Providing pedestrian multimodal access to a large retail enhances business development by transforming the area into a destination.
photo credit:Renaissance Planning Group
Adding vegetation and landscaping amenities can improve the pedestrian environment and calm traffic. photo credit:Renaissance Planning Group
Providing pavers and a crosswalk near a large commercial development can control traffic and improve the pedestrian experience. photo credit:Renaissance Planning Group
Many once-remote rural towns have become fast-growing “edge” communities because of their proximity to sprawling urban areas. The four-phase suburban growth cycle has shaped thousands of American communities over the past 50 years. 1) Highway interchanges or park-and-ride transit stations attracts automobile-dependent housing development in swaths of rural land. 2) As retail followed rooftops, shopping centers spring up along major commuter routes, generating thousands of regional and local car and truck trips. 3) Congestion and crash rates inevitably rise as rapidly increasing high-speed regional traffic competes for highway space with equally fast-growing stop-and-start local traffic. 4) States and localities widen or bypass congested highways, only to find even more traffic attracted to the larger roads and more development mushrooming around new interchanges.
CSS techniques can help communities redistribute traffic, reduce automobile dependence, and create more attractive, cohesive centers by “completing” strip commercial areas with local low-speed street networks that provide safe access to businesses and a richer variety of pedestrian, bicycle and transit choices. These local grids also provide the necessary framework for access management strategies critical to safe, efficient traffic flow along main highways, such as closing unnecessary driveways and establishing evenly spaced, controlled intersections.
The Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation have partnered in the development of the recently released Smart Transportation Guidebook. The goal of the landmark Guidebook is to integrate the planning and design of streets highways in a manner that fosters development of sustainable and livable communities. The Guidebook has equal applicability to rural, suburban and urban areas.
Both DOTs feel that transportation needs will always outweigh available resources. Smart Transportation proposes to manage capacity by better integrating land use and transportation planning. The Guidebook states that the "desire to go 'through' a place must be balanced with the desire to go 'to' a place." Transportation investments must be tailored to the specific context and needs of each project.
The Guidebook advocates the use of a multi-disciplinary team to work closely with communities and develop a wide range of solutions. It defines Smart Transportation as also including consideration of network connectivity to help ease the burden on the major highways, thereby allowing the DOTs to develop solutions which are more sensitive to context.
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.
Other trend-setting concepts promoted in the Guidebook are:
1. Right sizing of projects to achieve a high value to price ratio, instead of constructing projects to achieve optimum Levels of Service performance measures;
2. Defining wide ranging measures of project success;
3. The need to understand place in transportation planning, design and construction;
4. A roadway typology that is not based solely on functional classification, but also takes into account land use and place;
5. The idea that high design speed does not automatically equate to high design quality.
Bridgeport Way - University Place, Washington University Place, WA
Bridgeport Way is a major urban arterial and it could be considered as a "Main Street" of University Place. The project involved reconstruction of an existing five-lane road into a four-lane divided roadway over a distance of approximately 1.5 miles. The purpose of this project was to address the safety concerns due to the high number of crashes over the past years. At the same time it was viewed essential to the vision statement of the City Council that aimed in improving the quality of life in the community by creating a town center. The goal of the project is to develop Bridgeport Way as a corridor that will improve traffic safety, increase the mobility and cohesiveness of the community, enhance the appearance of the corridor, and control traffic growth.
Maryland Route 108 Olney, MD
Since the mid-1980's, land development around this suburban Baltimore highway has lead to drastic increases in traffic volume. Officials sought to maximize Route 108's capacity and relieve its congestion just as Maryland was developing their "Thinking Beyond the Pavement" approach. As a result, this project contributed greatly to MD's knowledge of Context Sensitive Solutions. The reconstruction of Route 108 resulted in lessons learned about the CSS process and its benefits.
Maryland Route 355 Montgomery County, MD
Significant regional traffic growth and localized development has resulted in traffic increases along Route 355, a two-lane highway in rural and suburban Maryland. Completion of this mobility-enhancing project required a comprehensive approach involving design creativity, stakeholder involvement, and agency coordination. Stakeholders learned that converting a two-lane highway into a six-lane arterial in a built-up area is no small feat, especially when the conversion is done in a manner in which the finished product fits with the surrounding area.
On May 18, 2010, ContextSensitiveSolutions.org presented a webinar on applying CSS to transportation investments in order to achieve livability sponsored by FHWA, in partnership with the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Renaissance Planning Group, and Project for Public Spaces.
The ideas of livability and Context Sensitive Solutions have the potential to transform America’s communities so that they not only have improved transportation systems, but are also sustainable, vibrant, and foster personal and social well-being.
This webinar was intended to help practitioners at the federal, state, and local level understand which CSS principles to apply, and in which situations, in order to address obstacles to livability in America’s diverse urban, suburban, and rural landscapes.
The report explores how different types of rural communities can integrate land use and transportation planning. The report also highlights programs and investment strategies that are designed to support community development and livability in rural areas while providing adequate transportation capacity.
Rural communities throughout the United States are facing a wide and complex range of challenges that both affect and are affected by the transportation system. These include economic shifts away from traditional employment in local farming and manufacturing toward industries such as agribusiness and tourism; changing demographics such as rising percentages of elderly residents or new levels of racial and ethnic diversity; rapid growth in some rural areas and population decline in others; and a lack of adequate capacity and/or commitment to engage the public in transportation and land use planning. These trends are further complicated by funding challenges associated with operating, maintaining, and building transportation infrastructure.
Although urban areas may be facing many of the same or similar issues, the presence of such challenges in a rural setting poses a unique set of circumstances that requires a distinctly different approach. Although abundant research findings exist on strategies and measures to address the effects of growth and development on transportation systems and services in urban and metropolitan areas, there has been little corresponding research to address how rural communities can work with transportation agencies to set and reach mutual goals for livability and mobility.
Surveys for this project indicated that the number one challenge for rural communities is to provide access within the community to destinations such as jobs, shops, services, education, and healthcare. The particular type of accessibility need for each community varies based on the community's particular setting and economic base. For example, exurban communities are primarily concerned with providing access to jobs in adjacent urban centers; destination communities focus on bringing visitors into the community and providing access to tourist destinations; and production communities either attempt to improve accessibility between local products and their markets or to diversify the local economy. Other frequently cited challenges include maintaining or improving water and air quality, improving driver safety, protecting open space and environmentally sensitive lands, and providing access between the community and destinations around the larger region.
Best practices and strategies for achieving these results within various types of communities fall into three major activities:
Set the regional framework for where and how development should occur, through practices such as
Growth management and preservation strategies to guide development into suitable locations; and
Regional access management strategies promoting access to designated development areas as well as discouraging unwanted rural development.
Improve local accessibility to daily needs such as jobs, shopping, services, and health care, through practices such as
Development standards and plans to promote mixed-use, walkable community centers; and
Transportation investments focused on improving street connectivity, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and transit service to community focal points.
Enhance community design, through practices such as
Context-sensitive roadway design techniques that complement natural and built environments; and
Local access management and community design strategies, particularly along key commercial corridors.
The Northwest Vermont Planning Project: Changing Land Use to Effect Rural Highway Improvements VT
<p>This case study was spurred by a controversy over indirect and cumulative impacts of the proposed Chittenden County Circumferential Highway road project (known by most as “the Circ”). Based on more than 20 years of difficulty advancing plans for the project, the state realized that much of the growth problem stemmed directly from a lack of resources for growth-related planning at the local and regional levels. VTrans was reacting to transportation issues caused in part by poor land use decisions at the local level. By providing planning support and sophisticated scenario modeling tools through five regional planning agencies, VTrans worked with a variety of rural communities to coordinate plans and resources towards a mutual goal of building efficient transportation infrastructure that helped them cultivate desirable development. </p>
Western Piedmont Region, North Carolina: Managing Highway Corridors and Guiding Development Hickory, NC
<p>This regional case study examines innovative and cost effective transportation investments that enhance a rural region's livability and preserve its cultural and environmental assets. The region's' two major highways, Interstate 40 and US Highway 321, have increased the potential for economic development by providing increased access to the region and by providing opportunities for business locations (such as retail outlets for locally manufactured furniture). At the same time, corridor development has created challenges such as disrupting access to properties along the highways, threatening scenic landscapes and the natural environment, and disturbing traditional community character Over the course of nearly two decades, local governments and the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) developed three corridor plans along the two major routes, each aimed to promote safety, traffic efficiency, aesthetics, economic development, and compatible residential uses. All three plans supported common objectives (primarily access management and rationalizing land use), but in each case the planners adapted the research, public engagement, technical methods, and recommendations to suit local conditions and needs.</p>
This FHWA document is designed as a resource to rural planners, city and county engineers, stakeholders, local officials, and other decision-makers involved with developing rural transportation plans. It is intended to foster a better understanding of the characteristics, issues, and trends affecting rural transportation systems and the benefits of good rural system planning. It provides approaches and case study profiles for public consultation, environmental review, transit system planning, intelligent transportation system planning, and access management.
U.S. Route 62 Village of Hamburg Hamburg, NY
<p>The purpose of the project was to coordinate highway improvements and revitalization efforts in accordance with the Department’s Context Sensitive Solutions philosophy and Environmental Initiative. The intent is to incorporate the Village’s desire for change, improvement and a rebirth of the community into the Department’s basic mission for improving the transportation corridor. </p>
<p> Route 62 in the Village of Hamburg is not only the center of local business, but also a major truck route. As such, the project addressed, safety, capacity,aesthetic context concerns, and infrastructure deficiencies. The New York State Department of Transportation project encouraged collaboration and community engagement, which resulted in in well-informed and community-valued design alternatives.</p>