Virginia SMART SCALE Program
Virginia’s SMART SCALE (www.smartscale.org) is the statewide program tasked with choosing which transportation projects to fund, ensuring the best use of Virginia tax dollars. It judges projects on their merits rather than political wrangling. Transportation projects are scored based on an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and allows decision-makers to be held accountable to taxpayers. Once projects are scored and prioritized, the Commonwealth Transportation Board has the best information possible to select projects for funding.
Virginia has embraced the notion that simply measuring speed from place to place does not directly relate to improvements in the livability of an area. Instead, measuring multi-modal access to jobs and the ease of accomplishing everyday tasks directly impacts livability. This idea of accessibility is one of six measures Virginia uses to score each project in the SMART SCALE program.
Virginia faced a few key issues, the first is that it is critical to measure the effects that proposed projects will have on the connectivity between people and their destinations. Testing the impacts of potential changes to the transportation system provides valuable insights. However, the multi-modal Access Scores must consider all aspects of a person’s journey. This goes beyond simply routing vehicular trips through a street network; independent walking, biking, and public transport networks had to be built and maintained. In addition, all aspects of a multi-modal trip had to be considered; walking, biking, or driving to public transport stations, reliability and wait times for transit vehicles, transfers, as well as walking to the ultimate destination.
Virginia’s second issue was that these types of analysis had required a consultant to perform all of the work in the past. This has been successful, but didn’t allow local agencies to score and iterate their own projects to create the maximum benefit for their communities.
The Commonwealth of Virginia DOT has been partnering with Renaissance Planning Group (www.citiesthatwork.com) to measure the improvements in accessibility for each potential project statewide. For the FY2018 budget year, the Virginia DOT selected Citilabs’ Sugar Access as the standard tool for conducting the evaluations. Renaissance used Sugar Access to evaluate more than 400 projects before the end of 2016.
Sugar Access provides not only the necessary multi-modal networks but also is an extension to ArcGIS Desktop that allows convenient scenario creation, easy editing of the multi-modal transportation networks, and a cloud-based analysis engine to scale the calculations.
Multi-modal analysis of increased access to jobs via a new bus only lane in Alexandria, VA
"Citilabs and their Sugar Access platform have been instrumental in our ability to help Virginia with their SMART SCALE program,” Renaissance Planning Group President Chris Sinclair said. He continued, “By running the analyses simultaneously in the cloud, Sugar Access allowed us to evaluate twice as many projects as the prior year. We were able to quickly get started with the included datasets and easily edit the transit networks directly in the program. This provided a tremendous flexibility to measure the impact of projects.”
About Sugar Access
Planners must conceptualize, understand, and communicate the benefits of multi-modal systems in a comprehensive manner. According to Citilabs’ Engineer Matt Pettit, “With the multi-modal analysis capabilities of Sugar Access, changes in Access Scores are sensitive not only transit service improvements but potentially pedestrian projects affecting access to transit. It was designed specifically to calculate all aspects of a transit trip; the time it takes to walk to transit, wait time, time on transit, transfers and more.”
Citilabs’ Sugar Access is an ArcGIS extension that allows for a complete understanding of Access Score across all modes of mobility. It is the perfect tool to measure a community’s access to employment opportunities, daily errands, public services and much more.
To learn more about Sugar Access and Citilabs, visit www.citilabs.com or call 888-770-2823.
Please join Matt Pettit of Citilabs; Chad Tucker, Assistant Administrator, Division of Transportation and Mobility Planning for Virginia; and Dan Hardy from Renaissance Planning to hear how they worked together to score projects for accessibility.
- Resource: About Virginia’s SMART SCALE program (smartscale.org)
- Blog: How Accessibility Explains the World (Renaissance Planning Group)
- Blog: How Accessibility Explains the World Part 2 (Renaissance Planning Group)
- Blog: Access Scores – Measuring the Why, Where & How of Accessibility (Citilabs)
- Blog: Well, of course we need to measure accessibility (Citilabs)
- Blog: You don’t need to worry about mobility if you can provide accessibility (Citilabs)
- Blog: Shifting gears to a new transportation model (the Brookings Institute)
- Podcast: Inclusive Cities: Transportation and accessibility (the Brookings Institute)
- White Paper: Trip-making and accessibility: New tools, better decisions (SSTI)
- Webinar: Measuring Accessible and Connected Communities (SSTI)
- Guide: The How and Why of Measuring Access to Opportunity (Governors’ Institute)