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27 · Most (88%) of the DOT respondents had taken action to issues in transportation planning, and use tools such as data promote the consideration of environmental factors trend analysis, GIS, air quality impact models, overlay maps, before the project development stage. and focus groups as part of their analysis. This is not sur- · Almost two-thirds (62%) of the MPO respondents had prising given the emphasis these concerns have received in taken action to promote the consideration of environ- recent years. Planning agencies generally consider data mental factors before the project development stage. availability an issue in addressing environmental factors in · Most DOTs had defined purpose and need early in plan- planning. In addition, they are hindered by the lack of appro- ning and entered into agreements with environmental priate analysis tools and too many competing objectives that resource agencies. detract from environmental considerations. · Most MPOs had defined purpose and need early in the Many DOTs and MPOs are including environmental per- process and used environmental experts to identify sen- formance measures in planning. Most DOTs and MPOs seem sitive areas. to have taken at least one action to incorporate environmen- tal factors before the project development stage. There seems 10. Most DOTs, MPOs, and environmental resource to be general agreement that there is a high level of interac- agencies believe that the most important benefit for con- tion among implementing agencies, and MPOs seem opti- sidering environmental factors before the project develop- mistic that implementing agencies would be supportive of ment stage is that it results in better decisions. In addition, incorporating environmental factors earlier in planning. MPOs also believe that an equally important benefit is that There also seems to be broad consensus that incorporating it shortens the time to project implementation. environmental factors earlier in planning generally leads to better decisions. Several agencies gave examples where · For DOT respondents, other important benefits included incorporating environmental factors earlier resulted in tangi- improving the agency image, reducing the level of ble benefits. potential public controversy, and engaging environ- In general, the survey suggests that DOTs and MPOs rec- mental resource agencies earlier. ognize the importance of environmental considerations in · For MPO respondents, other important benefits transportation planning, but that the state-of-the-practice is included linking planning better with project develop- oriented toward environmental-impact-specific issues. Not ment, reducing the level of potential public controversy, surprisingly, both DOT and MPO respondents identified air and helping to develop a constituency for a project. quality and environmental justice as those issues receiving · For environmental resource agency respondents, other the most attention. These issues have been the focus of most important benefits included linking planning to project recent federal legislation and regulatory actions. Very few development, engaging environmental resource agen- examples were found where environmental issues were con- cies earlier, and shortening the time to project imple- sidered from a systems perspective and linked closely with mentation. the development of transportation plans. Some examples were found where agencies, especially state DOTs, have 11. Respondents varied in their ability to identify specific implemented actions to streamline project development. As examples in which considering environmental factors seen in the survey response, a major reason for considering before project development had resulted in benefits. environmental factors earlier was considered to be better decisions. · Just over 50% of the DOT respondents, 22% of the MPO respondents, and 23% of the environmental SUMMARY AND IMPLICATIONS resource agency respondents could identify specific OF IMPORTANT FINDINGS examples in which considering environmental factors before project development resulted in benefits. The literature points to several theoretical bases for addressing the environment in transportation planning at a 12. Most of the MPO respondents (73%) indicated that systems level. The idea of cities as ecosystems with finite they believed implementing agencies in their area would carrying capacities presents a simple and broadly understood be supportive of addressing environmental concerns ear- basis for integrating environmental considerations with plan- lier in project development. ning and for tracking how transportation development deci- sions are impacting the environment over time. The concept Figures 2 through 6 show the differences between the of sustainability also is increasingly important in transporta- DOT and MPO responses for key survey questions. The sur- tion planning. Sustainability refers to economic and social vey indicates that there is notable variation in the ways in change to improve human well-being while reducing the which different agencies are considering environmental fac- need for environmental protection. tors in transportation planning. Typically, DOTs and MPOs The importance of legislation in advancing environmental place great emphasis on air quality and environmental justice considerations in planning for infrastructure is found in both
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28 State DOTs MPOs Figure 2. Importance of environmental factors, state DOTs and MPOs. domestic and international experiences. States that have will be a universal approach that fits the needs or perceived passed strong environmental legislation, not surprisingly, priorities of all agencies. It is interesting to note that agencies have made greater progress than their counterparts without tend to agree that earlier environmental considerations similar legislation. A similar finding was made for countries should result in better decisions. However, agencies also tend in the European Union: those who had passed legislation on to be constrained by other competing priorities, indicating Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) had made that some form of incentive (e.g., devoting additional more strides with the application and effectiveness of SEAs. resources to this goal) may be necessary to foster increased The fact that some states have passed laws that explicitly link integration of environmental considerations with transporta- environmental considerations to transportation planning and tion planning. Not surprisingly, the United States and coun- decision making is indicative of a growing awareness of the tries in the European Union that have passed legislation to importance of this issue and a desire to institutionalize promote environmental considerations in planning have requirements to address it. given this issue a high priority and allocated appropriate Both domestic experiences with transportation planning resources to address it. and international experiences with sustainable transportation The next chapter presents a transportation planning frame- activities highlight the importance of performance measure- work and the important steps needed to consider environ- ment as a tool for assessing an agency's progress toward mental factors earlier. As noted in the results of the survey, environmental or sustainability goals. The literature shows although the application of this framework could result in that performance measurement is one of the first steps agen- faster project development procedures, the primary intent is cies take to develop credibility in the environmental area. to produce better decisions. In this case, "better" means Although the survey results indicate a general consensus investment decisions that meet the important transportation on the importance of environmental considerations in trans- goals of a community, but do so in a way that enhances the portation planning, they also show that different agencies capacity and functionality of the surrounding environment have adopted various approaches and priorities to address the while preserving those quality-of-life characteristics valued environment during planning. Thus, it is unlikely that there by the local community.
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29 State DOTs MPOs Figure 3. Most important methods and tools for environmental consideration, state DOTs and MPOs.
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30 State DOTs MPOs Figure 4. Existence of data for consideration of environmental factors, state DOTs and MPOs.
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31 State DOTs MPOs Figure 5. Obstacles to incorporating environmental factors into trans- portation planning, state DOTs and MPOs.
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32 Reasons to Consider Environmental Factors Earlier in Project Development Percent Choosing the Obstacle as Important State DOTs Reasons to Consider Environmental Factors Earlier in Project Development Percent Choosing the Obstacle as Important MPOs Figure 6. Reasons for considering environmental factors earlier in project development, state DOTs and MPOs.