Evaluation to inform best practices for active transportation planning

PDA conducted a content analysis of transportation planning documents to support the implementation of active transportation components in local and regional planning processes.

Background

PDA evaluates Ohio’s State Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) program, a cooperative agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health, which implements evidence-based strategies at state and local levels to improve nutrition and physical activity. One of these strategies is supporting the adoption and implementation of Active Transportation (AT) components into local and regional planning processes. Active Transportation refers to walking and biking to reach destinations (as opposed to recreation).

Every five years, metropolitan planning organizations are required by federal law to develop a long-range transportation plan, which assesses the current transportation system and develops priorities for improvements over the next 20 years. In addition, some organizations in Ohio have undertaken a separate planning process focused on AT and documented the results in a standalone AT plan.

ODH wanted to develop a best practices guide to help planning organizations conduct more robust AT planning and integrate that planning into their long-range transportation plans. In order to do that, ODH wanted to understand the current status of AT planning in the state, areas of strength and weakness, and which types of organizations need the most support.

Approach

PDA conducted a content analysis of long-range transportation plans, transportation improvement programs, standalone AT plans, and Complete Streets policies from all 23 metropolitan and regional planning organizations in Ohio, totaling thousands of pages of documents. PDA developed a conceptual framework in collaboration with ODH and the Ohio Department of Transportation to guide the analysis. PDA coded text in the plans that was related to AT and thematically analyzed the results.

Results

We produced a report summarizing the results of the analysis, using data visualization techniques to make the findings more digestible. Maps were a critical component of the data visualization strategy because ODH planned to share the results with planning organizations and use the results to develop a targeted technical assistance strategy.

The results led us to make the following recommendations to ODH:

  • Develop a best practices guide to long-range AT planning, with a focus on helping planning organizations build on their existing efforts. Planning organizations in Ohio vary widely in how comprehensively they conduct AT planning as part of their long-range transportation planning processes, but all included AT in some way in their plans. A best practices guide would provide planning organizations with advice and examples on how to build upon their AT planning work, regardless of where they are starting.
  • Focus technical assistance efforts on planning organizations that do not have a standalone AT plan. These types of planning organizations had noticeably less developed AT planning efforts and less inclusion of AT content in their long-range transportation plans.
  • Facilitate peer-to-peer learning and networking among planning organizations. There were good examples of long-range transportation plans including AT content from all types of organizations (metropolitan, rural, with/without a standalone AT plan). Planning organizations seeking to expand their AT planning work may benefit from interacting with other organizations in their peer group that have more fully integrated AT into their long-range transportation planning processes.

ODH will use these results to inform their technical assistance plan and develop a best practices guide for AT planning in Ohio.

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Our Team

Our dedicated and talented team is united by our common desire to improve communities.

Belle Federman

Belle Federman

Principal Researcher

Amy Kerr

Amy Kerr

Director of Evaluation

Ashley White

Ashley White

Senior Evaluator II

Abby Laib

Abby Laib

Senior Evaluator II