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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

2004 Transportation Planning Excellence Awards

"Planning It Safe" Safety Conscious Planning

Award Winner

2025 Regional Transportation Plan for Southeast Michigan: "Putting Traffic Safety into the Planning Mix"

Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)
Detroit, Michigan

The success of SEMCOG's safety planning activities has heightened commitment to improving safety in the region. SEMCOG's initiatives have made it a model for leadership in the area of Safety Conscious Planning at the regional and local levels.

As the regional transportation planning agency for Southeast Michigan, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) has been helping Detroit and other member communities find ways to improve the safety of the region's transportation system - with the specific objective of helping to reduce the number and severity of traffic crashes that occur each year. Safety integration began at SEMCOG long before the TEA-21 mandate. SEMCOG's safety planning must take into account 4.9 million people with 3.8 million motor vehicles, 3.3 million drivers, and 27.5 million border crossings from Canada annually.

SEMCOG is committed to mainstreaming safety into its transportation planning process, and to supporting local safety initiatives by encouraging traffic safety analyses as a basis for improvement, educating local officials and the public, and providing comprehensive assistance to local governments. SEMCOG's 2025 Regional Transportation Plan for Southeast Michiganreflects this commitment. Its overall objectives are to:

Infomation signs on transit vehicles and billboards: "The light is red for a reason...So Stop!"

In Southeast Michigan, a comprehensive highway safety program is needed to reduce the severe and varied impacts of traffic crashes. Unfortunately, there has been a general lack of relevant engineering assistance available to communities because very few employ a full-time traffic engineer, and consultants are typically used for special projects only. Many communities assign traffic safety as collateral duty to law enforcement officers and public works personnel; while these officers and public works personnel are experts in the area of traffic safety, they are not trained in traffic safety engineering.

Southeast Michigan is also experiencing many changes that are having a direct influence on safety. For example, results of the 2000 census indicate that the elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population, and that their number will more than double over the next 25 years. As another example, drivers are experiencing longer commutes due to the expansion of the Detroit urbanized area, and these commuting trips are no longer strictly from home to work and back, but often may also include various other stops in between. As a final example of safety-related change, driver behavior increasingly involves distraction from cell phone use, while congested highways and time pressure provoke unsafe actions such as red-light running. These and other safety-related issues, as they emerge, must to be taken into account and integrated into transportation and safety planning.

SEMCOG takes a proactive and comprehensive approach to improving regional traffic safety that combines advocacy, training, analysis, planning, and partnering. SEMCOG has also undertaken extensive partnerships with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), AAA Michigan, elected officials, and others to promote Safety Conscious Planning. These combined efforts are beginning to make a difference in Southeast Michigan. For instance, since this program was initiated, there has been a 25‑percent reduction in total crashes in Detroit and a 35-percent reduction in crashes involving injury.

Some other elements of SEMCOG's safety program include:

The success of SEMCOG's safety planning activities has heightened awareness and concern to improve safety in the region. SEMCOG's initiatives have made it a model for leadership in the area of Safety Conscious Planning at the regional and local levels.


J. Thomas Bruff
535 Griswold Suite 300
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-4266 Ext. 340
SEMCOG Safety Website

Award Winner

First Steps: Safety Planning Initiatives

Mid-America Regional Council of Governments (MARC)
Kansas City, Missouri

Because transportation safety is an issue of regional importance that crosses multiple jurisdictional boundaries, the Mid-America Regional Council of Governments (MARC) works hard to incorporate this issue into its services for the Kansas City region through leadership, planning, and action. This innovative approach to addressing transportation safety has quickly enabled MARC to become a leader in initiating Safety Conscious Planning across various transportation modes in the region.

The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) serves both as the association of city and county governments and as the metropolitan planning organization for the bi-state Kansas City region. MARC seeks to build a stronger regional community by fostering understanding and cooperation on those regional issues that extend beyond the jurisdiction of a single city, county, or State. Because transportation safety is an issue of regional importance that crosses multiple jurisdictional boundaries, MARC in 2002 adopted a goal to "...increase the safety, security, and well-being of the traveling public."

In response to accident statistics, and to goals established regionally and nationally, MARC has been developing a three-phase Transportation Safety Planning Program to be integrated into its transportation planning and programming processes for the metropolitan Kansas City area.

Phase 1 of the Program highlights the need to incorporate safety issues throughout the entire transportation life cycle. MARC's approach to promoting transportation safety has been innovative in teaching local and state officials and others how to design and implement safety-conscious transportation investments. In February of 2003, MARC hosted the "Planning It Safe" Workshop, sponsored by the US Department of Transportation, which brought together local and regional leaders and planners to discuss safety issues in transportation planning, design, and operations. This forum highlighted the desire to incorporate safety issues into the metropolitan transportation planning process for the Kansas City region and other regions nationwide. Additionally, MARC hosted a "Safe Routes to School" Workshop in April of 2003, which brought similar leaders together, along with health care professionals and law enforcement officers, to collaborate on bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Safe Routes to School Workshop.

MARC is also advancing regional progress on transportation safety issues through planning. Providing technical support to decision makers is a key role of the organization. MARC fostered a unique partnership with the Kansas City chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) to develop guidelines and standards for community bicycle facilities in the Kansas City region. Public works officials and bicycle advocates worked together for approximately two years to develop the Local Bicycle Facilities Design Guidelines, and to ensure that the guidelines were consistent with those set forth by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the FHWA Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices(MUTCD), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). These guidelines and standards have since been adopted by the APWA on behalf of the bi-state metro region and are available for replication in other communities across the United States for planning safer and more appropriate bicycle facilities.

Another element of planning is conducting research and analysis on safety issues in the Kansas City region and providing this information to local and regional decision makers. A crash database for the region, and a white paper describing an inventory of crash data, its status, and the major transportation safety issues in the region, will be the primary deliverables of this process. This database and analysis will be evaluated and updated on a regular basis to determine additional and changing transportation safety trends in the region, and the impacts of integrating safety into the overall planning process.

Establishing communication and collaboration with transportation safety partners is essential to gaining insight on different perspectives, and to acquiring their input during the metropolitan transportation planning process. In Phase 2 of the Transportation Safety Planning Program development process, MARC is building partnerships with additional safety stakeholders to address transportation safety in the Kansas City region. These partners include KDOT's Bureau of Traffic Safety, MoDOT's Division of Highway Safety, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Operation Impact, Injury Free KC, Midwest Trauma Society, KC Metro SAFE KIDS, and many others.

Phase 3 of the Program's development process will map crash records throughout the region in order to develop more targeted solutions involving education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency response. All of this information, along with traffic counts and transit ridership, will be integrated into the metropolitan transportation planning and programming processes.

MARC is striving to further integrate safety into the transportation planning process, and will continue to lead, plan, and act on transportation safety issues. A rising quality of life for everyone in metropolitan Kansas City is an overall goal of MARC, so the development of a robust, multi-faceted transportation safety planning program makes significant progress towards this goal.


Mell Henderson
Director of Transportation
Mid-America Regional Council
600 Broadway, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64105
(816) 474-4240
MARC Website

Award Winner

Metro Gold Line Light Rail Transitway- Marmion Way Corridor

Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Los Angeles, California

The Metro Gold Line/Marmion Way community involvement process is an excellent example of how a concerned community can make a successful, sustained effort to better its urban environment without compromising safety, even when initially faced with seemingly insurmountable engineering and implementation challenges. The Marmion Way effort has resulted in a safe, historically compatible, and neighborhood-friendly transit corridor that accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles.

Plans for the addition of light rail transit through northeastern Los Angeles in the mid-1990's caused great concern within the residential, ethnically diverse Highland Park community. The planned mile-long Marmion Way Corridor segment of the Metro Gold Line Light Rail Transit Project was to be located in the City of Los Angeles' Historic Preservation Overlay Zone within Highland Park, and contained within a narrow, 60-foot right-of-way.

The urban designer's project scoping and original project approach, generated in 1995, contained design features that clearly would have had negative impacts on the community. The City of Los Angeles recognized that there was a Title VI/Environmental Justice issue present along the Marmion Way Corridor as a result of the community impact assessment undertaken by the urban design team.

During the period of 1996 through 1998, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) responded by implementing an urban-design-focused community involvement process for the purpose of bringing the community and agency to a common understanding and shared vision of the proposed transitway. General consensus among the Highland Park community, Metro, and the City of Los Angeles was achieved. The urban design facilitation process completely transformed the Marmion Way Corridor from the standpoint of both the civil and system designs. This cooperative relationship, spanning eight years, has resulted in an extremely positive outcome for the neighborhood and the City.

Marmion Way before and after community-focused improvements.

Marmion Way before and after community-focused improvements.

The new approach enabled a more appropriate design fit for this historic neighborhood. Key innovative approaches have included (1) recognizing the importance of the community's concerns, including those of low-income residents, in the face original Gold Line design features that clearly impacted the community; (2) creating a street-running system through a residential neighborhood, rather than a walled transitway that would have physically divide the community; (3) working with the neighborhood to provide high-quality and safe pedestrian and bicycle facilities along the corridor; (4) developing a transitway design responsive to the neighborhood's historical Arts & Crafts-era architectural character; and (5) allowing both the civil and system designs of the transitway to become compatible with these other human and neighborhood needs, rather than simply focusing on engineering efficiency.

These last items - human and neighborhood needs - are significant. The corridor's final design was feasible only after Metro, the California Public Utility Commission, and the City of Los Angeles agreed to reduce the light rail vehicle's operating speed from a maximum of 40 mph to 20 mph. The original operating speed would have required street closures, increased property taxes, railroad crossing gates with at-grade crossings, increased noise impacts resulting from train horns and bells, and a completely walled-off transitway. The reduced operating speed allowed for system features that were more compatible with the safety requirements of the neighborhood's residents, including easy-to-use pedestrian crossings and traffic lights using signal pre-emption at all existing at-grade crossings, and a simple four-foot centerline fence to take the place of the six- to eight-foot walls originally designed to enclose the transitway.

There are now facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles. Emergency vehicles can access all residences and other buildings along Marmion Way. Mid-block alleyway access has been maintained through the right-of-way acquisition and construction processes. The transitway is no longer an exclusive right-of-way (as originally designed), but is now essentially street-running, allowing for shared use by motor vehicles as necessary. Additionally, the Marmion Way Corridor has new sidewalks where none were present prior to the Gold Line's construction. Lighting along Marmion Way, located on the Gold Line's catenary poles, has been added, with features that adequately illuminate the transitway, street, and sidewalks while protecting private residences from nighttime glare.

The new transitway, in operation since July 2003, has become an integral part of the local historic district and the residential neighborhood. The manner in which the public agencies responsible for the Gold Line's planning, design, and operation responded to the community's concerns and efforts to preserve the integrity of this historic neighborhood without compromising safety is unprecedented in its success.


James L. de la Loza
Chief Planning Officer
Countywide Planning and Development
Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority
One Gateway Plaza 22nd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012 -2952
(213) 922-3071

Award Winner

Route 9 Pedestrian Safety Study

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT)
Poughkeepsie, New York

The Route 9 Pedestrian Safety Study, the first of its kind by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), recognized that pedestrian safety and the long-term sustainability and health of the corridor and surrounding community were directly linked to the land use development impacts on the transportation system. The study used innovative techniques to gather pedestrian behavior data, formed lasting partnerships, and offered policy makers numerous recommendations that considered mode choice, equity, and sustainability. This study will be a model for future planning studies throughout the State.

The Route 9 Pedestrian Safety Study in Poughkeepsie, New York, was the first of its kind by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). This corridor study focused on pedestrian safety along a three-quarter-mile segment of Route 9 at Marist College, and used innovative approaches and techniques for data collection and analysis.

Cover, "Route 9: Safe Routes to School Pedestrian Study".

Route 9 is a state-owned and -maintained roadway that runs north/south, paralleling the Hudson River from New York City to Albany and beyond, passing through the Town of Poughkeepsie and Marist College. For many years, Route 9 and Marist College co-existed with limited interaction; however, as the college expanded eastward across Route 9, pedestrian traffic in the corridor increased. At the same time, traffic volumes were increasing in the corridor as a consequence of commercial development and rising commuter traffic. The Town of Poughkeepsie, Marist College, Dutchess County, and NYSDOT recognized the need to provide a balanced transportation corridor that was safe for all modes of transportation.

In the fall of 2003, NYSDOT initiated a study to offer an impartial assessment of pedestrian safety and access in the corridor. NYSDOT surveyed and interviewed over 2,600 pedestrians in the study area, used automated equipment for vehicular counts, performed crash analyses, built and used a traffic simulation model to analyze various traffic operation scenarios, and performed a speed study.

The pedestrian origin and destination survey involved strategically positioning NYSDOT personnel to interview pedestrians in order to determine where they were coming from and their destination. The information yielded maps showing the major pedestrian traffic patterns in the corridor, and was extremely useful for comparing the effectiveness of alternative solutions and understanding some of the problems caused by inadequate land use planning.

Another innovative method used to analyze the corridor's existing conditions and examine potential solutions was a traffic simulation model. Pedestrian and vehicle count information gathered during the field data collection period were entered into a transportation simulation model. The model was especially useful in demonstrating visually to executive staff the existing conditions, and how various pedestrian safety improvements might affect traffic operations.

The partnership among NYSDOT, the Town, the College, and the County resulted in the group's ability to solve complex transportation challenges in the corridor. As an example, during NYSDOT's pedestrian questionnaire, Marist College donated monetary prizes as an incentive to encourage participation in the survey. The prizes were instrumental in attaining a high participation rate, thereby improving the integrity of the agency's survey results.

The analytical techniques and basic format of the study make it a model for other applications. The methodology and analytical techniques used in the Route 9 Pedestrian Study can be easily replicated and applied to similar corridors faced with the challenge of balancing the safety and access needs of pedestrians and motorists. Since the Study's completion, the NYSDOT Region 8 office has recognized the widespread benefits that this approach offers.

In a region that is highly automobile-dependent, the study strove to develop recommendations recognizing that pedestrians, cyclists and transit users in the corridor deserved the same quality of service and safety as motorists. Completed in December 2003, the Study will now be used to help guide the team through project development and implementation. An implementation team has been assembled, including the partners mentioned above.

The Route 9 Pedestrian Safety Study used innovative techniques, formed lasting partnerships, and offered policy makers numerous recommendations that considered mode choice, equity, and sustainability. Since the Study's completion, a number of its recommendations have begun development as additional projects.


Sandra Jobson
NYSDOT Region 8
4 Burnett Boulevard
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
(845) 431-5814

Updated: 10/20/2015
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