Transportation Publications

Below is a list of our reports related to transportation, in descending order by year published. Explore other topics here and all COWS reports here.

  • Saumya Jain, Eric Sundquist, and Chris McCahill. A Pathway to Healthy Growth in Eau Claire. 2020.

    The long-term health, sustainability and equity of Eau Claire, like any other community, depend on the policies and regulations that shape future development and transportation investments. As outlined in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, these policies should promote compact development and reinvestment in existing neighborhoods. This report leverages new and existing data—including accessibility analysis and property value information—to highlight key areas of opportunity and frame supportive policies to help move the City forward.

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  • Chris McCahill, Saumya Jain, and Michael Brenneis. Comparative Assessment of Accessibility Metrics across the U.S. Vol. 83, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 2020.

    ABSTRACT: Accessibility-related research has advanced considerably since its foundational conception six decades ago. Yet, despite widespread acceptance of the concept, these methods are still rarely used in practical applications among transportation agencies and policymakers. Until recently, the challenges were mainly technical but now they are more practical. Practitioners are often faced with decisions about appropriate methods and metrics, which are difficult to answer from the current literature. This study attempts to produce a clearer understanding of the effects that those decisions have on practical outcomes, based on data spanning many geographies across the U.S. We test a variety of metrics—including different modes, destination types, analytical geographies, and metric definitions—in regions spanning seven states. This study points to several potential best practices, including the use of non-work walking accessibility metrics in multimodal analysis and the use of decay functions in accessibility metrics, and provides a strong foundation for future research.

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  • Chris McCahill, Beth Osborne, and Eric Sundquist. “, Rhodium Group, 2019.

    Transcending Oil, released in April 2018, describes Hawaii’s path toward meeting its ambitious clean energy goals by 2045. The report was commissioned by Elemental Excelerator and prepared independently by Rhodium Group and Smart Growth America. It focuses mainly on transitioning the electrical grid to renewable energy while moving large numbers of vehicles to electric power but also points to the importance of managing overall travel demand through transportation policies and investments.

    This technical guide describes the methods and findings behind Transcending Oil’s travel demand forecasts, developed by SSTI and Smart Growth America. Outlined in the report are two forecasts: a business as usual scenario and a policy scenario that includes multimodal transportation investments, transportation demand management, land use regulations and pricing mechanisms. Whereas business as usual could lead to a 16.6 percent increase in vehicle miles travel (VMT) by 2045, the policy scenario outlined in this document results in an estimated 7.3 percent reduction. This analysis points to the importance of comprehensive, widespread transportation and land use policies in achieving ambitious VMT reductions. The modeling approach described here may be useful in the development of similar long-term VMT management plans, since it relies on fairly straightforward methods, readily available data and assumptions derived from peer-reviewed research.

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  • Alex Bell, Dan Hardy, and Chris McCahill. Accessibility Measurement for Project Prioritization in Virginia. Vol. 2673, no. 12, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2019, pp. 266-7.

    This paper describes the accessibility scoring approach applied by the Virginia Department of Transportation (DOT) in the Smart Scale project prioritization process in 2018. The accessibility scoring approach identifies the increase in jobs accessibility for candidate projects submitted for state funding. The Smart Scale process was implemented in 2015 and entered its third round of applications in 2018; some 800 projects were evaluated during its first two years. This paper contains the following elements: an general overview of jobs accessibility as defined and measured by Virginia DOT for the Smart Scale approach; the development of the Smart Scale accessibility scoring system, including a summary of research performed to identify system parameters; the relationship between mobility and accessibility; and the Smart Scale accessibility transferability to other locations and initiatives and the possible evolution of the Virginia DOT approach in the future.

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  • Katya Spear, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Mariah Young-Jones, and Mary Ebeling. Leading With Transit: How City Leadership on Transit Can Create More Equitable, Sustainable, and Economic Vibrant Cities. COWS, 2018.
    • Transit is a lifeline for many, and an efficient way to travel for fun and leisure. A robust transit system helps cities with a multitude of social, economic and environmental benefits.
    • Efficient, effective transit requires proactive public engagement and coordination between local government leadership, departments, and transit agencies.
    • On transit, cities can lead by example, making decisions that reduce disparities, improve air quality, and increase access to key destinations.
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  • Eric Sundquist, Mary Ebeling, Robbie Webber, Chris McCahill, Satya Rhodes-Conway, and Katya Spear. Modernizing Mitigation: A Demand-Centered Approach to Reducing Car Travel. COWS, 2018.

    Traditional Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies are increasingly used by large employers and building owners to encourage the use of alternatives to driving – things like providing bus passes, bike share, and affordable carpooling. But most existing best practices overlook the role of local government decision makers, whose decisions on policy affecting local transportation options, planning and regulation of land use, structure and enforcement of fees, taxes and other financial signals can play a big role in increasing or decreasing vehicle demand.

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  • Chris McCahill, and Eric Sundquist. Connecting Sacramento. 2017.

    Connecting Sacramento combines location-based trip-making data from multiple sources with modern accessibility analysis to assess how they can guide transportation- and land use-related decisions around transit stations in Sacramento. Accessibility analysis lets us measure transportation performance in terms of people’s ability to reach destinations instead of simply how fast cars move or whether transit runs on time. Trip-making data, which come from smartphones, navigation devices, and GPS-enabled vehicles, let us understand people’s travel patterns and trip characteristics in detail without relying on costly travel surveys or complex travel demand models.

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  • Logan Dredske, and Chris McCahill. Accessibility in Practice. SSTI, Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, 2017.

    Planning agencies and transportation decision makers often talk about the importance of improving access to destinations, but they rarely have the tools or resources to measure accessibility and incorporate those metrics into decision making. This report guides agencies through that process. The guide outlines general concepts, data needs and availability, analysis tools, and other considerations in measuring accessibility. It describes different ways accessibility can be measured and demonstrates how the metrics can be used in several specific project evaluation examples. It also briefly describes the potential use of accessibility metrics in predicting outcomes such as travel demand and transit ridership.

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  • Michael Baker International, and State Smart Transportation Initiative. “Big Data and TDM in Northern Virginia”. Northern Virginia TDM Study, Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, 2016.

    Commercially available GPS data offers valuable new insight about trip origins, destinations, and routes, including short trips that travel demand models often cannot capture. Using this data, SSTI worked with Michael Baker International, the Virginia DOT, and local stakeholders to identify opportunities for managing travel demand and improving connectivity throughout Northern Virginia. This study also informed the early development of StreetLight Data’s Traffic Diagnostics tool.

    The final technical memo describes the full data set and 17 selected case studies, along with recommended projects and policies, estimated costs, and benefits for each.

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  • Transportation researchers and practitioners have long sought other tools to complement or perhaps replace conventional methods—tools that would better analyze trips rather than speed at points in the system, speak to non-auto modes of travel, address land use solutions as well as highway infrastructure, and so on. Barriers to such tools have included lack of data and analytic methods, as well as considerable inertia in practice.

    Fortunately, new sources of data and emerging methods, as well as new-found interest in performance and scenario planning, are yielding the types of tools that the field needs. These fall into two related but distinct categories: 1) trip-making, which looks at complete trips rather than vehicle speeds on system segments, as observed empirically rather than through models, and 2) accessibility, which describes the ease or difficulty involved in reaching destinations on the existing or planned network. The tools share the ability to inform decisions in these ways:

    • By providing area scans to assess behavior and performance,
    • By tracking behavior and performance over time,
    • By diagnosing problems,
    • By assessing solutions,
    • By engaging stakeholders with meaningful, intuitive information.

    This white paper describes SSTI’s work and experience with these tools and practices.

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  • Satya Rhodes-Conway, Mel Meder, and Mary Ebeling. A Pittsburgh That Works for Working People. COWS, 2016.

    During the 20th Century, Pittsburgh was known for the steel industry and the broad middle class prosperity that was shared by many residents. Today, Pittsburgh is in the process of rebuilding its economy around new sectors, such as tech start-ups. The city has found some success in this economic transition, and the population has stabilized as highly educated tech workers move into trendy neighborhoods, but too many working people are being left behind. Residents worry about displacement from their homes and high housing costs, median income has stagnated, and racial disparities persist. The good news is that there are meaningful steps the Mayor and City Council can take to lead the city into an era of fair, inclusive, democratic and economically sustainable growth. Once again, Pittsburgh can become known for a broad middle class prosperity that is shared by many. This report provides recommendations and best practices models for how to take those steps. The vision presented in this report is one in which Pittsburgh is known as the city that rebuilt its economy into one of broadly shared prosperity and strong labor standards; with a housing market that meets the needs of long-term residents while also welcoming newcomers; that offers equitable, accessible and safe transportation choices that connect all residents to employment and other critical destinations; and that prioritizes strong community-police relations with historically marginalized communities of color and new immigrants to ensure Pittsburgh is a most livable city for all residents.

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  • Chris McCahill, Norman Garrick, Carol Atkinson-Palombo, and Adam Polinski. Effects of Parking Provision on Automobile Use in Cities: Inferring Causality. COWS, 2015.

    Automobile use has been on the rise in cities for nearly a century and so has the supply of parking. Because driving often seems unavoidable, policymakers, developers and the public push endlessly for more parking to meet demand. That push, however, might only be making matters worse.

    This report strongly suggests that abundant parking in cities causes people to drive more, shedding important light on the question of cause and effect.

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  • Satya Rhodes-Conway, Peter Bailon, Sam Munger, and Chris Reynolds. A District That Works: Policies to Promote Equity and Job Quality in Our Nation’s Capital. COWS, 2015.

    The District of Columbia is going through a period of great transformation. While it has successfully strengthened its fiscal health and its economy and population have grown, its prosperity has not been evenly distributed. However, it is not too late for the District to adopt measures that strengthen low income communities and communities of color and push back against the trend of growing inequality. The new administration has a fresh opportunity to tackle these challenges. It will be essential that key leaders in the administration are driven by a strong vision for how to make the District work for all of its residents.

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  • Chris McCahill, and Satya Rhodes-Conway. Urban Parking: Rational Policy Approaches for Cities and Towns. COWS, 2015.

    Parking has been a contentious policy focus in cities and towns around the United States for decades. Residents, visitors, and business owners often lament what they see as parking shortages or unfair prices. Meanwhile, surface lots and parking garages have chipped away at once vibrant urban centers, taking up what is often the most valuable land in the region. Undoubtedly, parking is an important asset to many American cities and, as such, should be viewed as an integral piece of the each city’s transportation and land use system. However, like any land use or any piece of transportation infrastructure, it must be managed properly to ensure it works efficiently and adds value to the community. City officials can accomplish this by leveraging municipally owned parking—both on-street and off—and by regulating and taxing privately owned parking.

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  • At the May 2013 SSTI Community of Practice, participants requested guidance on performance measures for biking and walking projects. After surveying state DOTs, city and MPO staff, national organizations, and the research literature, this draft report outlines strategies used to assess the success of state and local projects. The narrative document examines metrics currently being used as well as the drawbacks or challenges to using each one. A matrix also summarizes the pros and cons and expense or difficulty of gathering the data needed.

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  • Massachusetts’s Regional Transit Authorities have an opportunity to improve their existing service and make the case for more funding from the state by making the most of a new planning requirement from the legislature. As part of 2013’s landmark transportation finance legislation, the state legislature mandated that the RTAs conduct comprehensive service plans. This paper argues that if done well, these assessments could help make the case for more funding from the state going forward.

    This policy brief, released by MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute in collaboration with the SSTI is the sixth in MassINC’s Going for Growth series, compares Massachusetts to best practices in regional transit planning from across the country.

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  • Mary Ebeling. Re-Thinking the Urban Freeway. SSTI and Mayors Innovation Project, 2014.

    Across the country, urban freeways are at the end of their design lives, and cities are wrestling with the question of how to deal with them. Cities have the opportunity to rethink, remove, or repurpose urban freeway space, which can address environmental and social justice harm and result in significant local economic and social benefits. Re-Thinking the Urban Freeway provides cities with best practices and solutions from across the country, to help cities mitigate negative freeway impacts and secure a healthy and more prosperous future.

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  • Mary Ebeling, Benjamin Forman, Rich Parr, and Megan Aki. Going for Growth: Enhancing the Economic Impact of Public Transit in Gateway Cities With Comprehensive Service Planning. MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, 2014.

    From the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, in collaboration with State Smart Transportation Initiative, this report examines how best practices in transit planning can benefit Massachusetts’s Regional Transit Authorities.

    As part of 2013’s landmark transportation finance legislation, the state legislature mandated that the RTAs conduct comprehensive service plans. If done well, the report argues, these assessments could help make the case for more funding from the state going forward.

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  • Bill Holloway, Satya Rhodes-Conway, and Chris Spahr. Urban Freight Transportation: Low Cost Measures to Reduce Negative Impacts. COWS, 2014.

    Freight transportation is a critical element of both national and local economies. Yet, it creates a number of challenges for cities due to congestion, emissions, crashes, noise and other factors. This report provides cities with low cost policy-driven measures to reduce the negative impacts of freight transportation.

    Increasing the efficiency of freight movement and addressing the social costs and environmental justice issues of freight transportation are not mutually exclusive. The strategies identified in this report can help cities meet their transportation challenges in the years ahead while promoting just, healthy, and sustainable freight practices.

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  • Emil Frankel, Paul Lewis, Michelle Maggiore, Joshua Schank, Pamela Shepherd, Eric Sundquist, Brian Taylor, and Diana Williams. Evaluating Potential Performance Measures for Congestion and Systems Performance. 2013.

    In a joint effort with the Bipartisan Policy Center and SSTI, the Eno Center for Transportation held a daylong meeting June 20 to discuss federal performance measures for highways. Under MAP-21, the U.S. DOT was required to create and implement a number of performance measures to help guide and monitor federal transportation spending. The workshop brought together a number of experienced experts as well as officials directly involved in and affected by the upcoming ruling.

    This report is the result the meeting and summarizes the recommendations based on the workshop discussion and previous research, and includes recommended measures of congestion and system performance as well as additional considerations for their successful implementation. These recommendations integrate the performance measures currently in development or in use by workshop participants as well as the perspectives of participants related to these measures and their value to national, state, and regional interests.

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  • This project, funded by SSTI with a matching grant from the Center for Freight Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE),  identifies and evaluates freight transportation demand management (TDM) strategies to improve transportation efficiency by reducing the social costs associated with goods movement in urban areas.

    Information about various freight transportation demand management strategies was gathered through a review of literature, an online survey, and interviews with implementers. Strategies are compared based on their costs, benefits, and implementation difficulty. Case studies of six US cities using innovative freight TDM strategies are also included.

    The table below details the impacts and implementation difficulty of various freight TDM strategies.

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  • Across the country, urban freeways are at the end of their design lives, and cities are wrestling with the question of how to deal with them. Cities have the opportunity to rethink, remove, or repurpose urban freeway space, which can address environmental and social justice harm and result in significant local economic and social benefits.

    Rehinking the Urban Freeway
     provides cities with best practices and solutions from across the country, to help cities mitigate negative freeway impacts and secure a healthy and more prosperous future.
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  • COWS Program Overview. COWS, 2013.

    Since our founding more than twenty years ago, COWS has promoted “high road” solutions to social problems. These treat equity, sustainability, and capable democratic organization as necessary and achievable complements in human development, not tragic tradeoffs. They use better democratic organization to increase the productivity of places and to capture and share the benefits of doing so, treating democracy not only as a source of voice and equity, but wealth generation.

    COWS’ commitment to building the high road now, and feeding the movement to build it everywhere, is what unites what might otherwise seem disconnected projects — from designing innovative energy-efficiency programs for neighborhoods and cities; to promoting industry partnerships in metropolitan regions; to convening public and private stakeholders on solving energy, transportation, or water issues; to working with state and local elected officials and public interest advocates on a range of other problems and opportunities. In this program overview, we summarize essential elements of this work.
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  • Bill Holloway, and Chris Spahr. Getting the Goods Withouth the Bads: Freight Transportation Demand Management Strategies to Reduce Urban Impacts. National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education (CFIRE), 2013.

    SSTI project, with a matching grant from the Center for Freight Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE),  identifies and evaluates freight transportation demand management (TDM) strategies to improve transportation efficiency by reducing the social costs associated with goods movement in urban areas.

    Information about various freight transportation demand management (TDM) strategies was gathered through a review of literature, an online survey, and interviews with implementers. Strategies are compared based on their costs, benefits, and implementation difficulty. Case studies of six US cities using innovative freight TDM strategies are also included.

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  • This study from the State Smart Transportation Initiative – a COWS project – seeks to make recommendations for improving current system operations and to point out directions that can help position DART to function as an integral part of the city’s and region’s transportation system. Wilmington functions as the hub of DART (Delaware’s bus system) in New Castle County, providing over 10 million passenger trips a year—including us and demand response paratransit. Thirty-eight of DART’s 60 routes serve Wilmington. Within the City of Wilmington, DART ridership continues to grow, resulting in bus congestion in the city’s central business district (CBD), particularly around and adjacent to Rodney Square. This success illustrates DCT’s role as an increasingly important part of the economic engine of the city. DCT contributes positively to the overall economic vibrancy of Wilmington through the movement of people, increased accessibility to the transportation system, improvements in air quality, and provision of access to jobs, medical care, and commercial centers. Document include Full Report and Executive Summary.

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  • With DOT budget shortfalls growing, traditional means of delivering transportation services no longer meet today’s needs, and they are incapable of launching tomorrow’s economy.

    While change is daunting, it is both essential and possible—as those who have done it can attest. States and their DOTs are improving services in the short term and planning effectively for the long term. They have adopted innovative yet pragmatic policy reforms, and are reevaluating and retooling traditional practices. Their success offers a path forward for others.

    COWS’ State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) has teamed up with Smart Growth America to create a resource to inform senior state-level transportation officials as they make decisions that position their agencies for success. This handbook of transportation policy and practice for the new economy collects the innovative approaches state leaders are already using to make systems more efficient, government more effective, and constituents better satisfied.

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  • Smart Transportation is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) integrated response to the crisis of crumbling infrastructure and limited revenues to address it, and the need to better align transportation with community revitalization and sound land use policy. PennDOT was the first state program reviewed in detail by COWS’ State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI), and it remains one of our prime examples of a thoughtful DOT wrestling with the challenges of fiscal austerity, sustainability, and system preservation.

    The review was done at the request of PennDOT to assess the effectiveness of its Smart Transportation program in integrating land use and transportation in its decision-making and to identify areas of opportunity to advance the Smart Transportation agenda.

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