Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

The Tools to Get There. (Dialogue)

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

The Tools to Get There. (Dialogue)

Article excerpt

Walter Kulash offers a vision for getting us out of the current transportation planning conundrum ("Can't Get There from Here--or Can We?" FORUM, Summer, 2001). The current, circular, planning process, which usually calls for more road capacity to accommodate more traffic, can produce only one outcome: more congestion.

From my experience as a state transportation secretary, the planning process is structured to yield failure, usually sooner rather than later. How can we in the transportation business do a better job of explaining the unintended consequences of the current planning process?

First, the underlying planning tool, the model, must be capable of examining the complexities of today's transportation system. The planning models must integrate all elements of the surface transportation system--roads, rail, transit, walking as well as bicycle trips, freight as well as people. Today's model is geared to tell us how much capacity to build rather than to explore various options and consequences. The model must encompass the entire system as related to parts of the whole rather than just roads.

Second, to help understand the impact of various development patterns on the transportation system and the effect of various types of transportation investment on fostering new development or disinvestment in an existing community, the model must include alternate land-use plans and development patterns. If a community wants to emphasize transit and pedestrian modes over roads, the model should be able to show transportation and development options for achieving that vision. Because transportation infrastructure is one of the underlying shapers of the character of our communities, the tools used to develop investment strategies must address issues that go beyond simply determining the amount of roadway capacity. How many run-down neighborhoods have we seen that resulted from an ill-conceived highway? How many places are simply unwalkable because of our single focus on moving vehicles rather than people?

In fairness to transportation planners, the problem does not belong solely to them; the development community has fostered the auto-centric philosophy and designed shopping, housing, and office venues from that perspective. …

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