Effective Long Range Transportation Planning

By Matt Riddell

Whenever one of my Tribal clients asks me what they can do to improve their Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), I always respond with the same question, “Do you have an LRTP that you actually use, or do you just have one for the file.” Unfortunately, the response is often “one for the file.” While Tribes usually update their LRTP every five years, in the past it has usually been done to merely satisfy Tribal Transportation Program (TTP) requirements. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one that actually drives (pun intended) transportation spending decisions and one that was always current? The effects of the “file” plan can be costly. Not only are Tribal dollars expended every five years to update the LRTP, often transportation dollars are not as effectively utilized due to lack of adequate long-term planning.

Recently, I have been incorporating a more innovative approach towards assisting my Tribal clients with their LRTPs. This approach revolves around developing an LRTP that is used for all transportation spending decisions and is always kept current, therefore there will be no future need for updating. Below provides a brief explanation of the process we use:

Basic LRTP Scoping Items 

  • Establish the Tribe’s overall 20-year goals
  • Evaluation of current transportation system
  • Definition of the transportation needs – where are the gaps?
  • Outlining the transportation priorities
  • Develop a funding plan to meet the goals
  • Put together a strategic plan (LRTP)

LRTP Team 

The group of people who assist in development of the LRTP make up the project team. When I work with Tribes, this is typically led by the head of their transportation department while I serve as a facilitator and technical advisor. The core decisions, however are made by other Tribal representatives. Experience has shown this to be vital to obtaining “buy-in” from Tribal leaders, thus leading to a plan that will have active support in being followed. These other Tribal representatives typically come from a multitude of Tribal areas including (but not limited to) Elected Tribal leadership, Tribal department heads, Tribal boards and the general public.

Making it Effective

If an LRTP is to be implemented over a 20-year period and maintain Tribal support throughout the time period, the document must be effective. Based on experience, I’ve identified five core elements to an effective LRTP.

  1. Input, input and input! As noted above, gathering as much input as possible will insure your LRTP will stand the test of time.

  2. Flexibility. Over the course of a 20-year period, tribal priorities and direction will change. You want a document that can easily be modified (systematically) to reflect these changes.
  3. Implementation Steps. No plan will actually be used unless specific steps are outlined regarding the procedures for transportation decisions.
  4. Current and relevant data. Utilizing current data is a given, but finding the data that is relevant represents the key. An enormous amount of transportation data exists and the project team will be charged to find the most relevant data to provide valuable input.
  5. Workshops. No one likes to just sit in a meeting. . .in fact most people cringe at the thought. Utilizing workshop formats increases participation levels and keeps the attention of those involved.

Workshop Ideas 

As mentioned above, workshops represent an excellent format towards getting participation from all who need to be involved. The following include the workshops we typically utilize and what questions are posed to the group:

Policy Goals and Objectives Workshop 

  • What transportation modes should be considered?
  • What type of investment options should be contemplated?
  • Who will be making the policy decisions?
  • Which projects should involve local agencies?
  • How should you define procedures for revising the policies? Progress vs. Outcome?

Existing Transportation System Workshop 

  • What are the geographic limits of the Tribe’s service area?
  • Does the current TTP system have adverse social or environmental impacts?
  • How can you enhance the socioeconomic well-being of the Tribal members?
  • Other than the Tribe’s TTP inventory, what other data should be used?

Transportation Needs Workshop 

  • What are the gaps and problems in the existing transportation network?
  • What are some alternative methods of correcting the deficiencies?
  • How can costs be allocated towards closing these gaps over a 20-year period?
  • How can you rate the proposed measures and define the pros/cons?

Funding Plan Workshop 

  • What type of costs are associated with the transportation improvements?

  • Where do the Tribe’s various annual transportation funds come from and how much is anticipated to be available?
  • Are there additional transportation funding sources available to the Tribe?
  • Should the Tribe look into financing options for future projects and what should the policies be?
  • What guidelines should govern the management of the Tribe’s transportation funds?

Public Involvement 

After the draft LRTP has been developed, we typically hold public involvement meetings to not only get concurrence, but to get valuable feedback regarding transportation information the project team may not have known. We also use online surveys such as Survey Monkey to get feedback from folks who may not be able to attend the meetings. When the public feels educated about the process and know they are being listened to, “buy-in” becomes a much smoother process.

Project Path 

Below is a simple illustration of how we proceed through this development process with Tribes.


My hope is this is something you can utilize towards improving your transportation system. Get that old document out of the file and develop something you will use!!!


One thought on “Effective Long Range Transportation Planning

  1. I really like your blog. You actually understand the needs, wants and why for a LRTP. Good job, hopefully we can work on some ideas .


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