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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 71 · No. 3 > Spotlight on Transportation Planning|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-001
Spotlight on Transportation Planning
by Jody McCullough and Elizabeth Machek
FHWA and FTA are partnering to recognize innovative practices at the State, local, and tribal levels.
The Nation's intermodal transportation system exists to serve the public. Transportation planning therefore needs to include public input and consider land use, the environment, development, safety, and national security. Transportation planners examine past, present, and prospective trends and issues associated with the demand for moving people and goods — all of this at various scales and frames of reference: local, rural, tribal, metropolitan, statewide, national, and international.
According to Michael D. Meyer, P.E., director and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology's Georgia Transportation Institute (GTI), "Transportation planning guides the development of an area's transportation system and thus has a significant impact on the economic vitality and quality of life of the Nation's communities."
Whether using state-of-the-art tools to model travel demand, encouraging transit-oriented development, or devising innovative ways to involve the public in decisionmaking, communities across the country are realizing the benefits of effective transportation planning.
To recognize groundbreaking efforts at the State, local, and tribal levels, in 2004 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and American Planning Association (APA) partnered to sponsor the Transportation Planning Excellence Awards. The biennial program highlights outstanding initiatives to develop, plan, and implement innovative transportation planning practices.
"Excellent planning work occurs in many communities and States across the country, but the Transportation Planning Excellence Awards winners went well beyond the standard practices and incorporated truly innovative and extraordinary efforts," says Associate Administrator Gloria Shepherd of the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty. "These winning projects are making outstanding contributions to the field of transportation planning."
GTI's Meyer, who served as a judge for the 2006 awards, adds, "These awards recognize innovation, creativity, and leadership ... and sometimes risk taking."
In 2006, FHWA, FTA, and APA recognized 11 winners for 13 projects and applauded 7 other projects with honorable mentions. "The projects are not only focused on the technical aspects of transportation project implementation, but also on the process and public outreach effort necessary to be successful," Meyer says. "Often the projects show strong connection between the physical and operational characteristics of transportation facilities and supporting land use, pricing, and environmental strategies that make the facilities more effective."
With the 2008 awards just around the corner, FHWA, FTA, and APA are preparing to recognize the latest standouts in transportation planning. The 2006 projects highlighted below represent a small cross section of the exemplary work being undertaken and may provide signposts to guide the next generation of innovative projects.
Arizona: Tribal Transportation
Arizona has a large Native American population and 22 tribal governments. Tribal land encompasses approximately 28 percent of the State's land. The tribal land is crisscrossed by nearly 2,170 kilometers (1,350 miles) of State highways. In 1999 the Arizona Department of Transportation's (ADOT) Transportation Planning Division, Civil Rights Office, and Partnering Section formed the Arizona Tribal Strategic Partnering Team. In addition to ADOT, other major stakeholders include the Arizona tribes, FHWA, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The team's purpose is to bring together representatives from Federal, State, tribal, and local governments and agencies to discuss State-tribal transportation issues and to develop interagency forums through which those issues can be addressed. The team meets on a quarterly basis, documenting discussions and distributing information to stakeholders and key State officials.
One major accomplishment was hosting three regional forums and a followup statewide forum held in early 2007, which gave participants a better understanding of their respective programs and responsibilities. Also, the team is developing a guidebook on State-tribal transportation resources and training on State-tribal relations.
Georgia: Connecting Savannah
East-west mobility has been a longstanding concern for Savannah, GA, exerting pressure on the region's quality of life, economic vitality, and tourism industry. In the past, local transportation officials undertook numerous engineering studies to develop solutions but failed to garner sufficient public support for implementation. In February 2004, however, the Chatham Urban Transportation Study, which is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the region, initiated a new planning process called Connecting Savannah: Moving People -- Making Neighborhoods.
The goal of Connecting Savannah is to engage diverse populations in meaningful discussions about how to improve mobility in the region. Outreach included a branding campaign, a project Web site, brochures, visualization tools, and surveys. More than 300 people participated in the process, including neighborhood organizations, local businesses, community leaders, and government officials. As a result, new transportation policies and improvements now are moving toward implementation.
Cheyenne, a small community in southeastern Wyoming with just two local government entities, recognized the value of bridging gaps between traditionally autonomous groups to plan for the region's growth. The Cheyenne Metropolitan Planning Organization's PlanCheyenne incorporates, for the first time, the community's separately developed comprehensive plan, master transportation plan, and parks and recreation master plan.
"This common sense approach created a plan that addresses a broad cross section of issues," says Matt Ashby, AICP, director of urban planning for the city of Cheyenne and project manager for PlanCheyenne. "The traditional Western skepticism toward planning evaporated, and the community embraced the process."
Created with extensive involvement of citizens, city and county officials, and planners, PlanCheyenne represents a complete revamping of the region's approach to growing as a "community of choice," Ashby says. "The community's goal is to be a place where people from all walks of life can find a place to live and thrive in Cheyenne. Be it through a variety of housing options, transportation choices, employment opportunities, or recreation amenities, Cheyenne's goal is to be a place where people choose to live."
Public support and partnerships were critical. One creative strategy for engaging the public involved partnering with a community college, where three professors agreed to structure their course curricula around PlanCheyenne to solicit student perspectives on growth in the region.
Colorado: Metro Vision 2030 Plan
The Denver, CO, region is made up of more than 50 cities and counties and is home to 2.5 million people. By 2030 the population is expected to increase to 3.8 million, creating 800,000 new jobs. To manage future growth and development, transportation needs, and environmental quality, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) created the Metro Vision 2030 Plan — the region's comprehensive 25-year plan.
Through Metro Vision 2030, DRCOG is deploying innovative planning and implementation tools to integrate transportation and land use at the local and regional levels. The plan includes a voluntary urban growth boundary and a policy that encourages high-density, mixed-use urban centers to absorb growth and support transit. Plans for multimodal corridors integrate transportation facilities with urban growth areas, urban centers, and parks and open spaces. Another feature is a process for ranking transportation projects to encourage community and project-level implementation of Metro Vision 2030's growth, development, and multimodal policies.
Florida: Evaluating Sociocultural Effects
Facing unprecedented population growth and development, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) developed the Sociocultural Effects Evaluation Handbook to identify and assess the potential effects of a transportation project on a community in terms of social, economic, land use, mobility, aesthetic, and relocation issues. The handbook's objectives are to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse impacts on community resources and create transportation projects that enhance and sustain communities.
Evaluating sociocultural effects begins during project planning and continues through construction, operation, and maintenance. The process encourages integrating transportation and land use planning and balancing transportation needs with those of the natural and human environment. Topics in the handbook include determination of the project need and study area, identification of data requirements, development of an inventory of community characteristics, assessment of public opinion, and determination of solutions.
Arizona: Regional Transportation Plan
The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) in Arizona recently completed a regional transportation plan that changes the course of transportation planning in the Phoenix metropolitan area from an almost exclusively car-centered approach to one significantly more multimodal. The $16 billion plan recognizes that all transportation modes are necessary for continued mobility and calls for investing $5 billion to expand bus and light rail service.
The plan took 4 years to develop and required numerous technical studies and extensive public participation. Strong leadership and advocacy from elected officials and key business leaders, who vigorously supported the plan within the legislature and in their communities, were crucial in gaining public support, including legislative endorsement and voter approval of a half-cent sales tax to help fund the plan.
Massachusetts: New Design Manual
After years of construction delays due to community concerns and environmental issues, in 2003 the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) set out to overhaul its design manual with a renewed focus on involving community stakeholders. The result was the 2006 release of the Project Development & Design Guidebook, which incorporates community setting as a design factor, features more flexible design standards, is strongly multimodal, and supports early planning and coordination to create safe, attractive roads. The guide will make transportation projects more compatible with Massachusetts's rich historic, environmental, community, and cultural resources.
Spurred by the Governor's Communities First policy, MassHighway took a radically new approach by appointing a task force that included local officials, planners, and advocacy and professional organizations to oversee the guidebook's creation. This bold decision enhanced the department's credibility with some of its strongest critics, who felt the department favored drivers' desires over community concerns.
The process of developing the guidebook prompted MassHighway to establish multidisciplinary teams for project development and appoint bicycle/pedestrian coordinators in each of its district offices to act as community liaisons. The department also invited planners, historic preservationists, and environmental specialists to serve on its project review and design committees.
California: Transportation 2030 Plan
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) of San Francisco, CA, was honored for two initiatives. The first is its Transportation 2030 Plan, a comprehensive roadmap for maintaining, fine-tuning, and expanding the nine-county San Francisco Bay area's transportation network. Developed through an unprecedented public involvement effort that began in 2003 and involved thousands of bay area residents and transportation agencies, the plan identifies three investment strategies to achieve its goals: adequate maintenance, system efficiency, and strategic expansion.
The plan sets forth dozens of calls to action that articulate how MTC and its partners can implement the long-range vision by raising revenues, enacting new laws, or rethinking old policies. Among the plan's cutting-edge initiatives are use of high-occupancy toll lanes, aggressive deployment of intelligent transportation systems technologies to squeeze more efficiency out of the existing network, and improving mobility options for low-income residents.
California: Transit-Oriented Development
MTC's second award-winning project is its Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Policy for Regional Transit Expansion Projects, which aims to promote cost-effective transit, ease regional housing shortages, create vibrant communities, and preserve open space. Adopted in July 2005, the policy sets performance criteria for land use in a manner that meets MTC's ridership, livability, and transit cost-effectiveness goals, yet allows local jurisdictions the flexibility to address regional land use goals in ways that support local policies.
The TOD policy includes three key elements: establishment of corridor-based requirements for housing density around transit stations; development of plans for station areas, funded in part with MTC dollars; and creation of corridor working groups to engage key stakeholders in developing station area plans.
Minnesota: Performance-Based Plans
Two projects submitted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) earned awards as well. The first is Mn/DOT's 2003 Statewide Transportation Plan and 2005 district-level plans, which are among the Nation's first comprehensive, performance-based, State transportation planning efforts. Created in consultation with resource management and economic development agencies, the statewide plan established a framework for long-range investment planning, with performance measures and targets in 10 policy areas.
Following adoption of the statewide plan in August 2003, Mn/DOT conducted an agencywide rollout and training process in preparation for the district-level plans, which identify investment levels needed to meet targets. The district-level plans detail a prioritized, fiscally constrained, 20-year implementation program. Together, the plans are a critical link between Mn/DOT's strategic goals and the capital investment program in its State Transportation Improvement Program.
Minnesota: Statewide Freight Plan
Mn/DOT's second project is the Minnesota Statewide Freight Plan, one of the first comprehensive, performance-based freight plans in the Nation. The plan creates a framework for communication among public and private transportation stakeholders, including the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee, to articulate policies, strategies, and performance measures for freight transportation.
The freight plan is oriented toward innovative financing and public-private partnerships, and has enabled Mn/DOT to improve its coordination with Federal agencies on freight issues.
New Jersey: Future in Transportation
The New Jersey Department of Transportation charted a new course for developing transportation projects by creating incentives and offering technical assistance to municipalities to plan for transit-oriented, compact, mixed-use development. Known as New Jersey FIT: Future in Transportation, the initiative uses corridor studies and development of "transit villages" to help communities integrate land use and transportation decisions and mitigate growth in traffic demand.
The corridor studies use visioning, a collaborative and creative process that leads to a shared community vision and common values, and other tools to establish sensible land use patterns and promote lively, walkable main streets. The transit village initiative creates incentives for new housing and mixed-use development that encourages walking, biking, and transit ridership. Eleven State agencies are providing grants, loans, and/or technical assistance to municipalities that make the required land use changes to become designated transit villages. Seventeen villages have been designated to date, and more than 70 municipalities have expressed interest.
New York: Best Practice Model
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council developed a model to predict the detailed travel patterns of a diverse population using numerous travel modes. The New York Best Practice Model is a behavior-based travel demand model that the council can use in air quality conformity analyses and major investment studies.
The model features innovative approaches such as using a location-based household travel survey; microsimulation to simulate the travel pattern of each person in the region, including nonmotorized traffic; and the concept of "journeys" instead of the more traditional "trips" as the unit of travel.
The journey, defined as travel between principal locations, identifies anchor points in an individual's travel pattern, such as home, work, or school. The traditional trip, home to work, for example, would identify the point of origin and destination. It would not, however, include details specific to the individual, such as daily stops at a day care center, gym, or other unique aspect of travel that might very well influence the individual's decision regarding mode choice. These approaches make the travel demand models more realistic and more effective tools in the planning process.
Nominations for 2008
FHWA and FTA will request submissions for the 2008 Transportation Planning Excellence Awards in January 2008. Anyone may submit a nomination; however, eligible nominations must be for a project, process, group, or individual involved in a project or process that has used FHWA and/or FTA funding to make an outstanding contribution to the field of transportation planning.
Entries will be judged on the basis of innovation, community and public involvement, partnerships and collaboration, multimodalism, equity, sustainability, and demonstrated results, effectiveness, replication, and transferability.
In addition to meeting these criteria, successful nominees will demonstrate excellence in the specific categories for which they are nominated. A project or organization may be nominated separately for more than one category, but each nomination should speak specifically to the project or organization's relevance to that category.
"The 2008 awards will have several expanded categories so we can find out about and share more examples of exemplary planning," Associate Administrator Shepherd says. The awards will focus on 12 major categories, chosen not only to reflect traditional transportation planning but also to recognize innovative initiatives, goals, and objectives that will help make the U.S. transportation system the best in the world.
Online application forms will be available in January 2008. All nominations are due by February 29, 2008. Winning entries will be selected by an independent panel of judges representing diverse backgrounds and expertise. Awards will be presented in summer 2008.
Jody McCullough is a transportation planner in the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty. She is a member of the Transportation Planning Capacity Building Team, and her responsibilities include promoting scenario planning; providing technical assistance on visualization requirements, land use, sustainability, and livability for transportation planning; and overseeing the Transportation Planning Excellence Awards. She has a bachelor's degree in geography land use from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth Machek is a community planner with the Planning and Policy Analysis Division at the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, which is a Federal fee-for-service organization within the U.S. Department of Transportation and located in Cambridge, MA. Machek focuses on transportation and strategic planning, capacity building, parking management, and data collection and analysis. She holds a master's degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor's degree in Japanese studies and political science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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