Blog Hero Roads & Highways - Copperleaf Decision Analytics

Written by: Connor Cox

The Road Ahead: Multimodal Decision Making

Copperleaf® provides enterprise decision analytics software solutions to organizations investing in and managing critical infrastructure. In this blog series, Connor Cox, Global Industry Lead for Transportation at Copperleaf, shares insights on pressing topics facing Departments of Transportation (DOTs) today.

In the first three articles of this series, we explored how US DOTs are connecting the dots between long-term strategy and day-to-day operations to address congestion and deteriorating roadway conditions, meet safety and environmental targets, and create a resilient and equitable roadway network. In order to deliver on these competing objectives, transportation planners must select the right combination of projects at the right time to maximize impact. Creating this portfolio is a complex task, requiring a robust decision-making framework that provides planners with the means to evaluate the relative benefits of dissimilar investments and create the highest-value plan.

In this final installment, we’ll explore how DOTs can leverage data-driven decision analytics to manage project selection across multiple modes of transportation, including public transit systems, pedestrian and cycling routes, roadways, airports, and seaports.

Multimodal Objectives

Multimodal planning departments are responsible for creating efficient, fair, and reliable transportation networks for both people and freight. Across the US, state DOTs are working to develop complementary, integrated systems that provide choices beyond conventional automobile dependency. Building better bicycle and walking paths in “complete street” planning, increasing accessibility to transit and ride-share options, and streamlining freight transport by roadway, seaway, and airway, must all be factored into investment planning decisions.

…[it] would be inefficient if inadequate sidewalks and paths force parents to chauffeur children to local destinations to which they would rather walk or bicycle, or if inadequate mobility options force urban commuters to drive although they would prefer to rideshare or use transit. Physically, economically and socially disadvantaged people in particular need diverse mobility options… As a result, to be efficient and fair transportation must be multimodal.

Todd Litman
Introduction to Multi-Modal Transportation Planning: Principles and Practices
Victoria Transport Policy Institute

At individual DOTs, groups responsible for multiple transportation modes are tasked with comparing and contrasting extremely dissimilar projects to create a portfolio that maximizes value. In Pennsylvania, the Multimodal Transportation organization provides financial support and oversight for public transportation, passenger rail, rail freight, ports and waterways, aviation and airports. In FY2023-2024 PennDOT received over 200 applications for multimodal funding, ranging from barge storage to streetscaping, pedestrian improvement projects to bridge enhancements, and bus stop upgrades to airport taxiway improvements.

In Florida, the DOT’s Systems Implementation Office is responsible for the Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) with a purview that expands from airports, seaports, and highways to include spaceports—adding another layer of complexity to the decision-making process.

More Modes, More Challenges

While evaluating and comparing the impact of single mode projects—like replacing or upgrading a stretch of highway—to long-term objectives is challenging, understanding the value of projects across different transportation modes is even more difficult.

Making trade-off decisions between multimodal projects, like dredging and widening a port versus modifying an interchange, is difficult to do fairly and defensibly because the benefits are not easily comparable. Recent transportation innovations like electric vehicles, ride-hailing, and micro-mobilities, and new modalities on the horizon like air taxis or pneumatic tube transport systems, provide agencies with more opportunities—but add another degree of complexity to decision making.

As does the rise of extreme weather. With responsibility for air, sea, roadways, and public transit systems, multimodal agencies also oversee the infrastructure required for evacuation in the event of an emergency, as well as the transportation channels for disaster relief. Multimodal agencies must be prepared, with a clear understanding of risk exposure, to ensure choices made before an event, and during and after the recovery period, will ensure a resilient and equitable network.

How Copperleaf Helps

In order to navigate the complicated multimodal landscape, planners must first make detailed and objective assessments of dissimilar projects to compare cost and resource requirements alongside the relative impacts to safety, condition, capacity, environment, reliability, resilience, and risk. Then, planners must create a portfolio that delivers the highest combined value, bundling projects and optimizing timing to maximize efficiency—and quickly and confidently re-optimize portfolios when circumstances change.

For over two decades, Copperleaf has provided solutions to inform and drive decision making across the critical infrastructure sector. Copperleaf’s proprietary decision-making framework provides the ability to define and operationalize key business drivers and KPIs, and evaluate and compare projects with different costs and benefits on a common scale.

When assessing candidate investments for roadways, seaports, airports, and even spaceports, planners can quantify and compare each project’s contributions to key objectives—to create an optimized portfolio that delivers on day-to-day needs and long-term goals.

Let’s Connect

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Road Ahead series. If you’d like to learn more about Copperleaf and how our decision analytics solution can help your organization, please reach out to me directly or read our whitepaper: Driving Towards Better Decision Making in the Roadways Industry.