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33 CHAPTER 3 INCORPORATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS INTO TRANSPORTATION PLANNING AND PROJECT DEVELOPMENT INTRODUCTION CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK This chapter presents a conceptual framework of trans- By its very nature, a conceptual framework is a simplifi- portation systems planning and project development that cation of what could be a very complex process. For exam- illustrates where environmental considerations can be incor- ple, the framework outlined in this chapter presents systems porated into planning and what strategies can be used to pro- planning and project development as an orderly, somewhat vide greater sensitivity to environmental concerns. The first rational series of steps that logically follow one another. An section of this chapter describes the conceptual framework. illustration of this framework shows the process as starting Subsequent sections use the results of the case studies con- with ideas (e.g., developing a vision) and ending with a solu- ducted for this project to illustrate how some states and tion to identified problems (e.g., projects programmed and MPOs have incorporated environmental considerations into designed). In reality, planning and project development are each step of system planning and project development. much more complex, with many different activities possibly An important step in systems planning, and thus a compo- occurring concurrently. Additionally, in a typical planning nent of the conceptual framework, is analyzing alternatives. context, many of the steps outlined in the framework might This step is heavily dependent on data collection and inter- have already occurred and be irrelevant to a particular situa- pretation. In addition, analysis uses models or other tools to tion at a specific time. Even with these caveats, a conceptual understand how changing the characteristics of the trans- framework that identifies important components of a process portation system might affect system performance and oth- and how they relate to one another can be beneficial in guid- erwise affect the natural and built environment. Because ing the discussion of how this process can be modified. many distinct analysis tools and methods could be used to The conceptual framework that has guided this research is incorporate environmental factors into systems planning, this shown in Figure 7. The development of this framework has topic will be covered in Chapter 4. relied heavily on two recent contributions to the literature, The conceptual framework is defined in this chapter in gen- both of which emphasize different parts of the framework. eral terms that make it possible to describe the basic steps First, Meyer and Miller's (36) book on urban transportation for planning and project development in both statewide and planning provides the key point of departure for the systems metropolitan-level applications. Clearly, different compo- planning components of this framework. Second, project nents of such a framework might receive different levels of development borrows heavily from NCHRP Report 480: A emphasis in each type of application. For example, metropol- Guide to Best Practices for Achieving Context-Sensitive itan transportation systems planning tends to be much more Solutions (30). dependent on network modeling activities than most exam- Systems planning begins with the creation of a vision. The ples of statewide transportation planning. Although several definition of a vision portrayed in Figure 7 reflects the inter- states have developed models that forecast future travel flows action between desired states of prosperity, environmental on the state's transportation system, most state planning activ- quality, and social equity/quality of life. These three factors ities have not included this level of complexity in the process. have been used purposely to define the key definitions of Another important distinction between metropolitan and sustainable development. This vision can consist of general statewide transportation planning applications is that a state statements of desired end-states, or can be as specific as a DOT has a responsibility not only for statewide transportation defined land-use scenario. Usually, the vision for metropoli- planning, but also for project development. Metropolitan tan planning tends to be more specific than the vision created planning organizations (MPOs) are primarily responsible for for state-level planning. The "visioning process" relies on transportation systems planning, and project development is extensive public outreach and is often one of the most inter- left to other agencies. This is an important institutional issue active steps of the systems planning process. in that the challenge of influencing systems planning and proj- Once a vision has been defined, planning needs more spe- ect development will likely relate to which organizations are cific information on what this vision means in terms of both responsible for each. desired transportation system performance, as well as the

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34 Project Development Process System Project Project Develop project monitoring design planning concepts Other sources for project ideas TIP Prosperity Goals and Performance Alternative Evaluation Vision objectives measures improvement criteria strategies Social equity/ Environmental Plan quality of life quality Analysis Data methods Transportation Systems Planning Figure 7. Conceptual framework of transportation system planning and project development. Source: Meyer and Miller, 2001 (36). desired characteristics of those aspects of community life how changes to that system will alter its performance. Analy- affected by transportation, such as environmental quality or sis also focuses on the relationships between transportation economic development. This is usually accomplished by system performance and other topics such as environmental defining goals and objectives that provide overall direction quality, economic development, and quality of life. The to the planning process. These goals and objectives not only analysis step includes the identification of alternative strate- serve the purpose of helping to define what the purposes of gies or projects that meet the objectives of the study. Analy- planning are but, later in planning, they lead to the identifi- sis tools, ranging from simple data analysis to complex cation of criteria that are used to evaluate different trans- simulation models, are used to produce the information that portation system options and alternatives. feeds the next step of the process, which is evaluation. Goals and objectives can also lead to the identification of Evaluation is synthesizing information on the benefits, system performance measures. The use of measures to mon- costs, and effects generated by analysis so that judgments can itor the performance of the transportation system and of other be made concerning the relative merits of alternative actions. systems deemed important to decision-making is a relatively As noted by Meyer and Miller (36), evaluation should have new phenomenon to the transportation field (see, for exam- the following characteristics: ple, 59, 60). The primary purpose of these measures is to tar- get key data collection (and resulting information needs) on Focus on the decisions being faced by decision makers. those aspects of performance that decision makers determine Relate the consequences of alternatives to goals and to be of most importance for their state or region. For exam- objectives. ple, many performance measures have been defined that Determine how different groups are affected by trans- monitor whether congestion, average speeds, system relia- portation proposals. bility, and mobility options have changed over time. Very Be sensitive to the time frame in which project effects few transportation-systems-level examples exist of measures are likely to occur. that relate to such things as environmental quality, economic In the case of regional transportation planning, produce development, and quality of life (61). information on the likely effects of alternatives at a level Key to understanding the problems and challenges likely to of aggregation that permits varying levels of assess- be faced in the future is the ability to collect and analyze data. ment. Analysis primarily focuses on understanding how a trans- Analyze the implementation requirements of each portation system and its components work and, consequently, alternative.

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35 Assess the financial feasibility of the actions recom- adopts a much broader perspective of what constitutes sys- mended in the plan. tems planning. Provide information to decision makers on the value of Second, a relatively new addition to systems planning is alternatives in a readily understandable form and a the use of performance measures, shown in Figure 7 as a timely fashion. central concept in the overall planning process. Given the important link between planning and decision making, per- One of the most common ways of making sure that the formance measures should focus on the information of great- results of evaluation are linked closely to the needs of deci- est concern to decision makers. Performance measures sion makers is through the definition of evaluation criteria should reflect the ultimate outcomes of transportation system that reflect important decision-making concerns. These performance, including, for example, the level of mobility criteria provide important guidance to planners and engi- for disadvantaged populations, pollutant levels from mobile neers about what type of data and analysis tools must be sources, and economic development gains. Performance available in order to produce the desired information. The measures not only define data requirements and influence the result of evaluation is the development of recommended development of analytical methods, but they become a criti- strategies or a plan. cal way of providing feedback to decision-making on the In the United States, the actual program of action, referred results of previous decisions. to as the transportation improvement program (TIP) for a Third, a major focus of systems planning is the considera- metropolitan area and the state transportation improvement tion of alternative strategies, which could include projects in program (STIP) for a state, is connected to the plan through the conventional sense, but also may include many different programming. Programming is matching actions that have types of actions designed to influence travel behavior and surfaced through evaluation as being the most desirable with system performance. For example, travel demand manage- available funds. When funds are insufficient to satisfy all of ment (TDM) strategies, such as variable work hours, the funding needs, some form of priority-setting occurs. This rideshare programs, and parking pricing, have become priority-setting can take many forms from pure politics to the important options in many metropolitan areas for reducing use of systems analysis tools to assigning priority weights to transportation demand. Likewise, many intelligent trans- different feasible actions. portation system (ITS) actions are not really "projects" as Once a project or action has been programmed for imple- much as they are efforts to better coordinate the actions of mentation, that project must be further refined in terms of those responsible for system operations. And also included design and operation, as well as to better understand likely in the strategies concept are actions that can be undertaken effects. Such refinement is called project development. The individually or in concert with specific projects aimed at three major steps in project development include developing reducing or avoiding environmental impacts. Thus, the con- project concepts, planning the project in finer detail than ceptual framework shown in Figure 7 provides for a much what would ordinarily occur in systems planning, and pre- wider consideration of actions and strategies than what is liminary and final engineering. Project development takes usually considered in the systems planning process. various forms depending on the scope and magnitude of the A final characteristic of the planning framework pro- project and expected effects. When significant environmen- posed here is the periodic feedback provided by system tal impacts are expected, for example, project development monitoring to the original vision definition, goals state- will include an analysis whose steps are well laid out in rules ment, and identification of performance measures. Analy- and regulations. sis and evaluation are undertaken not only to assess the The final component of the framework is system monitor- consequences of a decision, but also to better understand ing. Note in Figure 7 that system monitoring provides a feed- the definition of the problem, which may require changing back loop to the definition of goals and objectives and the use this definition based on preliminary analysis results. of performance measures. Poor system performance can lead System monitoring serves as a major source of information to further planning analysis to better understand the dynam- on the performance of the transportation system and is an ics of the underlying problem and might lead to the identifi- important indicator of system deficiencies or opportunities cation of new goals and objectives. for improvement. The system planning framework shown in Figure 7 is very A very important context for the consideration of environ- different from more traditional constructs. First, and perhaps mental factors in transportation systems planning is found in most significantly, system planning as shown encompasses a the community development decision-making process. broad set of activities. Many books on transportation plan- A community develops in response to various influences, ning have focused almost exclusively on analysis and evalu- ranging from market and economic factors that affect the ation, with the visioning process, program and/or project location of households and firms to changing levels of acces- implementation, and system monitoring (i.e., assessing how sibility afforded by a transportation system. Land-use deci- well the system is performing) occurring outside the plan- sions incorporate various influences, often reflecting the ners' purview. The conceptual framework for this research market demand for community development and the political