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94 Monitoring of Environmental mitigation Environmental environmental impacts of part of project performance system operations development measures or indicators Project System development operations Other sources Environmental for project impacts part of ideas Prosperity criteria set TIP Alternative Goals and Performance improvement Evaluation Vision Objectives Measures strategies criteria Social equity/ Environmental quality of life Quality Plan Environmental Environment Data Analysis explicitly stated in strategies methods considered goals Environment included in vision Data on Environmental environment Environment Environment projects collected included integrated within plan programmed in analysis Figure 21. Environmental factors in transportation planning and decision making. 9. Do the criteria used to evaluate alternatives include underway, and 5 representing a full-scale implementation of the range of environmental concerns that are of most the concept. interest to the community and to environmental stake- As shown in Table 17, regional planning has two strengths holders? with respect to integrating environmental factors into sys- 10. Does your state or metropolitan transportation plan tems planning, but overall planning has many more areas in explicitly consider environmental factors in its need of improvement. description of desired future investments? 11. Has your agency entered into partnership arrange- ments with environmental resource agencies and MAJOR FINDINGS environmental stakeholders in order to develop com- mon understandings of how environmental factors This research has identified several important characteris- will be considered in system planning and project tics of efforts to move the consideration of environmental development? factors into system planning. 12. Do your agency's public involvement and outreach States having strong environmental laws have under- efforts specifically target environmental quality and its taken more efforts to consider environmental factors in relationship to transportation system performance as transportation systems planning. The survey results indi- an issue brought to public attention? cated that most agencies considered competing interests that detracted from environmental objectives as a major obstacle This list of questions was applied to the metropolitan for addressing environmental factors in system planning. transportation planning process in the Atlanta metropolitan However, the survey results and the case studies showed that area to show how it could be used as an audit tool (see Table states with strong environmental laws--especially where the 17). The subjective assessment ratings for each question laws effect transportation decisions--have reshaped their were determined through interviews with transportation transportation planning in response to these laws. Deciding planners and a selected set of key decision makers in the which environmental factors are to be considered in planning region. This effort was not intended to be a detailed assess- is often left to the transportation agencies themselves, which ment of the effectiveness of metropolitan transportation presumably are best positioned to know what the major envi- planning with respect to environmental issues, and thus the ronmental concerns, needs, and opportunities are likely to be. results below should not be construed as a rigorous evalua- However, in some cases such as Wisconsin, state law is fairly tion. The ratings from 1 to 5 indicate an average assessment specific about which environmental factors need to be con- of those interviewed, with 1 indicating little or no effort sidered. The system-plan environmental evaluation (SEE)
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95 TABLE 16 Environmental factors in transportation planning Planning Step Consideration of Environmental Factors A community's vision should include explicit consideration of desired environmental characteristics. This could include targeted resources (e.g., air or water quality), geographic Visioning areas (e.g., wetlands or habitats), or a more general quality-of-life consideration. Some MPOs that have used scenarios as a means of better defining desired community visions have included a "protection of environmental resource areas" as one of the scenarios. In such scenarios, economic development and consequent infrastructure provision for these areas are limited. In most cases, environmental factors are found in some form in a planning goals and objectives set. This most often takes the form of a specific statement as a goal or objective that expresses Goals and Objectives the intent of "minimizing the impact on the environment" or a qualifying phrase that modifies a more important goal to "maximize system performance in a way that minimizes environmental impacts." This is one of the newest elements of transportation planning that puts in place a set of measures that is continuously monitored to identify the status of the transportation system and Performance Measures its linkages to other factors. One type of measure or indicator that could be included in this set is related to environmental quality. For example, several jurisdictions include air quality measures as part of their system measurement. Other indicators might relate to water quality, wetlands exposure, habitat reduction, historic and cultural resources, and archaeological sites. Given the importance of environmental considerations in the evaluation of plans and Data/Analysis Methods alternatives, data should be collected on environmental factors that are of concern to decision makers. Analysis capability using such data is needed to provide some sense of the environmental consequence of each alternative. At the systems planning level, the data and analysis methods might be very general, but would presumably become more specific as the analysis occurs on detailed project or plan alternatives. The actions adopted as part of the transportation plan could include strategies targeted at enhancing environmental quality. Certainly, the actions that fall out of such programs as the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) initiative would relate to improving air quality. Alternative Projects could also relate to Transportation Enhancements, strategies to reduce single- Improvement occupant vehicle use, actions aimed at environmental enhancement (e.g., brownfield Strategies developments), and water quality. At the systems planning level, where alternative plan configurations are considered, one scenario could be "environmental preservation," which might focus on such things as minimizing development in river discharge basins. The evaluation process is, in essence, a synthesis process that brings together all of the information that has been produced as part of the analysis process. The evaluation criteria Evaluation structure how the information is presented to decision makers, and thus are important in raising decision-maker awareness to environmental issues. The evaluation criteria should include measures that relate to environmental impacts of proposed alternatives. The transportation plan should reflect the results of the goals setting, analysis, and evaluation. As such, the plan should provide an explicit linkage to the environmental consequences of the Plan proposed set of projects or of the selected alternative, if such was the focus of the study. In those cases where plan alternatives must be analyzed from an environmental perspective, the plan might include a section that shows the results of this analysis. The transportation improvement program (TIP) reflects the types of projects that are TIP recommended in the transportation plan. Therefore, it is likely that several projects aimed at enhancing environmental quality will be found in the TIP. The implementation of projects and strategies will include the project development process as Implementation of well as the mitigation strategies that are necessary as part of project implementation. Thus, Projects/Strategies project implementation could very well include such things as context-sensitive solutions, environmental mitigation, and efforts to minimize or avoid serious environmental impacts. The performance of the transportation system, otherwise known as system operations, will System Operations naturally include an emphasis on the ability of the transportation system to satisfy demand. However, it is important that the monitoring of system operations also keep track of the consequences of such operation on the natural and human environment. conducted for statewide plans in Wisconsin closely follows mination as being the most appropriate. The environmen- this format. California's Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) tal science literature shows a significant trend toward is an even stronger law that states not only must environ- increasing concern for environmental factors that can only be mental impacts be identified and considered in transportation dealt with at a systems level of definition. This seems to be plans, but they must be mitigated. All regional transportation true in particular for environmental factors that are directly plans in California go through this assessment. and indirectly affected by transportation investments. These The scientific literature is increasingly identifying a environmental factors include such issues as ecosystem systems-level perspective on environmental impact deter- health, watershed effects, regional air quality, environmental
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96 TABLE 17 Assessment of Atlanta transportation system planning process for integration of environmental factors Criterion Assessment Comments The region has fully integrated air quality concerns into system planning and project development, and is doing Existence of mission and vision so for water quality as well. Other environmental factors statement; guidelines 2 are not explicitly found in mission or vision statements. Similar to above, air quality is an overriding issue in the region; general environmental quality is stated as a goal; Goals and objectives statements 3 regional development policies very much oriented to preserving environment. Air quality is monitored and reported on an annual basis; there are no other environmentally related performance Performance measures 2 measures. Data are collected on air quality, water quality, and development patterns/trends. Less information is Data collection collected on other environmental factors. 2 This has been done for a major subarea study, however, not for the entire region. Inventories do exist for Inventory of sensitive environmental watersheds and historic sites. areas 2 The regional planning process has not connected system Information for need and purpose planning with more detailed project development efforts. 1 The plan alternatives strongly consider air quality impacts, but do not include other environmental factors in Alternatives definition a systematic way. 2 The evaluation criteria for plan and project evaluation come from extensive public outreach and Evaluation criteria 4 comprehensively consider environmental impacts. Environmental consideration in plan The region's plan gives considerable attention to 3 environmental issues. The regional agencies work together on plan and project development, but have not entered into formal Partnerships 2 arrangements concerning expedited review. The region's public involvement program covers all Public involvement consideration of aspects of environmental quality, especially air quality. environmental factors 4 Public concerns with respect to the environment are incorporated into planning activities. Note: 1 = little or no effort; 5 = fully implemented justice, habitat preservation, and the public health effects reasonable to assume that this additional population will associated with urban form and related transportation invest- carry with it increasing burdens on the ecological systems ments. Each of these environmental topics, if addressed in a that exist in urban areas. substantive way, must be examined at a systems level, even State and MPO officials expect increasing attention to though individual project impacts could also be important. the types of environmental impacts that are best The concept of ecological carrying capacity, which relates addressed at a systems level. The survey of state and MPO to this idea of an environmental alternative, is one that has officials asked which environmental factors would most been receiving increased attention in the scientific literature. likely be more important 10 years from now in connection to The case studies from Cape Cod, Lake Tahoe, North Car- transportation systems planning. The types of factors having olina, Pima County (Arizona) and Riverside County (Cali- the largest jump in importance were those best analyzed at fornia) illustrated the use of this concept. There is little doubt the systems level. For example, DOT officials suggested that among scientists that urban development and other human the biggest increase would be for cultural, historic, energy, activities influence the health of often-sensitive ecosystems. water quality, farmland conversion, and human health. The As urbanization continues with substantial increases in pop- results from the MPO survey identified energy, water quan- ulation expected to live in metropolitan areas, it seems tity, water quality, aesthetics, storm water runoff, farmland
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97 conversion, and noise. Except for aesthetics and noise, all of ronmentally sensitive areas in the country shows how impor- these factors are best handled at a scale of analysis much tant environmental impact information can be when provided greater than the project level. at a very detailed level (and backed up with laws and regula- A few states and metropolitan areas have taken major tions mandating such consideration). However, several states steps in integrating environmental factors into trans- (e.g., Wisconsin and Washington) require that environmental portation systems planning. Most states and MPOs have analysis be conducted on all statewide transportation plans. In much experience with considering environmental factors in each case, the analysis was conducted at such a broad level project-level planning. Only a few examples were found that state and local officials felt that the information provided where transportation agencies were incorporating environ- had very little influence on the selection of the preferred sys- mental concerns into systems planning. Case studies from the tem plan. In Wisconsin, for example, state officials felt that Tahoe Regional Planning Agency; Cape Cod Commission; the most important effect of the required environmental Pima County, Arizona; Riverside County, California; and review of the state plan was that it brought the state's natural FDOT provided the most advanced examples of a compre- resources agency into planning much earlier than would nor- hensive approach to doing so. In the first four cases, a fragile mally occur. The state environmental officials were not as ecology provided the impetus for public intervention in the positive about this experience in that they felt there was little land development market and for a more targeted approach that could substantively be done at such an early stage of deci- toward the provision of infrastructure. In the FDOT example, sion making. top management leadership provided the motivation to imple- The availability of powerful database management ment arguably the most advanced transportation/environ- capabilities has spurred intensive efforts to identify mental decision support system in the United States. sensitive environmental resources. It is not surprising NYSDOT has taken major steps to inculcating an envi- that the five agencies mentioned previously as being some ronmental ethic in all of its activities. (It was not listed with of the best examples of considering environmental factors the above five because it does not have a systems planning in planning and project development are national leaders process as do the others.) However, such an organizational in the use of GIS for locating and labeling environmental strategy represents an important step in the evolution toward resources. GIS is a critically important tool in that it pro- a more comprehensive approach to linking environment and vides an efficient means of defining potential environmen- transportation decision making. tal impacts. In the absence of a database that permits a One important issue that must be addressed in better quick examination of potential environmental impacts, it is involving environmental resource agencies in system plan- likely that the "give-and-take" that so often characterizes ning efforts is how to motivate such participation. Many the interactions with environmental resource agencies states have provided resources to such agencies to support would be less successful. their participation, but this has been primarily at the permit The revolution in data handling and data analysis capabili- review level. Getting agencies to participate in system plan- ties that has occurred over the past 10 years in the United States ning efforts will require, at a minimum, a top management has enabled a level of initial analysis of potential impacts that commitment to participate; an understanding (usually codi- permits environmental agencies to participate in a more inclu- fied in a memorandum of understanding) of the roles that sive process without foregoing their statutory responsibilities. each participant will play; and as noted above, the commit- Serious attention to environmental factors early in systems ment of resources. planning will depend on the ability of transportation agencies, The importance to decision making of including envi- perhaps in cooperation with environmental resource agencies, ronmental factors early in systems planning very much to identify sensitive environmental resource areas. For exam- depends on the degree to which impacts can be defined at ple, efforts to develop statewide programs in historic preser- a level that allows an understanding of consequences. At vation and archaeological sites would require some effort at the systems planning level, the degree to which environmen- identifying where such sites exist. tal analysis influences decisions seems to vary according to The concept of assessing the level of environmental sen- the level of information provided to the decision makers. If sitivity of habitats, ecosystems, and watersheds has been the "systems plan" is really nothing more than a policy doc- used by several planning and transportation agencies as a ument that outlines general directions for a state, regional, or starting point for comprehensive community planning. metropolitan investment program, the level of environmen- Some of the more comprehensive efforts at integrating envi- tal analysis will not be very rigorous. If, however, the plan ronmental factors into community and infrastructure planning represents a detailed analysis of alternative futures and the have started with a fairly detailed examination of environ- desire to link infrastructure investment to community goals, mental resources. Pima County, Arizona, and Riverside then a more detailed level of environmental analysis is likely County, California, undertook extensive multispecies habitat to present useful information to decision-making. studies to identify areas that needed to be preserved. The Cape Several case studies illustrate this concept. The Tahoe Cod and NCDOT cases provided examples of a much broader Regional Planning Agency's efforts in one of the most envi- assessment of ecosystem preservation, not habitat protection.
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98 Each of these efforts was part of a much broader community tion systems planning, the role for public and environmental development planning effort. stakeholder involvement will be critical. Some planning efforts are defining transportation plan By conducting environmental assessments earlier in alternatives that focus on minimizing environmental systems planning, project development has been made impacts. Defining alternatives is an important step in trans- more effective. One of the major motivations for state trans- portation planning. One of the interesting aspects of planning portation agencies to consider environmental factors in sys- that have seriously considered environmental factors in tems planning is a perception that environmental analysis systems planning is the definition of plan alternatives or sce- requirements provide onerous delays in project development. narios that result in infrastructure policies and investment If only contentious environmental issues could be dealt with decisions that purposely avoid or minimize the negative earlier--and/or redundant consideration of environmental impacts on environmental resources. Examples of this were factors eliminated--project development could be more effi- found in Cape Cod, Lake Tahoe, and Atlanta. cient and effective. In particular, if the definition of a proj- The use of scenarios in the formative stages of transporta- ect's "need and purpose," a federally required part of an tion systems planning is an important approach for showing environmental assessment or environmental impact state- the significance of environmental factors in planning for the ment, could be established in systems planning, it need not future. This approach not only provides important informa- be repeated during project development. The counter argu- tion on the likely environmental impacts of transportation ment to this suggestion is that insufficient information is investment, but it represents learning and education where available in systems planning to provide enough substance to participants gain an understanding of how important ecolog- such a finding that would satisfy federal intent. ical health is to a community. This learning experience has This research found several instances where need and pur- been one of the benefits noted by participants in the few cases pose statements were developed during systems planning. where this approach has been used. The best example of this was the ETDM process used by Successful consideration of environmental factors in FDOT. However, the characteristics of the process in devel- system planning will require substantive public involve- oping this statement are important to understand. First, as ment and participation of environmental stakeholders. noted previously, the ETDM process is supported by an Efforts to advance environmental considerations early into extensive environmental database that is able to show poten- systems planning most likely will require more extensive tial environmental problems in regions or corridors. Second, public involvement and the presentation of information in the environmental resource agencies have access to this data- ways that makes such considerations understandable. base and all information pertaining to the study or project so According to opinion surveys, environmental quality, espe- that they can make their own judgment on the adequacy of cially at the local level, is one of the most important issues the need and purpose statement. A summary of all comments for the public. Serious attention given to environmental fac- on this statement is kept by the environmental screening tool. tors in systems planning could mobilize many of the groups Third, the environmental resource agencies reserve the right that traditionally become involved during project develop- to revisit the statement if circumstances change as a project ment. The approach toward planning may need to be differ- goes from system planning to project development. ent in cases where environmental assessment is now being This approach, in essence, is a "management by exception" conducted on system plans. For example, one might envision strategy. By far, most projects will pass through this screen- a public meeting for a transportation systems plan starting ing with little delay or additional work on the statement. How- with general environmental data, maps of environmentally ever, in some cases, where circumstances change or more sensitive or community sensitive areas, and projections of the information becomes available, the statement might need to environmental health of the region. In addition, in the two be reexamined. This is an appropriate response to such an cases where substantive environmental assessment was instance. Therefore, this research suggests that linking system undertaken (Pima County, Arizona and Riverside County, planning information to the development of a need and pur- California) environmental scientists were part of the habitat pose statement in project-level environmental analysis is an screening and evaluation. In both cases, representatives of important improvement to project development. each community served on the study steering committee. DOTs are implementing other changes to agency oper- Moving environmental considerations early in planning ations to expedite projects through project development. requires the participation of environmental resource agencies Several of the DOTs examined in this research have con- in these early stages as well. The WisDOT example of under- ducted internal studies of the delays that occur in project taking an environmental assessment of systems plans sug- development. In almost every case, delays caused by deci- gests that, in fact, one of the benefits of doing so is getting sions unrelated to environmental issues have been identified environmental resource agencies involved. Other DOT exam- as being at least as important as those associated with envi- ples can be found in California, Florida, Maryland, North Car- ronmental requirements. Changes in project scope, separate olina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Whatever approach is used professional contracting for environmental and design ser- to incorporate environmental considerations into transporta- vices, poor project expediting, insufficient revenues to carry