All Reports

  • The long-term health, sustainability and equity of Eau Claire, like any other community, depend on the policies and regulations that shape future development and transportation investments. As outlined in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, these policies should promote compact development and reinvestment in existing neighborhoods. This report leverages new and existing data—including accessibility analysis and property value information—to highlight key areas of opportunity and frame supportive policies to help move the City forward.

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  • ABSTRACT: Accessibility-related research has advanced considerably since its foundational conception six decades ago. Yet, despite widespread acceptance of the concept, these methods are still rarely used in practical applications among transportation agencies and policymakers. Until recently, the challenges were mainly technical but now they are more practical. Practitioners are often faced with decisions about appropriate methods and metrics, which are difficult to answer from the current literature. This study attempts to produce a clearer understanding of the effects that those decisions have on practical outcomes, based on data spanning many geographies across the U.S. We test a variety of metrics—including different modes, destination types, analytical geographies, and metric definitions—in regions spanning seven states. This study points to several potential best practices, including the use of non-work walking accessibility metrics in multimodal analysis and the use of decay functions in accessibility metrics, and provides a strong foundation for future research.

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    • This paper describes the accessibility scoring approach applied by the Virginia Department of Transportation (DOT) in the Smart Scale project prioritization process in 2018. The accessibility scoring approach identifies the increase in jobs accessibility for candidate projects submitted for state funding. The Smart Scale process was implemented in 2015 and entered its third round of applications in 2018; some 800 projects were evaluated during its first two years. This paper contains the following elements: an general overview of jobs accessibility as defined and measured by Virginia DOT for the Smart Scale approach; the development of the Smart Scale accessibility scoring system, including a summary of research performed to identify system parameters; the relationship between mobility and accessibility; and the Smart Scale accessibility transferability to other locations and initiatives and the possible evolution of the Virginia DOT approach in the future.

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    • Transcending Oil, released in April 2018, describes Hawaii’s path toward meeting its ambitious clean energy goals by 2045. The report was commissioned by Elemental Excelerator and prepared independently by Rhodium Group and Smart Growth America. It focuses mainly on transitioning the electrical grid to renewable energy while moving large numbers of vehicles to electric power but also points to the importance of managing overall travel demand through transportation policies and investments.

      This technical guide describes the methods and findings behind Transcending Oil’s travel demand forecasts, developed by SSTI and Smart Growth America. Outlined in the report are two forecasts: a business as usual scenario and a policy scenario that includes multimodal transportation investments, transportation demand management, land use regulations and pricing mechanisms. Whereas business as usual could lead to a 16.6 percent increase in vehicle miles travel (VMT) by 2045, the policy scenario outlined in this document results in an estimated 7.3 percent reduction. This analysis points to the importance of comprehensive, widespread transportation and land use policies in achieving ambitious VMT reductions. The modeling approach described here may be useful in the development of similar long-term VMT management plans, since it relies on fairly straightforward methods, readily available data and assumptions derived from peer-reviewed research.

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      Modernizing Mitigation outlines a new approach to assessing and responding to land use-driven transportation impacts. Instead of relying on auto capacity improvements as a first resort, this approach builds on practice around transportation demand management (TDM) to make traffic reduction the priority. Based on programs dating to the 1990s in several cities, this program provides benefits to the community from reduced impacts of traffic and travel costs, as well as to such particular stakeholders as incumbent land uses, developers and building owners, and staff members administering programs.

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    • Connecting Sacramento combines location-based trip-making data from multiple sources with modern accessibility analysis to assess how they can guide transportation- and land use-related decisions around transit stations in Sacramento. Accessibility analysis lets us measure transportation performance in terms of people’s ability to reach destinations instead of simply how fast cars move or whether transit runs on time. Trip-making data, which come from smartphones, navigation devices, and GPS-enabled vehicles, let us understand people’s travel patterns and trip characteristics in detail without relying on costly travel surveys or complex travel demand models.

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    • Planning agencies and transportation decision makers often talk about the importance of improving access to destinations, but they rarely have the tools or resources to measure accessibility and incorporate those metrics into decision making. This report guides agencies through that process. The guide outlines general concepts, data needs and availability, analysis tools, and other considerations in measuring accessibility. It describes different ways accessibility can be measured and demonstrates how the metrics can be used in several specific project evaluation examples. It also briefly describes the potential use of accessibility metrics in predicting outcomes such as travel demand and transit ridership.

      This guide, released by the Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, was developed by SSTI with Renaissance Planning Group, Michael Baker International, and Citilabs, with input from Virginia stakeholders and other practitioners.

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    • Working with the City of Madison, Wisconsin, SSTI staff led a study of multifamily residential parking use throughout the city and analyzed factors affecting its use.

      The study focused in on several key factors–population density, walking accessibility, unit size, and parking price–which explain most of the variation in parking demand. It also revealed the maximum parking demand is only around 1.4 spaces per residential unit and that only two-thirds of existing parking is used, which is consistent throughout the city.

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    • Commercially available GPS data offers valuable new insight about trip origins, destinations, and routes, including short trips that travel demand models often cannot capture. Using this data, SSTI worked with Michael Baker International, the Virginia DOT, and local stakeholders to identify opportunities for managing travel demand and improving connectivity throughout Northern Virginia. This study also informed the early development of StreetLight Data’s Traffic Diagnostics tool.

      The final technical memo describes the full data set and 17 selected case studies, along with recommended projects and policies, estimated costs, and benefits for each.

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    • Transportation researchers and practitioners have long sought other tools to complement or perhaps replace conventional methods—tools that would better analyze trips rather than speed at points in the system, speak to non-auto modes of travel, address land use solutions as well as highway infrastructure, and so on. Barriers to such tools have included lack of data and analytic methods, as well as considerable inertia in practice.

      Fortunately, new sources of data and emerging methods, as well as new-found interest in performance and scenario planning, are yielding the types of tools that the field needs. These fall into two related but distinct categories: 1) trip-making, which looks at complete trips rather than vehicle speeds on system segments, as observed empirically rather than through models, and 2) accessibility, which describes the ease or difficulty involved in reaching destinations on the existing or planned network. The tools share the ability to inform decisions in these ways:

      • By providing area scans to assess behavior and performance,
      • By tracking behavior and performance over time,
      • By diagnosing problems,
      • By assessing solutions,
      • By engaging stakeholders with meaningful, intuitive information.

      This white paper describes SSTI’s work and experience with these tools and practices.

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    • This study, led by SSTI Deputy Director Chris McCahill with colleagues from University of Connecticut, examines the effects of increased parking on travel behavior in U.S. cities.

      Automobile use has been on the rise in cities for nearly a century and so has the supply of parking. Because driving often seems unavoidable, policymakers, developers and the public push endlessly for more parking to meet demand. That push, however, might only be making matters worse. This research suggests that abundant parking in cities causes people to drive more, adding to traffic and the perceived need to meet growing demand.

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      The Innovative DOT Handbook, produced by SSTI with Smart Growth America, offers 34 specific recommendations to help state transportation officials position their agencies for success in the coming era. Developed with input from top transportation professionals, agency staff, and officials at state agencies around the nation, this handbook documents many of the innovative approaches leaders are taking to make transportation systems more efficient, governments more effective, and constituents better satisfied.

       

    • Massachusetts’s Regional Transit Authorities have an opportunity to improve their existing service and make the case for more funding from the state by making the most of a new planning requirement from the legislature. As part of 2013’s landmark transportation finance legislation, the state legislature mandated that the RTAs conduct comprehensive service plans. This paper argues that if done well, these assessments could help make the case for more funding from the state going forward.

      This policy brief, released by MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute in collaboration with the SSTI is the sixth in MassINC’s Going for Growth series, compares Massachusetts to best practices in regional transit planning from across the country.

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    • Across the country, urban freeways are at the end of their design lives, and cities are wrestling with the question of how to deal with them. Cities have the opportunity to rethink, remove, or repurpose urban freeway space, which can address environmental and social justice harm and result in significant local economic and social benefits. Re-Thinking the Urban Freeway provides cities with best practices and solutions from across the country, to help cities mitigate negative freeway impacts and secure a healthy and more prosperous future.

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    • In a joint effort with the Bipartisan Policy Center and SSTI, the Eno Center for Transportation held a daylong meeting June 20 to discuss federal performance measures for highways. Under MAP-21, the U.S. DOT was required to create and implement a number of performance measures to help guide and monitor federal transportation spending. The workshop brought together a number of experienced experts as well as officials directly involved in and affected by the upcoming ruling.

      This report is the result the meeting and summarizes the recommendations based on the workshop discussion and previous research, and includes recommended measures of congestion and system performance as well as additional considerations for their successful implementation. These recommendations integrate the performance measures currently in development or in use by workshop participants as well as the perspectives of participants related to these measures and their value to national, state, and regional interests.

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    • This project, funded by SSTI with a matching grant from the Center for Freight Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE),  identifies and evaluates freight transportation demand management (TDM) strategies to improve transportation efficiency by reducing the social costs associated with goods movement in urban areas.

      Information about various freight transportation demand management strategies was gathered through a review of literature, an online survey, and interviews with implementers. Strategies are compared based on their costs, benefits, and implementation difficulty. Case studies of six US cities using innovative freight TDM strategies are also included.

      The table below details the impacts and implementation difficulty of various freight TDM strategies.

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    • For many decades, transportation planning has assumed continued increases in automobile use. Now, in a major reversal, the average American is driving considerably less. According to the most recent FHWA travel-volume report for July, total vehicle miles traveled showed no increase compared to the previous 12-month period, marking more than five years of no growth. No one can predict the future with certainty, but there are many reasons to think that VMT trends will not revert to the 20th century trend. This paper lists some of those reasons, with references to supporting literature.

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    • At the request of the Delaware Department of Transportation, SSTI provided an independent review of transit services and transit routes in Wilmington, Delaware and was asked to make recommendations for improvements. This study lays out recommendations for system operations and infrastructure improvements, and points out directions that can help position DART to function as an integral part of the city’s and region’s transportation system.

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    • SSTI performed a program review of MassDOT’s three-year-old reorganization and consolidation to document efficiencies and better outcomes achieved, as well as continuing challenges and opportunities for improvement.

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    • SSTI provided technical assistance to the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to establish a transferable process to perform Smart Transportation/Smart Growth analyses. The project created a 3-D building library in regionally appropriate styles as well as the LUTSAM (Land Use and Transportation Scenario Analysis and Microsimulation) tool,  which enables model walking and biking trips and speed scenario analyses to demonstrate the benefits of smart growth policies through integration of GIS, travel demand, and 3-D microsimulation models using readily available industry standard software.

      LUTSAM can be easily used to improve current 4-step and advanced travel demand models to work at the parcel and building level within the study area while producing easily transferable results to industry standard microsimulation software. It not only accelerates scenario development but also (1) provides a platform for testing land use planning, multimodal investments such as improving bicycle and pedestrian mobility; (2) encourages public engagement in community planning and decision making; and (3) encourages interactions between planners, modelers and engineers.

       

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    • This report examines current economic analysis practices in state Departments of Transportation through examples in nine state transportation agencies and an extensive literature review. For additional understanding of the methods in practice, we also incorporated information obtained at selected metropolitan planning organizations. The increased interest and demand for better economic results from transportation encouraged SSTI to look for ways to help states improve their ability to predict and measure the economic impacts of transportation policies and investments. In carrying out this research, the key questions addressed include:

      1. What is economic development and how does it relate to transportation?
      2. What is motivating state DOTs to measure economic performance?
      3. What emphasis is placed on economic benefit of transportation investments? How is economic potential factored in to systems planning, project development, and project selection among the state DOTs and other transportation agencies? Do any States require the maximization of economic benefits from transportation or other infrastructure investments?
      4. Is a distinction made between new economic activity and simply redistributing it from one area to another, one state to another?
      5. How are States accounting for the economic effects of transportation investments? What models and tools exist or can be created to help achieve a better understanding of the relationship between transportation and economics, and thereby improve the results of transportation investment?
      6. What are the barriers to adopting effective measures and analytical techniques and models among transportation agencies? What are the relative costs and time involved in collection and analysis.

      The Center for Neighborhood Technology produced the report for SSTI.

      Accompanying the report itself is a web-based “scorecard,” which shows users the most appropriate economic data and tools to measure different types of economic impact.

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    • The Iowa Department of Transportation asked SSTI for assistance building public support for a gas tax increase to fund critical repair and maintenance work. SSTI contracted with Spitfire Strategies, a strategic communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and foundations, to help Iowa craft effective messaging that would resonate with policymakers and key stakeholders.

      Based on SSTI and Spitfire’s work in Iowa and recent polling, this paper outlines how transportation professionals can gain support for a “fix-it-first” approach to transportation policy. It highlights messages and tactics that have effectively garnered voter and policymaker support and presents lessons learned from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

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    • This report was produced by SSTI at the request of the Kansas Department of Transportation in order to better understand the implications of school site selection, particularly transportation-related costs, and how to improve the site selection process in Kansas. It provides a series of recommendations for improving the school site selection process in Kansas with a  focus on increasing understanding and coordination between school districts and other levels of government that may be impacted by their decisions.

      The school transportation cost calculator, also developed as part of the project, allows school district officials and others to estimate the transportation related costs of potential school sites based on their distance from students, urban form, walkability, and school district. The calculator takes into account cost accruing to the school district, families, and government. For more information about cost estimates used in the model, see Appendix E of the Report and the Calculator’s “about” page.

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    • The mission of Colorado’s Energy Smart Transportation Initiative was to develop a framework for considering energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in transportation decision-making. With SSTI assistance, a collaborative team composed of federal and state agencies, MPOs, and rural planning partners came together to leverage resources and promote efficiency and effectiveness among agencies by exploring ways to develop “energy smart transportation” strategies. This report includes strategies developed to incorporate energy efficiency and GHG emissions in transportation planning, increase energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions from transportation, advance environmentally friendly alternative vehicle and fuel technologies, and increase efficiency through truck fleet enhancements, improved traveler information, and other methods.

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    • Smart transportation is Pennsylvania DOT’s integrated response to the crisis of crumbling infrastructure, limited revenues to address it, and the need to better align transportation with community revitalization and sound land use policy. PennDOT was the first state program reviewed in detail by SSTI, and it remains one of our prime examples of a thoughtful DOT wrestling with the challenges of fiscal austerity, sustainability, and system preservation. The review was done at the request of PennDOT to assess the effectiveness of its Smart Transportation program in integrating land use and transportation in its decision making and to identify areas of opportunity to advance the smart transportation agenda.

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    • This review was performed at the request of Washington State DOT (WSDOT) to assess its sustainability efforts. SSTI convened a panel of experts that included people who have led transformative initiatives as heads of state DOTs. The panel combined practical and academic thinking. The expert panel reviewed background materials on WSDOT’s efforts and then interviewed stakeholders with varying perspectives on WSDOT’s work, including WSDOT staff; personnel from other state, federal, and local entities; and representatives from the not-for-profit sector. Intended as a peer review rather than an audit, the expert panel members brought their knowledge of transportation policy and trends to bear in assessing where WSDOT has succeeded and how its sustainability efforts could be strengthened.

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