Project Prioritization: Planning Tools and Techniques

Regional transportation decisionmaking can be aided by technology and information tools that enhance the planning process.  Only 13 percent of respondents have access to a rural, regional travel demand model, while 73 percent do not, and another 13 percent do not know if a rural model is available.  Statewide models (which would cover rural territory) were known to exist by 49 percent of respondents, while 13 percent of respondents indicated their state did not have a statewide model, and 38 percent did not know.

Access to data can assist in the regional decision-making process.  State departments of transportation commonly collect information such as traffic counts and condition of facilities such as pavement and bridges.  For 95 percent of respondents, such data is made available to RPOs and MPOs working at the regional level.  In addition to receiving data, it is not uncommon for regional organizations to assist with data collection; many respondents indicated that their work program includes collecting data such as traffic counts or asset condition under contract to the state DOT  and GPS locations of facilities and features or GIS mapping support to the state.

Regional visioning is a common first step in the planning process, particularly for long-range plans.  In this part of the planning process, a potential future for a community or region is identified as embodying characteristics that are shared and valued.  It often precedes the identification of goals, objectives, and strategies that guide decisions more specifically.  Scenario planning is a process to develop a series of potential future land use, economy, and infrastructure circumstances, which helps stakeholders to envision the type of community or region they would like to see. As two planning techniques that are used to guide strategic planning and decisions about public investments, regional visioning and/or scenario planning has been employed by 85 percent of respondents for their transportation work program or other planning programs conducted by the RDO, such as the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS, required by the Economic Development Administration).

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Joe McKinney has served as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations since 2012. He previously served as the Executive Director of the Land of Sky Regional Council in Asheville, North Carolina from 2003 to 2012. Under his leadership, Land of Sky became recognized nationally for its innovation in program areas including planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, aging services, volunteer services, and geographic information systems. Joe has also held various other roles in city, county, association, and government management. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

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