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Livability in Transportation Guidebook

7. Implementation and Funding

7.1. Inroduction

Implementation and funding issues can pose some of the biggest hurdles to aligning transportation projects with livability goals. Growing budget constraints have forced transportation agencies to explore alternative funding sources, while still following multiple funding and regulatory criteria for planning and project selection. Planning and transportation agencies have usually focused largely on vehicular mobility and capacity when allocating project funds. As many of the case studies demonstrate, aligning transportation investments with community livability goals can improve transportation system performance and coordinate additional public and private investment.

In a climate of severe budget constraints, a practical set of phased infrastructure improvements coordinated with local land development decisions can maximize the effectiveness of existing transportation investments. Many regional scenario planning studies have compared the impacts and costs of continued dispersed development against a strategy of infill and compact growth around existing town centers. Compact, village-scaled development patterns can have far less impact on fields, forest, farmland, air, and water quality, while reducing project costs. A balanced, multimodal transportation network can 1) improve connections throughout the region; 2) improve mobility within neighborhoods, towns, and counties; and 3) increase transportation choices that foster livable communities.

Several approaches can be used to achieve these goals:

As livability principles are incorporated into transportation project implementation, the most successful examples will include new policies at the State, regional, and local levels; strong public, private, and community partnerships; innovative multimodal designs; and innovation in building, operating, and maintaining the system. As State and regional agencies adjust their project selection and funding criteria to meet broad community livability goals, they will want to be met halfway with commitments from local partners that transportation investments will be sustainable and supported by local land use regulations, infrastructure investments, and ongoing operational and access management decisions.

7.2. State and Regional Strategies

Achieving livability in transportation can start with identifying and analyzing quality-of-life issues by considering a range of elements at the regional or State policy level:

Many communities have done this through vision-based planning approaches. Detailed scenario modeling and analysis of costs and benefits demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of integrating transportation with land use (usually for more compact development to support mode choice). This scenario analysis at a regional scale, including surrounding rural areas, typically helps identify appropriate locations for transit-supportive growth around existing rural towns and villages. It also underscores the effectiveness of strategies to use limited public funds to connect the dots of private investment in local and neighborhood roadways.

Implementation strategies at the regional and local plan levels typically include:

Implementing regional strategies requires reinforcing actions at the corridor, area, and project levels, supportive State policies, and matching funding to specific strategies. All the case studies promote this regional approach. The Gateway Route 1 Corridor Coalition will implement many of these actions at the appropriate level. Gateway Route 1 also demonstrates an effective regional visioning and public involvement process to promote livability by leveraging traditional transportation funds. These funds helped develop an integrated transportation, land use, and environmental plan across a 110-mile rural corridor. The Community-Centered Corridor Plan helps link several different types of small towns and rural areas while protecting their character. MaineDOT has committed to new roadway standards for maintenance and upgrade to match the regional vision. The communities have agreed to support implementation of the parallel network through updates in their comprehensive plans and in development review. The State and localities have also agreed to coordinate operations and access management decisions to improve throughput and safety along the corridor.

In many cases, it is important to have a receptive regulatory atmosphere for projects to be implemented. While local governments have a big role to play since they have control over land use regulations, an updated regulatory environment and supportive State policies will help align transportation projects with livability goals. This can include reduced parking requirements, acceptance of alternative performance measures, complete streets standards, multimodal LOS, and encouragement of appropriate land use development forms as a response to transportation investment.

State-level policy changes are effective implementation tools, as demonstrated by PennDOT's Smart Transportation Guidebook. The smart transportation principles emphasize overall project cost in decisionmaking, a need to respond to project context, and considering value-to-price ratio as a reason to select and develop a project. PennDOT developed the guiding principles to direct agency resources, then created a flexible design guidebook (in partnership with NJDOT) to enable projects to be planned, designed, and constructed to be consistent with the agency's guiding principles, including tailoring solutions to the context and emphasizing a "complete the streets" philosophy.

MDOT changed legislation to enable creative funding and implementation of TOD. The goal of MDOT's TOD program is to "surround stations with vibrant neighborhoods where people can live, work, shop, or eat out, all within a safe and pleasant walk to trains, subways, and buses." The program is ensuring that station areas are market-ready for development, educating Maryland State agencies and localities to understand TOD and their roles, promoting TOD as a concept statewide, and enhancing the potential for Federal funding to expand transit by showing that development patterns can support transit. This programmatic goal has been successful in the West Hyattsville and State Center projects.

CDTC's New Visions plan also aligns regional-level transportation plans and programming with local planning and projects. The community and MPO have chosen to support more compact and connected development patterns. The New Visions program shows how the vision can continue to be implemented through subsequent updates, and at the same time reinforce and reassess community goals, such as updated new environmental goals.

By recalibrating the conventional housing affordability index to take into account the importance of place and its impact on household transportation costs, the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is a practical tool to help agencies define relevant transportation and livability performance goals specific to their regions. Utilizing neighborhood-level housing and transportation cost data for 337 metropolitan areas, model results allow State and regional agencies to measure policy outcomes, and to coordinate regional transportation and housing investments more cost-effectively. For example, the San Francisco Bay Area's MTC is using the tool to determine variations in housing and transportation affordability based on location at the neighborhood scale, while understanding more fully the impacts of projected housing and transportation costs on the region. The detailed analysis generated from this tool can help inform policy dialogue about how to best identify affordable mobility options while preserving and building economic prosperity in communities, including rural areas, across the country.

7.3. Corridor and Area-Level Strategies

Several strategies support livability goals by implementing regional and State policies at the corridor and area level. Examples include:

Completing the networks and building transit-oriented and transit-ready corridors. Because many urban and suburban commercial corridors developed over time without strong connections or access to surrounding neighborhoods, many of the roadways are over capacity and clogged with local travel. A better connected network of neighborhood streets parallel to major highways can help relieve traffic growth along heavily used corridors, reduce congestion at major choke points and intersections, and improve multimodal choice within and between neighborhoods.

Effective corridor-level planning usually incorporates local land use and development decisions that offer fast, frequent, and dependable transit service and support seamless connections throughout the region, either through TOD or transit-ready development. TODs are either 1) currently served by transit or 2) planned in conjunction with transit route expansion. Transit-ready development principles are applied to redevelopment and greenfield sites on corridors where priority transit service is desired but not yet established. Planning and developing compact, mixed-use, and walkable neighborhoods at key intersections helps create transit targets for future enhanced and expanded service.

Align major facility design with the surrounding network and community context. As part of the Northeast Corridor Station Area Planning effort, the City of Charlotte's station area planning team helped change the design direction of a planned $50 million highway interchange near the proposed City Boulevard and Rocky River transit stations. Because of its scale and access limitations, the interchange as designed posed a challenge to achieving the station area's development potential. At the same time, construction was not being advanced due to funding shortfalls. City departments worked with stakeholders to develop an alternative interchange, with an expanded street network providing access to large underutilized properties adjacent to the proposed stations and the interstate. This effort saved the city and State $25 million and enhanced the future potential for TOD. Final design is complete and scheduled to be bid out in spring 2010.

Although primarily a major highway capacity project, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was also designed and constructed to support Metro line expansion, if the transit agency wished to add a rail line across the bridge in the future. It also includes a multiuse path for bicycles and pedestrians. The bridge is a good example of proactive decisionmaking to incorporate a mode-balanced "complete facilities" approach in major highway projects, even if the surrounding pedestrian/bicycle network is not yet complete.

Linking land use and redevelopment decisions with transportation investments. Where land use and transportation practitioners have collaborated on an integrated vision to meet community goals, implementation still requires ongoing coordination and follow-through by all partners. While State and regional agencies are usually responsible for funding corridor-level and network improvements, many have also found it worthwhile to help localities update plans, codes, and ordinances to better align development with an integrated transportation system. Local government codes and ordinances—coupled with their own investment policies—can play a strong role in implementing an integrated regional and corridor framework. This can include updating zoning to be consistent with plans, revising development regulations to require building form and placement supporting walkability, complete streets standards, and a range of other policies, such as requiring less parking adjacent to transit.

LCI Funding
Source: Atlanta Regional Commission.1

Project Type









Multi-Use Facility






Roadway Operations



Roadway Capacity



At its inception in 1999, ARC's LCI committed $1 million of Federal transportation funds have been given annually to complete land use and transportation studies. The program also dedicates $500 million to fund transportation projects identified by the planning studies. The planning grants have been given annually to local governments and nonprofits to prepare plans for livability-focused enhancements of towns and activity centers and corridors. The grants are designed to encourage jurisdictions to more closely link transportation and land use decisions when determining development strategies. Funds are also geared toward expanding housing and transportation options to connect people to home, work, and recreation. "LCI plans generally attempt to take advantage of the infrastructure and private investments committed in the local community to achieve more balanced development and reduce vehicle miles traveled," according to ARC.

Transportation elements in downtown Fargo's Broadway Streetscape project were linked to a larger redevelopment initiative. Started in 1999, the 39-block Renaissance Zone exempts new development from local and State property and income taxes for 5 years, and exempts commercial tenants from State income taxes for 5 years. The program is the foundation for the Downtown Fargo Redevelopment Framework Plan and has spurred more than 180 projects, including several mixed-use developments. Building values in the Renaissance Zone have risen 110 percent—from $103 million in 2000 to more than $218 million in 2009. Among the $93 million in the 180 projects is the $18 million Cityscapes Plaza, a newly opened retail and student housing project. More than 60 infill and adaptive reuse condominium and apartment projects have been completed. The local housing authority is also leveraging affordable housing programs, such as HUD's Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and has built 559 units of affordable housing. A smaller historic preservation zone within the Renaissance Zone leverages State and Federal income tax credits for restoration. The city's storefront and downtown rehabilitation program uses CDBG funds to provide a 50 percent matching grant.

Similarly, Chattanooga's Riverfront Parkway was central to the downtown's waterfront redevelopment and revitalization. The carefully redesigned parkway helps reconnect downtown to the river, while maintaining multimodal capacity.

Chattanooga's Redesigned Waterfront Under Construction
Aerial photograph of the reconstruction of Chattanooga's waterfront. Chattanooga’s riverfront underwent significant changes to help maintain the downtown’s connection to the river.

Chattanooga's riverfront underwent significant changes to help maintain the downtown's connection to the river.

Source: City of Chattanooga.2

7.4. Project-Level and Operational Strategies

Many transportation agencies have incorporated a livability-oriented program in planning, but have trouble following through during project programming, design, and delivery. Transportation agencies and local governments that have developed a sophisticated understanding of livability look beyond the project's transportation purpose, treating it as an investment that must be carefully designed and managed. Project-level implementation can reinforce livability goals by ensuring that there are appropriate design guidelines and standards, effective monitoring strategies, and performance measures. Linking transportation system design and operations with surrounding buildings, development, and open space can help create places that people value. Integrated design principles can be applied to downtown neighborhoods, growing suburbs, or rural small towns:

Completing the street at the project level. Completing the street focuses on enhancing transportation user choice and experience in any mode. Depending on the context, this means defining users to include pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. A complete street can include sidewalks; bike lanes, or multiuse trails; special transit lanes; comfortable and accessible transit stops; protected crossing opportunities; median islands; accessible pedestrian signals; curb extensions; and more. Urban and rural streets may look different but still aim to balance the needs of different users. More complete streets can also improve safety, allowing people to access nearby destinations on smaller scaled, walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly roadways.

Broadway Streetscape Enhancement

Concept sketch of the Broadway Streetscape Enhancement in Fargo, ND. It included more pedestrian-friendly street design, decorative pavers, ornate light poles, iron street furniture, bicycle racks, trees, planting beds, and a road diet. Street designs were implemented to slow down traffic and promote walkability, and the area is now an official bicycle/pedestrian safety zone. It features a multiuse path, on-street bike racks, and bike lockers.

Source: Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc., 2007.3

Hillsborough Street Improvements

Illustrated map of Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street improvements with tree and walkway samples. It includes improved pedestrian crossings and signal timing changes, along with roundabouts at key intersections, to improve capacity and safety for all users.

Source: City of Raleigh, 2007.4

Operational strategies can increase choice and maximize existing investments. Operational strategies can help support overall livability by maximizing the performance of existing transportation system investments, often at less cost than building new capacity. They can also provide more transportation choice and access. While operational improvements have focused largely on vehicle throughput, balanced multimodal design can improve performance for all system users. Operational strategies can include improving system efficiency through transportation system management (TSM), travel demand management (TDM), improved transit service, and access management. Operational solutions can provide immediate benefits, get more results for the dollar, and offer flexibility for future system changes.

7.5. Funding Strategies

Transportation funding for major projects has long been primarily a Federal and State obligation, financed largely through fuel taxes, sales tax revenues, fees, and bonds. Although statewide funding is essential, regions and localities do have the power to multiply its effectiveness (where allowed by State law). The private sector (for-profit and not-for-profit developers) is also instrumental in advancing livability at the local level. For example, building walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods and connected street networks are effective ways to stretch limited public dollars.

In almost every case study, multiple funding sources were used toward common goals. For Gateway Route 1, MaineDOT used Federal Surface Transportation Program funds and a local match. Other projects were more complicated, such as FasTracks, which used a combination of Federal, State, and local funds; a local sales tax; TIFIA loans; and private funds. Charlotte coordinated multiple funding sources across different programs and departments. The Route 50 Corridor Coalition was initiated with local funding and contributions, followed by Federal and State funds as practical strategies were identified.

Livability also involves thinking ahead about long-term maintenance responsibilities. Roundabouts have been shown to reduce long-term operating costs when compared to signals. On Hillsborough Street, planners considered the maintenance of landscaping in relation to public utilities, especially overhead power lines. This requires coordination in the design phase and maintenance commitments after the project is finished. For example, utility agencies should not cut down trees added to a street to improve pedestrian conditions or place utility poles in the middle of sidewalks.

Guiding and leveraging private investment for public livability goals. Public investment in transportation can be maximized by creating an integrated framework to guide private investment. By including the development community in early planning and exploring realistic development potential at key sites during corridor or transit system planning, individual buildings or developments can add to the larger multimodal transportation network. Much of the network can be built by developers as new growth occurs, either in new greenfield development or as part of redeveloping existing "greyfield" shopping centers. Limited available public funding can be targeted toward connecting the dots of private investment with key segments, bridges, transit enhancements, or intersection improvements. An adopted transportation master plan and complete streets standards can help provide certainty and a level playing field for developers.

In Chattanooga, much of the redevelopment money from the city was coupled with private donations and maximized through the River City Corporation's involvement. In Fargo, the main funding source for redevelopment was private funds invested in the Renaissance Zone. Public-Private Partnerships are an advanced form of this. The private partner can expand its business opportunities in return for assuming the new or expanded responsibilities and risks of public projects. FasTracks has been successful in using broad-based funding mechanisms. FasTracks is funded through a combination of sources, including the voter-approved sales tax increase of 0.4 percent passed in 2004. RTD has leveraged public funds and used partnerships to start building much of the system through design, build, operate, and finance agreements.

Using regional and local money to align goals with implementation. MPOs are typically decisionmaking bodies for federally funded projects of regional significance. Working with government agencies at each level, as well as with communities, these organizations are responsible for completing the MTPs and TIPs, which identify funded projects. Projects included in a TIP are forwarded to the State for inclusion in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Regional, State, and local partners can effectively coordinate funding and award implementation money based on regional visions, supporting projects with feasible multimodal plans, adopted local land use plans and design guidelines, additional committed private investment and ROW donated, and public/private consensus on priorities.

Several of the case studies exemplify successful application of this strategy. CDTC has funded more than 65 planning studies through the Linkage program and has fast-tracked related projects. ARC approves approximately $1 million in study funds annually and allocated $350 million for priority funding of transportation projects resulting from LCI studies. Another $150 million was approved in the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan for transportation projects resulting from LCI studies. The projects derived from the Gateway Route 1 initiative are well positioned to receive better project scores in funding decisions under the State's Sensible Transportation and Land Use Policy Act. The PennDOT Smart Transportation initiative tries to ensure that fiscal realities affect project selection and development.

At the local level, governments are usually able to create and administer their own funding mechanisms (where allowed by State statute). Although specific conditions vary by State, local governments typically oversee the responsible administrating agencies for TIF districts, created to generate additional funding for public infrastructure improvement in the name of economic development and increased property values. In many cases, these financing instruments are critical to deliver the livability components of a transportation project. RTD instituted a regional sales tax for FasTracks, as did Charlotte to fund the Lynx Blue Line.

7.6. Conclusion

Because of their comprehensive nature, livability and transportation projects often need to leverage a variety of implementation strategies and funding sources. In many cases, funding programs may be siloed or difficult to apply to more integrated transportation projects. Each of the case studies illustrates one or more ways of successfully innovating projects that meet broad livability goals. These strategies can help practitioners at all phases of project development deliver balanced, multimodal transportation networks that support infill and compact growth around existing centers—at the regional level, corridor level, and project level. More compact, connected development can reduce transportation project capital and operating costs, while reducing costs for households and businesses. It can also improve regional connections and personal mobility, increase transportation choices, and help foster livable communities.

7. Implementation and Funding—Endnotes

  1. Atlanta Regional Commission. LCI Brochure. 2010. Accessed June 28, 2010.
  2. Nashville Civic Design Center. Nashville Riverfront Redevelopment Master Plan Public Meeting Report. 2006. Accessed June 28, 2010.
  3. Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. Prepared for Fargo-Moorhead Council of Governments, City of Fargo, and the City of Moorhead. June 2007. Accessed June 28, 2010.
  4. City of Raleigh. 65% Design Plans. July 2007. Accessed June 25, 2010.
  5. Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. The EmX Franklin Corridor BRT Project Evaluation. April 2009. Accessed June 28, 2010.
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Updated: 12/8/2015
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