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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

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

San Diego Association of Governments (San Diego, California)



MPO Population: 3.1 million
TSMO Dedicated Funding: Local funds only
Dedicated TSMO Staff: 9 FTE
TSMO included in UPWP: Yes

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the MPO for the San Diego area. SANDAG is comprised of the San Diego County government and 18 cities within it. In addition to being a large metropolitan area, the SANDAG region is a major gateway route to and from Mexico via Interstate 5.

SANDAG has nine staff members that work on TSMO projects, including three who provide support to information systems that support regional traffic management. Day–to–day active operational support is provided by the State DOT, transit agencies, and at local government traffic operations centers.

In the next 40 years, the region is expected to add another 1.25 million residents.72 SANDAG's 2050 Regional Transportation Plan identifies transportation system management as critical to alleviating traffic congestion and maximizing the efficiency of the regional transportation network.

SANDAG is still more focused on the delivery of capital projects, but there is also increasing effort to integrate operations into these projects. Operations elements are considered in every step of the transportation facility design process, and conduits are included along corridors for deployment of operations technologies in the future. However, about 2 percent of funds programmed for 2012 in the Regional TIP were allocated for standalone traffic flow improvements (transportation management system/ITS and traffic management/signal projects).73

TIP Project Selection

SANDAG developed its project selection process by working collaboratively with its regional partners (California DOT (Caltrans), North County Transit District, Metropolitan Transit System, and local agencies). The TIP represents a financial commitment to implementing or advancing key regional projects that support regional transportation goals in the LRTP.

The MPO regularly updates project evaluation criteria (about every 4 years) to address emerging issues. The current project evaluation criteria align with the goals set forth in the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan and incorporate pressing regional concerns, such as greenhouse gas emissions and social equity.

Some projects in the TIP are inserted by local governments. The selection process for local TIP projects is managed by member local governments and generally follows existing processes or policy directions established at each local government. The inputs reflect the capital improvement programs of each local government. Local government procedures are guided by SANDAG's regional goals and initiatives.

Other projects in the TIP are identified by SANDAG. These projects are initiated (or re–affirmed) as part of the LRTP development every 4 years. The LRTP includes a discussion of the project prioritization process that should be used to select regional projects for the TIP.

Project Prioritization and Scoring

The project evaluation criteria use a 100–point scoring process. The criteria are grouped into three broader categories. SANDAG has criteria for various modes (transit services, highway, freeway connector, and HOV connector); the criteria are tailored for each mode, though they are generally the same. Criteria related to (or may favor) operations are included into each of the categories.

  • Serves Travel Needs (40 percent weighting) — Movement of people and goods. Operations–related criteria are congestion relief and high crash area.
  • Network Integration (20 percent weighting) — Connectivity between transportation network and surrounding land use. Operations–related criterion is the facilitation of carpooling or managed lanes.
  • Addresses Sustainability (40 percent weighting) — Promotion of healthy environment, economic prosperity and social equity. Operations–related criterion is cost–effectiveness of congestion relief.74

The cost–effectiveness and ability to provide benefits in a relatively short period of time makes operations prime for public support during the transportation planning process. SANDAG provides ample opportunities for the public to participate in transportation planning and programming process, but hosting workshops for citizens can review information about proposed projects and submit comments.

Funding Sources for TSMO Projects

As many ITS and operations projects are incorporated into larger capital projects, SANDAG doesn't track funding (amounts or sources) for ITS and operations projects that are incorporated into larger projects. However, a number of Federal, State and local funding sources are used for operations projects, including CMAQ, Regional STP, State Highway Operations Protection Program, and toll revenues. A major local funding source for operations projects is TransNet, a half–cent countywide sales tax for local transportation projects. Seventy percent of TransNet revenues are used for congestion reduction, including operations projects. Voters first approved the sales tax in 1988, and in 2004 voted to extend it for 40 years. TransNet has funded the traveler information network, the construction of HOV or managed lanes, traffic signal optimization, and a citywide study to identify operations strategies and other solutions for congestion reduction. SANDAG's TransNet Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee works to ensure that expenditures of TransNet funds are compliance with voter mandates.75

Lessons Learned

  • SANDAG has done an effective job of educating the public about the importance of TSMO, particularly in providing congestion relief. Voters approved of the TransNet sales tax, and then later an extension, to provide local funds for operations, and other congestion relief projects.
  • There is significant amount of collaboration among regional transportation stakeholders: SANDAG, Caltrans, cities, transit operators, etc. Through the use of memoranda of understanding (MOUs), these partners work together to implement solutions to regional transportation needs. SANDAG also works closely with these partners to develop project selection criteria for the TIP.

For More Information


Alex Estrella

Jim Linthicum

TIP Link
Regional Transportation Plan

72 San Diego Association of Governments, 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, October 2011. Return to note 72.

73 San Diego Association of Governments, Regional Transportation Improvement Program, September 2012. Available at: Return to note 73.

74 San Diego Association of Governments, 2012 Regional Transportation Improvement Program, September 2012. Available at: Return to note 74.

75 San Diego Association of Governments, TransNet Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee. Available at: Return to note 75.

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