Programming for Operations: MPO Examples of Prioritizing and Funding Transportation Systems Management & Operations Strategies
Background and Purpose
For several years, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Planning for Operations program has focused on integrating transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) into the metropolitan and Statewide transportation planning process. Planning for operations is driven by outcome–oriented objectives and performance measures. Rather than focusing on projects and investment plans, the planning for operations approach emphasizes first developing objectives for transportation system performance and then using performance measures and targets as a basis for identifying solutions and developing investment strategies. The result is increased inclusion of TSMO strategies to improve safety, mobility and efficiency at the regional and statewide scale.
While several guidebooks, primers, and case studies have been developed focusing on integrating TSMO strategies into the planning process, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) have often faced challenges in advancing TSMO projects, programs, and activities for funding. This document discusses how MPOs have incorporated TSMO projects into the programming phase of transportation investment decisionmaking in metropolitan areas. Based on a sample of practices from MPOs that have emphasized operations strategies in the planning process, this document highlights findings on:
This report includes case studies of practices related to programming TSMO strategies from nine MPOs around the country.
About Metropolitan Programming
Programming refers to the process of selecting projects for funding, identifying funding resources, and scheduling implementation. Programming is a distinct phase of transportation decisionmaking that occurs in conjunction with long–range planning. It focuses on the short–term planning priorities and commits funds for expenditure. Projects are selected by matching available revenue with planned projects that meet the criteria for that funding stream. Programming can be highly analytical, employing revenue models and quantitative project selection criteria; however, it is strongly influenced by decisionmaker perspective and interests. The project selection and programming process for Federal–aid projects in urban areas is the responsibility of MPOs [23USC §134(j)]. MPOs are required to develop a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) that identifies projects within their urbanized area. Projects adopted in the MPO TIP must be included in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). All projects receiving Federal funds must be included in both the TIP and STIP.
TIP projects must be consistent with the 20–year (or longer) long–range transportation plan, reflect near–term investment priorities, and indicate progress toward system performance targets. The TIP must contain a minimum of four years' worth of projects and must be updated at least every four years. According to statute, the TIP must:
These legal requirements establish consistency at the national level; however, each MPO will conduct programming to fit its regional context. For example, many MPOs update the TIP more frequently than required. Some MPOs choose to include projects that are funded by local or State funding as well as those that are Federally funded. The TIP schedule for an individual MPO will also vary to meet the State Department of Transportation (DOT) STIP schedule.
In urban areas where the population is greater than 200,000, MPOs must develop an internal Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP). This program identifies expenditures by the MPO over the next 1–2 years [23CFR §450.308].2 The UPWP is the work program for funds that will be directly expended by the MPO. This differs from the TIP, which shows projects that will be funded using other agencies' money (transit operators, State DOT, etc.). The UPWP can include staff costs, materials purchase, contracting, studies, and programs offered directly by the MPO. Some TSMO projects or studies may appear in the UPWP because they are implemented with planning funds or require MPO staff time.
TSMO activities are eligible for funding under several Federal programs. These programs are listed in Table 1.
Table 1. Description of Federal Funding Programs that may Support TSMO Activities.
1 This requirement was instituted as a part of MAP–21 in 2012. Most MPO TIPs may not yet contain performance achievement information. Return to note 1.
2 MPOs that are not within a Transportation Management Area (generally under 200,000 people) can adopt a "simplified work program." This document is largely the same as a UPWP. Return to note 2.
4 Ibid. Return to note 4.
11 Ibid. Return to note 11.
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration