The National Academies

NCHRP 08-128 [Pending]

Snapshots of Planning Practices

  Project Data
Funds: $200,000
Contract Time: 18 months
Staff Responsibility: Jennifer L. Weeks



Transportation planning agencies and officials from state departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) face a rapidly evolving technical, policy, legislative, and procedural environment. Agency professionals often seek the guidance of peers and experts for help to effectively address these challenges. Examples of challenges transportation planners currently face include managing the proliferation of new “disruptive” transportation technologies and services within the confinements of existing streets and implementing complex transportation planning requirements in federal and state laws and regulations. More recently the COVID-19 pandemic created unforeseen changes in travel trends caused in part by the effects of widespread telecommuting and e-commerce.  


NCHRP Project 08-36, Task 120, “Snapshots of Planning Practices” produced a set of 12 Planning Snapshots, concise documents presenting examples of planning practice around a range of topics, created for easy recognition and practical use by the transportation planning community. The snapshots include guidance on innovative and effective practical methods to address current planning challenges driven by changes in technology, legislative policy, political and institutional forces, and behavioral and other trends. They were generated using survey research conducted to quickly gather information about various current planning practices and innovations and documented in a user-friendly format to make that information conveniently available to the transportation planning community.




The objective of this research is to produce four new snapshots of planning practices. Snapshots provide brief instruction on the application of practices of proven value addressing issues of common concern to the state DOT planning community. Snapshots should use compelling data, case examples, survey data and/or other information to demonstrate their value and draw planners to use the guidance within them.


Completed snapshots from NCHRP 08-36, Task 120 research program are available for viewing at:



The proposal may articulate a different vision or concept for the snapshots, aligned with the level of detail and scope of the topics identified within this RFP.


The following research topics to be developed into snapshots are described below.  


1. Complete Streets. Identify and demonstrate the policies, methods, tools, and processes used by state DOTs and MPOs to accommodate different modal uses of the roadway and road rights-of-way.


Among the topics to be addressed within this snapshot are:

  • The role of Complete Streets serving to coordinate evolving land uses with travel demand;
  • The procedural and technical transitions required to adopt and make a street “complete” from policy level to the design and operations of a Complete Street;
  • Conflict resolution among different users and uses of street rights-of-way;
  • Right-sizing roadways by repurposing underutilized capacity;
  • Adapting road classifications to various land use contexts;
  • The availability and eligibility of federal and state funding for application of a Complete Street concept;
  • Equity of distribution, use, and access to Complete Streets with a focus on low-income and minority communities and populations.

2. Data Sharing for Performance Management. Identify strategies, methods, processes, and procedures for identifying and adopting specific planning performance metrics. With the emergence of new and more extensive datasets, the ability to integrate datasets (e.g., traffic management data, origin-destination data, project data, weather and condition data, etc.) and develop new analyses and performance metrics is expanding. States are developing innovative ways to combine data and performance metrics for enhanced planning and operational analyses as well as performance reporting.


Among the topics to be addressed within this snapshot are:

  • Uses and management of open source (versus proprietary) data, including management of privacy and other issues;
  • Methods of data sharing among different agencies, including using operational data to inform planning;
  • Data governance, sharing policies and sample agreements, where available;
  • Data management, applications, and analyses;
  • Performance reporting methods; and
  • Integration of performance data and measures in various planning analyses and documents.  

3. Agency Collaboration on Freight Delivery in Local Communities. The freight economy has been rapidly growing and evolving, most recently during the COVID 19 pandemic. Truck traffic (long- and short-haul) contributes to congestion on major corridors while the growth of e-commerce continues to alter travel patterns. The effects of changing consumer trips to retailers and deliveries to residential areas should be examined, as should the growth in numbers and placement of distribution centers. This snapshot should identify successful collaborations between state DOTs, MPOs, local governments, and the private sector freight providers to address the growing demands of goods movement on transportation networks.


Among the topics to be addressed within this snapshot are:

  • Agency collaborations on local freight issues;
  • Communication and engagement methods for involving stakeholders in freight issues, including the public, agencies and local officials, and public and private providers of transportation infrastructure and services;
  • The types of data collected and assessed to understand trip generation and demand for freight collection and distribution;
  • Location and design of freight infrastructure and facilities, including but not limited to distribution centers, truck routing, circulation, and parking; and
  • Efforts to analyze and address environmental justice and equity.

4. Programmatic Economic Measures to Evaluate and Prioritize Transportation Projects and Investments. The economic value of transportation investments, systems, and services is an important benefit of transportation that is not easily measured and assessed by industry officials, nor well understood by members of the general public and their elected officials. Given the important economic contribution that transportation provides, state DOTs and MPOs seek to integrate economic analysis and performance measurement into their decision-making processes and reporting at a programmatic level. 


This snapshot should highlight successful examples of practices in use by state DOTs, MPOs, and local transportation agencies to assess and evaluate the economic value of transportation investments to inform decision-making for the selection and advancement of transportation investment decisions. Among the issues to be addressed within this snapshot are:

  • Methods, tools, and techniques used by state DOTs and MPOs to evaluate the economic impacts of programs of transportation investments;
  • The use of economic analysis in the transportation planning process, including but not limited to the development of long-range plans and metropolitan and statewide transportation improvement programs;
  • Methods to compare and contrast the economic benefits of operational as opposed to capital investments in a given system or facility;
  • Examples of using economic measures, tools and techniques that demonstrate long-term economic value to inform decisions regarding investments in state-of-good-repair, place making, and similar investments or policies; and
  • Incorporation of equity in systematic and long-term economic analyses.  



The research plan should (1) include a kick-off virtual conference to review the amplified work plan with the NCHRP project panel, convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) address specifically how the proposer intends to satisfy the project objectives; and (3) specify interim steps and deliverables for distribution and discussion with the panel at defined process milestones.


Expenses for travel and materials will be the responsibility of the research team and must be included in the proposed budget for this project.


Phase I – Content Generation


The following tasks are to be implemented for each snapshot. The research team may propose to combine or supplement these tasks as determined appropriate to successfully achieve the objectives of this research within the limits of the contract budget and schedule.


Task 1. Conduct a review of available literature, including completed NCHRP and related research that addresses each of the four topics.


Task 2. Conduct a state of practice assessment within the transportation planning community to identify the core needs for each snapshot topic. The process may include surveys, workshops, and/or interviews designed to ensure an adequate response on which to base conclusions. The proposal should specify techniques the research team wishes to employ to identify appropriate agencies for in-depth analysis and inclusion as potential case examples in the planning snapshots.


Task 3. Develop a Planning Snapshot prototype. The snapshots should have a common set of categories of information contained within each, regardless of the topic. A common prototype can be used for all four snapshots with the expectation that there will be differences in content and presentation among them. Examples of common information to be included in each may include a topic description, context for applications such as where in the planning process an issue may need to be addressed, tools and resources, or agency case examples. Each snapshot should clearly acknowledge the sources of data and any limitations in that data.


Task 4. Develop Phase II Work Plan. The research team will develop a work plan for Phase II that builds on the data collected in Phase I and results in the distillation and presentation of content into Planning Snapshots.


Task 5. Draft the Interim Report. The research team shall submit an interim report to NCHRP and the panel documenting the results of Tasks 1-4 for the set of snapshots with appropriate graphics, a common outline for the snapshots, and a sample snapshot prototype.



Phase II – Product Development


Work in Phase II will focus on development of the four Planning Snapshots. Snapshots may take any form that ensures a concise and user-friendly format. This may include fact sheets, brochures, brief videos, or any other easily consumed media. The snapshots should be timely in terms of addressing new challenges with new methods within a topic, but should also be of lasting value to the planning community. Graphics and visuals should be used liberally to communicate complex information such as using maps to demonstrate use of a specific tool or method across the United States. The snapshots developed through this research should be presented with a consistent and easily recognized layout.


The target audience of the Planning Snapshots are planning practitioners, but the Planning Snapshots also should be of value to transportation agency managers. Snapshots should be relevant to transportation agencies regardless of in-house technical expertise and experience addressing a given topic area. They should address a range of planning contexts, including statewide, metropolitan, urban, suburban, and rural planning environments. Best practices with proven outcomes should be exemplified to give planners confidence in using the information provided in the snapshots.


At a minimum it is expected that Phase II will include specific tasks and/or activities to:

  • Execute the process set forth in Phase I;
  • Analyze results and summarize data collected into snapshots;
  • Publish and package the snapshots for broad dissemination and use;
  • Develop an implementation plan of activities designed to encourage deployment of the research contained of the final product or products of this research project (see Special Note C); and
  • Develop a contractor’s conduct of research report detailing the full research process.



STATUS: Contract work is ongoing with the selected contractor.  Anticipate initiating work in early 2023.

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