Posted by: Fehr & Peers | May 13, 2009

A New Transportation Planning Paradigm: Constraints-Based Planning in Response to the Continuing Decline in Transportation Funds

Traditionally, local jurisdictions plan transportation facilities to provide uncongested traffic operations for decades into the future. Under the traditional planning paradigm, transportation projects are selected based on criteria like functional classification, design standards, and ability to provide acceptable operating conditions, as defined by measures such as level of service (LOS), through a determined horizon year.  Once a design is developed to meet these objectives, funding is obtained and the project is constructed. 

However, as funding for transportation projects becomes scarcer, more often than not, this traditional planning paradigm is unrealistic.  Funding availability to construct a project can no longer be assumed.  This has already been well established in regional transportation planning process, but has yet to take widespread hold at the individual city and county level. Moreover, with increasing congestion in urban areas, designing facilities that would meet target LOS thresholds in the long-term is becoming cost prohibitive.

This article promotes replacing the traditional transportation planning process with a constraints-based approach that addresses new funding, environmental, and political realities. 

Click Here for the Full Paper

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Responses

  1. One likely outcome of this thought process is that jurisdictions will scale-back land use plans by reducing densities to “live within their means” with respect to traffic capacity. Other research indicates that the carbon footprint of a development increases as its density decreases, so this would seem counter to good land use planning.

    This process is also silent on the impact of development decisions in adjacent communities. The SF Bay Area and LA basin each have over 100 individual cities so the idea that a jurisdiction could determine its traffic future by adjusting its planning process is inaccurate. In fact, the case could be made that jurisdictions should overbuild uses within their own boundaries so they can at least get the economic benefits of the inevitable traffic congestion that will occur.

    • Given that the process is designed to recognize the constraints that influence a plan, the development decisions of adjacent communities would be considered in those situations where it is a factor. The key is to understand the factors that influence the plan and to especially recognize the larger constraints. While a jurisdiction may be significantly affected by the decisions of its neighbors, this is not a given but instead a condition that the jurisdiction should consider in its planning process.

  2. One likely outcome of this thought process is that jurisdictions will scale-back land use plans by reducing densities to "live within their means" with respect to traffic capacity. Other research indicates that the carbon footprint of a development increases as its density decreases, so this would seem counter to good land use planning.

    This process is also silent on the impact of development decisions in adjacent communities. The SF Bay Area and LA basin each have over 100 individual cities so the idea that a jurisdiction could determine its traffic future by adjusting its planning process is inaccurate. In fact, the case could be made that jurisdictions should overbuild uses within their own boundaries so they can at least get the economic benefits of the inevitable traffic congestion that will occur.;…

  3. Reading this article, the adoption of the new method should have been done years ago. Currently I am reading a book on urban transportation planning that discusses similar issues. The difference is that the book was written almost 30 years ago. Although I’m still in the learning stage of becoming a transportation engineer, both the community and transportation engineers need to implement these standards as soon as possible because our roadways are not getting any better. We need to plan future transportation infrastructure that are both feasible and reduce congestion.

    As for the transportation funding, the government could provide more funding. Reading articles and discussion boards, transportation engineers are saying there has been a decrease in funding. Isn’t he Obama administration suppose to provide funding to improve our roadways. I guess it isn’t enough. Instead of funding wars overseas, we need to confront our domestic problems first which include our roadways. We need to inform communities the importance of transportation engineers.


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