service, major transfer centers, and specific destinations served is also provided. This level of analysis may be available in the transit plan of existing transit organizations and can be incorporated or summarized into the transportation plan. You do need to coordinate with the transit operating agency to assure compatibility of the functional transit plan with proposed land use plans.

The transit route design plan provides specific information on transit stop locations, assignment of vehicles and labor, transit shelters, transit schedules, rider information, etc. Generally this level of detail is not included in the transportation plan. However, some specific design features may be included because of their interrelationship to other parts of the transportation plan. As an example, a specific bus stop location could pose problems to the transit company, passengers, and general traffic because of high volumes, inadequate room for the transit vehicle to pull-off, and hazardous pedestrian crossings. The physical improvements, such as a transit center, and transit operations at any given location may need to be discussed specifically in the transportation plan.

1. Types of Transit Services

Transit is a broad array of services. The type of service can be defined using three factors:

Routing refers to the assigned course that the transit vehicle follows. The route structure directly determines the accessibility of the transit system to the potential customer and which destinations have transit service. The route structure also determines how direct a trip is between origin and destination which effects the travel time. Basic routing strategies are:

Scheduling is the assignment of time that the transit vehicle is available to the customer. Schedules can be predetermined or fixed, or they can be responsive to customer requests through advance reservation or immediate request through a dispatcher. Fixed-schedule options generally provide more reliable service and shorter trip and wait times.

Stop location is the assigned geographical location where the transit vehicle may pick up or deliver passengers. Stop locations affect vehicle travel time, waiting time, walking distance, and general transit accessibility. There are three ways to classify locations of transit stops along a fixed route: local, express, and skip-stop. These are shown in Figure 5.3. Stop location is also important for flexible route services. Consideration is given to kinds of places a transit vehicle will stop from the standpoint of customer safety and convenience.

2. Transit Planning Principles

The following transportation planning principles relate to the identification of transit proposals:

Transit and land development should be designed to complement each other. The following principles apply:

Transit and site design should be designed to complement each other. The following principles apply:

Many resources on transit system planning are available through the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA)

C. Access Management

This section defines and explains the importance access management for rural transportation planning.

1. What is Access Management?

A residential street corner showing a curb extensionAccess management is defined as the process of providing access to developed land located adjacent to a highway system. Generally state DOTs and local agencies manage the design, location and supporting facilities for access points. Access management contributes to how well vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians can enter and exit commercial and residential areas adjacent to highways or arterials.

Good access is a function of the design and location of driveways and arterials. Improved access is dependent on: the location of the driveway/arterial with reference to other access points, the motorists' ability to easily access the property or road, and the placement of traffic signals. Poorly designed and located driveways and arterials can severely affect traffic safety, road capacity and traffic speed. Points of conflict also increase if traffic signals are too close together or are uncoordinated. If the driveway or arterial is too close to an another access point motorists traffic congestion and number of conflicts increase.

2. What are the Benefits of Access Management?

The key to access management is planning for the number and location of access points rather than responding to requests by local governments or developers. In other words, it is far better to have planned access as opposed to access that is the result of reactions to local governments and developers. Planned access can be based on an overall strategy for access that results in better decisions.

Four main benefits support managing access to highways. Access management:

Managed access is most successful when the state, local decision-makers and residents support and coordinate actions. The state and local governments should invite investors and the general public to become involved in access management decisions and in promoting and developing strong access management practices.

These practices include identifying when and where developers should be responsible for the payment of access improvements that address safety and capacity issues. For example, implementing specific procedures for conducting a traffic impact analysis would determine land owner responsibilities for signals, turning bays, and other design features that provide safe and efficient access. Provisions could be established for waiving the cost or need for such studies.

Resources for more information on Access Management are listed in Section VII: Resources for Rural Transportation Planning.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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