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.

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