Transportation planning
Transportation planning is a field involved with the evaluation, assessment, design and siting of transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

ation facilities (generally street
A street is a paved public thoroughfare in a built environment. It is a public parcel of land adjoining buildings in an urban context, on which people may freely assemble, interact, and move about. A street can be as simple as a level patch of dirt, but is more often paved with a hard, durable...

s, highway
A highway is any public road. In American English, the term is common and almost always designates major roads. In British English, the term designates any road open to the public. Any interconnected set of highways can be variously referred to as a "highway system", a "highway network", or a...

s, footpath
A Footpath is a thoroughfare intended for by pedestrians but not by motorized vehicles. The term is often for paths within an urban area that offer shorter quieter routes for pedestrians, they may also provide access to the surrounding countryside or parks...

s, bike lanes and public transport
Public transport
Public transport is a shared passenger transportation service which is available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as taxicab, car pooling or hired buses which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement.Public transport modes include buses, trolleybuses, trams...


Models and Sustainability

Transportation planning historically has followed the rational planning model
Rational Planning Model
The rational planning model is the process of realizing a problem, establishing and evaluating planning criteria, creating alternatives, implementing alternatives, and monitoring progress of the alternatives. It is used in designing neighborhoods, cities, and regions. The rational planning model...

 of defining goals and objectives, identifying problems, generating alternatives, evaluating alternatives, and developing plans. Other models for planning include rational actor, transit oriented development, satisficing
Satisficing, a portmanteau "combining satisfy with suffice", is a decision-making strategy that attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution...

, incremental planning, organizational process, and political bargaining.

However, planners are increasingly expected to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, especially due to the rising importance of environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

. For example, the use of behavioral psychology
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

 to persuade drivers to abandon their automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

s and use public transport
Public transport
Public transport is a shared passenger transportation service which is available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as taxicab, car pooling or hired buses which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement.Public transport modes include buses, trolleybuses, trams...

 instead. The role of the transport planner is shifting from technical analysis to promoting sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

 through integrated transport policies
A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome. The term is not normally used to denote what is actually done, this is normally referred to as either procedure or protocol...


United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 transport planning has traditionally been a branch of civil engineering
Civil engineering
Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings...

. In the 1950s and 1960s it was generally believed that the motor car was an important element in the future of transport as economic growth spurred on car ownership figures. The role of the transport planner was to match motorway and rural road capacity against the demands of economic growth. Urban areas would need to be redesigned for the motor vehicle or else impose traffic containment and demand management to mitigate congestion and environmental impacts. These policies were popularised in a 1963 government publication, Traffic in Towns
Traffic in Towns
Traffic in Towns was an influential report and popular book on urban and transport planning policy produced in 1963 for the UK Ministry of Transport by a team headed by the architect, civil engineer and planner Professor Sir Colin Buchanan....

. The contemporary Smeed Report
Smeed Report
The Smeed Report was a study into alternative methods of charging for road use, commissioned by the UK government between 1962 and 1964. The report stopped short of an unqualified recommendation for road pricing but concluded that it could work and should be considered for congested road...

 on congestion pricing
Congestion pricing
Congestion pricing or congestion charges is a system of surcharging users of a transport network in periods of peak demand to reduce traffic congestion. Examples include some toll-like road pricing fees, and higher peak charges for utilities, public transport and slots in canals and airports...

 was initially promoted to manage demand but was deemed politically unacceptable. In more recent times this approach has been caricatured as "predict and provide" – to predict future transport demand and provide the network for it, usually by building more road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...


The publication of Planning Policy Guidance 13 in 1994 (revised in 2001), followed by A New Deal for Transport in 1998 and the white paper
White paper
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to...

 Transport Ten Year Plan 2000 again indicated an acceptance that unrestrained growth in road traffic was neither desirable nor feasible. The worries were threefold: concerns about congestion
Traffic congestion
Traffic congestion is a condition on road networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queueing. The most common example is the physical use of roads by vehicles. When traffic demand is great enough that the interaction...

, concerns about the effect of road traffic on the environment (both natural
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

 and built
Built environment
The term built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from personal shelter and buildings to neighborhoods and cities that can often include their supporting infrastructure, such as water supply or energy networks.The built...

) and concerns that an emphasis on road transport discriminates against vulnerable groups in society such as the poor
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, the elderly and the disabled.

These documents reiterated the emphasis on integration:
  • integration within and between different modes of transport
  • integration with the environment
  • integration with land use planning
    Land use planning
    Land-use planning is the term used for a branch of public policy encompassing various disciplines which seek to order and regulate land use in an efficient and ethical way, thus preventing land-use conflicts. Governments use land-use planning to manage the development of land within their...

  • integration with policies for education
    Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

    , health
    Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain...

     and wealth
    Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...


This attempt to reverse decades of underinvestment in the transport system has resulted in a severe shortage of transport planners. It was estimated in 2003 that 2,000 new planners would be required by 2010 to avoid jeopardising the success of the Transport Ten Year Plan

During 2006 the Transport Planning Society defined the key purpose of transport planning as
to plan, design, deliver, manage and review transport, balancing the needs of society, the economy and the environment.

The following key roles must be performed by transport planners:
  • take account of the social, economic and environmental context of their work
  • understand the legal, regulatory policy
    Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

     and resource framework within which they work
  • understand and create transport policies, strategies and plans that contribute to meeting social, economic and environmental needs
  • design the necessary transport projects, systems and services
  • understand the commercial aspects of operating transport systems and services
  • know about and apply the relevant tools and techniques
  • must be competent in all aspects of management, in particular communications, personal skills and project management
    Project management
    Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing, and managing resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end , undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value...


United States

Transportation planning in the United States is in the midst of a shift similar to that taking place in the United Kingdom, away from the singular goal of moving vehicular traffic and towards an approach that takes into consideration the communities and lands which streets, roads, and highways pass through ("the context"). More so, it places a greater emphasis on passenger rail networks which had been neglected until recently. This new approach, known as Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS), seeks to balance the need to move people efficiently and safely with other desirable outcomes, including historic preservation
Historic preservation
Historic preservation is an endeavor that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical significance...

, environmental sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

, and the creation of vital public space
Public space
A public space is a social space such as a town square that is open and accessible to all, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. One of the earliest examples of public spaces are commons. For example, no fees or paid tickets are required for entry, nor are the entrants...


The initial guiding principles of CSS came out of the 1998 "Thinking Beyond the Pavement" conference as a means to describe and foster transportation projects that preserve and enhance the natural and built environments, as well as the economic and social assets of the neighborhoods they pass through. CSS principles have since been adopted as guidelines for highway design in federal legislation. Also, in 2003, the Federal Highway Administration
Federal Highway Administration
The Federal Highway Administration is a division of the United States Department of Transportation that specializes in highway transportation. The agency's major activities are grouped into two "programs," the Federal-aid Highway Program and the Federal Lands Highway Program...

 announced that under one of its three Vital Few Objectives (Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining) they set the target of achieving CSS integration within all state Departments of Transportation by September of 2007. The recent pushes for advancing transportation planning has led to the development of a professional certification program, the Professional Transportation Planner
Professional Transportation Planner
A professional transportation planner is a personal certification recognized within the USA, sponsored by the Transportation Professional Certification Board, Inc. and promulgated by the Institute of Transportation Engineers...

, to be launched in 2007.

In recent years, there has been a movement to provide "complete" transportation corridors under the "complete streets
Complete streets
In U.S. urban planning and highway engineering, complete streets are roadways designed and operated to enable safe, attractive, and comfortable access and travel for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transport users of all ages and abilities...

" movement. In response to auto-centric design of transportation networks, complete streets encompass all users and modes of transportation in a more equitable manner. The complete streets movement entails many of the CSS principles as well as pedestrian, bicycle and older adult movements to improve transportation in the United States.

The Technical Process

Most regional transportation planners today employ what is called the rational model of planning. The model views planning as a logical and technical process that uses the analysis of quantitative data to decide how to best invest resources in new and existing transportation infrastructure.

Since World War II, this attitude in planning has resulted in the widespread use of travel modeling as a key component of regional transportation planning. The models’ rise in popularity can also be attributed to a rapid increase in the number of automobiles on the road, widespread suburbanization and a large increase in federal transportation spending in urban areas. All of these phenomena dominated the planning culture in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Regional transportation planning was needed because increasingly cities weren’t just cities anymore, but parts of a complex regional system.

The process, according to Johnston (2004) and the FHWA and FTA (2007), generally follows a pattern that can be divided into three different stages. Over the course of each of three phases, the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is also supposed to consider air quality and environmental issues, look at planning questions in fiscally constrained way and involve the public. In the first stage, called preanalysis, the MPO considers what problems and issues the region faces and what goals and objectives it can set to help address those issues. During this phase the MPO also collects data on wide variety of regional characteristics, develops a set of different alternatives that will be explored as part of the planning process and creates a list of measurable outcomes that will be used to see whether goals and objectives have been achieved. Johnston notes that many MPOs perform weekly in this area, and though many of these activities seem like the “soft” aspects of planning that aren’t really necessary, they’re absolutely essential to ensuring that the models used in second phase are accurate and complete .

The second phase is what’s called the technical analysis phase. The process is pretty involved and there is lot of technical maneuvering going on, but basically the development of the models can be broken down as follows. Before beginning, the MPO collects enormous amounts of data. This data can be thought of as falling into two categories: that which concerns the transportation system and that which concerns the adjacent land use. The best MPOs are constantly collecting this data.

The actual analysis used is called the Urban Transportation Modeling System (UTMS), though it is often referred to as the four-step process. As its nickname suggestions, UTMS has four steps: trip generation, trip distribution, mode choice and trip/route assignment. In trip generation, the region is subdivided into a large number of smaller units of analysis called traffic analysis zones (TAZs). Based on the number and characteristics of the households in each zone, a certain number of trips is generated. In the second step, trip distribution, trips are separated out into categories based on their origin and purpose: generally, these categories are home-based work, home-based other and non-home based. In each of three categories, trips are matched to origin and destination zones using the data that has been collected. In mode choice, trips are assigned to a mode (usually auto or transit) based on what’s available in a particular zone, the characteristics of the household within that zone and the cost of the mode for each mode in terms of money and time. Since most trips by bicycle or walking are generally shorter, they are assumed to have stayed within one zone and are not included in the analysis. Finally, in route assignment, trips are assigned to the network. As particular parts of the network are assigned trips, the vehicle speed slows down, so some trips are assigned to alternate routes in such a way that all trip times are equal. This is important because the ultimate goal is system-wide optimization, not optimization for any one individual. The finished product is traffic flows and speeds for each link in the network.

Ideally, these models would include all the different behaviors that are associated with transportation, including the complex policy questions that are more qualitative in nature. Obviously, because of the nature of transportation this can’t be the case. The result is models that may estimate future traffic conditions well, but are ultimately based on assumptions made on the part of the planner. Some MPOs do some additional submodeling on things like automobile ownership, time of travel, location of land development, location and firms and location of households to help fill in these holes, but regardless what is created are models, and models always include some level of uncertainty.

The postanalysis phase involves plan evaluation, program implementation and monitoring of the results. Johnston notes that for evaluation to be meaningful it should be as comprehensive as possible. For example, rather than just looking at decreases in congestion, MPOs should consider economic, equity and environmental issues.

A large part of planning for transportation involves the technical four-step process that is designed to predict where future investments need to be made. It’s important to understand the public involvement implications of this. The discussion above was just a brief overview of the process, so it’s difficult for members of the public to delve into the issues and confront the models that planners use. This a cause for concern especially as study by Flyvbjerg, Skamris Holm and Buhl (2005) found that many of the models that planners use to sell big-ticket highway and rail projects are fundamentally flawed and often grossly inaccurate.

See also

  • American Planning Association
    American Planning Association
    The American Planning Association is a professional organization representing the field of city and regional planning in the United States. The APA was formed in 1978 when two separate professional planning organizations, the American Institute of Planners and the American Society of Planning...

  • Auto-restricted zone
  • Focal point
  • Low-emission zone
  • Professional Transportation Planner
    Professional Transportation Planner
    A professional transportation planner is a personal certification recognized within the USA, sponsored by the Transportation Professional Certification Board, Inc. and promulgated by the Institute of Transportation Engineers...

  • Strategic Environmental Assessment
    Strategic Environmental Assessment
    Strategic environmental assessment is a system of incorporating environmental considerations into policies, plans, and programmes. It is sometimes referred to as strategic environmental impact assessment. The specific term strategic environmental assessment relates to European Union policy...

  • Transport Planning Professional
    Transport Planning Professional
    Transport Planning Professional is a professional qualification for transport planners which has been developed by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and the Transport Planning Society. It has been designed to provide professional recognition for transport planners at a level...

  • Transportation forecasting
    Transportation forecasting
    Transportation forecasting is the process of estimating the number of vehicles or people that will use a specific transportation facility in the future. For instance, a forecast may estimate the number of vehicles on a planned road or bridge, the ridership on a railway line, the number of...

  • Trip distribution
    Trip distribution
    Trip distribution , is the second component in the traditional four-step transportation forecasting model...

External links

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