Transportation System Planning

Effective transportation systems are essential for maintaining the productivity, health and safety of communities and regions. A transportation plan guides the investment in and timing of, improvements to the transportation network to meet community mobility, accessibility, safety, economic and quality of life needs.

Reasons to Prepare a Transportation Plan

Transportation plans are typically prepared to address the following items in a systematic, coordinated and comprehensive manner.

  • Management of existing systems
  • Maintenance of previous investment
  • Realignment of existing services
  • Introduction of new services
  • Construction of new facilities
  • Identification of ways to finance system maintenance and improvements

The process of preparing various transportation plans gives government agencies or elected officials to assess the adequacy of the existing system and to plan to meet future needs while maintaining local and regional transportation systems in good condition. The outcome of the process should be a transportation plan that defines existing problems and issues, predicts future deficiencies and problems, defines solutions and identifies where to find the resources needed to manage and implement plan recommendations. The goals of a particular transportation plan are usually determined by comparing existing transportation system performance to projected future demands and by considering the social, economic and environmental circumstances of the community. Transportation plans often provide a “blueprint” for future development and redevelopment in support of regional and comprehensive land use plans.

The development of a successful transportation plan requires the insights of those entities responsible for various components of the transportation system, working in concert with those who will use and be affected by the transportation service and improvements. Those responsible for plan development must create an effective forum for evaluating system deficiencies, assessing alternatives, and selecting the most effective course of action. Development of some plans is a highly structured process, complete with formal committees. Others are less structured and rely more heavily on exiting committees or informal communication networks to solicit participation.

Types of Transportation Plans

Transportation plans vary widely in approach, content and scope as determined by geographic coverage, scale and time frame. There are four basic types of transportation plans.

  1. Statewide transportation plans
  2. Metropolitan area long range transportation plans
  3. Local transportation plans
  4. Corridor plans

1) Statewide Transportation Plans

Statewide transportation plans, which are prepared by state DOTs (Department of transportation), provide the basis for coordinating data collection and analyses to support planning, programming and project development decisions. A basic requirement of plan development is coordination with the public and other entities with jurisdiction. The extent of coordination required with other transportation planning entities in developing the plan is based on the scale and complexity of many issues, including transportation problems, safety concerns, and land use, employment, economic, environmental, housing and community development objectives within the state.

The plans typically reference, summarize or contain information about the availability of financial and other resources needed to implement the plan. State plans are evaluated on a regular basis and updated periodically to reflect changing statewide priorities and needs. These are intermodal in nature. They address passenger, goods and freight movement for a minimum 20-year planning horizon. These plans are federally mandated to consider the following issues.

  • Economic vitality
  • Safety and security
  • Accessibility and mobility
  • Environmental quality
  • Quality of life
  • System connectivity
  • System efficiency
  • System preservation

2) Metropolitan Area Long Range Transportation Plans

Metropolitan area long range transportation plans focus on evaluating alternative transportation and land use scenarios to identify major travel corridors, assess potential problems and provide a basis for planning and programming major improvements. These plans cover multiple jurisdictions and are therefore “regional” in emphasis. Prepared under the direction of a federally designated MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization), they typically cover a 20-year planning horizon. The plan must demonstrate the likely availability of funding sources needed to implement proposed programs and projects.

3) Local Transportation Plans

Local transportation plans are prepared either as stand-alone documents or as an element of a comprehensive plan. Local governments or regional transit providers typically prepare these plans, but they are coordinated closely with MPOs and state DOTs. The plans provide the basis for the programming and implementation of local transportation actions. They address small scale improvements and projects requiring major capital investments. The typical plan consists of an inventory of existing facilities and a description of existing conditions, an assessment of system deficiencies, a projection of future needs, a description of the proposed plan, discussion of cost implications and a summary of actions required for plan implementation. These plans usually address some short-range early action items (1 to 5 years), some midrange actions (5 to 10 years), and longer term activities in a 20-year time horizon.

4) Corridor Plans

Corridor plans that focus on transportation are prepared for high priority areas showing signs of congestion or predicted for significant future travel volume or for transportation facilities of historical or natural significance. The entity responsible for implementing the improvements most frequently prepares these plans. Coordination of corridor plans with the general public as well as with federal, state, and local agencies is required.

Corridor plans usually have a 20-year planning horizon. The degree of federal or state DOT participation is often governed by the proposed funding for the plan’s implementation. Corridor plans involve the definition of the corridor to be studied, along with a clear presentation of the problem to be solved. Consideration of a wide range of alternative will help to solve the identified transportation problem. These alternatives can involve different levels of investment or different types of corridor improvements. They are systematically evaluated using a set of stakeholder developed evaluation criteria. These criteria typically include land use, environmental effects, community concerns, cost, capacity and effectiveness. The analysis results are shared and discussed publicly prior to making a decision on a preferred course of action. The final plan document summarizes both the planning process and the results, explaining how the decision was made and the actions necessary to implement the plan.

Plan Components

Transportation plans should include the following elements.

  • An overview of the planning process
  • A description of existing conditions (transportation network and land use)
  • A forecast of future conditions (transportation network and land use)
  • A summary of transportation needs
  • An assessment of transportation system capacity
  • A series of alternative scenarios for future and proposed improvements
  • A description of cost implications and funding sources
  • Guidelines for implementation and performance monitoring
  • A program for ensuring public involvement



Post a Comment