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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

1. Introduction to Desk Reference

Travel Demand Management (TDM) has been included in many transportation plans over the past three decades as a means to address key policy objectives, including: energy conservation, environmental protection, and congestion reduction. For the purpose of this desk reference, TDM is synonymous and used interchangeably with the terms "Transportation Demand Management" or simply "demand management," and is defined a set of strategies aimed at maximizing traveler choices.

Many recent transportation plans appropriately place TDM very high in policy-level discussions. TDM is seen as a vital part of an approach to plan, design, and operate "smarter" and "more efficient" transportation systems in a region. For example, the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) plan for fighting congestion, Moving Washington, includes managing demand as one of three equal pillars of their approach.

"We can reduce congestion by focusing on three key strategies: strategically adding road capacity, operating the system we have more efficiently, and providing choices that help manage transportation demand."

Source: Washington State Department of Transportation, "Moving Washington – A Program to Fight Congestion,"
http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/movingWashington/, May 2, 2011

In addition to policy objectives, TDM strategies are usually listed within the set of projects that are found toward the end of most transportation plans or as part of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Here, in many of the transportation plans, these projects are often concentrated on traditional commuter ridesharing concepts, such as the funding of ridesharing programs, vanpool subsidies, or telecommuting assistance, which primarily strive toward long-term trip reductions for air quality goals. However, the broader concept of demand management often gets lost in the middle, between high-level policy statements at the beginning of the planning process and specific projects that conclude most plans. In the heart of most transportation plans, TDM is not viewed as a vital, day-to-day operational philosophy on how to manage and operate a transportation system to address a wide variety of transportation issues such as mobility, accessibility, land-use, and livability.

While traditional TDM strategies such as ridesharing, vanpool, and telecommuting programs are still vital and serve large sections of the population, new opportunities to manage travel demand have emerged in recent years with the advent of technology (and more importantly connectivity) to the transportation arena. Personal technology and communication advances show promise in making personal travel decisions more dynamic and fluid. In parallel, transportation systems management is progressing toward a more "active" management of the system, recognizing the role of influencing the traveler early in the trip making process on a day-to-day basis. Together, these developments create new opportunities for demand management.

In fact, currently, our day-to-day efforts to manage and operate the transportation system are all about managing demand, since we cannot expand capacity in the very short run. For example, advanced traveler information is fundamentally a demand management strategy to help travelers learn of bottlenecks, slowdowns, and incidents so that they might avoid them by traveling a different route or at a different time. Acknowledging that most of what we do to operate our transportation system today is demand management goes a long way toward understanding the need to better integrate TDM into the transportation planning process.

Many federal, state, and local initiatives are seeking to better integrate TDM into transportation projects and overall solutions to congestion, environmental and energy concerns, and livability issues. For example, the U.S. DOT is supporting the concept of Integrated Corridor Management (ICM), which includes mode shift as a primary measure of improving the efficiency and person throughput of congested corridors.1 The premise of ICM is that transportation corridors often contain unused capacity in the form of parallel routes, the non-peak direction on freeways and arterials, single-occupant vehicles, and transit services that could be managed through information to the travelers to help reduce congestion. By "load balancing" across facilities and managing the corridor as an asset, travel times and travel time reliability are improved (or maintained) for the individual traveler while the overall corridor throughput increases. Early deployments and demonstrations in Dallas and San Diego provide real-world case studies of demand management at a corridor level.

Staged photo from a public service message showing hundreds of empty car and bus seats lined up on a highway. Every day there are ten million empty seats on the road.
Source: DfT and the Highway Agency

Another major DOT program that highlights the role of demand management is the Urban Partnership Agreements/Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program. Demand management through pricing, traditional TDM, and transit improvements are three of the four pillars of this program. Cities involved in the program include Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Each of the cities is implementing a package of solutions aimed at managing demand across key facilities in their region.

Similarly, TDM planning processes around the country are evolving as well. New approaches to planning for operations try to move away from "project-based" decision making to focus on "outcomes-based" planning. Under this approach, regional performance outcomes—operations objectives—are developed. Planning and investment decisions are made utilizing performance measures, and relying on data to determine the most effective strategies for meeting operations objectives. A performance-based, objectives-driven approach to planning for operations is based on the concept that "what gets measured gets managed." Investments are made with a focus on their contribution to meeting regionally agreed-upon objectives. By implementing this approach, resources are allocated more effectively to meet performance objectives, resulting in improved transportation system performance.

With these programs and others, demand management is clearly evolving to encompass policy objectives other than just air quality conformity, including congestion, livability, and even goods movement. It is important that TDM be considered early, often, and effectively in the planning process. This document has been developed to serve as a desk reference on integrating this new, broader vision of TDM into the transportation planning process.

The purpose of the desk reference is to provide the reader with a better understanding of where, how, and when to integrate TDM into the evolving performance-based transportation planning process. The importance of the planning process in helping provide a clear vision, goals and objectives, approach, and funding for demand management (as well as other transportation improvements) cannot be overstated. As such, this report complements and supports several other important Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidance documents on the transportation planning process, including guidance that discusses the role of TDM in the planning process. Table 1.1 provides bibliographic information on each FHWA reference. The web address for each report can be found at the end of this chapter. These documents provide guidance on how the planning process can be adapted for operations using an objective-driven approach at state and metropolitan levels.

Table 1.1: FHWA Resource Documents
Title Report Number Date
The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues – A Briefing Book for Transportation Decision-makers, Officials and Staff FHWA-HEP-07-039 2007
An Interim Guidebook on the Congestion Management Process in Metropolitan Transportation Planning FHWA-HOP-08-008 2008
Advanced Metropolitan Planning for Operations: An Objectives-driven, Performance-based Approach – A Guidebook FHWA-HOP-10-026 2010
Advanced Metropolitan Planning for Operations: The Building Blocks of a Model Transportation Plan Incorporating Operations – A Desk Reference FHWA-HOP-10-027; 2010
Statewide Opportunities for Integrating Operations, Safety and Multimodal Planning: A Reference Manual FHWA-HOP-10-028 2010

While this report provides ample examples and illustrations, and discusses the known effectiveness of TDM strategies, the desk reference is not intended as a technical resource on TDM effectiveness or implementation for a given strategy or set of strategies. The desk reference does point the user to other resources and reports that are better suited to that purpose. Key resources are provided at the end of each section.

1.1 Organization of the Desk Reference

The desk reference is fundamentally organized around two aspects of transportation planning - policy objectives and scope of the planning effort. The report discusses how TDM relates to seven key policy objectives that are often included in transportation plans, such as congestion and air quality. It then discusses how TDM might be integrated into four levels of transportation planning from the state down to the local level. Acknowledging that readers will have differing levels of experience and skills when it comes to TDM and the planning process, the desk reference includes discussion of various levels of capabilities to help the reader determine the most targeted guidance for their situation. The report also includes information on tools available for evaluating TDM measures and on the known effectiveness of these measures. Figure 1.1 provides a cross-walk of the major sections in the document.

Table display of objectives such as mobility, congestion reduction, and livability compared with planning levels such as state, metropolitan, and local levels, showing whether TDM applicability is poor, fair, good, or excellent.  Most pairs are rated as good or excellent.

Figure 1.1: Desk Reference Structure
Source: Battelle

Integration into the planning process implies consideration of TDM at various steps starting with the highest level of strategy and visioning to more specific goal setting all the way to the incorporation into specific plans and conducting performance evaluations.

It is important to recognize that agencies are currently integrating TDM to the best of their abilities in their plans. The organization and the content of the desk reference are driven by the principle that there is no "one size fits all" solution to integrating TDM. In essence, integrating TDM into the planning process is about capability maturity across the various planning activities that occur at an agency. Leveraging existing research into the capability maturity model developed for The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO),2 the desk reference strives to provide agencies a model to self-identify/assess their capability and identify the desired actions to improve their processes. The premise behind the model is that any process goes through evolutions as it is improved. By utilizing the same model and the same assessment approach, organizations can benchmark how their process rates against their peers and identify specific steps that they can take to move along the capability continuum.

For each of the planning levels, three levels of capability are identified:

  • Ad-Hoc: TDM is mostly an afterthought. At this level of capability, successful outcomes are largely through individual efforts or projects. Steps/Processes/Activities have not been formalized and shared across the agency or the region.
  • Defined: At this level, there is recognition that TDM is important to achieving the planning goals. Overall, TDM is considered in the toolbox of approaches and can be applied repeatedly, but gaps remain in how TDM tools are planned and applied.
  • Optimized: At this level, TDM is a vital tenet of the process and permeates all the steps. Continuous monitoring and performance ensure that TDM tools are correctly characterized and planned in combination with other strategies for all possible policy objectives and application settings. The goal of integration is to move agencies along the capability continuum (from ad-hoc to defined and from defined to optimized) in the planning process by identifying specific actions as illustrated in Figure 1.2.

Example milestone chart showing capability levels advancing from Ad-Hoc to Defined and Optimized, by using various Planning Steps and Actions.

Figure 1.2: Capability Levels and Actions Inform the Structure of the Desk Reference
Source: Battelle

Topically, this desk reference is organized as follows:

  • Chapter 2 presents a definition of TDM that is broader than traditional commuter ridesharing, encompassing many travel choices, including: mode, location, route, and time of day. As such, this definition of TDM includes many strategies that are not always thought of as TDM, such as road pricing, traveler information, and measures aimed at improving the operational efficiency of existing facilities. In essence, it presents TDM as an operational philosophy that seeks to balance demand reduction strategies with smart capacity enhancements as part of a more holistic approach to urban transportation. It also includes sections on the role of technology in this expanded definition of TDM and on the economics of TDM, to assist planners and implementers in understanding the benefits and cost effectiveness of TDM.
  • Chapter 3 discusses the role of TDM in addressing seven key policy objectives, including: mobility/accessibility, congestion/reliability/safety, environment/air quality, economic development, goods movement, land use integration, and quality of life/livability/health. By including objectives related to economic vitality, the environment, and livability, these policy areas also encompass the basic components of sustainable urban transportation. For each policy area, the general relationship to TDM is discussed, specific TDM strategies to address each objective are offered, performance measures are enumerated, case studies and examples are provided, and advice on how to integrate TDM into the planning process is provided.
  • Chapter 4 presents the need for and experience with integrating TDM into the transportation planning process at various levels. This chapter also introduces the various planning steps involved in the objective-driven performance planning process and identifies how they fit with TDM. This chapter also discusses the linkages between the various planning levels.
  • Chapter 5 discusses integration at the statewide planning level. This complements a recent National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) study on the role of state DOTs in implementing TDM programs.3
  • Chapter 6 focuses on integration into the metropolitan transportation planning process, including congestion management and long-range planning.
  • Chapter 7 presents guidance on how to integrate TDM into corridor planning processes for a given facility.
  • Chapter 8 discusses the integration of TDM into the local or municipal planning process. In each case, the guidance is based not only on experience to date (with examples and illustrations), but also on how TDM integration might be improved, based on the role that TDM could play in the planning process to make it more effective in addressing key policy needs.
  • Chapter 9 provides an overview of the tools and techniques available to evaluate TDM during the planning process. This includes the ability to forecast the estimated impacts of various TDM strategies in different applications as well as the need to establish performance-based planning objectives for TDM. Finally, some discussion of the ability to perform benefit/cost analysis on TDM is provided.
  • Chapter 10 presents an overview of the known effectiveness of various TDM strategies in terms of fulfilling key performance objectives, such as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction, mode shift, congestion relief, and emissions reduction. Acknowledging that our understanding of TDM effectiveness is still evolving, the centerpiece of this chapter is a matrix conveying the relative effectiveness of various TDM strategies to address the seven policy objectives enumerated in Chapter 3.
  • Chapter 11 provides a set of specific implementation steps that could be undertaken at each planning level to better integrate TDM into the planning process. It also includes some information on funding sources for TDM programs and projects.

The desk reference includes examples, case studies, and best practices to support the information in each section. These are presented in colored text boxes throughout the reference. Selected resources are also identified at the end of each section.

1.2 Use of the Desk Reference

The intended users of this desk reference are transportation planning professionals who are seeking information on the role of TDM in meeting specific needs they face in their planning efforts. Users can pick and choose the sections that are most related to their issue at hand (see Table 1.2 below). The report was purposely organized in a manner that would allow for this targeted use. This does imply a certain degree of repetition of terms and references in each section. Table 1.2 provides some directions on use of this document.

Table 1.2: Potential Uses of Desk Reference
Purpose for Desk Reference Use / QuestionsStart with:
What is the contemporary view and role of demand management in transportation planning?Chapter 2
Where can I find examples on the roles for TDM-specific policy issues that I have to address in my plans?Chapter 3
Where can I find references/citations on TDM applications for specific goals, locations?3.1 Regional Mobility and Accessibility
Where can I find references/citations on TDM applications for specific goals, locations?3.2 Congestion/System Reliability/Safety
Where can I find references/citations on TDM applications for specific goals, locations?3.3 Environment/Air Quality
Where can I find references/citations on TDM applications for specific goals, locations?3.4 Economic Development
Where can I find references/citations on TDM applications for specific goals, locations?3.5 Land-Use Integration
Where can I find references/citations on TDM applications for specific goals, locations?3.6 Goods movement/freight
Where can I find references/citations on TDM applications for specific goals, locations?3.7 Quality of Life/Livability/Health
How does TDM fit into the general planning process?Chapter 4
I am a state DOT planner. How do I start including TDM in my plans?Chapter 5
I work in a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and am updating my metropolitan plans. What steps should I take for including TDM?Chapter 6
I work in an MPO and am coordinating with local jurisdictions on TDM for local settings and corridors. Who should I talk to and what steps should I take?Chapter 7 and 8
How do I select strategies and evaluate TDM?Chapter 9
How effective have these strategies been elsewhere?Chapter 10
What steps can my agency take to better support and implement TDM?Chapter 11

KEY RESOURCES

Washington State Department of Transportation, "Moving Washington - A Program to Fight Congestion," http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/movingWashington/, May 2, 2011.

USDOT/RITA, Joint ITS Program Office, Integrated Corridor Management, http://www.its.dot.gov/icms/index.htm.

NCHRP, State Department of Transportation Role in the Implementation of Transportation Demand Management Programs, Research Results Digest 348, ICF International, July 2010, http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rrd_348.pdf.

FHWA, Advanced Metropolitan Planning for Operations: An Objectives-driven, Performance-based Approach - A Guidebook , SAIC, FHWA-HOP-10-026, 2010, http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10026/index.htm.

FHWA, Advanced Metropolitan Planning for Operations: The Building Blocks of a Model Transportation Plan Incorporating Operations - A Desk Reference, SAIC, FHWA-HOP-10-027, 2010, http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10027/index.htm.

FHWA, Statewide Opportunities for Integrating Operations, Safety and Multimodal Planning: A Reference Manual, ICF International, FHWA-HOP-10-028, 2010, http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10027/index.htm.

FHWA, An Interim Guidebook on the Congestion Management Process in Metropolitan Transportation Planning, Cambridge Systematics, Inc, FHWA-HOP-08-008, 2008, https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/statewide/manual/index.cfm.

FHWA, The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues - A Briefing Book for Transportation Decision-makers, Officials and Staff, Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program, FHWA-HEP-07-039, 2007, http://www.planning.dot.gov/documents/BriefingBook/BBook.htm.

1 USDOT/RITA, Joint ITS Program Office, Integrated Corridor Management, http://www.its.dot.gov/icms/index.htm.
2 AASHTO, System Management and Operations Guidance, 2011, http://aashtosomguidance.org/
3 NCHRP, State Department of Transportation Role in the Implementation of Transportation Demand Management Programs, Research Results Digest 348, ICF International, July 2010, http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rrd_348.pdf.


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