What Is A Traffic Study?

A traffic study, also known as a traffic impact study, traffic impact assessment, or traffic impact analysis, is a focused report created by a licensed engineer that evaluates the effects of a particular development’s traffic on a surrounding transportation network. Traffic studies are a tool that municipalities or governmental agencies may require to assess how the added traffic from a development will affect vehicles, pedestrians, and residents now and in the future. These studies help reviewers make decisions regarding land zoning, special land uses, subdivisions, and other developments that may negatively impact traffic flow. Usually, a community will set within their ordinance a threshold of new trips generated by the proposed development to determine if a study is required or not. 

The size and scope of each traffic study will differ; however, each will generally contain a summary of the proposed development, a review of the existing roadway conditions and background traffic operations, discussion of the proposed site and its expected generated trips based on the Institute of Transportation Engineer’s (ITE) Trip Generation Manual, an evaluation of the proposed traffic with the existing traffic, a horizon year review, and suggested mitigation measures and their effectiveness. The traffic engineer will weigh these items and expertly communicate the potential impacts of the proposed development on the traffic, people, and community. 

Often times a traffic study will require traffic counts or data collection in the area of the study. Traffic studies may also require a discussion of existing crash patterns. 

In Michigan, a handbook created in 1994 titled “Evaluating Traffic Impact Studies” has become the authoritative resource and guide for requiring, preparing, and reviewing traffic studies. Many communities throughout Michigan reference this document and require adherence to it when preparing a traffic study. 

A traffic study should be prepared by a licensed engineer holding the Professional Traffic Operations Engineer, or PTOE, designation. The PTOE engineer will have access to the ITE Trip Generation Handbook, modeling software based on the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM), a library of continuing education, and a network of other traffic engineers through ITE or the Transportation Research Board (TRB). 

VK Civil routinely prepares and reviews traffic studies and has a licensed PTOE on staff that can handle your traffic study needs anywhere in Michigan. Contact Aaron Van Proyen to start a conversation.