Multimodal Transportation

Multimodal Transportation

Multimodal transportation planning involves designing transportation systems that cater to diverse modes of travel, including walking, biking, transit, rail, cars, trucks, and other vehicles. It aims to improve safety, access, and mobility for all users of transportation systems, such as transit-riders, freight-carriers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and people with disabilities. This approach involves comprehensive, integrated, and connected networks that are affordable, efficient, and offer freedom of travel. 

Planning must also consider how the transportation system impacts the economic prosperity of neighborhoods and downtowns.

Understand the various aspects of multimodal transportation
Recognize way complete streets are important for communities
Learn why universal design is important when thinking about transportation planning

Key Takeaway:
Multimodal transportation planning involves designing and implementing transportation systems that incorporate multiple modes of transportation, such as walking, biking, and public transit. This approach offers numerous benefits, including improved accessibility, reduced traffic congestion, and increased efficiency.
Complete streets are a key component of multimodal transportation planning, and involve designing streets with all users in mind, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. This approach can lead to increased safety, improved public health, and enhanced quality of life for residents.
The growing demand for multimodal transportation is being driven by a range of factors, including the preferences of Millennials, who are increasingly opting for non-car modes of transportation, as well as the needs of the elderly, who require safe and accessible transportation options. Effective transportation and health tools can help planners and policymakers design and implement transportation systems that are safe, accessible, and responsive to the needs of all users.
What is Multimodal Transportation?

Multimodal transportation planning is a strategic approach to integrate multiple transportation modes, including walking, biking, public transit, and personal vehicles, to create a safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation system. It involves collaboration among stakeholders and careful consideration of community needs, economic development, and public health.

Multimodal planning aims to provide accessibility for all users, enhance mobility, reduce congestion, and promote vibrant neighborhoods and downtowns. Examples of multimodal planning include road diets, bike lanes, and a diversity of transportation options. It is important to invest in well-planned and maintained transportation infrastructure to ensure the safety and comfort of motorists, pedestrians, children, older adults, and workforce.

Local, regional, and statewide governments can receive grant awards from the federal highway safety program and the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund construction, maintenance, and operation of multimodal transportation projects. By rethinking streets and incorporating smart growth principles, communities can create a transportation and health tool that promotes public health indicators and supports a sustainable and resilient future.

Transportation Modes

Walkability refers to the ability to safely walk to services and amenities within a reasonable distance, usually defined as a walk of 30 minutes or less.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?

A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.


Bikes are part of multimodal transportation because they can be used to connect different modes of transportation. For example, you can bike to a train station, take the train to work, and then bike from the train station to your office. This can be a great way to reduce your environmental impact and save money on transportation costs.

There are a number of benefits to using bikes as part of multimodal transportation. Bikes are a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around. They are also relatively inexpensive to operate and maintain. Additionally, bikes can be used to access places that are not well-served by public transportation.

Additional Resource: If you want to learn more about how some cities have found a way to fast track the construction of bike lanes, listen to the Next City Podcast “They Built 335 Miles of Bike Lanes in 24 Months from Next City”

Public Transit

Here are some of the benefits of public transit:

Reduce traffic congestion: Help to reduce traffic congestion by providing an alternative to cars and buses. This can be especially beneficial in areas with heavy traffic, such as downtown areas or near tourist attractions.
Improve air quality: A reduction of personal vehicles can help to improve air quality in urban areas. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from respiratory problems.
Provide a new way to get around: Can provide a new and efficient way to get around for people who live in or visit urban areas. They can be especially beneficial for people who have disabilities or who cannot walk long distances.
Improve the quality of life: Can help to improve the quality of life in urban areas by providing a more scenic and enjoyable way to get around. They can also help to connect different parts of a city that are not well-served by public transportation.


Rail is a type of public transportation that uses trains to transport people. Trains can be powered by electricity, diesel, or steam. Rail systems can be either heavy rail or light rail. Heavy rail systems are typically used for long-distance travel, while light rail systems are used for shorter distances.

Rail can help cities with traffic issues by providing a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to cars. Trains can carry more people than cars, and they produce less pollution. Rail systems can also be integrated with other modes of transportation, such as buses and bicycles, which can make it easier for people to get around.

Here are some examples of cities that have implemented rail systems:

London, England: London has one of the most extensive rail systems in the world. The system consists of over 270 stations and over 1,500 miles of track.

New York City, New York: New York City has one of the most extensive rail systems in the United States. The system consists of over 472 stations and over 2,700 miles of track.

Tokyo, Japan: 6.84 million passengers a day

Los Angeles, California: Used to have one of the largest transit systems in the world
Image: Former LA traffic map. Image credit Jake Berman
Image: Current LA traffic map. Image credit Jake Berman
Bus Rapid Transit

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a high-quality bus-based public transport system designed to have much more capacity, reliability and other quality features than a conventional bus system. Typically, a BRT system includes roadways that are dedicated to buses, and gives priority to buses at intersections where buses may interact with other traffic; alongside design features to reduce delays caused by passengers boarding or leaving buses, or paying fares.

BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of a light rail or metro system (LRT) or heavy rail with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system.

BRT can help cities with traffic issues by providing a fast and efficient alternative to cars. BRT systems can be built in a fraction of the time and cost of light rail or metro systems, and they can be easily integrated with other modes of transportation, such as walking, biking, and carpooling.

Here are some examples of cities that have implemented BRT systems:

Guadalajara, Mexico:  42 stations and transports 170,000 people a day
Lima, Peru: Lima has a two-line BRT system that transports over 700,000 people per day.

Bogota, Colombia: Largest BRT in the world. The system carries 2.3 million passengers a day.  

Urban Gondolas

Urban gondolas are cable cars that are used to transport people in urban areas. They are typically suspended from cables that are anchored to towers, and they can travel over long distances with minimal emissions. Urban gondolas can help cities with traffic issues by providing a new and efficient way to get around. They can also help to reduce air pollution and improve the quality of life in urban areas.

Here are some examples of cities that have implemented urban gondola systems:

La Paz, Bolivia: La Paz has one of the most extensive urban gondola systems in the world. The system consists of three lines that transport over 100,000 people per day.

Medellin, Colombia: Medellin has a two-line urban gondola system that transports over 20,000 people per day. The system has been credited with helping to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the city.

New York City: New York City is planning to build an urban gondola system that would connect the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the rest of the city. The system is expected to be completed in 2024.

Los Angeles, California: Proposed project would connect Los Angeles Union Station to the Dodger Stadium property via an aerial gondola system.    

It should be noted, that not everyone supports this project. Below are the concerns of the LA Conservancy: 

The purpose and need for LA ART is not fully demonstrated when environmentally superior alternatives are identified and available to be implemented
Historic and cultural resources and view sheds will be impacted and irreparably harmed by the LA ART Project
Draft EIR does not adequately address the proposed use and transfer of public rights-of-way and lands, applicable general plans, permitted legal use, and is in conflict with Public Resources Code 5019.59
Should the proposed project anticipate federal funding, Section 106 and Section 4(f) would be triggered and additional environmental review would be required
Transfer CEQA lead agency authority to the City of Los Angeles

Last Mile Problem

The last mile problem in transportation planning refers to the difficulty of getting people from a transportation hub, such as a train station or bus stop, to their final destination. This can be a challenge for people who live in areas that are not well-served by public transportation, or for people who have disabilities or other mobility challenges.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the last mile problem. One factor is the distance between transportation hubs and final destinations. In some cases, the distance may be too great to walk or bike, and people may not have access to a car. Another factor is the lack of safe and accessible pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. This can make it difficult and dangerous for people to walk or bike between transportation hubs and their final destinations.

The last mile problem can have a number of negative consequences. It can make it difficult for people to use public transportation, which can lead to increased traffic congestion and air pollution. It can also make it difficult for people to participate in activities that are important to them, such as work, school, and social events.

There are a number of solutions to the last mile problem. One solution is to improve the accessibility and connectivity of public transportation. This can be done by increasing the number of transportation hubs, reducing the distance between transportation hubs and final destinations, and making public transportation more affordable. Another solution is to improve the infrastructure for walking and biking. This can be done by building more sidewalks and bike lanes, and by making existing sidewalks and bike lanes safer and more accessible.

Transit Oriented Development

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is the creation of compact, walkable, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use communities centered around high quality train systems. This makes it possible to live a lower-stress life without complete dependence on a car for mobility and survival.

Components of TOD

Walkable design with pedestrian as the highest priority
Train station as prominent feature of town center
Public square fronting train station
A regional node containing a mixture of uses in close proximity (office, residential, retail, civic)
High density, walkable district within 10-minute walk circle surrounding train station
Collector support transit systems including streetcar, light rail, and buses, etc
Designed to include the easy use of bicycles and scooters as daily support transport
Large ride-in bicycle parking areas within stations
Bikeshare rental system and bikeway network integrated into stations
Reduced and managed parking inside 10-minute walk circle around town center / train station
Specialized retail at stations serving commuters and locals including cafes, grocery, dry cleaners

Benefits of TOD

Higher quality of life with better places to live, work, and play

Greater mobility with ease of moving around

Increased transit ridership

Reduced traffic congestion, car accidents and injuries

Reduced household spending on transportation, resulting in more affordable housing

Healthier lifestyle with more walking, and less stress

Higher, more stable property values

Increased foot traffic and customers for area businesses

Greatly reduced dependence on foreign oil, reduced pollution and environmental damage

Reduced incentive to sprawl, increased incentive for compact development

Less expensive than building roads and sprawl

Enhanced ability to maintain economic competitiveness
Complete Street: A People-Centered Street Design

Complete Streets is an approach to planning, designing and building streets that enables safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. This approach also emphasizes the needs of those who have experienced systemic underinvestment, or those whose needs have not been met through a traditional transportation approach. 

Incomplete streets are the result of a process that fails to consider the needs of all people and outdated measures of what makes a street successful. The end product is a street that spans a spectrum from uncomfortable to downright deadly for those not using a car.

While Complete Streets are a process and approach to street design, there is no singular design prescription for Complete Streets. Each one is unique and responds to its community context. A complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crosswalks, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.

The context and needs of users are different in rural, suburban, and urban communities, and streets will look different as a result, even when using a Complete Streets approach.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of deaths of pedestrians.  

Image from Smart Growth America

Speed and the increasing size of cars are both a factor.  As cars go faster, the fatality rate goes up significantly.  

Image from Smart Growth America

Large cars have large blind zones.  

It is essential to embrace Complete Street planning principles to ensure the safety and comfort of all transportation users while also achieving a thriving and economically prosperous downtown. Incorporating Complete Street planning encourages a healthy community, social equity, improved health outcomes, and sustainable transportation. Thus, we must take action and support initiatives such as the National Complete Streets Coalition, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, Road Diet, and other similar movements to comply with principles of Complete Street planning.

Road Diet: A Traffic Improvement Planning Option

Traffic Improvement through Road Reconfiguration:

Road reconfiguration or the road diet is a traffic management technique that aims to reallocate road space for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. This approach reduces the number of lanes in favor of more space for alternative modes of transportation. By doing so, this technique reduces speeding and makes streets safer and more accessible for all users.

Through road reconfiguration or the road diet, cities can improve their transportation networks by providing safer and more accessible streets for all modes of transportation. This technique is a vital part of achieving the economically prosperous downtowns that cities strive for.

Remember, multimodal transportation planning plays a crucial role in modern urban transportation planning. By considering the needs of all road users, cities can develop safe and sustainable transportation networks.

Traffic Calming Measures

There are many different types of traffic calming measures, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some common examples include:

Speed bumps are raised sections of pavement that force drivers to slow down. They are effective in reducing speeds, but they can also be noisy and disruptive to traffic flow. 

Speed tables are similar to speed bumps, but they are longer and have a gentler slope. They are less disruptive to traffic flow than speed bumps, but they may not be as effective in reducing speeds.

Chicanes are series of curves and bends that force drivers to slow down and change lanes. They can be effective in reducing speeds, but they can also be confusing for drivers and make it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass.

Narrowing of lanes can force drivers to slow down and be more cautious. This can be done by painting the lanes narrower or by installing physical barriers, such as bollards.

Roundabouts are circular intersections that force drivers to slow down and yield to traffic in the circle. They can be effective in reducing speeds and improving safety, but they can also be confusing for drivers and make it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass.

Image: Traffic circle in Shanghai that also has a pedestrian bridge

Bus bulbs are extensions of the curb at bus stops that force cars to slow down and wait behind the bus. This can make it safer for people boarding and exiting the bus. Bus bulbs may be combined with amenities such as wayfinding maps, plantings, and trees to enhance the overall transit user experience.

Parking can be used to slow down traffic by narrowing lanes and creating obstacles for drivers. This can be done by painting parking spaces on the street or by installing physical barriers, such as planters or benches.

Landscaping can be used to slow down traffic by creating visual barriers and making the street less inviting to drivers. This can be done by planting trees, shrubs, or flowers along the street or by installing decorative fencing.

The best traffic calming measures for a particular area will depend on a variety of factors, including the speed of traffic, the type of road, the presence of pedestrians and cyclists, and the goals of the community. It is important to consider all of these factors when choosing traffic calming measures.

Universal Design

Universal design in transportation planning refers to the concept of designing transportation systems and infrastructure that are accessible and usable by all individuals, regardless of their physical abilities or disabilities. This includes designing sidewalks, roads, and public transportation systems that are accessible to individuals with mobility impairments, visual impairments, and hearing impairments. Universal design features include curb cuts, audible pedestrian signals, and low-floor buses that are designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities.  

For example in the image below, this woman in a wheelchair can not easily access the sidewalk.  Her only option is to ride in the street.  

Without accessible transportation, individuals with disabilities may be unable to access employment, education, healthcare, and other essential services.

Government Partners

Government collaborations for multimodal transportation planning

Effective transportation planning requires collaboration between governments at different levels. For instance, at the national level, the federal government can provide funding for major transportation infrastructure projects. State or regional governments can then work with local governments to prioritize specific projects based on unique needs.

Collaboration between governments in the planning process also helps ensure that transportation systems are integrated and interconnected.

Furthermore, government partnerships also involve working with various departments such as transportation, housing, and environmental management. Such collaboration results in comprehensive planning, with consideration of important factors like traffic flow, pedestrian and cyclist safety, and environmental impacts.

One important example of government partnership in multimodal transportation planning is the integration of public transportation systems with other modes of transport such as cycling and walking. Governments can provide infrastructure and funding to support initiatives like creating dedicated bike lanes or safe pedestrian and cycling routes. By promoting interconnectivity among modes of transport, multimodal transportation planning helps to reduce traffic congestion, promote sustainability, and improve accessibility.

To improve government collaboration in multimodal transportation planning, communication and coordination among different levels of government must be prioritized, and adequate funding must be made available. Additionally, regular evaluations of transportation systems to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement are essential. This will help to ensure that transportation systems meet the needs of communities and promote economic growth.


Multimodal Transportation Planning – Key Takeaways

Ensuring efficient and sustainable transportation systems is crucial for urban development. Multimodal transportation planning aims to achieve this goal by integrating various modes of transportation. By promoting alternative transportation modes like cycling, walking, or public transport, multimodal transportation planning focuses on reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, and enhancing accessibility. Additionally, it creates a healthy and safe environment for all users.

Overall, multimodal transportation planning is an essential tool for cities and towns to build sustainable and efficient transportation systems that benefit all community members. Remember to consider all modes of transport and prioritize inclusive planning that considers the diverse needs of all citizens – from pedestrians to cyclists and public transit users.

Five Facts About Multimodal Transportation Planning:
✅ Multimodal transportation planning refers to the coordination of different modes of transportation, such as walking, biking, public transit, and private vehicles.
✅ Multimodal transportation planning aims to improve accessibility, mobility, safety, sustainability, and equity in transportation systems.
✅ Multimodal transportation planning involves integrating land use and transportation planning to create more livable communities.
✅ Multimodal transportation planning often involves using technology, such as intelligent transportation systems and real-time data, to improve efficiency and effectiveness of transportation systems.
✅ Multimodal transportation planning is increasingly important in addressing the challenges of climate change, urbanization, and population growth.
FAQs about What Is Multimodal Transportation Planning
What is multimodal transportation planning?
Multimodal transportation planning involves creating an integrated transportation system that uses multiple modes of transportation to improve mobility and accessibility for people and goods.
Why is multimodal transportation planning important?
Multimodal transportation planning is important because it promotes sustainable and efficient transportation options for individuals and communities, reduces traffic congestion, and improves accessibility to important destinations.
What are some examples of modes of transportation that are included in multimodal transportation planning?
Modes of transportation that are included in multimodal transportation planning can include but are not limited to: walking, biking, public transit, ridesharing, carpooling, freight transportation, and air travel.
Who is involved in multimodal transportation planning?
Multimodal transportation planning involves various stakeholders, including transportation agencies, local governments, community groups, private businesses, and the public.
What are the benefits of multimodal transportation planning?
Multimodal transportation planning can lead to reduced traffic congestion, improved air quality, increased mobility and accessibility, improved public health outcomes, and more equitable access to transportation options.
Quick Check

What city in the U.S. has the most roundabouts?

Carmel, Indiana

New York City, New York

Los Angeles, California

Atlanta, Georgia

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