Transportation Planning for the Future
With such a flexible transportation system and such rapidly growing freight, it was clear to SARPC a better understanding of freight destined for, originating in, internal to, and transiting through Mobile by mode was essential. Some middle sized MPO’s have attempted a “systems approach” to transportation planning but have found few tools available for “system” implementation. SARPC recognized the need to create a forward looking approach to freight trip generation. SARPC partnered with the University of Alabama Huntsville to develop a forward looking industry sector analysis planning methodology as opposed to backward looking trend line forecast modeling.
The foundation of the approach is in the use of industry sector analysis to better understand an industry’s need for transportation infrastructure access. Extensive and ongoing local surveys of freight users provide a clearer understanding of the activities of various industry sectors and the factors affecting freight generation and attraction. The surveys, besides determining present freight levels within individual sectors, also ask where the individual business was five years ago in terms of freight volume and where they expect to be five years in the future. Follow up surveys allow for trend adjustments. Local Freight Zones are identified and data developed is validated to disaggregated regional, state, and federal data bases.
The ability to better predict freight growth and see changes in freight movement more clearly and rapidly is the heart of our new efforts. The ability to run discrete event simulations allows for evaluation of the impact of changing freight patterns to more accurately plan for future infrastructure needs. Further, the simulations can determine the impact of improvements to short term and long term objectives.
This freight model has the ability to validate to actual truck counts and forecast all modes of freight; truck, rail, water, and air. The truck mode output matrix is directly input into the MPO’s Travel Demand Forecasting Model to develop the overall Transportation Long Range Plan.
Big changes in our business and industrial communities call for bold, innovative initiatives to enhance our abilities as transportation infrastructure planners to support such change. At SARPC, we are embracing our future with new methodologies we feel may have effective applications in other mid size metropolitan areas across the country.