What's New in City Design

2020 ITE Developing Trends

The Institute for Transportation Engineers produces a Developing Trends Report annually, representing collective input from councils and committees on emerging transportation challenges and solutions. The 2020 report covers transportation planning, engineering, management, and operation advancements and will benefit the industry’s leadership and professionals in public and private sectors.

The 41 page report covers a range of emerging issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, advancing technologies, trends in promoting active transportation, use of data, infrastructure, safety and equity.  The following represents the outline (regrouped in places to combine topic areas):

Big Themes:

  • The transportation industry has long faced competition between two competing goals to measure a project’s success; (1) higher speeds and faster vehicular mobility and (2) designing for better access, lower speeds, and safer streets for all users.
  • Technology and reevaluation of streets as public spaces and real estate assets has resulted in growing competition for space within limited rights of way.
  • Traffic evaluation needs to shift from the emphasis on the impacts to drivers to examining the impacts from drivers
  • Reframing transportation success from moving cars (travel time saving, LOS) to better reflect the ultimate goal of transportation: access.
  • A range of new approaches: Performance-Based Practical Design (PBPD), Social Determinant of Health (SDOH), VMT for traffic impacts, Data-Driven Safety Analysis, Sociomobility (the intersection of engineering and the social sciences), and Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) at the local level.
  • The need to evaluate and fix past practices (including roadway projects) that disproportionately impacted communities of color. 


Transportation Education & Ethics

Transitioning to Emergency Remote Instruction: Post-COVID, ITE will assess best practices involved with online instruction, with attention to the comparative advantages/disadvantages of synchronous (i.e. live classroom) versus asynchronous (pre-recorded, individual) learning.

Building Capacity for Tomorrow’s Transportation Professionals: ITE seeks to strengthen the ability to recruit and retain future transportation leaders in particular through 183 university-based chapters.

Sociomobility – Societal Implications of Connected/Autonomous Vehicles: As the autonomous vehicles industry rapidly advances in the technical domain, the social impacts are less explored (less than 7% of research) and calls for more exploration of sociomobility (the intersection of engineering and the social sciences).

Social Justice in Transportation: Social justice issues present themselves in the allocation of transportation resources, priority-setting, and decisions for accommodating or resolving delays. Development patterns and housing restrictions have resulted in distended travel networks not conducive to affordable, multimodal travel.

Complete Streets

Adapting Streets to New Travel Demands: Growing demands (e-commerce, new modes, COVID-19) outstrip and compete for available space in rights-of-ways, ushering a new era of prioritization and management. ITE is currently developing a new guide to address these challenges.

Managing Curbspace: Keeping up with Changing Demands: Curbspace success is no longer measured by parking revenue, but by the ability to move people and complement the surrounding community’s needs. ITE will continue to refine its 2018 Curbside Management Practitioner’s Guide.

Making Streets Safer for Vulnerable Users: Cities are adopting three main strategies to address speed management and improving pedestrian crossings: (1) traffic calming treatments/strategies; (2) Quick Build & Interim strategies, and (3) Complete Streets design standards.

Big Data for Active Transportation Analysis: Transportation data has been primarily used for vehicular analysis, in part due to hurdles in obtaining granular bike/ped movements (opt-in phone apps, short durations). ITE will look into leveraging big data sources to better define activity and predictive safety.

Transportation Planning

Beyond Equity Toward Restorative Justice: Events in 2020 provided a new lens for viewing inequitable economic, transportation and land use decisions. Restorative justice involves learning with impacted neighborhoods and fixing negative economic and societal consequences through the processes the transportation industry touches (beyond infrastructure and operations).

Moving Toward Vehicle-Miles Traveled Evaluations in the Site Development Process: Land use decisions are governed by obsolete impact analyses, use of auto LOS, and antiquated zoning codes that thwart meeting community goals. VMT has proven a very useful tool where land use density, mix, and proximity are planned alongside the transportation system.

Curbside Management Impact on Public Parking: Curbs are no longer room for on-street parking, but now a host to myriad uses. This poses conflict between traditional stakeholder interests (convenient parking, municipal revenues) that can be mitigated through new tools and reframing the economic case for the curb.

Reviewing Parking Minimums in Zoning/Land Use Bylaws: Minimum parking requirements often result in higher development costs, over-supply, and disincentives for a multi-modal mix. Blanket removal within codes can backfire, instead calling for a right-sized, context-sensitive parking approach.

Sustainability and Health

Equity in Transportation: Fund Allocation to Fundamental Design Practice: While historical decisions have had an adverse effect on underrepresented populations, the transportation industry is shifting to address historical practices through processes such as engagement, investment allocation, and mode mix.

Incentives for the No-Car Commute to Reduce Congestion: State of Practice: The authors recommend a 5 E’s approach similar to Safe Routes to School: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation

Vehicle Miles Traveled; How to Reduce it, Measure It, and Challenges Using it as a Metric for Sustainability: Replacing the level of service (LOS) with VMT can advance not on environmental, but also health and equity goals. California is pioneering use of this metric to better measure impacts from higher density, infill development and redevelopment.

Health and Transportation: a social determinant of health (SDOH) framework recognizes health is influenced by multiple factors, including transportation systems and community design. Healthy transportation requires: (1) Re-conceptualizing health, (2) Collaborating with public health professionals, (3) Complete Streets design, (4) Public health metrics, and (5) disaggregated, community-level data.

Transportation Safety

Smart Work Zones: Several states are implementing new processes and technologies to reduce crashes in work zones, in particular secondary, rear-end crashes that occur as cars reduce speeds through zones.

Data-Driven Safety Analysis in Support of Systemic Safety: Two types of Data-Driven Safety Analysis (DDSA) are emerging for use at the regional and local levels: (1) Predictive analysis (estimate the potential safety benefit of investment alternatives) and (2) Systemic Analysis (proactive safety investments with wider, yet more targeted, benefits).

The Safe System Approach in Support of Vision Zero: The Safe Systems seeks to achieve zero deaths through five transportation elements: safe road users, safe vehicles, safe speeds, safe roads, and post-crash care. Approaches include separation of system users, separation in time, alerts, and speed/force reduction.

Balancing Performance-Based Practical Design with Safety: Performance-Based Practical Design (PBPD) allows for a rescoping of projects to core purpose and needs by eliminating nonessential elements, though also factoring in safety for all users.

Vision Zero and COVID-19 Financial Impacts: Government budgets challenges from COVID -19 will pressure Vision Zero program implementation even as crashes increase (traffic is lower while speeds higher).

Traffic Engineering

COVID-19 Impacts: ITE will closely followCOVID-19 induced impacts to document trends of stickiness (e.g., how will work from home and reduced transit ridership persist with recovery). These will influence multiple aspects of training, planning, and engineering.

Automated Enforcement of Traffic Laws: Automated enforcement began improve traffic safety at stop lights though are also skeptically viewed as primarily a revenue source. New formats to focus on speed management are growing, though more data can highlight specific benefits or gaps.

Implementation of New Guidelines for Determining Traffic Signal Change and Clearance Intervals Recommended Practice: The length of yellow light changes is seen as both a safety element (to clear traffic) – though increases uncertainty in the queue. Work is needed to fine-tune signal change for left turn, through, and right turns at various speeds.

Roundabout Public Education | Public Engagement: Part of the Solution, Not Part of the Problem: Roundabouts are a proven safety design, yet implementation is lagging (due to public pushback) or poor (due to crashes from driver error in performing new maneuvers)

Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) in Local Agencies: TSMO is spreading from a DOT level to local option for transportation management. Local operating agencies are encouraged to identify needs and required resources for performance measurement and management, systems engineering, asset management, data collection and management, business processes, staffing, and workforce development.

Rise of E-Commerce: Freight is increasingly delivered to the consumers’ doorsteps instead of traditional brick and mortar stores, disrupting travel patterns, delivery vehicle mix, congestion patterns, parking, and a host of other transportation-related variables. ITE is expanding its recommendations.   

Link to Resource

2020 ITE Developing Trends