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Public Roads - November/December 2003

Internet Watch

Planning Made Simple

by Keri A. Funderburg

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary® defines the word "collaborate" as "to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected." In transportation planning, collaboration normally is part of every successful project. Planning requires the input, cooperation, and resources of many people and organizations, including officials from State and local governments, law enforcement officials, transit and environmental agencies, and the public. By accessing the new "Transportation Planning Capacity Building" Web site (, transportation professionals, decisionmakers, and the public can find ways to collaborate and learn about the complex issues involved in meeting a community's transportation needs. Developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Public Transportation Association, and the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the comprehensive site features basic and technical planning resources and information on peer programs and training.

"The new Web site serves as a centralized clearinghouse for information on transportation planning," says Robert Ritter, the leader of FHWA's Planning Capacity Building Team. "We developed it to be a first stop for transportation professionals, decisionmakers, and the public to find answers to their planning questions."

Information at All Levels

The capacity-building Web site contains transportation planning sections at the statewide, metropolitan, rural, and tribal levels. Each section has information on planning-related legislation, links to training courses on the planning process, and technical resources and case studies on a variety of topics from a number of geographical areas.

Users can find links to an evaluation report on statewide transportation plans, a guidebook on travel forecasting, and summaries of best practices. For users interested in metropolitan transportation planning, the site includes links to the Federal requirements for creating new metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and case studies on the development of 10 MPOs.

The section on planning for rural and small communities includes information on data needs in rural areas and a link to the Rural Transport Toolbox-a project by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve agricultural, passenger, and freight mobility. When consulting with tribal governments on planning issues, users can access links to tribal-specific legislation, samples of programmatic agreements between government agencies and Native American tribes, and case studies on environmental justice.

Beyond the Basics

The site also features a calendar of events listing upcoming meetings and conferences and introduces the Transportation Planning Capacity Building Peer Program, which offers opportunities for professionals to share solution-based experiences with other members of the transportation planning community. The Peer-to-Peer Exchange enables transportation professionals to contact FHWA or the Federal Transit Administration to request technical assistance on institutional or policy issues. During 1-day roundtable discussions, transportation and planning experts can share their experiences with peers. Workshops provide an opportunity for professionals to learn about new techniques and tools for transportation planning in a classroom format.

For those seeking technical resources, the Web site features an index of publications on various topics, such as funding and smart growth, and indicates the availability of training information, publications, case studies, and other Internet links on each issue. In the "Topic Areas" section of the site, users will find links to USDOT sites relating to freight, the human and natural environments, land use, MPOs, public involvement, safety, and transportation modeling.

The capacity-building site also has a glossary of transportation terms and acronyms commonly used during the planning process. The glossary provides definitions for words and acronyms ranging from "area sources" and "ADT" to "urbanized areas" and "VPD."

By visiting the Transportation Planning Capacity Building Web site, transportation professionals and others can access the information and tools to collaborate effectively with the many agencies and people critical to improving the safety and mobility of the Nation's transportation system.

Keri A. Funderburg is a contributing editor for Public Roads.