Transportation Scenarios

The three scenarios are described below, and you can hover over the scenario icon to read a brief descriptions and click "Learn More" for a closer look at each scenario. You can also use our interactive map  to explore the projects for all three scenarios in greater detail.  Please provide feedback by completing the Missoula Connect Scenario Survey.

NEW CONNECTIONS

New Connections expands the roadway network through complete street reconstruction and creates new trails and bridges for all modes. It includes larger projects, such as the extension of Russell Street to I-90 and a new non-motorized bridge from McCormick Park to the Riverfront Triangle development. 

ENHANCED CONNECTIONS

Enhanced Connections maintains and improves our current networks to support inward growth. It focuses on closing gaps and completing

investments. This scenario includes many lower-cost projects, such as neighborhood greenways and targeted intersection improvements. It also includes Reserve Street protected bike lanes and the River Road complete street. 

REGIONAL EQUITY

Regional Equity focuses on projects that scored high on our equity criteria and those in Invest Health neighborhoods. This scenario connects people to affordable transportation options like transit, walking, and biking. It represents a more equitable use of transportation funds, with projects like the Howard Raser Drive connection between the Northside neighborhood and North Reserve and the Highway 200 complete street. 

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How do the scenarios compare?

We used a dozen metrics to evaluate the scenarios and compare them against each other. The metrics tie Missoula Connect's goals and reflect what we hope our transportation investments will help us achieve.

  

Below you’ll find a table that describes the metrics and shows how the scenarios performed. We’ve also shared a few highlights of the key metrics to better explain where each scenario does more to achieve our goals. You can read much more about our findings—with detailed information about the metrics and data we analyzed—in the Summary of Scenario Analysis Findings Report.  

In the Missoula region, there’s a lot to build upon, which means that we don’t always see a lot of difference when we model new improvements. But the good news is that all three of the transportation network scenarios move us toward the Missoula Connect goals. They each have their strengths, and they often achieve the goals in different ways. For example, the New Connections scenario improves access for freight and goods movement in key corridors, and the Enhanced Connections scenario makes it easier for people walking and biking to connect to schools.  

 

Another important finding is that the Strategic Growth scenario amplifies the benefits of each transportation network scenario. Across most metrics—and especially accessibility, equity, and the sustainability measures—we see more positive outcomes with Strategic Growth. There are more jobs within a 15- to 30-minute walk or bike ride; there are more people who have access to affordable transportation options; and there are fewer vehicle miles traveled and more trips made by walking and biking as people live closer to the places they want to go.  

SAFETY, CONNECTIVITY & ACCESSIBILITY

All three scenarios improve safety, connectivity, and accessibility. To assess safety benefits, we looked at the number of locations with a history of collisions that might be improved with each scenario. We expect each scenario to have positive benefits, but Enhanced Connections and Regional Equity include more intersection improvements that could be designed with safety countermeasures.  

We looked at connectivity in two ways: vehicle and multimodal connectivity and connectivity for people walking and biking. With its focus on expanding the current network and creating new roadways and complete streets, the New Connections scenario has important benefits for the overall network. For example, connecting Russell Street to I-90 would relieve some traffic congestion on Reserve Street and West Broadway. However, the multimodal connectivity improvements are limited to a handful of key corridors. The Enhanced Connections and Regional Equity scenarios provide some multimodal connectivity benefits as well, particularly related to complete streets and transit improvements, but they do not relieve congestion in the same way.  

Our second analysis related to connectivity was based on the network of bike facilities that would be comfortable for people of all ages and abilities. The Regional Equity scenario includes more improvements focused on low-stress and connected facilities—including neighborhood greenways that prioritize people walking and biking—but all three scenarios would improve connectivity for people biking from today’s conditions.  

Accessibility included a network view of the jobs, schools, parks, and social services that someone can reach by walking or biking 15 or 30 minutes. When focusing specifically on biking access to jobs, the Regional Equity and Enhanced Connections scenarios include more projects that would improve the connectivity of the bicycle network within the central core, as well as in Hellgate, Lower Rattlesnake, and near the University, where there is anticipated job growth. The Regional Equity Scenario also provides connections to Wye and Frenchtown, where there is anticipated job growth. 

All three transportation scenarios improve walking access to schools in the Grant Creek, South 39th Street, and Lower Rattlesnake neighborhoods. Regional Equity shows a slight increase the number of households within a 15-minute walk of schools compared to the other scenarios. All three scenarios show modest improvements in access to parks and social services, most of which are concentrated in central Missoula. The exception is the Enhanced Connections scenario, which improves walking access to parks by about 15% over the base network.  

In general, the transportation network scenarios improved access to jobs, schools, parks, and social services by a small measure, with Enhanced Connections and Regional Equity providing greater accessibility than New Connections. But the bigger contributor to increased accessibility was the Strategic Growth scenario.

EQUITY & AFFORDABILITY

The Missoula region is facing significant challenges with affordability. Job losses due to COVID-19, coupled with significant in-migration, have exacerbated the effects of high housing prices on our region’s most vulnerable residents. The region is focused on increasing affordability and reducing overall transportation costs; improving access to essential services; and elevating the needs of historically disadvantaged communities, including the Invest Health neighborhoods.  

To understand the ways the transportation scenarios could improve affordability, we identified the number of affordable housing locations that would be served by the projects in each scenario. All three scenarios connect to key sites in the Franklin to the Fort and River Road neighborhoods, and New Connections and Regional Equity provide better connectivity to affordable housing options in East Missoula. Overall, Regional Equity provides the greatest multimodal accessibility to affordable housing opportunities across the region. It serves 71% more affordable housing sites than New Connections and 17% more than Enhanced Connections.  

Beyond connections to affordable housing sites, we analyzed the ways the scenarios might change travel behavior in the Invest Health neighborhoods and in other neighborhoods with higher concentrations of people who often experience social and economic disparities. These “equity zones” are those that have more Black, Indigenous, and people of color, lower-income households, people with disabilities, older and younger people, English-language learners, and households without access to a vehicle.Areas that fall within equity zones include the western half of Downtown, Franklin to the Fort, Riverfront, Rose Park, Lewis and Clark, and the University District.  

Both the Enhanced Connections and Regional Equity scenarios include more projects in the equity zones and Invest Health neighborhoods, and Regional Equity has the most improvements focused in these neighborhoods. The Enhanced Connections and Regional Equity networks both show a reduction in auto person trips in these areas, which means that the scenarios are providing people with options to walk, bike, and take transit. These are the most affordable means of transportation. These findings also suggest that both scenarios can improve health outcomes as people make more trips by active modes.  

An important factor in creating more a more affordable and equitable region is the completeness of neighborhoods and opportunities for infill growth and affordable housing development. The interaction of the growth scenarios and the transportation network scenarios is particularly important to meeting the equity and affordability goals of Missoula Connect. The Strategic Growth approach coupled with the Enhanced Connections scenario or the Regional Equity scenario provides better coverage to higher density housing areas in the core of the region. 

SUSTAINABILITY:

VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED (VMT), GREENHOUSE GAS (GHG), EMISSIONS, & WALKING/BIKING/TRANSIT TRIPS

Enhancing sustainability and resiliency to reduce the impacts of climate change are important objectives for Missoula Connect. The region has aggressive mode share targets that strive to dramatically decrease the number and proportion of drive-alone trips and increase the percentage of trips made by walking, biking, and transit.  

By estimating how each scenario increases or decreases the number of trips made by each mode of travel, we developed an estimate of how the scenarios could help to reduce the share of regional trips made by automobile and associated externalities like carbon emissions.  

All three transportation scenarios could be expected to decrease regional vehicle miles traveled (VMT). However, we found that the growth scenarios have a larger impact on reducing VMT than the transportation network scenarios, with Strategic Growth generating less VMT than Business as Usual across all three transportation scenarios.  

Because estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are based largely on VMT, the land use scenarios also have a greater impact on reducing GHGs than the transportation scenarios. However, New Connections showed a greater potential to increase GHG emissions than the other two transportation scenarios due to a decrease in localized congestion associated with key projects such as the Russell Street to I-90 extension.  

In all scenarios the mode share for walking and biking increases, and auto trips decrease. Transit mode share stays constant under all three transportation scenarios due to the way the model estimates trips and the types of transit projects included in the scenarios(i.e., corridor capital projects rather than service improvements). We would expect to see an increase in transit ridership and transit trips/mode share as service is improved. Investments in faster and more frequent service, longer hours of service, and additional routes could all significant improve the attractiveness of transit in the region. 

Overall, the Enhanced Connections scenario showed the greatest reduction in auto trips and the greatest increase in biking trips among the three scenarios. Regional Equity showed the greatest potential to increase walking trips among the transportation scenarios.

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