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51 CHAPTER 7 Alternatives Analysis 7.1 Introduction preparation of Environmental Impact Statements or for entry into the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Section 5309 This chapter describes how to identify alternative im- New Starts project development process and funding provements or strategies to mitigate identified existing or fu- program. While the methods described here can be used to ture deficiencies and how to determine which improvements support a formal alternatives analysis process, the entire are most effective in addressing those deficiencies. It goes on process is not discussed here. to provide guidance on how to assess the effectiveness of im- provements once they are in the field. 7.1.3 Organization 7.1.1 Purpose The chapter is organized into the following six steps: The purpose of this chapter is to help the analyst avoid 1. Problem definition; common pitfalls in the evaluation of alternatives for reducing 2. Generation of project alternatives for analysis; travel time, delay, and improving reliability. These common 3. Selection of performance measures; pitfalls include the following: 4. Evaluation of alternatives; 5. Develop improvement program; and Selection of improvements that solve a problem that is dif- 6. Effectiveness evaluation (before/after studies). ferent from the real problem, that is, the search for solutions is misdirected; and Overlooking improvements that could solve the problem, 7.2 Defining the Problem that is, the search is too narrow. Before embarking on developing alternatives, the problem to be solved by the alternative improvements must be defined. The first step in alternatives analysis is to identify and 7.1.2 Scope and Limitations diagnose deficiencies in current or forecasted system opera- This chapter covers the generation, evaluation, and pro- tions, as described in Chapters 5 and 6, respectively. gramming of transportation system improvements designed The more precisely the analyst can define the problem that the to reduce travel time, reduce delay, and increase reliability. alternative improvements are supposed to solve, the more pre- This chapter is necessarily brief and is not designed to replace cisely the analyst can focus the analysis. The problem definition standard planning textbooks on alternatives analysis. drives the entire alternatives analysis process, from generation of "Alternatives analysis" in this context is informal and refers improvement alternatives, to the selection of performance meas- to a generalized analytical process of evaluating different pos- ures for evaluating each improvement option. sible operational strategies, capital projects, etc., to determine Example problem definitions that this guidebook is de- the benefits of each and help the analyst draw conclusions signed to address include: about which course of action is likely to be the most effective in addressing the identified deficiency or problem. The term Peak-period delay exceeds agency's performance targets; and as used here should not be equated with the formal alterna- Travel-time reliability during off-peak periods is below tives analysis process described in federal requirements for agency's standards.