Multimodal Statewide Transportation Planning: A Survey of State Practices

Report No: 06-R13

Published in 2005

About the report:

Within the structure of state government, some amount of transportation planning is usually performed within separate modal administrations, which may include aviation, bus, highway, ports, and rail, as well as separate toll agencies. Some states coordinate these planning efforts through a single office responsible for statewide multimodal planning; other states work to achieve such coordination without a centralized unit (described herein as the decentralized approach). To determine if there is value to centralizing statewide multimodal planning efforts within a single office, representatives from 50 states were surveyed regarding the utility of centralized versus decentralized multimodal statewide planning. Responses, in the form of written questionnaires and/or telephone interviews, were obtained from 41 states. Advantages of centralization included consistency of modal plans, better modal coordination (including detection of modal conflicts earlier in the process), an ability to examine the entire transportation system holistically, collective attention brought to smaller modes that otherwise might be overlooked, economies of scale for service delivery and employee development, and a greater likelihood that long-range planning will be performed instead of being eliminated by more immediate tasks (which might occur if such planning were located in an operational division). Advantages of decentralization included greater ease of obtaining modal support for the long-range plan since the planners and implementers are in the same functional unit, greater ease of tapping modal-specific expertise, an ability to focus on the most critical mode if one such mode is predominant, and organizational alignment with mode-specific state and federal funding requirements. Equally important were respondents' explanations of how the question of a centralized versus a decentralized approach may be overshadowed by external factors. These included constraints on how various transportation funds may be spent; the fact that having persons in the same office does not guarantee multimodal coordination; the recommendation that some efforts should be centralized and some should be decentralized; the increasing importance of MPOs, districts, and public involvement in planning efforts; and the suggestion that even after a solid analysis of alternatives, there may be cases where the recommendation is the same as what it would have been under traditional planning. In some instances, the use of performance measures may change the recommended approach. Finally, a subset of the free responses indicated that centralized multimodal planning can be beneficial but only if four constraints are met: modal staff work collaboratively, the centralized unit has funding or other authority, necessary modal-specific planning is not eliminated, and there is a clear linkage between the centralized unit and the agencies that perform modal-specific planning such that the latter can implement the recommendations of the former.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

Last updated: November 27, 2023

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