Graphics header for Part 2: Planning - Image depicts collage of various photos of walkways, streets and sidewalks.

Graphics header for Chapter 2: PLanning and Developing Context Sensitive Urban Thoroughfares

Purpose

This chapter describes, in general terms, the transportation planning and project development processes. It provides a broad overview of each stage of the processes and emphasizes that CSS principles can be applied at each stage. The transportation planning overview in this chapter provides the background for the practitioner to understand the principles and guidance on network and corridor planning presented in Chapter 3. Similarly, the overview of the project development process introduces the stages for planning and designing roadway improvement projects, which supports the information presented in Chapters 4 through 10.

Objectives

This chapter

1. Broadly describes how CSS principles can be integrated into the transportation planning process; and

2. Describes how CSS can be integrated into the project development process and identifies the applicable steps.

CSS in the Transportation Planning Process

Transportation planning is a continuing, comprehensive and collaborative process to encourage the development of a multimodal transportation system to ensure safe and efficient movement of people and goods while balancing environmental and community needs. The process is designed to promote involvement by all levels of government, stakeholders and the general public. The transportation planning process is concentrated at four levels of government: federal, state, metropolitan, or regional, and local agency. Table 2.1 describes the planning roles and responsibilities at the various government levels and shows how CSS can be applied at each level.

The planning process examines demographic characteristics and travel patterns for a given area, shows how these characteristics will change over a given period of time and evaluates alternative improvements for the transportation system. Table 2.1 also summarizes how CSS can be applied in each of the planning tiers. The planning tiers are divided into four levels:

1. National—Responsible for legislation and oversight and development of policies and regulations, as well as providing funding for transportation projects at the state, regional and local level.

2. Statewide—Responsible for long- and short-range transportation planning, development of transportation regulations and standards, oversight and development of transportation programs, transportation funding and implementation, and maintenance and operation of the state highway system.

3. Metropolitan or Regional—Responsible for areawide planning, projections and coordination; generally these agencies are metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in urbanized areas with more than 50,000 population or cover rural and small city regions outside the MPO areas. MPOs also coordinate metropolitan plan adoption, project selection and allocation of federal and some state funding.

4. Local Agency—Responsible for local planning and project development, operations and maintenance of transportation facilities.

The consideration of CSS principles can allow the different agency planning-level goals and objectives to be reflected in the initial or early development of individual projects and may convey information for use in defining the purpose and need. In addition, CSS considerations in transportation planning can identify issues or decisions facing the region, allowing for consensus and a shared understanding of the major sources of change that affect the future.

Table 2.1 Transportation Planning Tiers and CSS Applications

Tier Responsibilities CSS Applications
National
  • Authorizing legislation
  • Federal regulations
  • Federal policy
  • Research programs
  • Highway construction funding
  • Interpreting legislation
  • Federal policy and regulations
  • Development of CSS and flexible design guidance
  • Demonstration projects
  • Research programs addressing design issues
Statewide Statewide State DOT Long-Range Planning (10 to 50 Years)
  • Strategic plans
  • Transportation plans
  • Plans and programs
Programs and System Plans (5 to 10 Years)
  • System and corridor planning
  • Strategic system plans
  • Regional/agency operational programs and plans
  • State transportation improvement programs (STIP)
  • Highway construction funding
  • Network design and connectivity plans
  • Multimodal and CSS policies
  • Public participation in CSS vision and plan development
  • Developing CSS and flexible design guidance
  • State design manual revisions
  • Context sensitive designs of highways and thoroughfares
  • Coordination with resource agencies
  • Demonstration programs
  • Staff and local agency training
  • CSS funding partnerships
Regional/Metropolitan Regional Long-Range Planning (10 to 50 Years)
  • Agency strategic plans
  • Regional transportation plans
  • Agency plans and programs
Programs and System Plans (5 to 10 Years)
  • System and corridor planning
  • Strategic system plans
  • Agency and regional transportation improvement programs (TIPs)
  • Transportation construction funding, coordination and prioritization
  • Network design and connectivity plans
  • Multimodal and CSS policies
  • Context sensitive highway and thoroughfare corridor studies
  • Coordinating among agencies
  • Staff and local agency training
  • CSS funding partnerships
Local Agency
  • Operations, management strategies and plans
  • Roadway improvement projects
  • Planning, design and enhancements
  • Support services
  • Capital improvement programs
  • Local design manual/standards
  • Corridor plans
  • Thoroughfare plans
  • Multimodal and CSS policies in comprehensive plans
  • Integrating CSS into project development process (includes public participation)

Source: Adapted from Freeway Management and Operations Handbook, Federal Highway Administration

Integrating CSS principles within the transportation planning process assists regions and communities in reaching their transportation goals by encouraging the consideration of land use, transportation and infrastructure needs in an integrated manner. When transportation planning reflects community input and takes into consideration the impacts on both natural and human environments, it also promotes partnerships that lead to "balanced" decision making. Incorporating CSS considerations within transportation planning also produces better environmental results by advancing the ability to identify sensitive environmental resources while facilitating cooperative interagency relationships.

The benefits of integrating CSS in the planning process encourages public support for transportation plans and cooperation among agencies, reduces project delays by minimizing controversy and saves time and funds. CSS also fosters conservation of environmental and community resources. The probable benefits when working collaboratively with stakeholders includes the production of a full range of options, an understanding of trade-offs and consensus on key decisions. This results in information that directly feeds into, and accelerates the project development process.

Without adoption and support of CSS principles by agencies (for example, policies, procedures, standards and programs), it will be challenging and difficult to apply CSS in either a transportation planning process or improvement project. If a regional long-range transportation plan or local corridor plan has not incorporated a process that considers CSS, it may limit the range of options and the best overall solution. For example, changing the functional classification of a roadway to be more compatible with its surroundings should be considered at the level of the long-range transportation plan so that the change can be evaluated within the context of the entire network. Without a large-scale evaluation and adoption of the change in a plan, it will be difficult to change the functional classification at the project development stage, even if conditions justify the change.

Complete Streets

Some communities have adopted "complete streets" laws and policies to ensure that their roads and streets are routinely designed and operated to provide the safest achievable access for all users, including motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. In communities with complete streets policies, the objective is for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities to be able to safely move along and across an urban street.

A complete streets policy creates a routine process for providing for all travel modes whenever a street is built, altered, or maintained. Such policies have been adopted at the state level in the United States (Oregon, California, Illinois, South Carolina and Virginia), by MPOs (Central Ohio, California Bay Area) and by local governments (Charlotte, NC; Sacramento, CA; Boulder, CO; and Chicago, IL).

Communities with street projects will benefit greatly from the application of CSS principles. The recommendations of this report can help communities implement complete streets policies.

While context sensitive solutions involve stakeholders in considering a transportation facility in its entire social, environmental and aesthetic context, complete street policies are a reminder that providing for safe travel by users of all modes is the primary function of the corridor. Under complete streets, basic accommodations for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit users and disabled travelers are necessities rather than optional items. All modes and users are important on all thoroughfares.

For more information on complete streets, visit www.completestreets.org.

The process usually involves the steps shown in Figure 2.1. The general process is introduced here to demonstrate how each stage provides an opportunity to integrate CSS principles, beginning with the first step in the process—developing a vision, goals and policies. Below is a brief discussion of each step and the possible outcomes when CSS is part of the process.

 

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Figure 2.1 Transportation planning process. Source: Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

(Extended text description: Flow Chart of Public and Stakeholder Involvement appearing on the left side. Text boxes are stacked vertically in descending order. Vision and Goals with an arrow leading to Definition of Needs with an arrow leading to Development of Alternatives with an arrow leading to Alternatives Evaluation with an arrow leading to Development of a Transportation Plan with an arrow leading to Transporation Improvement Program with an arrow leading to Project Development and Implementation with an arrow leading to Operation of Maintenance.)

 

Vision and Goals: It is at this step that the overall vision and goals for how the transportation system shall be designed, built, operated and maintained is decided. Applying CSS principles, at this level helps to integrate the regional, local and neighborhood vision for the physical nature and economic vitality of communities. CSS principles can result in compatibility between the facility and its surroundings so that the two are mutually supportive, whether in urban or rural settings. Possible outcomes of this step include:

Definition of Needs: A process that incorporates CSS, inclusive of all stakeholders, can help define the needs of the transportation plan or project based on the goals, objectives and visions established earlier. By proactively identifying stakeholder values, issues and concerns, CSS allows development of an inclusive problem/ need statement consistent with applicable policies and requirements. The possible outcomes of this step include:

Development of Alternatives: CSS encourages use of the vision, goals and needs as the basis for developing a full range of options in a collaborative and participatory process, resulting in flexible and innovative solutions. Objectivity in developing the alternatives is critical. What seem at first sight to be infeasible options often can be refined into workable solutions. The possible outcomes of this step include:

Alternatives Evaluation: CSS encourages objective evaluation of the trade-offs between different alternatives, always relating back to evaluation criteria. As a result, stakeholders will be better able to support and endorse plans and designs. The possible outcomes of this step include:

Development of a Transportation Plan and transportation Improvement Program (Tip): CSS principles can be integrated into the development of a long-term transportation network, with a goal of achieving increasingly diverse travel modes and improving the overall operation of the transportation system. As a strategy that enhances safety and encourages all travel modes, CSS projects (transportation enhancements) may draw upon different funding sources than do conventional projects. The possible outcomes of this step include a plan that:

Project development and Implementation: CSS principles can have the most profound effect on this step in the planning and design process as transportation projects are taken from the conceptual stage to implementation. The possible outcomes of this step include:

Transportation Visioning

Communities determine their own vision for transportation—describing an ideal that reflects their values, concerns and priorities. Below are examples of a transportation vision from two communities.

"Moving people and goods within and across the metropolitan boundaries safely, conveniently and reliably by providing an integrated and accessible transportation system comprised of a balanced range of travel options."

The Livable Metropolis, official plan of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto,

"Traffic in the corridors will be calmed to foster a relaxed, accessible, outdoor-oriented, pedestrian-friendly urban village. The issues outlined below expand upon the vision statement and become a set of principles to guide future public and private investment and also create a "measuring stick" by which to evaluate consistency with the vision, and thereby appropriateness, of these future investments:

" 100-year lifespan vision of Upper Arlington Streets" Lane Avenue and Tremont Road Street Planning and Transportation Vision, City of Upper Arlington, Ohio.

Public and Stakeholder Involvement: CSS by definition is a process that involves, and attempts to build consensus among, a diverse group of stakeholders. The possible outcomes of this step include:

Operations and Maintenance: The transportation planning and project development processes consider the effects of decisions on costs, liability risks and operations and maintenance. Application of CCS principles and design guidance can affect these aspects of project development and need to be carefully considered. Examples include the need to maintain landscaping, the effects of CSS design on utility maintenance and liabilities associated with certain design elements in public places. The possible outcomes of this step include:

CSS in the Project Development Process

Figure 2.2 combines the basic phases of the transportation planning and project development processes for transportation facilities involving federal funds. This figure illustrates how the transportation planning process relates to the project development process. The figure is intended to show how information for transportation improvements to a thoroughfare developed in the transportation process provides input into the project development process. This type of information includes:

The information presented in this report requires an understanding of the existing and future context in urban areas. The application of CSS principles also requires one to know the ways to use the design of the thoroughfare itself to provide mutual support between the thoroughfare and existing and planned adjacent land uses and development patterns. While CSS principles should be considered at the highest level of planning and be integrated into the culture of transportation agencies, in project development, CSS principles should be introduced at the earliest stage—the needs study.

Integrating CSS in the project development process significantly influences the development of project concepts. Project concepts should emerge from a full understanding of the relationship between the thoroughfare, adjoining property and character of the broader urban area. Modal emphasis should be established in the early stages of project development, not addressed as an afterthought in preliminary engineering. In the project scoping or planning step, which includes an environmental review, all alternative analyses may incorporate the principles of CSS.

CSS highlights the need for context sensitive performance measures and criteria for selecting the preferred alternative at this stage of project development. The project development process in Figure 2.2 illustrates where the information in this report can be used in the process. The steps discussed are highlighted in the flowcharts that follow (Figures 2.3 through 2.6):

 

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Figure 2.2 Transportation planning and project development processes. Source: Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

(Extended text description: Flow Chart starting with Program Prioritization with an arrow leading to Project Planning (Alternatives) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans) with an arrow leading to Final Design with an arrow leading to Construction Maintenance Operations. Additionally, Develop Project Concepts leading into the Project Planning (Alternatives) and into the path described above. Additionally, Needs Study and Outside Requests lead into Develop Project Concepts. Outside Requests with an arrow leading to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans with arrows leading back to Develop Project Concepts (which also has a reciprocal arrow back to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans) and to Long-Range Transportation Plans with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (RTIP) with an arrow leading to State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). Long-Range Transportation Plans also has an arrow leading back to Develop Project Concepts. Data and NEPA have arrows leading into Project Planning (Alternatives). State Transporation Improvement Plan (STIP) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans). Agency Standards, Criteria and Policies has arrows that lead to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans), Final Design and Construction Maintenance Operations.)

 

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Figure 2.3 Applicable Steps in Planning Process for Long-Range Transportation Plan (shown as highlighted boxes)

(Extended text description: Flow Chart starting with Program Prioritization with an arrow leading to Project Planning (Alternatives) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans) with an arrow leading to Final Design with an arrow leading to Construction Maintenance Operations. Additionally, Develop Project Concepts leading into the Project Planning (Alternatives) and into the path described above. Additionally, Needs Study and Outside Requests lead into Develop Project Concepts. Outside Requests with an arrow leading to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans (highlighted gray box) with arrows leading back to Develop Project Concepts (which also has a reciprocal arrow back to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans (highlighted gray box)) and to Long-Range Transportation Plans (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (RTIP) (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) (highlighted gray box). Long-Range Transportation Plans (highlighted gray box) also has an arrow leading back to Develop Project Concepts. Data and NEPA have arrows leading into Project Planning (Alternatives). State Transporation Improvement Plan (STIP) (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans). Agency Standards, Criteria and Policies has arrows that lead to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans), Final Design and Construction Maintenance Operations.)

 

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Figure 2.4 Applicable Steps in Planning Process for Needs Study and development of Project Concepts (shown as highlighted boxes)

(Extended text description: Flow Chart starting with Program Prioritization with an arrow leading to Project Planning (Alternatives) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans) with an arrow leading to Final Design with an arrow leading to Construction Maintenance Operations. Additionally, Develop Project Concepts (highlighted gray box) leading into the Project Planning (Alternatives) and into the path described above. Additionally, Needs Study (highlighted gray box) and Outside Requests (highlighted gray box) lead into Develop Project Concepts (highlighted gray box). Outside Requests with an arrow leading to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans with arrows leading back to Develop Project Concepts (highlighted gray box), which also has a reciprocal arrow back to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans and to Long-Range Transportation Plans with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (RTIP) with an arrow leading to State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). Long-Range Transportation Plans also has an arrow leading back to Develop Project Concepts. Data and NEPA have arrows leading into Project Planning (Alternatives). State Transporation Improvement Plan (STIP) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans). Agency Standards, Criteria and Policies has arrows that lead to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans), Final Design and Construction Maintenance Operations.)

 

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Figure 2.5 Applicable Steps in Planning Process for Project Planning and Alternatives Analysis (shown in highlighted boxes)

(Extended text description: Flow Chart starting with Program Prioritization (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to Project Planning (Alternatives) (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans) with an arrow leading to Final Design with an arrow leading to Construction Maintenance Operations. Additionally, Develop Project Concepts leading into the Project Planning (Alternatives) (highlighted gray box) and into the path described above. Additionally, Needs Study and Outside Requests lead into Develop Project Concepts. Outside Requests with an arrow leading to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans with arrows leading back to Develop Project Concepts (which also has a reciprocal arrow back to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans) and to Long-Range Transportation Plans with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (RTIP) with an arrow leading to State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). Long-Range Transportation Plans also has an arrow leading back to Develop Project Concepts. Data (highlighted gray box) and NEPA (highlighted gray box) have arrows leading into Project Planning (Alternatives) (highlighted gray box). State Transporation Improvement Plan (STIP) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans). Agency Standards, Criteria and Policies has arrows that lead to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans), Final Design and Construction Maintenance Operations.)

 

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Figure 2.6 Applicable Steps in Planning Process for Preliminary Engineering and Final Design (shown in highlighted boxes)

(Extended text description: Flow Chart starting with Program Prioritization with an arrow leading to Project Planning (Alternatives) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans) (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to Final Design (highlighted gray box) with an arrow leading to Construction Maintenance Operations. Additionally, Develop Project Concepts leading into the Project Planning (Alternatives) and into the path described above. Additionally, Needs Study and Outside Requests lead into Develop Project Concepts. Outside Requests with an arrow leading to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans with arrows leading back to Develop Project Concepts (which also has a reciprocal arrow back to Corridor Studies Strategic Plans Comprehensive Plans) and to Long-Range Transportation Plans with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) with an arrow leading to Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (RTIP) with an arrow leading to State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). Long-Range Transportation Plans also has an arrow leading back to Develop Project Concepts. Data and NEPA have arrows leading into Project Planning (Alternatives). State Transporation Improvement Plan (STIP) with an arrow leading to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans). Agency Standards, Criteria and Policies (highlighted gray box) has arrows that lead to Preliminary Engineering (Preferred Plans) (highlighted gray box), Final Design (highlighted gray box) and Construction Maintenance Operations.)

 

Sources of Additional Information

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. 2004. A Guide for Achieving Flexibility in Highway Design. Washington, DC: AASHTO.

Ames, Steven C. 1998. Guide to Community Vision-ing: Hands-On Information for Local Communities. Washington, DC: APA Planners Press.

Federal Highway Administration.1997. Flexibility in Highway Design. Washington, DC: FHWA.

Federal Highway Administration. 1996. Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making. Washington, DC: FHWA.

Transportation Research Board. 2002. "Going Public—Involving Communities in Transportation Decisions." Washington, DC: TR News, number 220.

Transportation Research Board. 2000. How Transportation and Community Partnerships Are Shaping America: Part 1: Transit; Part II: Streets and Roads. NCHRP Project 20-7 Task 128. Washington, DC: AASHTO.

Transportation Research Board. 2002. NCHRP Report 480: A Guide to Best Practices in Achieving Context Sensitive Solutions. Washington, DC: TRB.