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 2019, states spent a total of $172 billion on transportation infrastructure and projects. A little more than one-quarter (27 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 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 make efforts to ensure that historically disadvantaged groups, 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 Consumer Data Issues).



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.

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.

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).