Smart Transportation by PennDOT


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Presentation given by Mike Rebert of PennDOT at RenewLV's September 2008 Leadership Council Meeting

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  • Today, I am going to talk about one of PennDOT’s main priorities—integrating “Smart Transportation” into the way we do business, and the way we approach our new transportation challenges in the Commonwealth.
  • Transportation is changing today, just as it has throughout history…
  • Changes in transportation technology have allowed and encouraged different settlement patterns. How we move around has changed dramatically over the past century…. And as a result, the places and people that we are serving with our transportation facilities have changed tremendously.
  • The early patterns were based on walking as the primary transportation mode. Streets were narrow, uses were mixed, cities were compact. Many medieval cities simply stopped growing when they became too large for people to walk from the edges to the center.
  • The introduction of streetcars allowed people and businesses to spread out a little, as they could now travel further in the same amount of time. However, the form was still very compact.
  • The creation of the interstate highway system coincided with an explosion in the number of people owning cars. [Photos are of President Eisenhower and Senator Al Gore, Sr., who—ironically—was a leading champion in Congress for the highway system] This new transportation milestone proved to be the most dramatic in changing how our cities grew. In addition to greatly expanding mobility options, the interstate highway system also led to scars through our community centers, as well as through our natural landscapes. Can you imagine permitting these projects today?
  • These new highways allowed people to flee the “dirty” cities to new suburbs that were springing up across America. Suddenly, people could live and work anywhere they wanted. Communities across the country became more spread out, roads became wider, vast areas now only had a single use, and land development codes were changed to accommodate cars.
  • This is one of the first automobile-oriented suburbs: Levittown, PA (just north of Philadelphia). The Levittown model of mass-production techniques and single-use districts has now become the predominant development pattern in the U.S.
  • The dominance of the automobile as the primary mode of transportation led to development patterns that look the same in every corner of America: disconnected local streets, single-use districts, strip commercial development. However, this pattern has proven to be astoundingly expensive to build and maintain.
  • New financial, technological, environmental, and social contexts changed the way we developed transportation systems in past generations. This is happening again. For a variety of reasons, we know we cannot afford to continue the current pattern, and that we must adapt to a new world.
  • In the past, we have tried to widen roads and build more of them to “build our way out of congestion.” We are realizing now that this is increasingly becoming a less feasible option for managing our transportation needs. As we all know, our financial resources are very limited, at both the state and local levels
  • Just to provide some sense of the magnitude of the needs of our existing infrastructure, nearly one-quarter of our bridges are structurally deficient.
  • Costs of construction materials have also changed, and continue to rise every day. Even if we did have the funding now, we cannot afford the increased costs of materials. Due in part to this massive infrastructure spending in China, India, and elsewhere in the world, costs for raw materials are soaring.
  • It’s not just PennDOT feeling the squeeze right now—our families are also hurting in the current environment. The costs of automobile reliance has soared. When we prepared this presentation just a few months ago, the gas figure was only $3.50… we have to update this slide daily! Our transportation and land use patterns can no longer require every family to own multiple vehicles, as is the case in many of our communities today. The costs of relying on private automobiles as a sole means of transportation is now simply too high. Throughout the country, households are beginning to change their lifestyles in response to these prices—and we need to adjust our transportation priorities accordingly.
  • Brookings Institution recently released a report (Mar 2008) about strengthening PA’s economy. They identified 4 things that have to happen to improve our economy—and one of these 4 is enhancing our infrastructure.
  • Additionally, climate change is becoming a much more important issue to people across the globe, including Pennsylvania’s residents, businesses, and political leaders. One of the major contributors to global warming, according to most scientists, is ever-increasing automobile use. Sprawling land use patterns are also eating into Pennsylvania’s farmland, which is among the most productive in the nation. Many of our transportation decisions over the past several decades have exacerbated this trend towards sprawling out across the landscape. Pennsylvania is urbanizing more land per person than any other state except Wyoming. From 1990 to 2000, our population grew by 3.4%, but our urbanized land grew by 53.6%.
  • Many of our quality of life indicators are also in decline. We are seeing higher rates of depression, obesity, and time spent in traffic, all of which degrade our quality of life and the social capital in our communities. Many studies have linked these trends, at least in part, to the land use and transportation patterns that are now prevalent in the Commonwealth.
  • None of these trends are specific to Pennsylvania; our partner DOTs across the nation are also trying to address these concerns.
  • We have a new series of challenges, and need a new series of solutions. It’s not the old way was “bad” or “wrong”… it’s just that the world is changing rapidly around us, and we need to adapt to our new financial, environmental, physical, and social realities.
  • All of us in charge of building Pennsylvania must get our heads out of the sand and face this new reality!
  • Smart Transportation isn’t a temporary initiative or a “niche” category within PennDOT: this is integrated into the way the entire department is does all aspects of our business.
  • ST is also about doing “more with less” [ click through each individually, brief comments on each. Slides are self-explanatory. ]
  • So how do we do this? There isn’t a magic bullet that anyone can hand you to solve our serious transportation issues. The solution will come from everyday decisions on the part of those working at PennDOT and our other partners in the community.
  • Overall, ST boils down to linking our transportation and land use decisions and investments. We cannot make our transportation decisions in a vacuum, just as local communities cannot make land use decisions in a vacuum. The two deeply affect one another.
  • Here is an animation that shows what this cycle looks like. We have a historic village in the lower right, surrounded by farmland.
  • A couple of farmers go to the municipality and request a rezoning. They are approved by the local politicians, and then sell to a developer who builds homes on their land.
  • The commutes between the village and the new subdivision soon lead to a high level of congestion on the state roadway. PennDOT must now come in and widen the road to accommodate this new traffic.
  • After the road is widened, land values along the road increase. A couple more farmers now go to the municipality to ask for rezoning to commercial land uses. They make the argument “PennDOT just invested in this roadway; we should take advantage of that investment by increasing the township’s tax base with new commercial development.” The political pressure in this situation can be quite intense; it is extremely difficult for local elected officials to turn down this request.
  • Now, the level of congestion has increased further, and PennDOT has to widen the road AGAIN! Notice how the 6-lane arterial has harmed the “small-town” character of the historic village.
  • The remaining farmers now have a huge economic incentive to sell their land for development. The land values are too high, because of the access to the 6-lane road, to continue as agriculture. Local officials now have little political or legal choice but to grant re-zoning approval for these final pieces of land. We now have a place that looks like “Anywhere USA”
  • Eventually we hit the end of this cycle, and this is the road we have. You can see here that no parallel roadways were ever built; the entire community is dependent on the state arterial for access and mobility. (This particular example is Route 73 in Burlington County, NJ).
  • In PA, like almost every state, local governments have complete authority over land use decisions. The challenge of altering this vicious and unsustainable land use/transportation cycle is dependent on our ability to work beyond these arbitrary borders.
  • This is only a partial list of all the entities we need to partner with to change this cycle. Clearly, this is a big task that will require new ways of thinking about community-building.
  • This is only a partial list of all the entities we need to partner with to change this cycle. Clearly, this is a big task that will require new ways of thinking about community-building.
  • As an example, this image shows the vision created by a community in Virginia. [ click ] We can see that a single agency or entity cannot create a great place on their own. The various pieces must come together in a holistic, comprehensive manner, meaning we all must coordinate with one another.
  • PennDOT and local municipalities have very different roles. On paper, they are independent and seem unrelated. But in practice, every decision by the DOT affects land use, and every decision by local governments affects investments PennDOT has made. Therefore, we must focus on partnering with one another.
  • Here are some of the ways each entity can partner to ensure a more cohesive link between land use and transportation. Clearly this is an extraordinarily complex task, and will require a high level of commitment and focus on the part of both PennDOT and local governments.
  • Let’s look at an example of thinking differently using the roadway network. Using the earlier example, we now have a roadway that is over-capacity, and that cannot be widened because of physical, financial, or environmental realities. In the meantime, growth is still occurring and is actually being encouraged by local governments searching for new tax base. So how do we provide the infrastructure this growth needs, not to mention accommodate existing traffic?
  • The solution is to look beyond the conventional ways of solving a similar problem, such as expensive bypasses. These animations show the ability to incrementally add new network (compared with widening or building new interchanges or bypasses). We must look beyond the right-of-way to achieve this solution, as we need partnerships with landowners, developers, municipal leaders, and others. [ click through next 2 slides ]
  • Since land use helped create the transportation problem, land use should also be part of the transportation solution. You can see that our new network has allowed this community to accommodate new growth (and tax base!) but with a different pattern. Ideally, this more compact mixture of uses will reduce trip lengths and total number of trips, and would allow for pedestrian, bicycling, and transit to become viable alternatives. [ click for red arrows ]
  • Now this community is not reliant on a single state facility… there are route options and additional capacity was produced without widening a single road. But for this vision to be a reality, we have to learn to work beyond our jurisdictional boundaries and professional “silos”.
  • Smart Transportation also means focusing on transportation choice . Due to the multitude of factors discussed at the beginning of this presentation, transportation systems that are too imbalanced in favor of private automobiles are no longer sustainable.
  • However, just having transit in a community doesn’t really mean you’re providing “choice”. Making transit a real, viable option for all people (not just those with absolutely no other choice) requires coordination among a number of groups—the transit agencies, PennDOT, local governments, and private developers.
  • Finally, Smart Transportation also means that we must continue focusing on the most important aspect of our work: safety. However, all too often we have used “safety” as an excuse to build bigger, wider roads. We need to continue thinking about ways to make our transportation systems safer for all of our users.
  • The Smart Transportation Guidebook, which we produced in coordination with NJ DOT, was released in March 2008. This book provides the technical information needed to begin integrating Smart Transportation principles into our everyday business.
  • PennDOT is committed to working with our partners in ensuring that true integration between land use and transportation decisions occur.
  • Collaboration and listening…
  • Transit and mobility options for all of the people in our communities…
  • Taking care of our existing infrastructure…
  • Supporting sound land use principles, including preserving agriculture…
  • Providing people with the options of walking or biking in all of our communities…
  • … and creating a great communities in which out future generations can live, work, and play.
  • Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your questions.
  • Smart Transportation by PennDOT

    1. 2. Why is transportation changing? What is smart transportation? How do we do this? 1 All photographs and images from PennDOT, Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin, or public domain, unless otherwise noted. Content for Session 2 3
    2. 3. Why is transportation changing? 1
    3. 6. Photo Source: Used with permission from Orange County Regional History Center
    4. 7. Photo Source: Used with permission from Orange County Regional History Center
    5. 11. change is imperative funding limitations rising costs environmental concerns shifting market demands energy crisis land constraints economic development quality of life community building
    6. 12. Photographer: penywise. Used through license agreement with Revenue sources for financing transportation projects are severely limited .
    7. 13. Nearly 25% of Pennsylvania’s bridges are structurally deficient , compared with just 12% in the U.S. Pennsylvania ranks last in the nation in this statistic.
    8. 14. Even if we did have the money, we can no longer afford the conventional approach to tackling transportation/ land use issues.
    9. 15. Hot Mix Asphalt: + 88 % Image Source: Used by license agreement from Photographers (top to bottom): kevinrosseel, alvimann, ppdigital 2008 Numbers are from First Quarter of 2008 (PennDOT) From 2003 to 2008… Fabricated Structural Steel: + 156 % Concrete: + 53 %
    10. 16. Source: U.S. Department of Energy; Bureau of Labor Statistics Our families cannot afford it… 18% of an average household budget spent on transportation In automobile-dominated regions, this figure can exceed 30% - often more than a family spends on housing Jan 2003 June 2008 Increase Gasoline $1.41 $4.02 +185% Diesel $1.50 $4.72 +215%
    11. 17. Source: An Economic Plan for the Commonwealth, Brookings Institution, March 2008 A recent study of PA’s economy revealed that enhancing our infrastructure is one of four assets that matter for a strong, vibrant economic future Our economy cannot afford it…
    12. 18. Our environment cannot afford it… Photographer: rosevita. Used through license agreement with
    13. 19. Our quality of life cannot afford it…
    14. 20. Pennsylvania is not alone… every state is grappling with these issues.
    15. 21. <ul><li>Revenue Limitations </li></ul><ul><li>Increased Construction Costs </li></ul><ul><li>Increased Energy Costs </li></ul><ul><li>Economic Revitalization </li></ul><ul><li>Environmental Concerns </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of Life </li></ul>We Must Do Transportation Differently in Pennsylvania
    16. 23. Photographer: heyjude. Used through license agreement with What is Smart Transportation? 2
    17. 24. Smart Transportation is partnering to build great communities for future generations of Pennsylvanians by linking transportation investments and land use planning and decision-making.
    18. 25. More … Less… creativity cost
    19. 26. flexibility design constraints More … Less…
    20. 27. listening conflicts More … Less… Photographer: kevinrosseel. Used through license from
    21. 28. efficiency confusion More … Less…
    22. 29. choices limitations More … Less…
    23. 30. lasting solutions “do-overs” More … Less… Photographer: ladyheart. Used through license agreement with
    24. 31. community sprawl More … Less… Photo Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Visualizing Density program. Authorized for use in public presentations.
    25. 32. Photographer: ladyheart. Used through license agreement with How do we do this? 3
    26. 33. Fundamentally, smart transportation is about linking land use & transportation decisions/investments.
    27. 40. Now What? Now What?
    28. 41. 2,563 municipalities 3 rd most government entities in the U.S. Think Beyond Jurisdictional Boundaries.
    29. 42. Obviously, PennDOT cannot change transportation alone. We need to collaborate and coordinate with our community building partners.
    30. 43. <ul><li>Community Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>PennDOT Consultants </li></ul><ul><li>Transit Agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Aviation </li></ul><ul><li>Other State Agencies </li></ul><ul><li>RPOs and MPOs </li></ul><ul><li>Adjacent states </li></ul><ul><li>Municipal Associations </li></ul><ul><li>MPO/RPO Citizen Advisory Committees </li></ul><ul><li>State Transportation Commission </li></ul><ul><li>Transportation Advisory Committee </li></ul><ul><li>Contractors </li></ul><ul><li>Special Interest Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Community and Civic Associations </li></ul><ul><li>State Associations </li></ul><ul><li>Rural Communities </li></ul><ul><li>Suburban Communities </li></ul><ul><li>Urban Communities </li></ul><ul><li>PennDOT Engineers and employees </li></ul><ul><li>PennDOT Leadership & Policy Makers </li></ul><ul><li>FHWA/FTA/EPA </li></ul><ul><li>Professional Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>State Legislators </li></ul><ul><li>Local Governments </li></ul><ul><li>Local Planning Boards </li></ul><ul><li>Visitors </li></ul><ul><li>Economic Development Agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Healthcare Industry </li></ul><ul><li>NHSB </li></ul><ul><li>ADA Groups </li></ul><ul><li>Resource Agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Private Developers </li></ul>… .and many more
    31. 44. Image courtesy of: Steve Price, Urban Advantage. Historic Preservation Transit Agency Developers & Land Owners Local Municipality Public Works Business Owners/ Residents DOT Utilities Economic Development Parks & Rec
    32. 45. <ul><li>PennDOT’s Role </li></ul><ul><li>Manage statewide and regional mobility </li></ul><ul><li>Allocate and manage state/federal transportation funds </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain and improve transportation infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Local Government’s Role </li></ul><ul><li>Manage local mobility </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain local circulation system </li></ul><ul><li>Manage and control land use and development </li></ul>Differing Roles Require Partnering
    33. 46. <ul><li>PennDOT’s Actions </li></ul><ul><li>Show benefits of Smart Growth planning. </li></ul><ul><li>Work with municipalities to understand their land development decisions and limitations. </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the community’s planning and transportation goals, and identify project alternatives that respect these goals. </li></ul><ul><li>Develop outreach techniques and educational tools with local governments. </li></ul>Partnering Actions <ul><li>Local Government’s Actions </li></ul><ul><li>Improve local network connectivity. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Encourage mixed-use and transit-friendly developments. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider access management ordinance. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Promote alternative modes of transportation. </li></ul><ul><li>Plan regionally working with all levels of government. </li></ul><ul><li>Coordination of operational improvements. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintain efficient signal system. </li></ul></ul>
    34. 52. It’s About Choice
    35. 53. This does not count as a choice…
    36. 54. Smart Transportation means considering all of our safety options for all users of our system… not just building bigger roads for cars
    37. 56. PennDOT is committed to working with our partners in community building to continue creating the world’s most efficient and sustainable transportation system.
    38. 57. Smart Transportation means:
    39. 64. For more information, please visit: