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
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:
- Traveler Safety and Security: Traveler safety and security technologies use in-vehicle sensors and information systems to alert drivers to hazardous conditions and dangers. This also includes wide-area information dissemination of site-specific safety advisories and warnings.
- Emergency Services: Emergency services technologies use satellite and advanced communications systems to automatically notify the nearest police, rescue squad, or firefighters in the event of collisions or other emergencies, even in the most remote locations.
- Tourism and Travel Information: Tourism and travel information services use in-vehicle navigation and roadside communications systems to provide information to travelers who are unfamiliar with the local area. These services can be provided at specific locations en route or before travelers even begin their trip.
- Public Traveler and Mobility Services. Public traveler and mobility services improve the efficiency of transit services and their accessibility to rural residents. Better scheduling, improved dispatching, smart card payment transactions, and computerized ride-sharing and ride-matching systems can be achieved through advanced vehicle locating devices and communications systems.
- Roadway Operations and Maintenance. Roadway operations and maintenance technologies improve the ability of highway workers to maintain and operate rural roads. These include severe weather information systems and immediate detection and alert of dangers to work zone crews.
- Fleet Operations and Maintenance. Fleet operations and maintenance systems improve the efficiency of rural transit and other rural fleets, such as snowplows and law enforcement vehicles, through advanced vehicle tracking and on-board equipment monitoring systems.
- Commercial Vehicles. Commercial vehicles use satellites, computers, and communications systems to manage the movement and logistics of commercial vehicles, and to locate vehicles during emergencies and breakdowns. These technologies also assist drivers' performance - a critical concern particularly on long-haul night trips.
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:
- More efficient highway operations and management activities such as snow removal.
- Quicker response to traffic incidents and crashes, saving lives and reducing medical costs.
- More efficient rural transit operations and vehicle fleet management.
- Greater peace of mind from advanced safety and security systems.
- Better traveler information through in-vehicle communications and roadway signage, particularly for hazardous weather conditions.
- Fewer fog-related, multi-vehicle crashes in rural areas through advanced sensor systems.
Resources for more information on Rural ITS are listed in Section VII: Resources for Rural Transportation Planning.
B. Transit System Planning
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:
- Strategic planning
- Functional planning
- 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:
- Type and capacity of vehicle: rail, bus, van, minibus, taxi, etc.
- Degree of exclusivity of right-of-way: fully shared with other traffic; partially shared (i.e., high occupancy vehicle lane); or entirely exclusive (i.e., busway or exclusive rail bed).
- Operational strategy: routing, scheduling, and stop location.
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:
- Fixed-route service. Transit vehicle travels a pre- established route. Passengers are picked up or dropped off at designated locations (pre-established transit stops). The route is designed to serve the greatest number of passengers practical while providing for as direct a route as possible between two terminal points. This is the traditional transit service provided in urban areas.
- Route Deviation Service.Transit vehicle travels a basic fixed route, picking up or dropping off people anywhere along the route. On request the vehicle will deviate a few blocks from the fixed route to pick up or deliver a passenger. This type of service is finding application in rural areas.
- Point Deviation Service.Transit vehicle stops at specified checkpoints (shopping centers, park-and-ride lot, industrial park, etc.) at specified times, but travels a flexible route between these points to service specific customer requests for service. This type of service is used to provide access to fixed-route service from very low density areas or for persons with limited mobility.
- Many to Few Service. Although origin points may be anywhere in a defined service area, the destinations are limited (i.e., airport service).
- Many to Many Service. Within a defined service area, all origins and destinations are served. The vehicle travels a flexible route between origin and destination points to service specific customer requests for doorstep pickup and delivery (i.e., taxi service).
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:
- The locally established transit level of service should be provided by the transit proposal under the forecast development scenario. This may require one or more iterations of the transit level of service with the transit plan to assure consistency and feasibility.
- Transit service should be planned and operated from a market based, user-oriented point of view. Unlike roads, one transit service does not necessarily serve all transit users. Potential transit markets need to be identified and services should be provided that are targeted to the identified market segments according to local priorities. Example transit markets include able-bodied elderly, disabled persons, commuters, students, low-income persons, and tourists.
- Consideration of operating cost and financing is critical. Unlike roads, operating cost (labor cost) is the major portion of the cost of transit service. New or additional service requires identification of new or additional annual revenue to support it. Development mitigation generally only provides for capital investment.
- A quality access system to the transit service is necessary and should be considered in the planning. Access to public transit by pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobile users should be easy, safe, and direct.
- A transit system consists of more than one route. Transfers between routes should be considered. Unscheduled transfers are applicable in systems with frequent service. Scheduled transfers are recommended where headways between transit vehicles are long.
- The street system should be laid out and designed to facilitate efficient transit operations. Transit routes need to be direct and continuous. Pedestrian crossings need to be visible, wheelchair accessible, and provide for adequate crossing time. Roads are designed to accommodate heavy- weight and large vehicle requirements. Bus pullouts should be considered and bus shelters should be considered in rural areas where bus stops are infrequent.
Transit and land development should be designed to complement each other. The following principles apply:
- The transit system design needs to be consistent with the development pattern. Higher residential densities require higher levels of transit service in terms of availability, frequency, coverage, and connectivity to important destinations.
- Planned land use patterns should support the transit plan. Transit compatible land uses need to be located within existing urban centers supported by transit service or near a transit facility or route.
Transit and site design should be designed to complement each other. The following principles apply:
- Land uses need to be oriented to transit facilities. Building entrances and paved walkways need to lead directly to a transit stop, a park-and-ride lot, or a station. Pedestrian amenities (e.g., plazas, covered areas, moderate grades, sidewalks, benches, lighting) encourage transit use.
- Walking distances need to be pedestrian scale. Walking distance from building entrances to transit facilities is affected by building setback. Smaller set backs reduce the walking distance and encourage, transit use.
- Parking should be shifted to the rear and sides of buildings when the building fronts on a transit facility. Large parking lots between a building entrance and a transit stop discourage pedestrian access. Parking requirements can be reduced if good transit service is provided.
Many resources on transit system planning are available through the Transportation Research Board (TRB) http://gulliver.trb.org/ and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) http://www.ctaa.org.
C. Access Management
This section defines and explains the importance access management for rural transportation planning.
1. What is Access Management?
Access 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:
- Minimizes access-related accidents. Points of conflict increase as areas along the highway become more commercialized and densely populated. Each new access point added to an undivided highway in an urban and suburban area increases the annual accident rate by 11 to 18 percent on that highway segment. In rural areas, each access point added increases the annual accident rate by seven percent. Well-managed access points can improve user safety by reducing the number, severity and cost of access-related accidents. For example, increased spacing between driveways minimizes conflict by allowing motorists more time to anticipate and recover from turning traffic. Minimizing the speed differences between turning cars and through traffic reduces conflicts between cars, pedestrians and bicycles.
- Preserves our mobility and investments. Highways and roads represent a major public investment. The federal government, the state, local governments, and the general public have invested millions of dollars in statewide highway resources to move trucks and vehicles efficiently. Poorly designed access points increase congestion and the number of accidents that reduce speeds. Good access management preserves capacity by moving motorists out of lanes efficiently to increase continuous traffic flows and reduce conflict points.
- Preserves and plans for healthy economic development. Managing access not only increases regional mobility but also extends the life of existing roads. Public investment is best preserved by maximizing the use of existing facilities. If more vehicles can be moved on existing roads, construction costs can be minimized on unnecessary facilities. Arterial roads can carry many more vehicles each day using good access management processes. Also, planning and designing access areas early in the project improves the allocation of scarce resources. As communities grow, it becomes increasingly expensive to redesign poorly planned access points. Funds that would otherwise be spent on maintenance or operation of existing roadways are spent on curbside and driveway construction and widening roads.
- Maintains functional integrity of the highway system. A consistent statewide access management approach best protects the functional integrity of the state highway system. This approach, based upon best engineering practices and coordinated local participation, provides improved driveway location and design for growing communities. Central to this approach is a core access classification system that defines the desired level and location of access for communities adjacent to the highway system. Standardized policies and procedures also help to ensure government decisions are consistent and fair across the state. Developers, investors and the general public benefit from this increased predictability for the development process. Uniform access design standards minimize costs associated with redesign and promote fair method to manage new development.
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.