Tag Archives: LRTP

3D Printing

Chapter 1.5 3D Printer - Public DomainThe goal of this post and of planning in general is to anticipate possible and plausible future conditions to better help leaders make informed decisions along the way.  According to wikipedia.org (accessed 09-23-2014)

“3D printing or additive manufacturing is any of various processes for making a three-dimensional object of almost any shape from a 3D model or other electronic data source primarily through additive processes in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control.  A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.

The above image is of a 3D printer that prints using plastic polymers.  Advances are being made in the printing of metals and even food grade materials.  The advantage of 3D printers is that final printed object contains no scraps or waste.  The printer only uses the amount of material necessary for production.  This could have wide-ranging implications for the size and scale of manufacturing and how it fits in with urban form and transportation demand.  3D printing’s implications for long-range transportation planning and related decisions by leaders and elected officials revolve around it’s potential to affect both “economies of scale” and “economies of agglomeration.”

Economies of scale are savings that occur to an individual entity (i.e. factory) or process when there are high fixed costs and the price per item manufactured goes down as the volume goes up.  Essentially, each additional item manufactured helps repay the high fixed costs, so “the more the merrier!”  The classic example is a large factory.  Since traditional manufacturing processes can require large volumes to reach economies of scale, manufacturing is typically located away from residential, commercial and retail uses.  3D printing has the potential to alter the volume necessary to reach economies of scale.  3D Printing based manufacturing could potentially be small enough to co-exist with commercial, retail and in some cases residential land uses.

Economies of agglomeration are savings and benefits to a company or organization when it locates close to other businesses and organizations.  These savings are usually due to potential productivity gains, savings on input costs (i.e. labor), and knowledge spillovers from the concentration of professionals, entrepreneurs and other creative individuals within a given geographic area.  The potential for 3D printing to operate at a small scale may allow it to be located near complementary business and markets thus reducing transportation demand.

Since 3D Printing is in its infancy, the extent to which it alters typical economies of scale and economies of agglomeration of manufacturing and thus manufacturing derived transportation demand remains to be seen.  Therefore, as we develop the next long-range transportation plan we would like to ask for your feedback on several questions.  Please provide answers in the comment box below.

  • Will 3D Printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies dramatically reduce the size and scale needed to reach economies of scale?
  • Will small scale 3D printing based manufactures locate in urban and other mixed-use environments?
  • Will these impacts account for a significant portion of the manufacturing sector or just niche and custom portions?
  • What other questions did we miss/would you suggest?

What are your ideas for Goals and Objectives?

Planners are often unfairly characterized as waiting to the last minute to seek input from the public.  This perception is driven by the public hearing and open meeting laws that require a public hearing be advertised in the newspaper a certain number of times/days before the hearing.  In our case, these laws apply to the RVAMPO’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  However, these laws have the unintended consequence of giving off the impression that planners wait until the last minute before seeking feedback through a “public hearing.”  In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.  We planners need good constructive input and feedback from citizens to help us develop plans in the first place.  Gone are the days of the 1950’s and 60’s in which planners believed that there was one rational and comprehensive planning model that applies to all situations.  Now, the vast majority of planners see their role as using professionalism and tools to have a conversation with citizens (“the public”) and to facilitate joint creation of plans that reflect the values and aspirations of a community.  This new role redefines the way planners view the public involvement process, which was previously mechanical and primarily benchmark driven.

With the above in mind, many plans often begin with “Goals” and “Objectives.”  The next LRTP – due in the summer of 2015 – will be no exception.  So, we are asking – even imploring – you for your early input to help us develop the “Goals” and “Objectives” of the next Long-Range Transportation Plan.  We are not waiting for a “public hearing,” we crave your input and feedback now!  Please put your ideas for goals and objectives in the comment box below.  Let’s get a conversation going.

Here is a convenient and concise definition of Goals and Objectives – courtesy of the State of Michigan http://www.michigan.gov/documents/8-pub207_60743_7.pdf   – to help get you started:

 Goals and Objectives

Why do we have a long-range transportation plan?

We are about to kick off a process that will update the regional long-range transportation plan (LRTP) for the urban area.  The updated LRTP will be completed by the end of summer 2015.  This begs the question “Why do we have a regional LRTP in the first place?”  There are two good, straightforward answers to this question:

1) Every urbanized area with a population over 50,000 in the US must have a regional LRTP in order to get federal transportation funds

2) The process of planning itself brings forth the questions, discussions and tradeoffs necessary to make better decisions.

According to the website Wikiquote, President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the following assertion in a 1957 speech:

I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

Although this quote states that plans are worthless, it makes the point that the planning process that leads to the plan is absolutely necessary and extremely valuable.  I suspect that the plans are worthless part of the quote was probably said for effect, and it is unlikely that Eisenhower only valued the process and not the outcome.  Rather, I think that Eisenhower wanted to emphasize that extremely important decisions, such as where durable long-lasting transportation infrastructure is built, should not be the subject of arbitrary, knee-jerk, go-with-the-gut, or spur-of-the-moment decisions.  And, we should not expect planners to predict the future with infallible accuracy and precision. 

After all, few of us would actually expect private sector Wall Street Analysts to predict exact stock prices for individual stocks 20 years from now.  Rather, we should expect planners to anticipate scenarios, envision possible trends in the future, and to lead us through a process that helps us make the best decisions we can today given uncertainty and limited resources. It is just such a process that we are kicking off from now through the summer of 2015.  We will need your participation and feedback, in order to, advise our local elected officials on wise and prudent decisions regarding transportation funding.  Please stay tuned and stay engaged.