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Potential Roles of M&O in Supporting Livability and Sustainability

How M&O Can Support Livability and Sustainability

M&O strategies can support livability and sustainability in multiple contexts, including:

Transportation systems M&O has wide-ranging impacts on communities and the environment — from how easy it is for a pedestrian to cross the street to how much fuel, productivity, and quality of life is wasted in traffic.

Efforts to create more livable, sustainable communities should account for all aspects of transportation: planning, development, management, and operations.

The connections between M&O strategies and livability and sustainability can be broadly grouped into three areas: economic, environmental, and community- related (i.e., related to travel choices and equity). Table 2 highlights these connections and some measures of the benefits.

Table 2. Connections between M&O Strategies and Livability and Sustainability
Category Specific Connections
The role of M&O in supporting economic sustainability and/or livability issues
  • M&O strategies save travelers time and money by reducing congestion. By one measure, operational improvements nationwide resulted in a savings of 308 million annual hours of delay, with a value of $6.5 billion, in 2007.4
  • M&O strategies cost-effectively improve transportation system performance. M&O strategies are able to improve the performance of the transportation system at low- to moderate-cost and often without requiring any expansion of the system’s physical capacity.5
  • M&O strategies can enhance economic competitiveness and economic development. Improving multimodal networks can help support commercial districts by making them more attractive for pedestrians and other non-automobile
    users.6 M&O strategies that improve transportation system reliability can help support efficient goods movement, which may result in lower costs of goods and may enhance economic competitiveness.
  • M&O strategies can improve safety. It is estimated that road weather information systems can reduce traveler delay and lower crash rates by seven to 83 percent.7 Signal coordination can decrease intersection crash rates, reduce rear-end conflicts, and reduce crashes during turning movements at signalized intersections.8
  • Implementation of pricing of lanes or parking (an M&O strategy) can provide a sustainable funding source for transportation. One estimate found first-year revenue generation of $235 to $500 million and longer-term annual revenues of $0.5 to $1 billion from turning a region’s freeway shoulders into dynamic priced lanes during the peak periods.9
The role of M&O in supporting environmental sustainability and/or livability issues
  • M&O strategies can improve air quality and public health by reducing air pollutant emissions. Strategies that reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), vehicle trips, and vehicle idling reduce all air pollutants; improving traffic speeds or flow can also reduce some emissions.10
  • M&O strategies can help mitigate climate change by reducing fuel consumption and GHG emissions. Various studies have shown GHG reductions attributable to operations strategies in the range of three to 20 percent.11
  • M&O strategies can support land preservation and reduce sprawl by limiting new infrastructure development. This is an indirect benefit of M&O. M&O contributes to the principle of “fix it first” and can be an alternative to adding additional road capacity.12
The role of M&O in supporting travel choices and social/equity issues
  • M&O strategies can support travel choices by increasing the attractiveness of travel options. Road pricing and high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes provide more efficient travel options and improve bus operations. M&O strategies reduce transit travel times for buses and street-running rail modes and are a key component of BRT systems; BRT has been shown to increase transit ridership by previous non-riders.13 Developing parallel bicycle and pedestrian facilities or arterial road diets are other strategies to improve transportation choices, particularly for non-motorized travel.14
  • M&O strategies can increase public awareness of suitable travel options. Through the use of transportation options marketing, TDM, and traveler information programs, travelers can make more informed decisions about their mode choice, travel time, and/or travel routes, leading to smarter, more efficient use of the transportation network.15
  • M&O strategies can provide greater social equity by increasing travel options for disadvantaged populations and communities. Public transit operations strategies can help support mobility and access for those without access to a personal vehicle. M&O strategies that improve multimodal safety are strategies that promote social equity amongst all populations including senior citizens, children, and those with disabilities.
  • M&O strategies preserve existing communities by maximizing the efficient use of existing infrastructure. ITS and operations investments require minimal new rights of way or construction, thereby preserving existing transportation infrastructure while improving operations.16

Many M&O strategies implicitly support livability and sustainability by promoting more efficient use of existing facilities while reducing the need for potentially costly and disruptive capital investments that may be out of character with communities they serve.

M&O strategies can be an important component of regional sustainability efforts. For example, the Sustainable East End Development Strategies planning effort to improve the sustainability and quality of life of Eastern Long Island identified M&O strategies as "low-impact, low-cost, and easily implemented system improvements" that could help the community achieve many of its goals.17

M&O Supporting Multimodal Options in Seattle

After repaving Stone Way North in the Wallingford area of Seattle, Washington, the Seattle DOT had the option to maintain the roadway's previous cross-section as four general-purpose travel lanes or to adopt a new cross-section and operational strategies for the corridor. Based on a balanced approach to M&O, the city decided to restripe the roadway as a three-lane section with bicycle facilities (a bicycle lane on the uphill side of the street and sharrows on the downhill side), on-street parking, and updated crosswalks.

The restriping allowed the city to complete a project identified in its 2007 Bicycle Master Plan and increase transportation options in the area. A before-and-after study of the corridor showed that peak hour vehicle capacity was maintained despite the reduction in the number of general travel lanes. The study also found a 35 percent increase in bicycle traffic, a 33 percent reduction in collisions with injuries (all modes), and an 80 percent reduction in vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

Diagram depicting the existing four lane roadway and the proposed lane reassignment to two through lanes, a central turn lane, a bicycle lane on the uphill side of the street and sharrows on the downhill side, on-street parking, and updated crosswalks.

Source: City of Seattle DOT, Stone Way N Rechannelization: Before and After Study, May 2010.

A Balanced Approach to M&O

Maximizing the livability and sustainability benefits of M&O strategies requires a balanced approach to M&O. Not all M&O strategies support livability and sustainability outcomes equally. For example, traffic signals that prioritize vehicle traffic flow but do not consider the mobility and access needs of pedestrians, bicycles, and transit can actually work against livability and sustainability principles. In contrast, signal timing plans and roundabouts that support livability and sustainability objectives will provide improved mobility in a way that balances vehicular and bus traffic, pedestrians, and bicycle access, in order to support community vitality, safety, and the environment.

A balanced approach to M&O provides a framework that helps practitioners consider tradeoffs, better understand potential impacts on livability and sustainability, and avoid unintended results. Most importantly, this framework encourages practitioners to evaluate transportation system operations from a variety of perspectives and consider how the system can be optimized in multiple ways to achieve
different performance measures and goals.


4 Texas Transportation Institute, Urban Mobility Report 2009, July 2009. [ Return to note 4 ]

5 U.S. DOT, FHWA, Identifying How Management and Operations Supports Livability and Sustainability Goals, White Paper, April 2010. [ Return to note 5 ]

6 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), The Road to Livability, April 2010. [ Return to note 6 ]

7 U.S. DOT, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office, Investment Opportunities for Managing Transportation Performance through Technology, January 2009. [ Return to note 7 ]

8 Antonucci, Nicholas D., et al. Guidance for Implementation of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan, National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 500, Volume 12, 2004. [ Return to note 8 ]

9 DeCorla-Souza, Patrick T., "Impacts from Implementing Dynamic Shoulder Travel Lanes with Congestion Pricing," Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, 2010. [ Return to note 9 ]

10 U.S. DOT, FHWA, Multi-Pollutant Emissions Benefits of Transportation Strategies, November 2006. [ Return to note 10 ]

11 Neudorff, Louis G., Moving Cooler – An Operations and ITS Perspective, ITS America Technical Forum on Sustainability, 2009. [ Return to note 11 ]

12 Rue, Harrison, Real Towns: Making your Neighborhood Work (Sacramento, California: Local Government Commission, 2000). [ Return to note 12 ]

13 U.S. DOT, Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Bus Rapid Transit and Development: Policies and Practices that Affect Development Around Transit, December 2009. [ Return to note 13 ]

14 U.S. DOT, FHWA and FTA, Livability In Transportation Guidebook: Planning Approaches that Promote Livability, 2010. [ Return to note 14 ]

15 Governors' Institute on Community Design, Policies that Work: A Governor's Guide to Growth and Development, 2009. [ Return to note 15 ]

16 U.S. DOT, ITS Joint Program Office. Investment Opportunities for Managing Transportation Performance through Technology, January 2009. [ Return to note 16 ]

17 East End Transportation Council, New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, and ARKF, Inc. "Sustainable East End Development Strategies." June 2005. [ Return to note 17 ]

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