Resources: Tools for Multimodal Transportation Planning

Access Management and Corridor Studies

Access management is a planning tool used to protect the operating capabilities of the existing road network by providing improved safety and capacity of access points.

The Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Access Management Manual defines access management as:

"...the systematic control of the location, spacing, design, and operation of driveways, median openings, interchanges, and street connections to a roadway. It also involves roadway design applications, such as median treatments and auxiliary lanes, and the appropriate spacing of traffic signals. The purpose of access management is to provide vehicular access to land development in a manner that preserves the safety and efficiency of the transportation system."

For more information relative to Access management, please refer to the Access Management planning tool found in Chapter 5 - Resources.

Severe limits on the availability of conventional highway funds from public sources and a growing consciousness of environmental concerns have dramatically changed perspectives and opportunities for major capacity improvements to the highway network. The inability to provide new highway capacity for most arterial roads leads to an alternative planning approach--one that focuses on finding low cost solutions to preserve and improve operating and safety capabilities. This approach is generally referred to as access management.

Separate enabling legislation gives municipalities powers on land use matters and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation powers on access matters on state highways. Because of this separation of jurisdictional powers, it becomes necessary to coordinate land use and traffic. Access management studies provide a vehicle for inter-jurisdictional and inter-municipal coordination along highway corridors.

For more information regarding access management, please refer to the PennDOT publication #574: Access Management:Model Ordinances for Pennsylvania Municipalities Handbook.

Bicycle/Pedestrian Mobility Plans

A Bicycle/Pedestrian Mobility Plan is a specific study that focuses on the bicycle and pedestrian facilities within a community. Both facility types are inventoried, including sidewalks, walkways, multi-use trails, use-restricted trails, crosswalks, and overall ADA accessibility. From this inventory, gaps are identified and then prioritized for implementation. Findings from these studies may result in recommendations for amending the comprehensive plan and/or adding recommended improvements to an official map.

Circulation Element of a Comprehensive Plan

The comprehensive plan helps a community prepare itself for future changes by documenting actions that need to be taken to guide the community based on the established goals. One of the critical components of a comprehensive plan is the circulation element which contains an outline of current transportation related conditions and recommendations necessary to address current and anticipated problems.

An inventory of existing conditions enables a municipality to determine future transportation needs based on current trends, and the goals and objectives established by the plan. The following is a listing of what should be considered in the circulation element of a comprehensive plan:

Greenways / Open Space & Recreation / Trails Plan

These plans are typically geared towards the recreation elements within a community and may or may not include trails as part of the discussion. Since trails serve recreation and transportation needs, these plans can identify additional facilities that will provide for a complete multimodal transportation system.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Recreation and Conservation provides matching funds to local municipalities towards the development of these plans through their annually funded Community Conservation Partnerships (C2P2) Program. The DCNR webpage provides links to their standard scope of work / contents for each study type.

The recommended trail alignments and/or networks resulting from these plans should be considered as additional transportation elements to a comprehensive plan or added to an official map.

Municipal or Area Wide Transportation Studies

The purpose of a municipal or area-wide traffic study is to evaluate the existing highway network to determine the impacts of different land development scenarios and to identify improvements which will be needed to accommodate future traffic demand. The study may focus on a particular area or may include an entire municipality or a combination of municipalities.

Studies conducted in Chester County have been unique to each municipality. The study structure tends to be centered on individual needs or perceived problems of the community. Examples of problems include increased congestion, perceived safety hazards or inadequate parking.

The product of a traffic study should be an inventory of improvements intended to relieve existing and future inadequacies. The study should develop short and long term traffic improvement programs, estimated project costs, and recommendations for implementation. The recommendations should be incorporated into the comprehensive plan of the municipality.

Municipal or area-wide traffic studies contain items similar to the circulation element of a comprehensive plan, but provide more detailed inventories and analyses:

Official Map

The Official Map is an important mechanism which can be used to turn goals of a comprehensive plan into reality. An "Official Map" is not a zoning map, a street map or a map from the comprehensive plan. It is a separate map which identifies public interest and need for the purpose of reserving lands for public use. An official map can be used as a tool to implement the transportation network and other community facilities.

The official map can be used to delineate the following:

An official map need not be a fully engineered map. A municipality may use property records, aerial photography, or other methods sufficient for identification, description and publication of the map components. A municipality does not need to survey the designated lands until the property is to be acquired. For more information refer to Article IV of the Municipalities Planning Code.

Traffic Impact Studies

The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) states that the purpose of a traffic impact study is to evaluate proposed developments and assist in making land use decisions related to traffic. Decisions involve which on- and off-site improvements need to be made to accommodate traffic created by new development.

An impact study is an integral tool to provide an effective, municipal circulation system. According to ITE, if the study is conducted properly it should provide answers to the following questions:

There are ten basic components that should be included in a traffic impact study:

  1. Description of Development Proposal
  2. Description of Existing Roadways
  3. Traffic Volumes (Present and Future)
  4. Accident Analysis
  5. Capacity Analysis (Present and Future)
  6. Trip Generation
  7. Background Traffic
  8. Trip Distribution
  9. Trip Assignment
  10. Signal Warrant Analysis

The CCPC recommends the following thresholds for determining the need for a traffic impact study for any development which intends to access an arterial or collector road:

  1. The proposed development consists of more than:
    • 45 dwelling units (single family detached),
    • 80 dwelling units (all other residential uses),
    • 10,000 square feet gross leasable area of commercial uses,
    • 2,000 square feet gross leasable area of a restaurant or convenience store,
    • 17,000 square feet of office uses,
    • 50,000 square feet of industrial uses, or
    • 30,000 square feet of institutional uses.
  2. Any combination of uses which will generate more than 1,500 vehicle trips per day. (PennDOT classifies a high volume driveway as having more than 1,500 vehicles per day.)
  3. The proposed development is located near roadways, or intersections which are already heavily congested, or are operating at or below a level of service "D". This step requires a review of existing documentation such as the comprehensive plan or an area wide traffic plan. In some cases, new analyses consisting of traffic counts and level of service may be necessary.
  4. The proposed development will impact roadways which have been identified as having inadequate or unsafe circulation or stopping distances.
  5. The proposed access is within close proximity (less than 200 feet) to an existing or proposed medium or high volume (over 750 average daily traffic) driveway or intersection.
  6. Traffic from the development would be significant enough to change the designated functional classification of adjacent roads.

A traffic impact study should be required for any development which intends to access a local road when any of the following conditions are met:

  1. The proposed development consists of:
    • Any non-residential or non-agricultural uses,
    • More than 45 dwelling units (single family detached) with only one access point,
    • More than 80 dwelling units (all other residential units) with only one access point, or
    • Any residential use generating more than 100 total peak hour trips.
  2. Traffic from the development would be significant enough to change the designated functional classification of adjacent roads.

The traffic impact study should be provided when the preliminary plan is submitted for municipal review. If there are significant revisions to the preliminary plan, the impact study should be revised and resubmitted with the final plan.

If a state road is to be accessed, the impact study should be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as part of the highway occupancy review process. For more information, please refer to: PennDOT's Policies and Procedures for Transportation Impact Studies Related to Highway Occupancy Permits.

It may be necessary in some cases for the applicant to conduct the initial analysis of existing traffic counts and level of service to determine if a full traffic impact study is required.

Traffic Impact Fee Studies

Traffic impact fees are charges that can be made to developers by municipalities to provide the portion of the costs used to make capital improvements to the transportation system made necessary from development. Pennsylvania's Traffic Impact Fee Law, Act 209 of 1990, defines an impact fee as "a charge or fee imposed by a municipality against new development to generate revenue for funding the costs of transportation capital improvements necessitated by and attributable to new development."

The law requires that there must be a demonstrated linkage between the development and the need for transportation improvements. This linkage is known as a "rational nexus" relationship.

Act 209 requires the following documents be completed before an impact fee ordinance is adopted:

The roadway sufficiency analysis and capital improvements plan must be prepared by a transportation planner or engineer. Both must be specific to the transportation service area and used as a base in the preparation of the Traffic Impact Fee Ordinance.

A traffic impact fee advisory committee is required to assist the municipality in the planning stages of the ordinance. Act 209 requires that at least 40 percent of the members must be residents involved in real estate, commercial or residential development, the building industry or who conduct the aforementioned businesses within the community.

Funds raised through impact fees can only be used for costs incurred for improvements designated in the transportation capital improvements plan and may not be used for the following:

For more information, please refer to PennDOT's Transportation Impact Fees: A Handbook for Pennsylvania's Municipalities guidance document.

Pennsylvania Transportation Partnership Act (Act 47)

The Transportation Partnership Act (Act 47 of 1985 as amended) was created to enable partnerships to be formed between the public and private sectors to assist the financing of necessary road improvements. The act establishes guidelines for private sector participation for the benefit of both the public and private sectors. The legislation became law in 1985 and was later amended in 1986.

Act 47 resulted from limited public funds and increasing traffic problems. Alternative funding methods had to be explored to accelerate transportation improvements in growing areas. This act provides municipalities with the ability to join together in forming Transportation Development Districts.

The creation of a transportation district must be based on a planning study which contains these items:

The principal value behind the Partnership Act is that it enables municipalities and municipal authorities to use any of the following funding mechanisms from both public and private sources:

When an assessment is made on a property owner, the assessment must be "fair and reasonable" and there shall be no exception given to any affected property.

The proceeds collected are to be used only for new or improved transportation facilities and services and should not exceed the total costs identified in the district's multi-year transportation program.

This legislation enables municipalities to combine Act 47 with the following statutes to make the district more effective: Business Improvement Act; Municipal Authorities Act; and other financial legislation.

If property owners who represent more than 50 percent of the assessed valuation within the proposed district formally object, the district cannot be created.

A plan of the district must be submitted to the county and the designated metropolitan planning organization. This enables the plan to be reviewed and incorporated in the county-wide and regional Transportation Improvement Program. The improvements can then be included in the state's Twelve Year Program.

The Transportation Partnership Act may not work in every situation. It is evident from previous partnerships that a district works best when formed in a concentrated business corridor. The Route 29 corridor in East Whiteland and Tredyffrin Townships is a good example.

Partnerships created under the provisions of Act 47 can be more effective and in some cases more flexible when used in conjunction with other statutes as described above.

Because of certain provisions of Act 47 related to public input, it is essential that public and private sector interests be included in every aspect of the formation of a partnership district.

Public Private Transportation Partnerships (Act 88)

The following is PennDOT's Fact Sheet regarding Public Private Partnerships (P3):

Act 88 of 2012 authorizes public private transportation projects in Pennsylvania. This tool will allow PennDOT and other transportation authorities and commissions in the state to enter into agreements with the private sector to participate in the delivery, maintenance and financing of transportation-related projects.

What is a P3 Project?

A P3 project is a contractual agreement between a public entity and private entity that:

The two basic P3 project types are:

Public Private Transportation Partnership Board:

For more information, please refer to the PennDOT P3 webpage.

Zoning Ordinance

The establishment of zoning regulations has a direct relationship to the transportation network of a community, because it is the distribution and density of land uses which generates the travel demands on the transportation system. By carefully considering the transportation impacts of zoning districts, a community can actually impact future traffic patterns. Municipalities can improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and save the costs associated with new road construction by adjusting their current zoning, if necessary.

Typically, there are several elements of a zoning ordinance that can assist in integrating circulation and land use. They are:

  1. Zoning districts
    • Permitted uses; and,
    • District location based on highway functional classification.
  2. Bulk and area requirements
    • Lot area;
    • Setbacks;
    • Bulk; and,
    • Coverage.
  3. Environmental considerations
    • Landscaping;
    • Screening;
    • Buffering; and,
    • Open space.
  4. Parking
    • Off-street parking;
    • Number of parking spaces;
    • Shared parking;
    • Bicycle parking;
    • ADA accessible parking;
    • Ingress/egress to parking facilities; and,
    • Landscaping of parking facilities.

These elements have an impact on the circulation network of a community in a variety of fashions including:

Different zoning techniques allow municipalities to develop strict performance standards. Innovations for linking transportation to land use include the use of bonus or incentive zoning, whereby density bonuses may be granted if a developer provides improvements such as constructing a transit center, operating an employee shuttle service, or locating adjacent to a regional rail station. An overlay zone or a special district may be created at an intersection, interchange or around a rail station, to allow more intense and efficient use of land, a unique mix of uses, or to require the provision of certain amenities. Planned Residential Development (PRD) zoning is used to encourage coordinated, mixed-use development of larger tracts of land while permitting more creativity and flexibility.

One of the most essential techniques used to integrate circulation and land use includes the locating of zoning districts according to the highway functional classification. Zoning districts and permitted uses must be compatible with the intended function of individual roads. For example, a zoning district which would allow a regional retail facility should be located near an interchange of a limited access highway or along an arterial road. This would focus the traffic on the higher classification of roads rather than on collectors and local roads. This technique emphasizes the need to have an updated, accurate functional classification.

Using Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) or variations of TDR allows a developer to purchase the development rights from a landowner whose property lies within an area of a municipality where development is severely restricted. The development rights may be transferred into another area within the same municipality or from one municipality to another if the two municipalities have a joint municipal zoning ordinance. This allows development to occur in areas where it is more appropriate. The use of TDRs also discourages development in areas without appropriate infrastructure.

Another "hybrid" form of TDR can be used to acquire land as a road right-of-way. A developer or landowner can dedicate land for right-of-way and still develop the parcel at the same density, square footage or bulk as though the land for right-of-way was never subtracted from the original lot area of the parcel.

Performance zoning can have transportation applications. For example, in certain zones a higher density of development could be permitted if a project reduces its traffic volume through such items as a shuttle bus, ridesharing or increased pedestrian circulation. The emphasis on pedestrian circulation can be achieved through village type zoning. Performance zoning can be used to create an overlay district that might provide incentives for establishing public transit facilities or dedicating additional right-of-way width.

One method of trying to encourage alternative modes of travel is by limiting the amount of parking at new development. If a proposed development is located near public transit facilities or can be integrated into a pedestrian or bicycle network, then municipalities should consider ordinance requirements to limit the amount of parking. A plentiful supply of free parking only encourages more automobile travel.

Caution needs to be used with this technique. Some land uses require considerable parking regardless of the availability of other modes of travel. An inadequate supply of parking can have economic impacts on a business community and can lead to overflow parking into adjacent parcels or streets.

Setbacks are a transportation related function of zoning. They should be determined according to the functional classification of the road regardless of municipal boundaries and zoning districts. This allows a road to function properly by providing a uniform distance between all structures and the road. Uniform sight distances can lead to a larger safety zone which may lower the accident rate. Regional zoning or, at a minimum, regional cooperation can address such issues as uniform setbacks along specific transportation corridors.

Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance

By preparing and adopting site design standards within a subdivision ordinance, a municipality can provide specific guidance for the layout and construction of new developments. Municipalities should update their ordinances to reflect new techniques dealing with access management and safety issues.

There are several elements of a subdivision and land development ordinance that can help integrate multimodal circulation and land use. These elements are:

An effective technique in integrating circulation and land use is the blending of highway functional classification into the land development and subdivision ordinance. Specific design standards are applied to roads to accommodate varying functions. Coordination of the standards at the state, county and municipal levels assures consistency in the design and function of roads.

Municipalities should change the requirements for measuring streets from cartway width to lane width. Using one value for all cartways does not allow for flexibility in street design. Cartway widths should be more flexible and site specific according to lot sizes, the desire or need for on-street parking, the functional classification of the road and the overall design of the subdivision.

Municipalities should consider requiring an ultimate right -of-way along major transportation corridors such as arterial and collector roads. Ultimate rights-of-way serve two functions. Land is preserved for eventual acquisition and widening of the road. If building setbacks are applied from the ultimate right -of-way, they have the added function of protecting adjacent land uses by providing a buffer between structures and the widened road. See the RIGHT-OF-WAY design element in Chapter 3 for more information.

Subdivision ordinances should allow flexibility in the area of building placement. Standards should be flexible enough to allow structures within a development to directly relate to the various transportation networks that serve that site including pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular and transit networks. For example, buildings in an office complex located along a public transit corridor should have minimum setbacks to encourage pedestrian links to the transit route. Greater use of transit can reduce the overall parking demand.

Pedestrian circulation standards should be established in the ordinance for sidewalks, pathways, bikeways, and transit facilities such as bus stops or shelters. Sidewalk standards should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specific design standards should be provided along with recommendations on how to interconnect different land uses. For example, sidewalks should be provided to schools and high pedestrian traffic generators.

Municipalities may find it difficult to require a walking or bicycle path that interconnects with other properties when no complete pathway system exists. An official map can be used to designate a particular non-vehicular circulation system and require developers and land owners to interconnect. This same system can be used to identify specific roads and adjacent parcels of land that should be required to provide accommodations for transit vehicles.

Intersections need to be addressed in subdivision ordinances. Every intersection contains several potential vehicular conflicts. The conflicts can be alleviated by providing adequate sight distances. Ordinances should provide specific criteria for intersection sight distance and clear sight triangle. Both are illustrated in the Chapter 3 INTERSECTIONS design element.

A uniform sign program should be maintained not only at major intersections but at intersections within subdivisions. Uniformity is useful for simple location purposes but more importantly for emergency 911 services.

Ordinances need to provide standards which are consistent with the provisions of PennDOT's Liquid Fuels program. If a road is constructed to specifications that are not consistent with PennDOT standards, the municipality will not receive Liquid Fuels funds to maintain that road.