Transportation Planning


Transportation planning is the collaborative process of determining how to move people and goods. Successful transportation planning leads to more effective, efficient, and equitable transportation systems. It also contributes to community revitalization and equitable economic and social outcomes. 

In fiscal year 2022, states spent a total of $208.7 billion on transportation infrastructure and projects. A little more than one-quarter (26.7 percent) of these funds came from the federal government, with the remainder from the states. Prioritizing projects and ultimately deciding how to spend transportation dollars requires coordination among policymakers and planners at the federal, regional, state, and local levels. 

The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, directed over half of its investments toward improving and modernizing transportation infrastructure, including: 

  • providing a historic level of investment for public transportation, 
  • increasing funding for highway and pedestrian safety programs, 
  • investing in alternatives to cars such as walking and cycling, and 
  • addressing the aging infrastructure needs of roads and bridges. 

The new law also created a new Thriving Communities initiative to fund technical assistance and hands-on planning support for transformative infrastructure projects that serve disadvantaged communities. 

The federal government provides technical assistance and oversight, and it requires states to incorporate citizen participation. At the regional level, metropolitan planning organizations plan for federal transportation investment and conduct regional planning. State transportation departments participate in the regional process and prepare statewide long-range transportation plans. Localities develop and maintain public infrastructure and often participate in state and regional planning processes. 

When done well, this transportation planning process includes meaningful community input. This includes from people with a wide range of backgrounds, incomes, ages, and ability levels. It is not enough to inform the public of decisions made, nor is it sufficient to post an announcement for a public meeting and hope residents show up. The public needs adequate notice of meetings scheduled at reasonable times. And planners and community leaders must ensure that groups that are discriminated against, such as communities of color and people with disabilities, have an opportunity to influence planning and investment decisions. 

A key goal of transportation planning is to create mobility options for residents of all ages and ability levels within a community. Another is to connect neighborhoods to the broader region via an efficient road and transit network. Planning is more effective when the increasing number of mobility service providers share data with transportation planners. Local officials can more effectively manage public rights-of-way when they receive trip-level data from mobility service providers such as micromobility, ride-hailing, and self-driving car companies. Data-sharing allows them to evaluate the impact on congestion, traffic patterns, and public transportation use. That ensures that services are provided equitably. It also helps planners ensure safe passage for pedestrians, including people with disabilities and those with other mobility limitations. But data-sharing can also pose privacy and security concerns, particularly when personally identifiable data are included. Therefore, privacy and security protections are also critically important (see also Chapter 9, Consumer Rights and Protection: Consumer Data Issues). 

Curbside management: The growth of ride-hailing, deliveries, micromobility devices, and “streateries”—outdoor dining located in public places such as sidewalks, parking spots, and roadways—has underscored the importance of effective use of the space between the sidewalk and vehicular traffic. This is known as curbside management. Effective curbside management ensures efficient use of space. It also can promote livability, improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and support restaurants and small businesses. Conversely, poor curbside management can result in inefficient use of land, as well as double parking and passenger drop-offs away from an accessible curb and sidewalk. These situations are particularly dangerous for older adults and people with disabilities. 



Transportation planning

Policymakers should adopt plans that enhance the mobility of older adults and people with disabilities. Planning efforts should consider the effects of transportation planning and land-use decisions on the mobility of these populations. 

Policymakers should examine the benefits of public transportation service improvements before undertaking major road-building projects. 

State and local governments should adopt and implement transportation plans that accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. Implementation of transportation plans should include: 

  • evaluating roads and sidewalks to confirm their ability to accommodate safely all users, especially as innovations change how they are used; 
  • updating design, planning, and policy manuals; 
  • training planning personnel in the design of Complete Streets; and 
  • creating and implementing performance measures for transportation projects. 

Planning and programming should be coordinated to ensure project priorities are covered in fiscally constrained state transportation plans. 

Meaningful public input and participation must be incorporated into transportation planning decisions. Such decisions include routing services, placing and designing highways and roads, managing transportation demand, and deploying intelligent transportation systems. This includes input from older adults, people with disabilities, and communities of color. 

Curbside management

Local governments should adopt curb management policies and practices that prioritize the safety of all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. These policies should ensure that curbsides are accessible to people with disabilities and limited mobility. Policies should be applied broadly to all neighborhoods. 

Transportation data-sharing

Policymakers should require shared mobility service providers to provide local jurisdictions with consumer travel data while protecting user privacy. This includes data related to shared scooters, bike shares, ride-hailing services, and automated vehicles. Data analysis should be used to ensure that shared mobility devices accommodate the unique needs, values, and priorities of individual communities (see also Consumer Data Issues).