Transportation Planning

As urbanization continues around the world, proper and effective planning of transportation systems is essential to the efficient operation of economic, social, and political life. Ever since the industrial revolution, there has been a need for rapid transport not only within a country, but also on an international scale. Transport planning aims to identify and solve both the current and future problems and requirements of a nation’s transportation needs. In general, there are four main stages to the transport planning process:

  1. Transportation survey and data collection
  2. Application to a specific transport model
  3. Future land use predictions and forecasts
  4. Evaluation of transport policy

Surveys and data collection are conducted both in local regions and on a national scale. This is often conducted by a central government; however sometimes non-governmental entities may have data to contribute (such as Google through Google Maps, and Uber). There are many different types of information that are important to collect, including, but not limited to; journey behavior patterns, traffic flow, employment, tax revenue, freight and logistics, and nature of traffic. In addition to considering traffic data, planners must also use data regarding current and future land use and population movement to predict future requirements of transport networks. Data must be collated and ordered so that it can be compared and used effectively. Once the data has been processed, an appropriate transport model can be examined.

Transport models may be split into four stages; trip generation, trip distribution, traffic assignment, and model split. Trip generation looks at the reasons for journeys, generally categorized as either home-based trips or non-home-based trips. For home-based trips, one node of the journey, either start or finish, is designated as the home of the person making the journey. For non-home-based trips, neither start nor finish is designated as home. Using various statistical techniques, estimates can be made regarding the number of trips originating or ending in a certain geographical location. More detailed analyses not only assess the total number of journeys, but also take time and date into account, in order to predict future traffic issues.

Trip distribution analyzes trips between specified zones. Grouping start- and end-points together allows zones to be created, and then the movement between these zones can be assessed. This stage allows for future traffic flows to be predicted, and must take into account the factors that may cause an increase or decrease in future traffic. Again, mathematical models are used to determine current and future trip distribution. Future resistance to travel between zones is taken into account through the use of synthetic models of trip distribution.

The third stage of planning involves traffic assignment. The goal of this stage is to assign a specific transport network to certain routes, and stimulate route choice through the assigned network. A transport network must first be matched to trip data and distribution. Trips may be assigned to different networks in order to test which type of network provides the most effective coverage, and a cost-benefit analysis may then be performed. Each transport network must be analyzed differently.

Predicting future roadway traffic in Omaha, NE. Source: Omaha Planning Dept.

Road networks are one of the most complex networks to analyze, in part due to the nature of vehicles as individual/private transportation devices, and the imperfect operation of such devices. A highway may be broken down into links and nodes, whereby nodes are classified as junctions with size and capacity taken into account. Data is required on each link between nodes, such as travel time and traffic capacity. Due to the huge amount of data required to analyze such networks, computers are now used rather than conducting the analysis manually. Continual analysis of traffic networks allows for active traffic management, such as the alteration of traffic light timings.

The model split stage is generally taken into consideration throughout the entire planning process, and elements of model split are active parts of other stages. The model split analysis allows trips to be divided into public and private trips. Trips must be analyzed to determine the likelihood of either a public or private journey. For example, in the summer, an individual may choose to walk to their destination, whereas in the winter, due to adverse weather, they may choose to take a form of public transportation.

Transportation planning often involves a number of stakeholders, including the general public. Source: Omaha Planning Dept.

Future prediction of transport demand is highly debated. Planners may work around 25 years ahead of current transport requirements, meaning their recommendations cannot always be relied on as accurate. For example, the new Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw has been constructed with extremely aggressive expansion in mind, and thus features huge, 20-lane highways in order to accommodate such expansion and population growth. As of yet, this expansion has yet to take place, leaving these highways empty much of time. Other global cities have failed to plan for rapid expansion, and as such, transport systems have become overwhelmed. This is the case in many cities in South East Asia, such as New Delhi. The train systems there are infamous for their overcrowding.

The final stage of transportation planning involves the thorough evaluation of selected and assigned transportation networks, generally through a cost-benefit analysis method. Costs of land purchase, network maintenance, and capital outlay must be taken into account, and likewise the benefits to individuals in terms of time savings, accident reduction and increasing connectivity are analysed.

The deep water port in Shenzhen, China, near Hong Kong, is now one of the busiest in the world.

The benefits to business are very important, as investment in transport is one of the key ways governments seek to generate economic activity and inward investment from transnational corporations (TNCs). The building of deep water ports, for example, is viewed as way of attracting with wealth and spurring economic activity. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are often set up around the port to accommodate the anticipated economic growth. A deep water port is particularly crucial as it allows the docking of large container ships; one of the most efficient trade transport methods. A deep water port or major airline hub will enhance the trade passing through a region, thus encouraging local and national growth. Many developing countries are now looking towards these types of advanced transport hubs in order to secure future economic growth in an increasingly globalized world.

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