Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

4. Integration of TDM into the Planning Process—Context

DOT Department of Transportation
FHWA Federal Highway Administration
MPO Metropolitan Planning Organization
SMART Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound
SOV Single Occupant Vehicle
TDM Travel Demand Management
TIP Transportation Improvement Program
VMT Vehicle Miles Traveled

Chapter 4 divider graphic: Integration of TDM into the Planning Process.  Background: Urban street with parking, business, and residential buildings.  Stylized computer flow diagram to illustrate planning context: Context. Section of a state highway map: Statewide Planning. Close-up of an urban center from a highway map: Metropolitan Planning. Major freeway cloverleaf interchange: Corridor Planning. Urban street with parking, business, and residential buildings: Local Planning.Chapter 3 dealt with the role and the opportunity of TDM to address some of the typical policy issues faced by planning agencies. While understanding the role at a policy level is critical, understanding how it fits into the transportation planning process is the primary focus of the desk reference. That focus on the transportation planning process can be accomplished in two ways. First, TDM integration could be conceptualized and illustrated by using a generalized description of transportation planning process. This would help planners understand the need to integrate TDM at each step of the process. The second way to discuss the integration of TDM in the planning process is to describe how it might be accomplished at various planning levels, be it local, state, regional, or corridor levels. The advantage here is that the planning context is more "real world" when discussed within actual organizations who work within various geographic and political scopes.

The next four chapters will seek to provide guidance on where and how state DOTs, MPOs, and other local agencies should integrate TDM as part of their planning processes. Four levels of planning are discussed in this chapter:

  • Statewide planning – e.g., system planning, policy direction, statewide TDM programs. This primarily falls under the purview of the state DOT.
  • Metropolitan planning – e.g., long-range regional transportation plans, congestion management process activities undertaken by metropolitan-level planning organizations.
  • Corridor planning – e.g., MIS, congestion management processes performed as part of specific corridor planning.
  • Local planning – e.g., land use planning activities conducted at the local level by city planning organizations.

Each geographic level has unique opportunities to link TDM into the myriad activities typically undertaken as part of the planning scope. But regardless of the geographic or agency level, successful integration of TDM depends on developing an organizational mindset, if not a mission, that plans and implements policies and infrastructure investments in a modally and functionally coordinated way. The primary goal of these policies and investments must be to improve system efficiency and contribute to sustainability. This may require transportation agencies to collaborate more fully within and outside their regions, divisions, departments, and districts.

In general, recent federal planning guidance suggests that if plans are developed using an "objectives-driven, performance-based" process,65 then TDM cannot get "lost in the process." The basic premise of this planning process is that:

  • goals and measurable objectives that advance operational performance outcomes of the transportation system are defined, then
  • performance measures are used to track progress toward objectives, and
  • TDM strategies are selected to meet the measurable objectives.

The objectives-driven process seeks solutions to fulfill key policy objectives rather than working backwards from desired projects that seek to match up to broad goals and objectives. In the objectives-driven, performance-based approach, planners and implementers work together to find workable measures to meet agreed-upon objectives. The performance-based process dictates that demonstrated accomplishments toward meeting key objectives be documented and included or expanded in future plans. To sum up, this approach focuses on objectives first and foremost and is consistent with the integration of TDM into the planning process, because TDM benefits cross many policy objectives, as shown in Chapter 3.

However, before discussing TDM integration within the context of planning levels, this chapter describes TDM integration concepts within a generalized transportation planning process.

Four opportunities identified in other recent FHWA guidance on including operations in statewide planning are of particular interest to TDM integration and should serve as key suggestions for the generalized planning process and the various planning levels described below:66

  • Develop Multidisciplinary Teams/Initiatives.
  • Use an Objectives-Driven, Performance-Based Approach.
  • Use a Strategic Business Plan to Focus on Integration of Operations, Safety, and Planning.
  • Foster Multimodal Coordination.

The first two opportunities in particular reflect themes that recur frequently in opportunities described in subsequent sections of this document. Establishing multidisciplinary teams and a performance-based approach to planning at all levels will result in the setting of realistic and measurable objectives as well as improved and focused data collection and evaluation. The last two opportunities relate to the agency's strategic focus and structure. In all cases, if these themes are pervasive within the agency, it will benefit decision-making at all levels, not only for TDM.

4.1 Integration of TDM into the Activities in the Transportation Planning Process

The approach to integrating TDM does not require the development of a new process. Nor does it need to be a cumbersome add-on to an agency's already full plate of planning processes. In fact, the organization and structure of Chapters 5 through 8 steers clear of suggesting any new requirements or processes. Rather, it focuses on identifying how better TDM can play a role in the existing activities carried out under the transportation planning process by states, MPOs, and local agencies.

To this end, it is important to identify the key planning activities that are universal across planning levels and agencies. As part of a national transportation planning capacity building program, FHWA published a briefing book for decision-makers describing the transportation planning process.67 Using the briefing book and further developments in planning for operations as guidance, the following six activities within the transportation planning process are fairly representative and universal across all the agencies.

Activity 1 - Regional Vision and Goals
Agencies typically are driven by strategic vision and goals. Integrating TDM at the vision setting stage can include establishing goals such as enhancing travel choices or other long-term goals to manage demand in tandem with other synergistic elements such as network efficiency and land use. An overall vision that calls for a sustainable transportation system and livable communities will also necessarily draw upon TDM approaches as well.

For TDM, the simplest step is to introduce the concept of managing demand as a high-level goal of the agency. In the metropolitan transportation planning process, goals stem from the values inherent in the region's vision. The goals may be created during the development or update of the metropolitan transportation plan or in anticipation of the next update cycle.

Increasingly, TDM is making its way into agency mission statements, and ranges from being included in supportive objectives to being a primary policy statement. For example, the Pinellas County Florida 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan contains a rich list of 14 policies to support its TDM-related objective to "reduce traffic congestion and positively impact air quality by decreasing the use of single occupant vehicles (SOV) at peak hours." These policies range from developing VMT reduction goals to encouraging use and promotion of TDM strategies. The introduction of TDM at this stage can then initiate more in-depth planning related to defining specific objectives to help ensure TDM's success.

Activity 2 – Setting Objectives for TDM
Objective setting is a vital part of an agency's planning process. As the planning process evolves toward an objective-based approach to planning rather than a project-based approach, demand management- related objectives can start to drive the planning process. Working with stakeholders in the region, planners can develop a small number of demand management-related SMART68 objectives that accurately reflect what the region would like to achieve and that stakeholders believe can be achieved within a certain time frame. These objectives may start out vague and then grow in specificity as the iterative process to define and refine the objectives advances.

Activity 3 – Definition of Performance Measures
Performance measures are driven by objectives. TDM performance measures are wide and varied depending on the objective. Chapter 3 provides more details on the key performance measures available for TDM for various objectives.

Activity 4 – Assessment and Selection of Strategies and Programs to Support Objectives
A plan that fully integrates TDM will include a balance of demand and supply side solutions for consideration. At this stage, TDM should not be an "add on" to all other strategies. In fact, TDM strategies should be afforded the same rigor and consideration as all other solution strategies, using specialized TDM models and protocols as necessary. TDM performance measures developed during the previous activity allow for direct comparison with other solutions in a meaningful way.

Activity 5 – Integration of Strategies into Plans and Funding Programs
By this activity, TDM, if broadly defined as suggested in Chapter 2, will be integrated throughout the plan, and not confined to a single section or citation. In fact, TDM will constitute an overriding philosophy for mobility and accessibility rather than a means simply to mitigate certain negative aspects of the transportation system. The generation of projects and activities to be included in transportation programming documents will include more options than traditional commuter ridesharing with TDM broadly defined as a program/set of strategies to provide enhanced travel choices.

Activity 6 – Monitoring and Evaluation of Progress toward Objectives
Integration actions in this activity ensure that TDM performance is measured in terms that relate to the operation of the transportation system, such as delay and person throughput. TDM cost effectiveness is compared on an equal basis with other capital and operational strategies. TDM effectiveness and performance are reported to decision-makers in a meaningful and understandable manner.

65 FHWA, Advanced Metropolitan Planning for Operations: An Objectives-driven, Performance-Based Approach - A Guidebook, FHWA-HOP-10-026, 2010.
66 FHWA, Statewide Opportunities for Integrating Operations, Safety and Multimodal Planning: A Reference Manual, 2010
67 FHWA, The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues - A Briefing Book for Transportation Decision-makers, Officials, and Staff, FHWA-HEP-07-039, September 2007.
68 SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound