Researchers re-evaluate how we value transportation

Transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations often wrestle with how to properly value transportation investments, especially when it comes to things that can’t be measured in terms of vehicle delay, such as multimodal access and environmental justice. Some of these challenges are tackled in a new issue of Research in Transportation and Business Management, edited in part by SSTI. Those familiar with SSTI’s recent work in the development and implementation of accessibility metrics may be interested in a paper describing a new measure of non-work accessibility.

Technical assistance helped six MPOs improve how they prioritize projects

Through a grant from the Kresge Foundation, Smart Growth America worked with six regions over the past year to help them use performance measures to advance transportation projects that line up with their priorities for the future. SSTI supported several of the regions, focusing on helping each MPO tie their investments to policy priorities like economic vitality, accessibility to necessities, and equity.

Federally funded data as a speed-management tool

Another pedestrian fatality happened about two miles from SSTI Central when a car traveling over 100 mph hit a couple walking on the sidewalk along an urban boulevard. It is just one of some 40,000 traffic fatalities the United States is likely to see this year. SSTI has been interested in whether data now being provided to state DOTs in order to measure delay—the National Performance Management Research Data Set (NPMRDS)—might be applied to address speeding danger as well.

A framework for determining where congestion really matters

These two things are true: 1) Travelers dislike slow traffic, and 2) slow traffic is sometimes an inescapable result of things that people do like—cities with popular destinations. Conventional transportation practice responds well to No. 1, with well-known standards for delay and capacity. Practice has no clear standards to deal with No. 2—what to do in places where speeding up cars amounts to destroying the village in order to save it. A new study of neighborhoods in Los Angeles, a place with more than a little congestion, helps fill this gap.

FHWA publishes toolkit for bike-ped performance measures

FHWA has released its Guidebook for Developing Pedestrian and Bicycle Performance Measures. Establishing performance measures that go beyond delay, congestion, level of service, and safety for drivers—especially including good metrics for non-motorized modes—has been a difficult but important goal for many transportation agencies. This publication is a big step forward to help states, regions, and communities in both project selection and progress toward community goals.

Trip-making and accessibility: New tools, better decisions (SSTI, 2016)

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. 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.

Growing a Culture of Transportation Sustainability in Massachusetts (McCahill, Ebeling and Codd, 2014)

MassDOT is among a growing number of state agencies tackling sustainability efforts in the transportaiton section and its approach offers valuable lessons for others. number of state agencies tackling this issue and its approach offers valuable lessons for others. This paper traces the evolution of MassDOT’s sustainability efforts, beginning with its revised Project Development and Design Guide, published in 2006, and ultimately encapsulated in its ongoing GreenDOT program, launched in 2010. These efforts represent the combined actions of state legislators, agency leaders, and personnel at all levels of MassDOT.

As federal government mulls performance measures, the TTI congestion report returns

The timing is apparently coincidental, but the Texas Transportation Institute issued its latest estimate of traffic congestion costs in late August, just as US DOT seems to be finishing work on its MAP-21-mandated performance measures on congestion and system performance. Because it is easy to understand, describes a common experience, and is formatted in a series of lists, it is perfectly suited for uncritical press coverage. However, the press attention and catholic policy orientation notwithstanding, the TTI approach is widely criticized on both technical and conceptual grounds.

Virginia adopts multimodal, competitive project scoring process

Last year Virginia enacted legislation to select state-supported transportation projects through a multimodal, competitive process. The law prescribed five areas to be considered in the scoring, along with project cost: congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety, environmental quality and land use. The relative weights of those elements, and details of how to assess project benefits in those categories, were left to the rulemaking process, which concluded June 17.