The Role of Mobility Master Plans in Dynamic Planning

Communities that have a long-term transportation plan not only can help their residents get around, they can improve overall quality of life.
December 18, 2018 AT 11:00 AM
Las Vegas’ Mobility Master Plan explores transportation on a more comprehensive level, looking at issues such as multi-modal transportation and resident commutes to work. David Kidd
By Lisa Wong  |  Senior Fellow, Governing Institute
Lisa Wong is a senior fellow with the Governing Institute and former mayor of Fitchburg, Mass.
Dynamically Planned

Dynamic planning is a key component of innovative cities. The good news is that most cities have a plan. Two-thirds of cities in the most recent Governing and Living Cities Equipt to Innovate survey have long-term strategic plans that are up to date and available online. The survey measures a number of important elements that plans should follow: be evidence based, achieve measurable impact, link to strategic goals, actively use stakeholder input, actively use resident input, be transparent, and coordinate with other levels of government.

Las Vegas was recognized as a top performer in the area of dynamic planning due in part to its 10-year strategic plan called City by Design. One of its City by Design projects is a Mobility Master Plan. Tens of millions of tourists travel to Las Vegas annually, especially to the Strip, a 4.2 mile stretch of casinos, hotels and restaurants. With that many visitors, the city has created many ways to get around like the monorail, ride-sharing and indoor passageways that help pedestrians avoid the summer heat. The Mobility Master Plan explores transportation on a more comprehensive level, looking at issues such as multi-modal transportation and resident commutes to work.

Las Vegas is not the only place that has created a mobility master plan. In fact, it has become a sort of long-term planning best practice. Denver built a plan off a series of neighborhood master plans and looked at projects that targeted its highways, railways and waterways. The smaller town of Tewksbury, Mass., focused on pedestrians in its mobility master plan. Even the country of Ecuador has a mobility plan to guide $118 billion in investments from 2013 to 2037.

As other communities look to build out plans such as these, they should remember to keep them flexible and assess them regularly, especially in the face of changing needs and technology. Transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft provide more transportation options, but can have the unintended consequence of adding more cars to the road when cities might be trying to do the opposite. Cities can start by conducting a needs assessment, reviewing existing plans or forming a steering group. Public engagement will ensure underrepresented groups like the elderly and disabled have a say.

It’s also important for cities to figure out how to spend limited resources on these projects that often involve costly infrastructure investments. The private sector can be a source of funding, innovation and support. They share an interest in increased mobility for employees and consumers.

Whether the goal is to attract more economic development or address social-economic justice issues, mobility plans should be a component of any master planning. Research shows there is a strong connection between mobility and quality of life, so creating a mobility plan can go a long way in improving communities overall.