Our transportation systems influence virtually every aspect of community life. They are the means for moving people, goods and services throughout our communities, the region, and, increasingly, to destinations around the world. Of equal importance, these systems have played a significant role in shaping patterns of growth, facilitating economic prosperity, and influencing the character and livability of our communities.
As a result, transportation planning is a particularly important component in the overall planning for what we want our communities to be. In particular, land use and transportation are inextricably linked. Past decisions about transportation system development were not always based on a comprehensive review of the diverse needs and interrelationships that influence whether we achieve both effective transportation systems and livable communities. Decisions were not necessarily based on a clear vision about a community's future. Instead, much of our current inventory of transportation facilities was built on a project-by-project basis, often in reaction to traffic congestion or other problems. Planning, development and operational responsibility for various pieces of the transportation network has been divided among federal, state, and local government agencies, regional transit agencies, port districts, and the private sector. The efforts of these various agencies have not always added up to an efficient, seamless system.
In recognition of the these shortcomings, a new generation of federal, state and local transportation plans is transforming transportation planning. At the federal level, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) implements federal policies through its funding programs. For the latest information on these policies, visit their Legislation, Regulations and Guidance webpage.
In Washington, The Growth Management Act (1990) and The Statewide Transportation Planning Act adopted in 1993 guide future community and transportation system planning at the state, regional and local levels. The state also has established Regional Transportation Planning Organizations.
Together, these laws require better integration of transportation and land use, and coordination between local, regional, and state agencies. In addition, they provide guidance for a more efficient and balanced transportation system that supports the broader, long-range goals for community development. An MRSC webpage: National, Statewide and Regional Transportation Planning provides more detailed information, including links to relevant laws and statutes.
This webpage provides information and links to resources helpful in preparing local transportation plans. In particular, it offers help with the difficult task of making transportation policy decisions and involving the public in the transportation planning process. It also provides links to technical information needed for planning and to rural/small community planning information.
- Comprehensive Transport Planning: Creating a Comprehensive Framework for Transportation Planning and Policy Analysis, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) webpage, 11/12/2010 - Addresses comprehensive planning with a focus on accessibility and alternative transportation modes rather than only adding roadway capacity. Emphasizes fully understanding costs of various choices, evaluation tools modeling practices, best practices and more
- Planning, Environment & Realty, Federal Highway Administration - Information on a variety of issues and programs related to transportation planning, environmental, and real estate/land acquisition for local, rural, metropolitan, state, tribal, and interested citizens
- Planning & Environment, Federal Transit Administration - Information on New Starts and Small Starts programs (fixed guideway and bus rapid transit) transit and sustainability, transit oriented development, environmental analysis, grant programs to fund multimodal transportation and other planning topics
- Planning 2011 Volume 1 and Volume 2, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board - Collection of recent papers that examine a variety of current transportation planning topics
- Transportation Planning Update Newsletter, Transportation Research Board - Quarterly newsletter provides updates on programs, resources, training (including many Webinars) and best practices.
- Transportation Planning, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) - Links to statewide plans including the Long-Range Statewide Transportation Plan (2007 - 2026), Aviation System Plan, Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways Plan, Ferry Long Range Plan, Freight Rail Plan, Highway System Plan, and others. Also technical assistance resources for local government.
- A Bridge to Somewhere: Rethinking American Transportation for the 21st Century, Robert Puentes, The Brookings Institution, 06/2008 - Recommendations for a targeted, purposeful national transportation policy
- FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) and Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) - Includes a CSS primer. (Context sensitive design (CSD) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility. CSD is an approach that considers the total context within which a transportation improvement project will exist.
- The Future Isn't What It Used To Be: Changing Trends And Their Implications For Transport Planning, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 08/19/2011 - This report examines demographic, economic and market trends that affect travel demand, and their implications for transportation planning. Notes indications that demand for alternatives such as walking, cycling, public transit and telework is increasing.
- Least-Cost Transportation Planning: Creating an unbiased framework for transport planning, Victoria Transport Policy Institute webpage, 11/12/2010 - Approach for examining demand management solutions as well as strategies to increase capacity, and suggests approaches for considering all significant impacts
- Policy Options for Reducing Energy Use and Greenhouse Gasses from U.S. Transportation, Transportation Research Board, Special Report No. 307, 2011 - Examines trends and potential strategies for reducing energy use and GHG emissions from the nation's personal and freight transportation systems
- The Relationship Between Land Use , Urban Form And Vehicle Miles Of Travel: The State Of Knowledge And Implications For Transportation Planning, by Steven E. Polzin, Florida Department of Transportation, 03/2004 - Report begins a conceptual outline of the transportation-land use relationship, and reviews past research to provide a synthesis of findings regarding the relationship between land use and urban form and the vehicle miles of travel by persons. Still useful.
- Well within Reach, America's New Transportation Agenda, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia, 09/2009 - Report for David R. Goode National Transportation Policy Conference - Recommendations from transportation experts, including two former Secretaries of Transportation, for maintaining and innovating America's transportation infrastructure systems
Guides and Programs
- Washington Transportation Guidebook Update, Preliminary Draft, Department of Commerce, Growth Management Services, 09/2011 - This guidebook is a tool to help local government staff and decision makers understand, develop and implement the transportation planning requirements in the Growth Management Act. This guide can serve as a resource to help communities evaluate their options in developing and implementing the transportation element of their comprehensive plan. Includes links to outside resources and examples.
- Livability in Transportation Guidebook, Report No. FHWA-HEP-10-028, prepared by ICF International for FHA/FTA - Planning approaches, practical strategies, Highlights 15 case studies including TOD and bus rapid transit; focused on projects that support economic revitalization and community development, while improving transportation and housing affordability and quality of life
- Planning Processes - Land Use and Transportation - Very useful webpage focuses on tools for coordinating land use and transportation. Includes links to land use tools, great case studies and approaches available to support the integration of land use and transportation planning initiatives including bicycle and pedestrian programs, transportation enhancements program, contest sensitive solutions, scenario planning and others
- State Transportation Planning Guidance, MRSC - Links to Washington state transportation plans and guidance documents
- Tool Kit for Integrating Land Use and Transportation Decision-Making, Federal Highway Administration
- Transportation Planning and Sustainability Guidebook, Federal Highway Administration 01/2011 - Explores ways to better incorporate sustainability considerations into transportation planning
- The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues: A Briefing Book for Transportation Decisionmakers, Officials, and Staff, Federal Highway Administration/Federal Transit Administration, Updated 2007 - Provides an overview of transportation planning and basic understanding of key planning and policy issues
Making Decisions about Transportation Policy
Local governments in Washington face a challenging climate when making decisions about transportation policy. Policy makers face the daunting task of allocating diminishing resources to meet the needs of a growing and changing population. New state and federal laws require a more comprehensive consideration of transportation needs, alternatives, and interrelationships rather than considering transportation problems in isolation. Policymakers must consider what combination of policies best achieves efficient movement of goods and people while serving diverse needs, addressing concerns about air quality and other environmental issues, contributing to economic health, and supporting improved quality of community life.
Policymakers will need to consider a wider range of transportation solutions than has been typical in the past. They will need to coordinate with and involve other jurisdictions, transportation providers and citizens to gain a fuller understanding of diverse needs. They will also need to more fully evaluate long-term direct and indirect effects and costs of policy decisions. Materials in this section address factors to be considered, information needs, methods for analyzing alternatives and other keys to more successful decisions.
- Comprehensive Transport Planning Framework: Best Practices for Evaluating All Options and Impacts, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute with Rowan Steele, 04/15/2011 - Report describes principles for comprehensive transportation planning, identifies common planning distortions, recommends practical methods for correcting these distortions and improving transport decision-making
- Evaluating Transportation Equity - Guidance for Incorporating Distributional Impacts into Transportation Planning, Todd Litman, TDM Planning and Implementation, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 02/22/2012 - This report provides guidance on incorporating equity impacts into transportation planning. It defines various types of equity, discusses ways of evaluating equity, and describes practical ways of incorporating equity objectives into decision-making. “Equity” refers to the fairness with which impacts (benefits and costs) are distributed
- Evaluating Impacts and Problems, Victoria Transport Policy Institute webpage, Victoria Transport Policy Institute,Updated 03/2012 - Provides links to a number of useful papers on evaluation including "Transportation Cost Benefits Analysis" which looks at the full costs and benefits of different transportation modes including those commonly overlooked. Also see "Evaluating Transportation Economic Development Impacts"
- A Guide to Transportation Decisionmaking, Federal Highway Administration, 2009 - This brief guidebook provides interested citizens with an overview of the federally required transportation decision-making process and the role of federal, state, and regional (MPOs) and local agencies in transportation planning and implementation.
- Prioritizing Transportation: Prioritization in Transportation Planning, Funding and Management, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 01/26/2010 - Transportation planning and management involves countless decisions concerning the allocation of resources, such as money, road space, parking spaces, and priority in traffic. This report describes how to make allocation decisions that improve overall transportation system efficiency and support strategic planning objectives.
- Transportation Decision-Making: Policy Architecture for the 21st Century, U.S. Department of Transportation, 11/2000 - Recommended framework and set of principles to encourage more open, collaborative, and flexible decision making. Still quite useful.
Public Involvement in Transportation Planning
Public participation is the most important means for discovering issues, understanding the needs of the wide variety of community groups, testing ideas, and arriving at workable transportation solutions. A participation program, initiated early in the process and offering public comment opportunities at key stages, will help policymakers stay better tuned to the needs and concerns of constituents. It can help avoid the costly scuttling or major revision of plans further down the road. Public participation in transportation planning is particularly challenging because of the long time horizons, complex technical issues and the requirements and involvement of federal, state and regional agencies. The potential impact of transportation systems on economic growth, development patterns and the environment often fuels vigorous public debate. Past experience with major transportation projects has left many citizens skeptical about whether they can realistically influence the process. Materials in this section illustrate participation tools and examples of programs that can successfully engage citizens in the transportation planning process.
Publications and Useful Websites
- Building Support for Transit-Oriented Development: Do Community-Engagement Toolkits Work?, University of California Transportation Center Research Paper No. 885, Erin Machell, Troy Reinhalter, and Karen Chapple, 2009 - Very helpful, pragmatic outreach tips to build trust and credibility while avoiding loaded terms such as “density” and “affordable”
- Effective Communication and Public Participation, MRSC - Offers wide variety of techniques, examples and resources for effective communication and public participation used in planning
- Effective Public Involvement Using Limited Resources, TRB's National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 407, 2010 - Examines cost-effective and ineffective techniques and offers an interesting collection of the most cost-effective practices (which were also often the most effective approaches) illustrated with some great examples
- How to Engage Low-Literacy and Limited English-Proficiency Populations in Transportation Decision-Making, Federal Highway Administration, 2006 - Useful suggestions for identifying and engaging low-literacy and limited-English-proficiency populations in transportation decisionmaking. Still very relevant.
- Innovative Public Involvement Technology Research and Implementation Study, Colorado Department of Transportation, 2010 - Study evaluates technology-based tools and recommends those that best meet a useful set of criteria for reaching target audinences beyond those that attend traditional meetings. Public outreach tools considered include web-based videos, twitter, social media, and web feeds, mapping applications, online scenario testing tool, and electronic voting devices for meetings.
- Public Involvement Techniques, and Visualization Tools - Rural transportation.org - Very useful collection of public involvement resources useful in rural settings
- Public Involvement: Transportation Planning Process Resource Guide, Federal Highway Administration's Resource Center Planning Team, 2008 - Links to a number of "notable practices," and outreach tools resources. Includes link to FHA's interactive website: Transportation Planning Capacity: Planning for a Better Tomorrow, which describes a very useful set of involvement techniques, with contact numbers for agencies that have used the techniques
Participation Plans and Programs
- Bellevue, WA Eastgate/I-90 Land Use and Transportation Project Public Involvement - Illustrates a variety of techniques from more traditional open houses, citizen advisory committees, and alternatives survey to creative variations: visual perference surveys, study tours (public invited) and outreach bike ride with a large cycling club. Effective meeting presentations with visualization aids also available online.
- Brevard County, FL Public Involvement Plan Technical Memo #1, 06/30/2008, and Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization Public Participation Plan, Metropolitan Planning Organization, 04/08/2010 - Plans outlining a variety of techniques and an evaluation of effectiveness of past public involvement strategies
- Public Involvement and the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Design-Build Project, The Metropolitan Council (MN) and Partner Agencies - A case study of how the Metropolitan Council overcame obstacles to public involvement in a light rail project
- Portland Metro, OR Public involvement policy for transportation planning, 2009 - Combines procedures to meet public involvement requirements of federal laws and recommended procedures for more effective, inclusive involvement
- Redmond, WA NE 76th Street Public Outreach - Outreach for project plan includes stakeholders charrette, open houses with questionnaires, and voting exercises, 2010
Resources and Data
- Census Transportation Planning Products - Includes links to self tutorials, explanatory articles and FAQs
- Data Collection and Surveys, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 04/15/2011 - Discusses how to collect data and perform surveys for transportation demand program planning and evaluation
- Pocket Guide to Transportation 2012, Bureau of Transportation Statistics - Provides snapshots of the U.S. transportation system and highlights major transportation trends. Includes information on safety, road conditions, factors influencing growth of vehicle or other travel, and vehicle emissions
- TranStats, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics - Intermodal transportation database, and Bureau of Transportation Statistics Publications - Many publications with statistics on many transportation topics, generally at the national or state level
- WSDOT Key Facts: A Summary of Transportation Information for Washington State - Contains information about highways, bridges, ferries, public transportation systems, aviation, rail freight, as well as other transportation information
- WSDOT Maps & Data - Aerial photography, digital maps, highways of statewide significance, geospatial data and others
Travel Demand Forecasting and Modeling Practices
Transportation planners use models to understand how various changes to land use patterns and the transportation system, as well as changes in the behavior of travelers, will affect future travel conditions. They provide a short cut way to predict the transportation system needs under different scenarios and to make decisions about which alternatives work best for a community. For those who haven't worked extensively with transportation models, A Transportation Modeling Primer, described below, provides a good starting point for a better understanding of modeling basics. The Traffic Forecast, chapter of the Draft Transportation Guidebook, also noted below, provides information about traffic forecasts and modeling in the context of growth management planning in Washington State. Other resouces below provide helpful information on various aspects of transportation models and forecasting.
- Advanced Practices in Travel Forecasting, Synthesis 406, Transportation Research Board (TRB) National Cooperative Highway Research Program, 2010 - Examines five types of models: activity-based demand, dynamic network, land use, freight, and statewide
- Freight Forecasting, Federal Highway Administration - Articles and resources on truck and multimodal freight forecasting
- Making the Most of Models: Using Models To Develop More Effective Transport Policies And Strategies, Peter Furnish and Don Wignall, 07/2009 - This paper reviews the role of conventional transport models in the development of transport policies and strategies. Explores contribution that simplified models could make, if more widely available, and provides an example.
- Modeling Practices, Section of Comprehensive Transport Planning,Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 11/12/2010 - Discusses current and recommended practices
- The Traffic Forecast, Part III Sections F, Draft Transportation Guidebook, Washington Department of Commerce, 12/2011 - Currently taking comments. Very helpful Washington-oriented guide describes how to forecast traffic and transit ridership generated by alternative land use patterns. Focuses on methods geared to small- and medium-sized communities.
- Travel Forecasting: Training and Technical Assistance, FHWA Resource Center Planning Team, Federal Highway Administration - Includes a short course on modeling, and information on technical assistance programs for local government
- Travel Model Improvement Program, Partnership of The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Links to Webinar series on forecasting land use activity supply and demand and other modeling and forecasting resources
- A Transportation Modeling Primer, by Edward A. Beimborn, Center for Urban Transportation Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 05/1995, updated 2006 - User friendly explanation of modeling basics, complete with cartoons
- Trip Generation, 8th Edition, ITE, 2008 - Provides average trips generated by 162 land use categories. Publications available for purchase from the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Rural and Small Community Transportation Planning
By definition, rural communities have relatively low densities. Many rural residents rely primarily on the automobile for transportation. Similar to urban areas, rural areas have many non-drivers including those who are too young to drive, or the elderly. In addition, many rural areas have significant levels of poverty, and some residents may not be able to afford a car or the high cost of fuel. Regular and frequent transit service requires urban densities, and transit between widely-separated communities will not be sustained without adequate economies of scale. Non-drivers may feel isolated without an automobile, and are at a disadvantage gaining access to jobs or a variety of services. As a result, it is especially challenging to provide transportation choices in rural areas. This section includes materials that explore these special rural transportation issues, and offers approaches suitable for low density rural areas.
- Best Practices to Enhance the Transportation-Land Use Connection in the Rural United States, NCHRP 582, Hannah Twaddell and Dan Emerine (2007), Transportation Research Board - Report highlights programs that support rural development and land use strategies that maximize transportation capacity as well as community livability.
- Cases Studies on Transit and Livable Communities in Rural and Small Town America, assembled by Sean Barry, Transportation for America, 2011 - Brief report draws on 12 case studies as examples of providing transportation choices in rural communities.
- Guidebook for Change and Innovation at Rural and Small Urban Transit Systems, TCRP Report No. 70, Transportation Cooperative Research Program, Transportation Research Board & National Research Council, 2001 - Research, presented in the form of a guidebook, as a resource to new concepts to those working to improve public transportation in rural community. Based on a review of innovative public transportation initiatives undertaken in rural and small urban communities throughout the United States. Still useful.
- Planning for Transportation in Rural Areas, Federal Highway Administration, 2004 (Reissued in 2011) - Explanation of Federal rural transportation policy
- Rural Assistance Center: Transportation - Useful, well-organized Website with online library and tools
- Rural and Small Community Planning, Federal Highway Administration - Resources, publications and calendar of events
- Rural Transportation Management, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 02/22/2012 - Provides a good overview understanding and describes transportation management and transit strategies suitable for implementation in lower-density rural and suburban areas. Includes several useful Washington Olympic Peninsula case studies, as well as from other parts of the U.S. Canada, and other countries. Also links to many relevant publications
- RuralTransportation.org, The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and RPO America - Rural transportation-oriented news, clearinghouse, blog with a wealth of information
- Transportation Toolbox for Rural Areas and Small Communities, National Transportation Library, USDOT, USDA - Programs to assist rural areas
- The U.S. Rural Population and Scheduled Intercity Transportation in 2010: A Five-Year Decline in Transportation Access, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 02/2011 - Between 2005 and 2010, 3.5 million rural residents lost access to scheduled intercity transportation. A somewhat greater number lost at least one travel mode in that time.
- Planning Glossary, Federal Highway Administration - Transportation-related terms
- Dictionary, Bureau of Transportation Statistics - Includes acronyms