June 2008

We are pleased to present our June 2008 newsletter on Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS). We hope it will be an excellent resource on CSS-related news and topics. In addition to article reviews, topic discussions and event listings, we have an original feature article entitled, "Traffic Projections and Levels of Service Targets," by Gary Toth.

As always we are looking for help in making the most up-to-date and comprehensive tool for CSS professionals, such as yourself. Please contribute any CSS-related case studies, research papers, PowerPoint presentations and even thought pieces that you have found helpful in your work. If you have a great story "from the front line" that would be valuable to highlight and share with the CSS community, please contact us so we can find out more.

If you have any questions about contributing content, or anything else, please e-mail Renee Espiau at or call (212) 620-5660.

The team
Project for Public Spaces
Bioengineering Group

In This Issue:

  • Traffic Projections and Levels of Service Targets
  • Inside Transportation Planning's "Black Box"
  • Updating Metropolitan Travel Forecasting
  • CSS and Maintenance
  • Environment is a CSS Context
  • Future Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2) Projects on Collaborative Decision Making and other Topics of Interest
  • DOTs Release Smart Transportation Guidebook
  • Two-Day National CSS Workshop: July 24 and 25, 2008

Traffic Projections and Levels of Service Targets

Fitting a transportation solution into its community and environmental contexts is a key fundamental of Context Sensitive Solutions. When considering how to accomplish this respectfully, designers often use the approach of selecting less-than-desirable dimensions for design elements such as lane and shoulder widths, horizontal and vertical curvature, and sight distances. However, even if these features are designed contextually, a project that adds additional travel lanes to roadways or upgrade intersections with turning and auxiliary lanes can still have a significant impact on its surroundings. Such decisions to add capacity are often based on travel projection modeling assumptions, combined with a goal of achieving free flow Levels of Service (LOS) targets. Methods for ensuring that these factors are also context sensitive are discussed in more detail in this issue's feature article. Click here to view the full article.

Inside Transportation Planning's "Black Box"

Building on the topic of traffic projections and levels of service targets, has recently posted "Inside the Black Box: Making Transportation Models Work for Livable Communities," an excellent guide to understanding the underpinnings and technical aspects of transportation modeling. The purpose of the publication is to shed light on the assumptions underlying the transportation modeling process, highlight the biases inherent in the modeling, and give suggestions for how stakeholders and users alike can advocate for greater accuracy. Click here to view the full document.

Updating Metropolitan Travel Forecasting has also posted "Metropolitan Travel Forecasting: Current Practice and Future Direction," the Transportation Research Board's recent report assessing metropolitan planning organizations' (MPOs) travel forecasting models. The report analyzes current modeling practices and provides both short- and long-term recommendations for the overall improvement of the metropolitan planning and travel forecasting process. The article is a comprehensive tool for officials and policymakers alike. Click here to view the full report.

CSS and Maintenance

While providing streetscape amenities such as crosswalks with pavers and ornamental lighting is not the centerpiece of true Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS), they often are an important part of CSS projects. In most states with a CSS program, the designated maintenance unit is very supportive of this approach to transportation projects and the need to offer communities CSS options. However, to be successful, it is important that the project's designers be mindful of the special issues associated with maintenance. Click here to view full text.

Environment is a CSS Context

Practitioners and advocates alike often mistake CSS as "Community" Sensitive Solutions. However, it is a mistake to view CSS only as a way to accommodate community concerns, and developing transportation solutions that are sensitive to a project's environmental context should not be left solely to permitting and NEPA processes. This approach will create extra planning steps and project delays. More importantly, it misses the opportunity to use CSS to streamline critical transportation projects. Click here to view full text

Future Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2) Projects on Collaborative Decision Making and other Topics of Interest

One of the focus areas of the second Strategic Highway Research Program is on capacity and meeting the future mobility needs of our growing nation. Research and development projects are now under way that will broaden the perspective of transportation programs in the future. These include ways to foster collaborative decision making in transportation, improve on the weaknesses of Four-Step Traffic Modeling in facilitating new solutions, and promote use of community- and environment- based performance measures in transportation decision making. Click here to view full announcement.

DOTs Release Smart Transportation Guidebook

In conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has recently released the Smart Transportation Guidebook. Smart Transportation can be summarized in six principles: tailor solutions to the context; tailor the approach; plan all projects in collaboration with the community; plan for alternative transportation modes; use sound professional judgment; and scale the solution to the size of the problem. The book provides guidelines for improving the roadway system in accordance with these Smart Transportation principles. The publication is intended to be used in the planning and design of non-limited access roadways of all classifications, from principal arterial highways owned by the state government to local roadways. Click here to download the full document.

Two-Day National CSS Workshop: July 24 and 25, 2008

Context Sensitive Solutions: Designing Transportation Projects for People and Places The Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) are hosting a CSS workshop to help participants understand CSS principles and how they can be used to balance and integrate the needs of travelers and communities in the planning and design of urban transportation systems. The workshop is geared towards advocates, local officials and planning/design professionals in state DOTs, transit agencies, and MPOs and consultants. The workshop will feature leading transportation experts, land use planners, and state and local officials as speakers and panelists. A field trip is included to give participants an opportunity to assess the potential of transforming a major urban corridor or transit station area into a community asset by applying CSS principles.

The goal of STPP and CNT is to give participants the tools to work more effectively with their local governments, DOT, transit agency and MPO on the planning and design of multi-modal transportation systems that balance the needs of all users, promote walkable communities, and encourage private investment.

The two-day workshop will be held July 24 and 25 in Denver, CO. To register, go to:
The preliminary workshop agenda can be viewed at:

Other Upcoming CSS Events:

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To contribute to the site, visit the Contribute Content page. The top submissions will be featured in the next newsletter.

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