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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - July/August 2012

July/August 2012
Issue No:
Vol. 76 No. 1
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Internet Watch

Joint FHWA-FTA Program Addresses Integrated Planning

by Michelle Noch

Today's transportation planners confront complex social, economic, and environmental challenges that require diversified skills and knowledge to achieve multiple benefits. That's why, over recent decades, transportation planners have worked to better integrate their efforts with those of myriad other disciplines, such as land use, environment, civil rights, freight, operations, safety, and design.

To assist in this effort, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty and the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Office of Systems Planning established the Transportation Planning Capacity Building program, administered with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. The program provides decisionmakers, transportation officials, and practitioners with innovative ideas and state-of-the-practice information to help resolve the increasingly complex transportation planning issues facing the Nation's communities. The program also supports the development of a high-performing workforce, enabling transportation professionals to make more informed decisions.

The Transportation Planning Capacity Building program disseminates information through a variety of methods, including peer exchanges, manuals, and Web-based resources. To reach even more stakeholders, FHWA and FTA recently updated the program's Web site at and created a webinar series to facilitate information exchange.

Redesigned Features

The redesigned site features a focus area section offering resources grouped by topic, including statewide planning and planning for rural and small communities, tribes, and transit. A searchable database provides details on the Nation's 384 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). The site also is home to the following publications:

The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues (FHWA-HEP-07-039). This book provides an overview of transportation planning and explains key concepts in statewide and metropolitan transportation planning.

Transit at the Table. This series provides strategies for MPOs, State departments of transportation, and transit operators to collaborate on expanding the role of public transportation as a key element of sustainable transportation networks.

Transportation Planning Update. This quarterly newsletter, written by FHWA and FTA, shares ideas, highlights best practices, and informs readers about current issues and events.

FHWA/FTA Scenario Planning Guidebook. This guidebook assists transportation agencies in carrying out a scenario planning process that supports transportation planning and programming. The process identifies, explores, and assesses future alternatives for transportation growth, land use, economic development, and other issues by proactively engaging stakeholders and the public.

The Webinar Series

A new feature of the Transportation Planning Capacity Building program is a webinar series called the Transportation Planning Information Exchange, or simply the Planning Exchange. Jointly administered by FHWA and FTA, the Planning Exchange is a comprehensive online forum to connect the transportation planning community with timely information on training and support. Topics include scenario planning, land use modeling, livability, environmental quality, operations, and maintenance.

"Federal requirements and the multitude of factors practitioners must consider make the transportation planning process complex," says James Cheatham, director of FHWA's Office of Planning, who leads the Transportation Planning Capacity Building program. "Our goal is to provide the transportation planning community with tools and technical assistance to help make effective transportation decisions to address the needs of communities. Through the Planning Exchange, we encourage practitioners to share their successful, innovative ideas that can be implemented by others."

Training opportunities include workshops and classroom and Web-based instruction designed and facilitated by U.S. Department of Transportation planners, the National Highway Institute, and the National Transit Institute.

Charles Goodman, director of FTA's Office of Systems Planning, hails the Planning Exchange as "a promising means of engaging our customers in sharing information to support informed State and local transportation decisionmaking. The Planning Exchange will help stakeholders maintain a higher level of knowledge of Federal laws, policies, regulations, and guidance related to transportation planning, while providing a quick and easy interactive forum for planning practitioners to communicate and learn from each other."

Information on the Planning Exchange webinar series is accessible at For additional information about the Transportation Planning Capacity Building program, visit




Michelle Noch is a community planner in FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty.