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.
- 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.