GRATS 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan Update
CLIENT: Grand Strand Area Transportation Study
Purpose of Project
The 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) Update is the metropolitan transportation plan for the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study (GSATS), part of the Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments (WRCOG). The GSATS serves as the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Myrtle Beach Urbanized Area, serving portions of Horry and Georgetown Counties in South Carolina and parts of Brunswick County in North Carolina. The 2045 MTP Update identifies transportation needs, opportunities, and investment priorities for the Grand Strand region, extending the planning horizon of the region’s 2040 MTP.
Our Role on the Project
As part of a team, Modern Mobility Partners (MMP) is leading analyses and planning of the active transportation components of the 2045 MTP update. MMP incorporated considerations for the Grand Strand region’s walking, biking, and micromobility infrastructure into the MTP’s technical analyses, needs assessments, and plan recommendations.
The existing conditions analysis began with a technical memorandum reviewing the level of service performance on the region’s road network. Level of service is typically used as a measurement of congestion for motor vehicles, not other modes, and therefore MMP conducted level of traffic stress (LTS) analyses for walking and biking in the region. The LTS analyses measure how well the existing network provides safe and comfortable travel for people walking and biking. For both modes, the LTS scores roadways on four discrete levels corresponding to an estimated level of comfort for users, with lower scores indicating routes that are safer and more comfortable to travel on. These scores were developed through an analysis of available facility types, daily traffic volumes, posted speeds, number of travel lanes, separation from travel lanes, and facility continuity.
Walkways and Bikeways Technical Memorandum
MMP developed an in-depth technical memorandum documenting the existing conditions of the GSATS region’s walking and biking network. In addition to recapping the LTS analysis, the technical memorandum included the following components:
An assessment of existing and planned bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including the identification of network gaps;
A review of active transportation planning efforts in other local, regional, and state plans, including East Coast Greenway and Rails-to-Trails planning efforts;
A summary of public input regarding active transportation and multimodal connections;
An active transportation crash analysis, which included the identification of trends and contributing factors;
An analysis of Walking and Biking Demand using Replica Studies data, mapping high-activity corridors, average travel distance by mode, and typical trip purposes; and
The development of complete streets policies, facility design guidance, and active transportation planning best practices that builds upon the region’s existing efforts while incorporating current trends, such as new BIL funding opportunities and elements of the Safe Systems Approach.
Working within the plan’s fiscal constraint, which included accommodation for projects carried over from the 2040 MTP, MMP identified walking and biking needs by reviewing roadway segments with a significant number of crashes, gaps in the network, and high pedestrian and bicyclist volumes. MMP closely examined such segments near schools and within Justice40 disadvantaged Census tracts and areas of persistent poverty. MMP reviewed site conditions of these problem locations and made over two dozen recommendations for sidewalk, crosswalk, intersection design, ITS, and complete streets improvements that would help make destinations safer and more convenient to get to without a car.
Further, many of the identified problem locations possessed similar qualities, including a lack of sidewalk and curbs in residential neighborhoods with high pedestrian volumes. Understanding that the implementation of curb and sidewalk is often limited by right-of-way restrictions, funding, and agency capacity, MMP also made policy recommendations for a traffic calming neighborhood program that could utilize low-cost materials to make such residential streets safer for pedestrians at a systematic level.
Ultimately, the 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan Update was adopted by the GSATS Policy Board in October 2023.
Unique challenges of this plan included quickly delivering complex analyses that cover the breadth of the Grand Strand region while also providing enough depth to meaningfully inform the MTP’s recommendations. Our solutions of model development and big data effectively addressed these challenges by streamlining the existing conditions analyses and associated map outputs, enabling adequate time for comprehensive data review as well as programmatic and policy analyses.