Incorporating Livability and the Urban Form into Travel Demand Forecasting Models in High Growth Rural and Small Urban Communities


Montana State University

Principal Investigator

Pat McGowen

PI Contact Information

Western Transportation Institute
Montana State University
2327 University Way, Suite 6
Bozeman, MT 59715

Funding Source(s) (Amounts provided by each agency or organization)

USDOT – $149,818

Total Project Cost


Agency ID or Contract Number


Start and End Dates

07/01/2014 – 12/31/2015

Brief Description of Research Project

There are many Decision makers in rural and small urban communities experiencing dramatic population growth need sound estimates of future traffic in order to set land use and transportation policies. Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) of major metropolitan areas have dedicated staff that build and run travel demand forecasting models (TDFM) costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. TDFMs provide current and future traffic estimates based on different land use and infrastructure improvement scenarios. Rural areas cannot afford these full models and rely on a very simple TDFM (the rapid assessment model) built once every five to ten years (or not at all).

The rapid assessment model could be improved to incorporate aspects so that future traffic estimates are sensitive to livability policies and programs. One such effort involved adding sensitivity to urban form (Berger and McGowen, in prep). We know that citizens travel differently when urban form changes (i.e., increased mixed land use and higher densities). Rapid assessment models, typically used in rural and small urban communities, utilize a basic model structure and factors based on national data; this approach is thought to ignore urban form. McGowen and Berger have developed and implemented a modified rapid assessment model that is relatively easy to implement, uses existing data and is sensitive to urban form.

Building on the McGowen-Berger model, the urban form sensitivity will be further refined by “ground-truthing” with data for the case study in the Greater Bozeman Area TDFM. Additionally, other livability metrics will be incorporated such as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and sidewalk connectivity.

This project will:

  • Develop a consolidated list of livability metrics that could be incorporated into TDFM,
  • Conduct initial analysis on the feasibility of incorporating each of these metrics into TDFM for a rural or small urban area,
  • Fully implement at least one livability metric into a full TDFM, and
  • Share results through technical transfer activities.

The tools developed by this research effort will allow travel demand forecasting models to be sensitive to livability policies and programs. With these improved TDFMs, planners and policy makers can make better decisions to direct how cities are developed. By the time communities have the critical mass (tax base) to allow them enough resources for fully developed TDFMs, it can be too late to shape a community through policy, incentives, and infrastructure improvements. With better tools, planners and policy makers in these small, but high growth communities will be able to better shape the future of the city and incentivize growth for livable communities.

Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented)

Pending project completion.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated)

Pending project completion.

Web Links

  • Reports (pending completion)
  • Project website (na)