Integrating Land Use/Economic Considerations in Transportation Planning

“An essential backbone of regional and national economies, transportation has a myriad of associations and impacts. An understanding of the causal mechanisms behind, and the extent of, these associations and impacts can be vital to defensible and optimal decision-making by budget-constrained transportation agencies. From travel time savings to job creation (both direct and indirect), income growth to property value changes, motor vehicle crashes to air quality and noise impacts, microeconomic choices to macroeconomic shifts, transport policies and investments carry great weight. The notion of trade-offs is fundamental to a solid understanding of economic practice and theory. Salient comparisons include marginal benefits (to travelers and the larger community) versus marginal costs (to suppliers of transport, like TxDOT, as well as those enduring any negative externalized costs). They include maintenance and operations versus new construction, private interests versus social objectives, short-run versus long-term impacts, highways versus transit provision, speeds and flows versus access and connectivity, single-occupant vehicles versus non-motorized modes, trucks versus trains, access to seaports versus airports, local versus regional interests, national versus global interests, and so on. The Encyclopedia, presentations, and reports developed under this project will illuminate all these contexts, in the most straightforward of terms, with meaningful applications to illustrate their value and implications. The first year will be largely devoted to producing a Transportation Economics Encyclopedia (as a practitioner’s desktop reference), and the second year will focus on provision of final case study applications, presentation slides by subject, workshops and a webinar series for bringing the subjects alive to TxDOT personnel, and any others TxDOT wishes to include in this educational process.” (Source: Economic Considerations in Transportation System Development and Operations)

For CTRMA’s full report on this subject, click here.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI)

Largely funded by TxDOT, TTI has been an integral part of what is called the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2) applied research team, addressing some of the nation’s most important needs for our transportation system concerning safety, renewal, reliability and capacity. TTI is currently conducting research in the following areas.

  • SHRP 2 C03: Interactions between Transportation Capacity, Economic Systems and Land Use Merged with Integrating Economic Considerations Project Development: “Transportation planners can use a high-level case-based impact tool developed in this research to gain insight into the potential economic impacts of a transportation project. TTI provided background work supporting the framework aspects and metrics to be considered in the project.”
  • SHRP 2 C11: Development of Improved Economic Analysis Tools Based on Recommendations from Project SHRP 2 C03: “TTI helped develop tools to determine the value of access to markets. This information — including where changes in access can be expected and if that access can contribute to economic potential — can help inform decisions about transportation investments and strategies.”

Center for Transportation Research (CTR)

Project Summary

SHRP 2 Project Objectives (click here for source)

  1. Provide a resource to help determine the net changes in the economic systems of an area impacted by a transportation capacity investment. The resource should include, in an economic context, impacts on land use, land value, and the environment
  2. Provide data and results from enough structured cases that project planners in the future can use the cases to demonstrate by analogy the likely impacts of a proposed project or group of projects (plan)
  3. Demonstrate how this fits into collaborative decision making for capacity expansion.

Phase I

Task 1: Conduct a literature review and the field work necessary to determine what stakeholders and decision makers want to know about economic and land use impacts of highway investments.

Task 2: Produce a working paper on what stakeholders and decision makers want to know and describe problems with current approaches that require fundamental research beyond the scope of this RFP. Address their thoughts on how current economic analysis and land use forecasting tools can be improved and the results communicated more convincingly to better satisfy the public and decision makers. Describe what elements appear to be satisfactory and what problems exist. This paper may be used as the basis for a new SHRP 2 research problem statement.

Task 3: Establish liaison with the consultant teams conducting SHRP 2 Project C01, A Framework for Collaborative Decision Making on Additions toHighway Capacity and Project C02, System-based Performance Measurement Framework for Highway Capacity Decision Making. The products of Project C03 must support the collaborative decision-making process being developed under Project C01.

Task 4: Describe a range of area types (area typology) relevant to this topic on a continuum from traffic-saturated urban areas to very rural areas. Apply appropriate descriptors such as Beale Codes, density, metro/non-metro, text description, or combinations. Also consider descriptors that capture conditions linked to geographical location (economic base, culture, political patterns, natural resources, etc.) to the extent that they affect how highway capacity affects the economy and land use.

Task 5: Describe the range of project types (project typology–new highway, widening, new bridge, major interchange, major roadway management investment, multi-modal projects) and size threshold that have system-wide and network effects.

Task 6: Identify cases and/or opportunities to apply economic analysis to groups of projects (i.e., 10-year plans, long-range plans), assess the likely net impact on economic systems, land value, and environmental resources.

Task 7: Develop a matrix of conditions from Tasks 4, 5, & 6 that will serve as a study framework. Propose criteria for selection of case studies.

Task 8: Propose case studies in each cell of the matrix. Include relevant international examples. The case studies should represent the continuum of area types and types of transportation development. Include cases that feature before-and-after economic studies, system plan-level analysis, and instructive cases for which analysis is incomplete. Include both systems planning (scenario planning, valuing eco services) and project-level analyses.

Task 9: Develop a case study analysis protocol. Case studies should include discussion of:

  • The reason for the capacity improvement
  • The planning and development process, including who was at the table and the level of community involvement
  • Analysis methods and performance measures used; Economic and land use impacts, including timing (lag time) and magnitude of impacts
  • What is missing from the analysis and why
  • Describe work necessary to augment the case so it is useful for this project
  • How were the results of economic analysis used and how were they communicated to the public
  • What we can learn from the case
  • What additional analysis should be included to better accommodate emerging issues and challenges for future studies

Task 10: Propose a format for meta-analysis of all the cases to be published as a Practitioners’ Handbook. Determine if the principles and patterns are sufficiently strong that we could create a document like Economic Development Characteristics of Highways.

Task 11: Propose an electronic information data base structure, display platform, and method for users to interrogate the data base. Recommend techniques, such as case-based reasoning, that can be used interactively by practitioners to aid in estimating the economic impacts of their projects. Prepare a prototype for review and comment.

Task 12: Prepare an Interim Report that includes the results of Tasks 1-11. The Interim Report should also include a revised work plan and Phase II budget that reflect the level of augmentation effort found necessary to make the case data useful for this project. Submit the Interim Report for review. Do not proceed with Phase II until the Phase II work plan is approved.

Phase II

Task 13: Conduct case studies according to the case study protocol and revised Phase II Work Plan. Augment selected case studies as proposed.

Task 14: Review and critique current tools used in the cases to assess the state of the practice. Also identify and review other tools used in practice that were not used in any of the cases. Expand the Task 2 description of what is satisfactory and what problems exist. Address how current economic analysis and land use forecasting tools can be improved and the results communicated more convincingly to better satisfy the public and decision makers.

Task 15: Conduct the meta-analysis of all the cases studies and develop principles, rules of thumb, and good practices tied to the typology of area and project types. Prepare a draft Practitioners’ Handbook for conducting economic analysis of transportation projects and groups of projects and for integrating economic considerations into highway project planning and development. Embed principles and rules of thumb in the handbook.

Task 16: At the mid-point of work on tasks 13, 14, and 15, prepare working papers for review. The working papers should include case write–ups for completed cases, review of some of the available tools, and a working draft of the Practitioners’ Handbook.

Task 17: Develop the data structure and display platform as proposed in Task 11 and populate the data base. Simultaneously beta test the product and submit for SHRP 2 review.

 Task 18: Prepare drafts for review and approval of (1) the Practitioners’ Handbook, (2) a Final Report that documents study activities and results.

 Task 19: Prepare a Final Report, Final Practitioners’ Handbook, and electronic product.


1. Working Paper on what decision makers want to know from economic analysis, how to incorporate this knowledge into highway project planning and development, and the fundamental problems with current approaches (Task 2);

2. Prototype electronic information data base structure, display platform, and method for users to interrogate the data base (Task 11);

3. Phase I Interim Report that includes a revised Phase II Work Plan and budget;

4. Task 16 working papers

5. Draft and final electronic product (Task 17)

6. Draft and final Practitioners’ Handbook

7. Draft and Final Report

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