Roadway vs. Roadside Guidelines
Benefits of Smart Transportation
Transportation Plans and Programs
Areas for Future Improvement
There are many ways to get around now-a-days. Although extremely important, transportation is also overlooked. We use so many modes of transportation each day without even thinking about what goes on behind the scenes. I bet you never thought about all the planning that goes into making transportation easier for the everyday person. Imagine walking to work on a hectic Monday morning without crosswalk markings and traffic signals, or riding your bicycle only to notice when you arrive at your destination, there is not a single bike rack in site. It’s the little things like this that go unnoticed that make a huge difference within a community. I am here to shine some light on the people that make a difference to help Lancaster County be the best it can possibly be.
Here’s what to expect as you read on. I will start out with a brief introduction of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, in particular, the Transportation Planning Division, followed by some "smart" specifics including examples of kinds of smart transportation in the county of Lancaster. Then I will give a description of what exactly “smart transportation” is and its benefits. Then, I will briefly describe some of the things the Transportation Planning Division has done and plans on doing, including nine plans and programs already set in action.
The Lancaster County Planning Commission (LCPC) combines county policies with federal and state planning responsibilities to help with Lancaster County’s plans for the future (LCPC, 2011). The LCPC “provides leadership in the management of growth and change in the county; and balances the desire to preserve the uniqueness of Lancaster County with the need to change the economy, ecology, and built environment” (LCPC, 2011).
There are four main divisions of the LCPC. They are the Community Planning Division, the Housing and Economic Development Planning Division, the Long Range and Heritage Planning Division, and the Transportation Planning Division. Of these four divisions, transportation planning will be our sole focus.
Let's start out with the how the work of the LCPC comes together. The transportation plans come together and help generate ideas that turn into action. Below are some of the steps the Transportation Planning Division has taken or are hoping to take in the future to build a smarter and greener community:
- Providing electronic messaging at rail or bus stops that provides transit travelers with up to date information about the time of arrival of the next train or bus, reasons for delays in service if there are any and other useful traveler information.
- Through-ticketing to allow travelers to transfer from one mode of transportation to another (i.e. bus to rail or vice versa) or from one transit system to another (i.e. from the Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) bus system in Lancaster to the Rabbit Transit System in York). Through ticketing exists in many metropolitan areas. Lancaster County does not have it yet but the transit systems in South Central Pennsylvania are looking at ways to better coordinate the services they offer.
- A good recent study to look at is the Regional Transit Coordination Study that came out in September 2011. It was funded by PennDOT and published by Commuter Services of Pennsylvania, an organization supported by nine South Central PA counties, including Lancaster. The study is available for review at http://pacommuterservices.com/ (click on the icon on the lower left part of the home page).
- Investments in infrastructure to promote ease of connecting from one mode to another. For example, putting bicycle racks and lockers at transit stops and stations to enable transit patrons to ride a bike to the station rather than drive. Providing parking at transit stations is much more expensive than providing bicycle racks and parking garages at many suburban transit stations that fill up by 6:30 or 7:00 am. Providing bicycle connections as an alternative to driving is a “smart investment.”
- Building sidewalks for transit users to safely use transit stops/stations
- There are zoning and other land use policies that support transit. For example, encouraging or requiring commercial and retail offices to locate their parking lots behind the building and putting their offices close to the street because this makes it easier (a shorter walk) for those who use transit or walk to access their office.
- Encouraging transit oriented development that provides for retail shops and businesses around the transit stops/stations.
- An example of this is the Ballston Station in Arlington, Virginia. The idea here was to create a “new downtown” in central Arlington. The guidelines involving land use and the way the Ballston Station would be developed sought to assist in the creation of a dynamic downtown area including a mix of marketable, office and residential uses (Ballston Metro Station Area, 2011).
- This makes it easy for those who commute by transit to reach their offices or to run errands on the way home or at lunch times. Also, requiring major residential developers to install sidewalks and access to transit stops (if they are located near the development) is another “smart” policy.
- The new mixed use development, Richmond Square, in Manheim Township, required the developer to install sidewalks and transit stops.
- Employer policies to encourage the use of transit: These include subsidizing part/all of the cost of a monthly transit pass. Commuter Services of PA (web link used above) works with employers through the South Central PA area to encourage this. Over 40 employers in Lancaster County participate in this program. That’s more than any other county that participates in the program.
Richmond Square, Manheim Township http://www.rentalsonline.com/Pennsylvania/Lititz.asp
When people think of the word transportation, most people think of a car. This is simply not the case when it comes to the Transportation Planning Division of Lancaster County. The Transportation Planning Division concerns itself with ALL modes of transportation. These modes of transportation include automobile, rail, air, transit, non-motorized vehicles, bicycling, and walking (Transportation Planning, 2011). All of these ways of getting around can be seen as “smart” transportation investments because all of these ways get people from point A to point B in an efficient way.
To fully understand the Transportation Planning Division, it is important to know who exactly is behind the scenes with this planning. The Transportation Planning Division’s main task is to serve as staff to the Lancaster County Transportation Coordinating Committee (LCTCC). The LCTCC is the officially selected Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Lancaster County (Transportation Planning, 2011). The LCTCC has three stable subcommittees:
- The Transportation Technical Advisory Committee (TTAC),
- The Citizens Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC)
- The Transportation Citizens Advisory Committee (TCAC).
The Transportation Technical Advisory Committee (TTAC) meets monthly to discuss issues involving transportation funds and transportation planning for the region. They then give feedback to the Metropolitan and Regional Policy Boards (TTAC, 2011). The Citizens Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) reports to TTAC, and provides valuable input about bicycle and pedestrian transportation, and works to eventually implement the county’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan (BPAC, 2011). Lastly, the Transportation Citizens Advisory Council (TCAC) advises the TTAC on a wide range of transportation planning matters from the citizen’s point of view (Transportation Planning, 2011).
Now, let’s talk about what smart transportation is and what it can do for the county. According to the “Smart Transportation Guidebook” by PennDOT and NJDOT, smart transportation is:
“a new approach to roadway planning and design in which transportation investments are tailored to the specific needs of each project. The different contexts—financial, community, land use, transportation and environment—determine the design of the solution. The best transportation solution arises from a process in which a multi-disciplinary team, considering a wide range of solutions works closely with the community” (Smart Transportation Guidebook, 2008).
Smart transportation is based on two concepts: Context-Sensitive Solutions and Smart Growth. Context-Sensitive Solutions consider the total context within a transportation improvement project and how it will be situated paying attention to the scenic, aesthetic, historic, environmental and financial resources (Smart Transportation Guidebook, 2008). Smart Growth is growth of a city or community that emphasizes environmental quality, alternative transportation and social equity (Smart Transportation Guidebook, 2008).
Smart Transportation can be summarized into six main principles (Smart Transportation Guidebook, 2008):
- Tailor solutions to the context- Roads should respect the character of the community, both current and planned land uses.
- Tailor the approach- Design the approach for the specific projects.
- Plan all projects in collaboration with the community- Transportations solutions should be the result of a collaborative between the state DOT, local community and others.
- Plan for alternative modes- Put into consideration the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users for all road projects.
- Use professional judgment- It’s always smart to use the judgment of a professional.
- Scale the solution to the size of the problem- There is no such thing as a one size fits all solution here. Each project is different.
Roadway vs. Roadside Guidelines
Roadway Guidelines (Smart Transportation Guidebook, 2008)
There are many factors that go into planning of both roadways and roadsides. First, some factors that need to be taken into consideration for roadways are travel lanes (lane sizes), on-street parking and parking types, shoulders, bicycle facilities, medians and intersections (Smart Transportation Guidebook, 2008). Let’s break these factors down even more.
Lane width depends on at the least, five factors: roadway type, desired operating speeds, context area, truck and bus volumes, and bicycle facilities.
There are two different parking types for on-street parking. They are parallel parking and angled parking. Angled parking can either be head-in or back-in. The difference here is that head-in angled parking requires drivers to back out of a spot and into possible oncoming traffic, while back-in angled parking gives the driver more visibility as they pull out because they are already facing the street.
Shoulders are preferably used on high speed roadways where they can be used for avoiding car accidents and for pulling off the road due to car trouble. Shoulders wouldn’t likely be found in urban and suburban areas where parking and bike lanes would work much better and speeds are lower.
The three types of bike facilities are shared roadway, your typical bike lane, and shared use path. Shared roadway simply means that both automobile and bike share the travel lane. A bike lane is a designated lane on the side of the road usually set apart with a striped line or some kind of marking. A shared use path is actually not on the roadway at all. Instead, shared use paths are set apart from the roadway and are usually shared also with pedestrians and roller skaters.
Medians can be grouped into three different categories: non-traversable, traversable, and continuous two-way left turn lane. Non-traversable medians are often raised curbs of some sort, a grassy median, or guardrails are used. Traversable medians are painted right on the road and are easily crossable. Continuous two-way left turn lanes are in the middle of two lanes and allow drivers to turn left from either direction.
It’s difficult to balance the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists when it comes to intersections. Each has their own desired features. For example, pedestrians like to have a good amount of time to cross, bicyclists like low vehicular speeds, and motorists like minimal traffic delays.
Roadside Guidelines (Smart Transportation Guidebook, 2008).
Now that we have gone over some roadway guidelines, it’s time to look at some of the factors that need to be considered when designing roadsides. Pedestrian facilities, public transportation, landscape design, and street furniture (believe it or not) are some of the things that are included while planning a roadside. Let’s go over these few things in a little bit more detail.
Some pedestrian facilities include sidewalks, medians, and crosswalks. Since walking is crucial, it’s important to make sure these facilities are safe and comfortable for pedestrians.
Transit is a very critical part of the roadway and makes life easier on pedestrians creating less congestion. There are typically 3 types of buses that can be found in urban areas. They are conventional buses, articulated buses with the joint in the middle to make mobility easier, and intercity buses.
Landscaping helps roadways fit into their surrounding environment. Street trees are more than just a pretty scene. Smaller trees and plants can also be used as well to create a pleasing environment.
Street furniture can include any of the following: benches, trash cans, newspaper racks, bike racks, light fixtures, kiosks, and etcetera. Street furniture is used to accommodate pedestrians and transit users, and bicyclists.
Many areas have already adopted things like bicycle lanes, but Lancaster County plans on taking things one step further and create what are known as “complete streets”. These are streets that can be used by everybody. They are designed for all users including motorists, bus riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians, including people with disabilities (Lancaster County Smart Growth Toolbox, 2011). These streets are designed for rural and urban areas. The policy of a complete street is designed also for safety and convenience, so idea here is to make almost all streets complete streets unless it could possibly be a safety concern.
There is no specific way to build a complete street. Each one is different and unique in its own way, depending where it will be located. In a rural area, for example, a complete street could be a two-lane road and with a paved shoulder (Lancaster County Smart Growth Toolbox, 2011). On the other hand, a complete street may have a very wide sidewalk and refuge islands for pedestrians in a crowded urban area (Lancaster County Smart Growth Toolbox, 2011). Complete streets don’t necessarily have to include bike lanes because bicyclists can travel safely because of the slow-moving automobile traffic (Lancaster County Smart Growth Toolbox, 2011).
When building any street, it’s important to note that not including the idea of pedestrians and bicyclists in your planning is ultimately more costly than including them later. For example, it’s way more effective to add a bike lane or pedestrian lane on a bridge when first built than to go back and widen the bridge later (Lancaster County Smart Growth Toolbox, 2011).
Benefits of Smart Transportation
Integrating smart transportation into Lancaster County is very important and has many benefits. These benefits include community, environmental and even health benefits.
Community Benefits of Smart Transportation (LCPC Powerpoint, 2011)
- Smart Transportation supports smart growth.
According to the LCPC, smart growth “sustains the local economy, enhances the character, vitality, and livability of the community, and maintains or improves the quality of the environment” (LCPC Powerpoint, 2011).
- Smart Transportation reduces sprawl.
Smart transportation would reduce the demand for highways and would preserve the county’s farmland (LCPC Powerpoint, 2011).
Environmental Benefits of Smart Transportation (LCPC Powerpoint, 2011)
Biking or walking, using transit, and carpooling are some ways that can reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and auto emissions into the air.
When driving is reduced, it also reduces roadway run-off of oils and other lubricants from vehicles that get into waterways.
Smart transportation projects also reduce the amount of oil used by vehicles making them very energy efficient.
Smart transportation reduces the amount of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Health Benefits of Smart Transportation (LCPC Powerpoint, 2011)
Bicycling and Walking are two ways tostay healthy. These two modes of transportation can help fight obesity, prevent heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
Transportation Plans and Programs
The LCPC already has a number of plans and programs they are involved with throughout the county and state of Pennsylvania. Among these plans and programs are the 2009-2035 Long-Range Transportation Plan , Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation Plan , Pennsylvania Long-Range Transportation Plan , Public Participation Plan , Citizen's Guide to Transportation Planning in Lancaster County , Unified Planning Work Program , Human Services Transportation Plan , Congestion Management Process (CMP) , and the FFY 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program .
A lot goes into the planning of each transportation plan and/or program. Instead of going over each plan and program in full detail, let us briefly discuss the main points of each one to give a better understanding of what each one is about and how these will affect Lancaster County.
2009-2035 Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)
As you can tell by the name, this plan was put into action in 2009 and will extend all the way to 2035. There are five overall goals of the LRTP. They are:
- To target transportation investments the Envision Lancaster County Vision, Goals, and Strategies and the county’s smart growth program.
- To maintain and improve the county’s multimodal infrastructure and services to provide an acceptable level of service.
- To improve safety and security to all users of the transportation system.
- To manage and operate the transportation system to reduce congestion.
- To ensure that transportation investments address protection of the county’s agricultural, natural, historic, and cultural resources and environmental quality (LRTP, 2008).
With these five goals in mind, the LRTP will improve the county by giving the people of Lancaster County a transportation system that will meet their needs and then some.
Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation Plan
Lancaster County, compared to its six surrounding counties, has the highest percentage of people walking and biking to work (Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation Plan, 2011). Despite such high percentages of walkers and cyclists in the county, the conditions for them on the road can be somewhat lacking. This plan aims to improve these conditions. Most roads in the county we designed for motorized vehicles like cars or buses. They lack sidewalks, wide outside lanes, and paved shoulders. This makes walking and biking difficult and unsafe.
The following are a few initiatives that came out of the Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan:
- Building sidewalks and putting street trees in new residential neighborhoods
- Putting bicycles racks on transit buses
- Using enhanced pedestrian crossings in some areas of the County
- Creating bicycle and pedestrian safety education programs for both the children and adults of the County
- Creating a new bicycle touring route in the northeastern part of the County (Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation Plan, 2011).
Pennsylvania Long-Range Transportation Plan (The Mobility Plan)
Much like the 2009-2035 Long-Range Transportation Plan, the Pennsylvania Long-Range Transportation Plan aka “The Mobility Plan” began in 2007 and will extend through 2030. This plan is all about making mobility easier throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The mobility Plan has five major goals. They are:
- To move people and goods safely and securely
- To improve quality of life by linking transportation, land use, economic development, and environmental stewardship
- To develop and sustain quality transportation infrastructure
- To provide mobility for people, goods, and commerce
- To maximize the benefit of transportation investments (Pennsylvania Mobility Plan, 2011).
Public Participation Plan
The Public Participation Plan was created by the LCTCC and was adopted on June 25, 2007. This plan was created to guarantee that every resident in Lancaster County is given the opportunity to “participate in the development of transportation policies, programs, and projects being proposed in Lancaster County” (Public Participation Plan, 2007). To ensure that each resident has an equal opportunity to participate in the County’s decisions, the Public Participation Plan was built upon five main values recognized by both the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration (Public Participation Plan, 2007). They are:
- Early and continuous involvement
- Public availability of information
- Collaborative input on main topics
- Open public meetings where transportation matters are being considered
- Open access to the decision making process before closure occurs (Public Participation Plan, 2007).
Citizen's Guide to Transportation Planning in Lancaster County
The Citizen’s Guide to Transportation Planning is exactly what’s in its name. It is a guide for the citizen’s of Lancaster County including everything there is to know about transportation. This is a great guide if your looking to get a background of Lancaster County’s transportation system and if you want to get an indepth idea of what exactly goes into the planning process for all modes of transportation within the County of Lancaster.
Unified Planning Work Program
This is a program that was recently implemented on July 1, 2011 and will run through June 30, 2012. The Unified Planning work Program for Lancaster County incorporates programs, activities, and all transportation planning during the time period previously stated (Unified Planning Work Program, 2011).
Human Services Transportation Plan
The fact that many people of Lancaster County do not have access to transportation due to age, low-income status, or a disability is something that needs to be recognized. That is why the Human Services Transportation Plan was created. This plan aims to tackle the transportation needs of the county offering solutions to the problems at hand.
The development of such a plan guarentees that communities manage transportation resources provided by several funding programs. In doing so, this can facilitate in improving transportation access, minimize repetition of services, and promote the most cost-effective transportation available for those with limited access to transportation (Human Services Transportation Plan, 2008).
Congestion Management Process
FFY 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program
The Transportation Improvement Program is a three-year program that includes a list of all projects designed to improve the transportation system in Lancaster County. According to federal law, the Transportation Improvement Program document must include all projects that are using federal funds, and also any non-federally funded projects and other state-funded capital projects that are of importance throughout the region (Transportation Improvement Program, 2011). Most of the projects included are highway, bridge, and public transit projects, but you can also find bicycle and pedestrian projects, freight-related projects, and air quality projects (Transportation Improvement Program, 2011).
Areas for Future Improvement
The LCPC, specifically the Transportation Planning Division, has done so much for Lancaster County and continues to improve the county’s transportation system. However, there is always room for more. Areas for future Improvement include better accommodation for cyclists and pedestrians on bridges, examining the land use component for medium size projects and transportation systems management projects, and providing greater flexibility in federal funding sources.
For more information that goes beyond transportation planning, please visit the Lancaster County Planning Commission’s website at http://www.co.lancaster.pa.us/planning/site/default.asp and explore everything they are doing for the Lancaster County community.