Nearly half the plans reviewed here are not cost effective in meeting transportation goals. These plans rely heavily on behavioral tools such as land‐use regulation, subsidies to dense or mixed‐use developments, and construction of expensive rail transit lines. Nearly 40 years of experience with such tools has shown that they are expensive but provide negligible transportation benefits.
Long‐range transportation planning necessarily depends on uncertain forecasts. Planners also set qualitative goals such as “vibrant communities” and quantifiable but incomparable goals such as “protecting historic resources.” Such vagaries result in a politicized process that cannot hope to find the most effective transportation solutions. Thus, long‐range planning has contributed to, rather than prevented, the hextupling of congestion American urban areas have suffered since 1982.
Ideally, the federal government should not be in the business of funding local transportation and dictating local transportation policies. At the least, Congress should repeal long‐range transportation planning requirements in the next reauthorization of federal surface transportation funding. Instead, metropolitan transportation organizations should focus planning on the short term (5 years), and concentrate on quantifiable factors that are directly related to transportation, including safety and congestion relief.