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Programming for Operations: MPO Examples of Prioritizing and Funding Transportation Systems Management & Operations Strategies

Portland Metro (Portland, Oregon)

Agency Overview

FAQs about Portland Metro

MPO Population: 1,927,881
TSMO Dedicated Funding: Yes
Dedicated Operations Staff: 1.49 FTE
TSMO included in UPWP: Yes

Metro serves as the MPO for close to two million residents in the Portland region, including Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and 25 cities.57 It is a metropolitan area whose leaders strive to meet the needs of a growing population by following an agreed upon regional growth management strategy. The Portland region has a strong history of regional collaboration among transportation operators dating back to the early 1990s. Around 2004, Metro became fully involved in planning for operations, establishing a program area and assuming management of the regional operations collaborative group, TransPort.58

Funding for Operations

Operations projects in the Portland region are funded by a variety of sources, including local dedicated funds and State funds (e.g., STIP). However, a major source of funding is Metro's dedicated TSMO funds. Since 2009, the Portland region has set aside funding from Metro's Regional Flexible Fund program to support implementation of TSMO. Metro is currently in its fourth sub-allocation process for TSMO, and it is still strongly supported by Metro members. Metro promotes this program by documenting project benefits and demonstrating program successes.

Metro's Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP) includes a line item for the TSMO Program which "coordinates both the planning and implementation of the regional system management and operations strategies to enhance multi-modal mobility for people and goods." This program is funded by a combination of Federal STP and local dollars in the annual amount of $1,671,682 for 2014 and 2015, respectively.59

To guide operations investments in the region, Metro developed a 10-year Regional Transportation Systems Management and Operations Plan in collaboration with two subcommittees of the Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee — TransPort and the Regional Travel Options Subcommittee. TransPort is a regional committee of transportation operating agencies, and the Regional Travel Options Subcommittee is a public-private sector working group. This document identifies strategies that will "make the most of the transportation system" by improving travel time reliability, reducing crashes, improving transit on-time arrivals, reducing travel delay, reducing fuel use, and reducing air pollution and carbon emissions.60

The TSMO plan identifies two categories of actions: those for regional programs and projects that require interagency cooperation, and those for individual travel corridors and single-agency services. Funds are allocated to TSMO projects in two categories: region-wide and corridor-specific. Investments center on the four areas indicated in Table 9.

Table 9. Portland Metro's Investment Strategy for Management and Operations.61
Investment Area Example of Benefits to Region
Multimodal Traffic Management

An adaptive signal timing project installed in Gresham in 2007 reduced average travel times by 10 percent and saves over 74,000 gallons of fuel every year.

A typical signal timing project in Portland saves over 300 metric tons of CO2 annually per retimed traffic signal.

The transit signal priority project in the Portland metro area has the ability to reduce transit delay by 30 to 40 percent and improve travel time by 2 to 16 percent, based on previous studies.

Traffic Incident Management The Oregon DOT (ODOT) incident response program responds to over 12,703 incidents each year in the Portland metro area. Based on 2001 data, if all delay-causing incidents in the Portland region were reduced by 5 minutes, over 270,000 hours of delay would be saved annually.
Traveler Information

In 2008, the TripCheck web site was visited over 23 million times, and that number has grown steadily since 2002 when data was first collected. The record month for visits was December 2008, with almost 6 million visits. Surveys show that TripCheck information influences travel decisions for up to 80 percent of survey respondents.

In 2009, TriMet's transit tracker phone service received an average of 1.4 million calls every month, and 360,000 trips were planned online using the agency's online trip planning tool.

The ride-matching web site has more than 11,000 registered users.


An individualized marketing project in North and Northeast Portland during the opening of the MAX Yellow Line reduced auto trips by 9 percent. Transit ridership grew 44 percent, while ridership in a control group grew only 24 percent.

Employer transportation programs are in place at 1,139 worksites in the region, and 924 of those include an employer-provided transit subsidy for employees. Surveys of employees indicate that the non-single occupant vehicle mode share at these worksites exceeds 35 percent.

A survey of residents in the Portland metro area found that nearly one out of five (19 percent) took action to reduce car trips because of what they saw, read, or heard about the Drive Less/Save More campaign.

The 10-year TSMO Plan calls for expenditures for capital improvements and investments in maintaining system personnel and promoting services, as well as managing the overall operations program. Annual costs are expected to be lower in the early years of implementation and increase after full implementation of the TDM projects.

Full (10-year) implementation of the region-wide and corridor-specific transportation demand management projects will mean investing approximately $23 million in capital improvements and up to $44 million a year for operations and maintenance. Full implementation of the systems management and operation projects will mean investing approximately $330 million for capital improvements and annual operation and maintenance costs of up to approximately $11 million.62 These investments are estimated in the TSMO Plan for the near-term (1-5 years), and are shown in Table 10.

Table 10. Estimated Short-Term Investments in Region-wide Projects.63
Functional Area Capital Cost Annual Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Cost
Regional Multimodal Traffic Management $18M $250K
Traveler Information $4M $2.5M
Incident Management $2M $700K
Transportation Demand Management $12.1M $3M
Overall Cost (Region-wide Projects Only) $36.1M $6.5M

In addition to these region-wide projects, which receive about one-third of TSMO funds, other projects are organized under the mobility corridor concept in which 24 unique, multimodal corridors have been identified in the Portland region.64 Each corridor includes a combination of freeways/highways, parallel networks of arterial streets, regional multi-use paths, high capacity transit, and frequent bus service that connect major activity centers, as defined by the regional growth concept. Corridor-specific projects receive approximately two-thirds of TSMO funds.

Table 11. Estimated Short-Term Investments in Corridor-specific Projects.65
Project Type Capital Cost Annual Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Cost
Transportation System Management (TSM) Projects - Regional Multimodal Traffic Management/Traveler Information/ Traffic Incident Management $89M $2M
Transportation Demand Management $200K $14M
Overall Cost $89.2M $16M

Traditionally, TSMO projects were funded using CMAQ funds. However, beginning this fall Metro will be shifting to using more STP funds for operations and focusing the CMAQ funds on "green" projects.

The 2012–2015 MTIP identifies 18 TSMO projects. This listing includes a project title/description, lead agency, funding amount, and status (e.g., scheduled, underway, completed). Examples of these projects are shown in the table below.

Table 12.Examples of TSMO Projects Included in the 2012-2015 MTIP.66

Project Category Lead Agency Funding Status
Regional ITS Communications Master Plan - Develop master plan for enhancing and maintaining the region's ITS communications network. Region-wide Metro $50K Scheduled for 2014
Portland Oregon Regional Transportation Data Archive Listing (PORTAL) - Support maintenance and enhancements to regional transportation data archive. Region-wide Portland State University $450K Ongoing
Regional ITS Communications Infrastructure Improvements - Complete gaps and deficiencies identified in the Regional ITS Communications Plan. Region-wide ODOT $530K Scheduled for 2015
N/NE Columbia Blvd: Signal System Upgrade - Upgrade signal hardware, communications and detection. Install air quality monitoring stations. Add transit and truck signal priority. Install pedestrian countdown heads and Leading Pedestrian Intervals at high volume. Corridor-specific City of Portland $500K Scheduled for 2015
Bi-state Travel Time Signage - Provide destination travel time signage on I-5 and I-205 between northern (WA) and southern (OR) I-5/I-205 interchanges. Corridor-specific ODOT $100K Scheduled for 2014

TSMO Staffing

Metro recently succeeded in establishing the line item in the TSMO Program funds for support to manage the TSMO Program and recommends creating this support at the initiation of a TSMO Program. In addition, the UPWP identifies several programs under which TSMO is supported. The Transportation Planning activity supports the development of the TSMO Plan, among other activities. In addition, two program areas under the TSMO heading, Regional Mobility and Regional Travel Options, coordinate the development, implementation, and performance monitoring of regional demand and system management strategies.67

Project Selection

Every two years, the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) and Metro Council decide how to allocate Regional Flexible Funds (STP, CMAQ, and Transportation Alternative grant funds).68 The allocation process involves three funding steps. In Step 1, funding levels are set for regional programs, including the TSMO Program. Step 2 is a competitive process in which local agencies submit project applications. Step 3 was created in 2012 and established a Regional Economic Opportunity Fund (REOF) that is used to fund larger projects ($5 – $10 million) that are difficult to fund at the local level.69 Operations projects have successfully received funding through the Step 2 competitive process as well as through the TSMO Program funding allocation in Step 1. The success of the operations projects in the competitive process is likely due to their lower relative cost.

Shortly after the allocation of funding for the TSMO Program in the MTIP, Metro will work through TransPort to evaluate and select projects for the TSMO Program funds. The TSMO Program funds are divided into two pools, with one–third of the funding going to projects that benefit the entire region and two–thirds of the funding going to corridor–based projects. TransPort typically reaches consensus easily on which regional projects to fund. These projects may include supporting a regional data archive or updating the regional ITS architecture. For the corridor–level projects, Metro agencies submit project applications, and TransPort develops evaluation criteria and performs an analysis of the projects. During the latest project selection cycle, Metro held a series of workshops with Metro's technical advisory committee to obtain feedback from a broader audience on both operations and travel demand management program projects and to look for opportunities for joint projects. Projects submitted by multiple sponsors are given additional points in the project evaluation process.

For the competitive process in Step 2, Federal FY2014–2015 regional flexible funds are allocated using a new collaborative project nomination process and new focus areas on which to spend funds. The project focus areas for this allocation cycle are:

  • Active Transportation and Complete Streets (75 percent of available funds)
  • Green Economy and Freight Initiatives (25 percent of available funds)70

For each focus area, nomination, scoping, and selection criteria have been established. For Active Transportation and Complete Streets, the higher priority criteria include improving access to and from priority destinations (e.g., mixed–use centers, large employment areas, schools, essential services for Environmental Justice/underserved communities), improving safety, improving user experience, and increasing use of and serving high growth areas. For Green Economy and Freight Initiatives, the higher priority criteria include reducing freight delay, increasing freight access to industrial and employment centers, greening the economy, improving safety, reducing air toxins, reducing impacts to underserved communities, and improving freight reliability.71

Operations projects also receive funding in the Portland region through local and State programs. For example, residents of Washington County contribute to a county transportation fund which has been used for operations projects. Local governments in the region also apply for ITS funding through the State's programming process.

For More Information

Contact Deena Platman, Principal Transportation Planner
TIP Link–2015_mtip_adoption_final.pdf

57 Oregon Metro, Mission, Charter, and Code. Available at: Return to note 57.

58 Federal Highway Administration, Outcomes Based, Performance–Driven Planning and Metro Portland, November 2010. Available at: Return to note 58.

59 Oregon Metro, 2012–2015 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan, February 2012. Available at:–2015_mtip_adoption_final.pdf. Return to note 59.

60 Oregon Metro, 2010 Regional Transportation Systems Management and Operations Plan, June 2010. Available at: Return to note 60.

61 Oregon Metro, 2010 Regional Transportation Systems Management and Operations Plan, June 2010. Available at: Return to note 61.

62 Ibid. Return to note 62.

63 Ibid. Return to note 63.

64 Oregon Metro, Atlas of Mobility Corridors, July 2010. Available at: Return to note 64.

65 Oregon Metro, 2010 Regional Transportation Systems Management and Operations Plan, June 2010. Available at: Return to note 65.

66 Oregon Metro, Current List of TSMO Projects. Available at: Return to note 66.

67 Oregon Metro, Fiscal Year 2012–2013 Unified Planning Work Program, April 2012. Available at: Return to note 67.

68 Oregon Metro, 2012–2015 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program Appendix, May 2012. Available at: Return to note 68.

69 Oregon Metro, Regional Flexible Fund Allocation – Project Nomination Process for Allocation of 2016 – 18 Funds, January 2013. Available at:–2018_nomination_packet.pdf. Return to note 69.

70 Ibid. Return to note 70.

71 Oregon Metro, 2012–2015 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program Appendix, May 2012. Available at: Return to note 71.

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