The nation’s largest state DOT, Caltrans, signaled a strong move toward multimodalism, sustainability, and customer focus in a new strategic management plan released last week. The plan, which comprises a series of performance measures, represents a step away from traditional automobile infrastructure-centric views of DOT work. As Director Malcolm Dougherty notes in his introduction, this shift follows previous work to refocus the department’s mission.
This month, for at least the second time in a year, the Institute of Transportation Engineers has challenged its members to rethink common practices and metrics that are often thought of as objective and unbiased, but that convey values that aren’t necessarily in line with the greater public interest. In particular, these values emphasize the movement of vehicles above all other interests.
The San Francisco Transit Accessibility Map is a new online tool showing how much of the city is accessible by transit or walking within a selected travel time. Although the map is useful as is, it also presents an enormous opportunity to develop a richly layered analysis that could be used to understand accessibility more broadly by adding data on non-work as well as work destinations. It could also highlight the need to improve accessibility for underserved areas.
MassDOT’s ambitious GreenDOT program has released the first in a series of “data- and performance-driven progress reports.” The report, released in December, documents the key policy shifts, performance measures, and changes in the project selection and prioritization processes that are helping MassDOT achieve its sustainability goals.
The Southern California city of Pasadena is revising transportation performance measures it uses in development review, downplaying highway level of service and emphasizing vehicle miles traveled and multimodalism. The Pasadena reforms come at a time when the state of California, in pursuance of SB 743 (2013), is also moving away from LOS-based environmental mitigation, which has sometimes added substantial costs to desired infill development.
Transportation agencies are broadening their mission statements and long-range plans to focus on issues such as livability, sustainability, equity, and economic vitality in addition to their historical focuses on mobility. Oregon DOT recently developed Mosaic, a least-cost planning tool that accounts for each of those goals.
The Trail Modeling and Assessment Platform (T-MAP) project, an effort led by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), will create a performance-based urban trail development toolkit for planners, policy makers, and advocates. T-MAP offers a set of data collection instruments, methodologies, and analysis tools that will transform the way planners, policy makers, and the public think about and develop trails and trail networks.
While FHWA, DOTs, and MPOs have worked diligently to establish performance measures for highway, transit, and freight operations—as directed in MAP-21—specific performance measures for the nonmotorized modes included in the Transportation Alternatives Program have been slower to emerge. A newly released report from the four Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program communities offers an important effort at establishing performance measures for bicycle and pedestrian investments and identifies new directions for developing robust metrics to support funding decisions for nonmotorized investments.
Last month, Virginia’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Nick Donohue, updated the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees VDOT, on the status of the agency’s long-term planning process. He indicated to the board that the agency is beginning to rethink its core assumptions about future travel needs, and that the state’s next surface transportation plan will reflect this new way of thinking in important ways. Among the issues facing VDOT, Donohue noted, was the fact that recent increases in VMT have been far lower than the state’s forecasts suggest—a nationwide phenomenon that affects funding outlooks and programming decisions.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota developed a measure of multimodal accessibility for the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, which they hope can be implemented in metropolitan areas around the nation as an alternative to commonly-used congestion metrics for prioritizing transportation projects and planning system improvements. For decades, transportation system performance has been measured in terms of traffic congestion and delay, both at the project scale and the regional scale. Developers of the new accessibility measure flip the equation by asking what the value of accessibility is, rather than what the costs of congestion are.