Preliminary Identification of Potential Initiatives
This step addresses how to select, from the wide spectrum of initiatives described in the Guide, those that are most likely to be effective in solving a freight issue. Clearly, detailed planning and design exercises offer the best chance of identifying the most appropriate solutions to a freight issue. No guide can offer an estimation of the specific costs and benefits produced by a given initiative, or an assessment of the trade-offs inherent in the allocation of time required and the limited funding available. These factors are best reviewed through a formal DM process.
The Guide provides an initiative identification process, an approach designed to match needs-on-the-ground with a range of strategies, and a fuller picture of what those strategies can offer. The impacts of the various initiatives have been characterized in terms of the nature of the problem they are intended to mitigate or solve; the geographic and temporal scope of the impacts; and the target population(s).
Before considering which potential initiatives will best match their needs, transportation professionals will specify the following inputs:
- Nature of the Problem to Be Solved: Clearly identify the problem that needs solving and the rationale for a public-sector initiative. Examples include congestion, pollution, noise produced by causes other than congestion, and conflicts between truck activity and other users.
- Geographic Scope of the Problem: Identify the area(s) where the problem occurs in order to define the scope of the necessary public-sector initiative. Examples include citywide, area, corridor, or a point in the city.
- Primary Source of the Problem: Confirm whether the problem is produced by freight activity, then determine which segment of the industry is responsible. Examples include all or through-traffic, large traffic generators (LTGs), urban deliveries, large trucks, or specific industry segments.
- Duration of the Problem: Define the time/duration of the problem. Examples include a peak hour, a peak period lasting several hours, daytime, nighttime, or an entire 24-hour period.
Once these inputs have been defined (most come from the outputs generated by the tasks described so far in this section), the initiative summary tables presented in Section 2 in this Guide can be used to help identify possible alternatives. Then public-sector decision makers, stakeholders, and transportation agencies can conduct detailed assessments of each initiative’s pros and cons, with data relevant to their situation, to identify the most appropriate course of action.
As part of NCFRP Project 38, the research team created an Initiative Selector decision-support system as a tool to aid in the selection of possible alternatives for various metropolitan freight problems. The Initiative Selector is an HTML webpage that, for a given set of inputs, provides practitioners with suggestions about possible initiatives that could be implemented to fix a given problem. The Initiative Selector is by no means a replacement for engineering and planning; rather, it offers possible solutions that might be considered for various situations. The Initiative Selector can be found at http://coe-sufs.org/wordpress/ncfrp38/initiative_selector An expanded description is provided in the Appendix.
Tasks involved in identifying potential initiatives are:
- Stakeholder outreach and agency coordination
- Agency staff work with all stakeholders to confirm that all alternative solutions have been identified. If an alternative advocated by a stakeholder is not considered, even if that alternative does not prove entirely realistic or feasible, the selected approach may not garner the stakeholder’s commitment.
- Data collection
- Agency staff become familiar with the general features of the potential initiatives: advantages and disadvantages, political issues and constraints, applicability to local conditions, and so forth. Given that all of these elements will need to be considered at some point, it makes sense to start gathering information on each element early in the DM process.
- The Appendix provides an initial list of data collection needs and assessment tasks that may be associated with the potential initiatives recommended in this Guide. The list is organized based on the major groups identified in the Guide.
- Assessment and analyses
- Agency staff and stakeholders analyze the data collected to determine which initiatives are worthy of further consideration in the formulation phase. It is important to consider the widest range of potential initiatives during the formulation phase; only alternatives with virtually no chance of implementation should be eliminated from further analyses.
- The initiatives suggested are analyzed to ensure that, as a whole, they support each other rather than conflict with each other or with any other needed transportation project. For example, redesigning an intersection to facilitate truck traffic could make a bicycle path impossible if the intersection is not designed with the bicycle path in mind. An intersection redesign that makes sense by itself may be counterproductive from a corridor point of view if it creates problems at other intersections downstream. With a broader analysis, comprehensive corridor-level solutions may make more sense than a single intersection redesign.
- Transportation decision makers also need to be mindful of the long timeframes involved in many public-sector interventions, versus the shorter private-sector DM process that is driven by quarterly results. Because of this paradox, public-sector planners often must consider implementing short-term solutions while the correct long-term solution is being developed (e.g., relocation of some constraints like utility poles).
- Generation of outputs
- Outputs from this task are a preliminary list of potential initiatives to address the freight issues to be solved or mitigated, along with descriptions of the initiatives under consideration, a qualitative assessment of their advantages and disadvantages, and an identification of the potential synergies to take advantage of, and/or conflicts to be avoided.