Focusing on the design issues involved in two key types of transportation environments - context sensitive solutions and transit-oriented development - the report investigates design benefits measured in aesthetic and humanistic terms. These include issues of community identity, appearance, scenic quality, and cultural value. These characteristics are difficult to measure, more difficult to quantify, and even more difficult to cast in terms of monetary costs and benefits. Despite the difficulty of measuring it, design is an important element for the success of transportation projects and should not be overlooked. It is critical that we be able to measure the qualities of design so we can discuss it in a systematic and reliable way.
In order to capture important details and reflect a range of potential definitions of good design, this report examined case studies in three regions - in Northern Virginia, the Saint Louis Metropolitan area and Missouri, and Northern California. In each it tested six approaches to measuring design quality: using a short score sheet rating tool and a longer inventory, eliciting the opinions of design experts and some of the users and creators of the spaces, using standardized drawing and mapping techniques to compare designs, and by assessing photographs.