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Public Roads - May/June 2017

May/June 2017
Issue No:
Vol. 80 No. 6
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

Understanding Transportation Planning

by Judy Francis

Transportation planning is a complex process involving many aspects, from data collection to coordination and public engagement. Transportation professionals may be knowledgeable about their part in the process, but may not understand how the other parts fit together within the Federal transportation planning process. New practitioners also may be looking for information about what needs to happen to get a transportation project implemented. Two new courses from the National Highway Institute can help: Basics of Transportation Planning (course number FHWA-NHI-151052) and Transportation Planning Process (course number FHWA-NHI-151053).

Understanding the Basics

Each step in the planning process helps to support effective decisionmaking. The Basics of Transportation Planning course introduces participants to requirements for urban, statewide, and nonmetropolitan transportation planning. “It provides a forum and foundation for planners and practitioners to access, learn, and review information on the transportation planning process in an easily accessible, Web-based format,” says Kenneth Petty, director of the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Planning.

The course contains three areas of focus. The first discusses the purpose and importance of the transportation planning process in supporting decisionmaking for transportation investments, and describes transportation planning products such as metropolitan transportation plans and statewide transportation improvement programs. The second addresses the roles, responsibilities, and relationships that exist among the various participants. The third focus area introduces the key phases of the transportation planning process, with each lesson addressing one phase in the process.

The 4-hour, Web-based training is available at no cost and can be completed independently, but it also functions as an introduction to and prerequisite for the Transportation Planning Process course.

The Planning Process in Context

Transportation Planning Process is a 2-day, instructor-led training that explores the basic course’s lessons in greater depth, and underscores the relationship between the transportation planning process and informed decisionmaking. The course expands participants’ knowledge and understanding of planning practice fundamentals through the use of small group discussions and activities, games, and interactive peer exercises. Participants learn how a well-structured process improves coordination among the different agencies involved in funding and project development, provides transparency, and helps ensure that transportation investments support community needs.

NHI’s courses on transportation planning can help practitioners understand the full scope of the process and support more effective decisionmaking.

Participants learn effective approaches to planning and how plans can be coordinated. The course covers how to use a performance-based approach, including establishing and reporting performance targets. Interactive exercises enable participants to develop goals, objectives, performance measures, and targets as they consider how public engagement and intergovernmental cooperation may be integrated into the process.

The course emphasizes understanding local demographics, associated travel behavior, and any emerging concerns, while balancing consideration of system performance and financial planning. Participants learn to consider the use of scenario planning during the development of a transportation plan to examine the community’s needs and circumstances.

Targeting a Wide Audience

Both courses serve as resources for a broad range of transportation professionals to understand the basics of transportation planning. The courses may be of particular interest to staff at State departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, transit agencies, rural planning organizations, FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration, and other transportation groups. Those whose work or whose interests intersect with the transportation planning process, such as staff at environmental and resources agencies or representatives from stakeholder groups, also may benefit from them.

For more information, visit To register for a training session or to sign up to receive email alerts when sessions are scheduled, visit the course description page.

Judy Francis is a contracted marketing analyst for NHI.