Systems planning is a high-level planning process that considers creating new transportation services as well as enhancing and maintaining existing transportation systems. This planning process promotes a safe, efficient, and comprehensive rail system within the multi-modal national transportation system. At its core, systems planning examines broad needs, challenges, and opportunities that can be addressed with a transportation-related solution, including capital projects.
A government agency (e.g., a state department of transportation, authority, commission, or interstate-compact), railroad, or private entity may identify the need for a project through its systems planning processes. Systems planning involves analyzing empirical data to identify rail transportation needs and developing strategies and projects to meet these needs. Project Sponsors may, for example, accomplish systems planning through a railroad capital planning process, or through preparation of a regional rail study or State Rail Plan. Some projects may have multiple purposes and be identified through other highway or transit planning processes. The systems planning process should identify specific projects to address documented needs, challenges, and opportunities.
Comprehensive systems planning for a regional passenger rail network considers links with other transportation modes for safe, seamless, integrated transportation to carry travelers from origin to destination within and between megaregions. Comprehensive systems planning for freight movement considers how freight volumes and commodities move through the general rail system and are interconnected to other modes of transportation.
Systems planning encompasses multi-state regional planning, corridor planning, and project identification.