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Friday, January 25, 2013

Defining Multimodal

We have heard some of you asking about the definition of multimodal. This is a good reminder to us not to use too much jargon as we communicate, or at the very least, to define our terms as we use them.

Knowing the planning community and the people in our region, we expect that trying to come to an agreement on what multimodal means could create quite a stir. Rather than add complication to this subject, we offer this simple definition of "multimodal" in terms of moveDC.

Multimodal (adjective): describes a transportation system that accommodates walking, bicycling, transit, railroads, and driving.

Okay...Why multimodal?

Too often transportation planning starts with a focus on one mode or another, rather than first looking at the entire system. For moveDC, we are starting by looking at the entire transportation system. We will steadily work toward the networks for different kinds of users (pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, drivers, etc.) as the planning process moves along in the next year. In the end, we'll be planning a transportation system that layers the many travel options together in a coordinated manner so that people are not forced into only one way of traveling for all of their needs.

Aspirations for a Changing City

We hope that have started to think about the future of transportation in the District and what our goals should be to get us there. Investments in transportation can help the District achieve its transportation goals as well as larger city goals.
At this point, you might be asking, “What are other world-class cities doing? What are their goals? What are they trying to achieve?”
We’re sure that some of you will do your own research. We hope that you’ll share what you learn with us.
How about we give you a head start?
We’ve taken a look at the goals, strategies, and outcomes of transportation plans of New York City, London (United Kingdom), Vancouver (Canada), Stockholm (Sweden), Tokyo (Japan), Melbourne (Australia), and Copenhagen (Denmark). We would have liked to have reviewed plans from other international cities such as Paris, Berlin, and Hong Kong; however, English-language versions were not available. A full summary of our review (Global Peers) is on the project website (
A few observations…
All of the plans we reviewed seek to position their respective communities to accommodate growth—New York City growing to a population of 9 million, London adding 1.4 million people and 750,000 jobs, Tokyo seeking to raise its profile on the world stage, and Vancouver, Copenhagen, Melbourne and Stockholm adding people and jobs in transport-rich locations. All of the plans recognize the important role and wide-reaching impact that transportation has in modern society. While each of these plans have transportation focused sections or are solely transportation focused, their goals, summarized briefly in the following, are more expansive and indicative of the wide-reaching impacts of transportation: 
  • Enhance people’s quality of life
  • Offer more and better travel choices
  • Encourage walking, bicycling, and transit use
  • Support and create vibrant communities and neighborhoods
  • Encourage environmental stewardship
  • Integrate land use and transportation decision-making
  • Create economic opportunity
  • Prepare for changes in climate and natural disasters
  • Generate and appropriate adequate transportation funding
In terms of outcomes, the plans recommend significant investments in bicycle, pedestrian, and transit facilities. They talk about go anywhere, anytime transit that is efficient and attractive. Many of the plans are direct in stating that increasing revenue dedicated to transportation systems is essential. Several of the plans recommend strategies to manage traffic congestion through incentives and disincentives—London’s now famous congestion charge was an outcome of that city’s planning efforts. Most of the plans address the way in which the plan can be flexible to accommodate local priorities, which is essential if ideas are to become reality.
What should the District try to achieve over the next 50 years?
Not sure about putting your thoughts here, come see us on February 9th at the Idea Exchange and tell us in-person. More details are on the project website (

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What is a Long Range Transportation Plan?

Have you ever been asked, “Where do you see yourself in 20 years?” Few of us can answer with a tremendous amount of certainty. Most of us are lucky to have a plan for the next few weeks, month, or year, let alone the next couple of decades.

Even though you and I can generally live our lives in a successful way by planning just a few days, weeks, or years ahead, cities are different. They need defined plans that set a course for a long period of time, for nearly everything—from water, to schools, to transportation. The complexities of the goals they are trying to achieve often requires significant investments of time and money. The length of time it takes to make policy; identify and secure funding for initiatives; plan, design, and build projects; and provide services, necessitates that cities have plans that anticipate needs, not simply react to current events.

A multimodal long range transportation plan, or multimodal LRTP, is a jurisdiction’s way of looking at its transportation needs over short-, mid-, and long-term horizons. In the context of an LRTP, short-term is generally defined as the 5-year time horizon, mid-term as the 10- to 15-year horizon, and long-term can be 25 or more years from today. LRTPs plan for all modes of transportation—vehicular and non-vehicular—in a coordinated and integrated manner. They look at how different travel modes can help solve transportation challenges and they look at how different travel modes can successfully interact with one another.

Long range transportation plans recognize the tension between the need for facilities and services and constraints—natural, physical, social, or financial. They also are called upon by leaders to help in decision-making processes related the needs of the transportation system. LRTPs are visionary, but realistic. They focus on creating and articulating an implementable vision. Jurisdictions have only so much money to spend on their transportation systems; therefore priorities must be established and compromise is inevitable. Good transportation plans include mechanisms for measuring progress. Many years after a plan is complete, everyone should be able to understand the effects that the plan has contributed to.

From a regulatory perspective, states and metropolitan areas are required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to have an up-to-date long range transportation plan (LRTP). Although there are rules for preparing transportation plans, federal requirements provide significant latitude in the preparation of LRTPs. Plans may be broad and policy-oriented or they can be very specific and prescriptive. In either case, there are elements and considerations required of any LRTP including:
  • 20-year time horizon for planning
  • Multimodal approach to planning including consideration of pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles, freight, safety and security, and transit
  • System-based planning approach, rather than one that focuses on transportation modes and system elements individually
  • Consideration of land use, development, housing, natural environment, and employment
  • Consideration of costs of the recommendations and a funding and financing for operations, maintenance, and capital investments
  • Consideration of efficiency and system preservation

Much of the transportation funding in the United States is currently provided by the federal government. In July 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21, was signed into law. MAP-21 funds surface transportation programs for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. MAP-21 also provides a policy and programmatic framework to guide state DOTs in developing a multimodal transportation system using performance-based project evaluation. Additional program details continue to emerge and further guidance on performance measures and planning are expected in the coming year.

In addition to needing to meet federal requirements, a long range transportation plan also needs to help the jurisdiction make informed decisions about transportation. For the District, the transportation plan’s job is to identify what the city wants its transportation system to do, what is needed to do it, and when it needs to do it.

It’s About Our Transportation Future

Welcome. There is little that could be more exciting to us than working with you throughout the next year to author an implementable vision for transportation in the District of Columbia. If this is your first visit to the website, we’re glad that you are here. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed anything. We’re just getting started and more is to come!

During the next year, we hope that you will work with us to develop moveDC, the city’s Multimodal Long Range Transportation Plan. Whether you are 8 or 80; have lived in DC your whole life or one week; work here or employ people here; we need your voice to help shape our transportation future. Lend us your best ideas, your insights, and your experiences. We’re committed to setting a course for transportation investments in the District that will improve everyone’s quality of life and keep the city’s citizens mobile long into the future.

Before you go, sign up so that we can keep in touch and mark your calendar to join us on February 9th . More information is available on the calendar page of