5.1 The Resulting MTP and TIP
The metropolitan transportation plan is developed through a coordinated process between local jurisdictions, agencies, and the public, in order to develop regional solutions to transportation needs. By institutionalizing an objectives-driven, performance based planning process incorporating M&O strategies into the MTP, involving a range of stakeholders, the planning process will continue to evolve to reflect the growing challenges of metropolitan transportation planning. The MTP that results from this process will clearly address management and operations of the transportation system. It should include:
- A vision, goals and objectives that address management and operations;
- Measurable objectives that allow the region to track progress toward achieving its goals;
- Clear strategies for M&&O, backed by specific performance measures for evaluation.
The MTP should include discussion of M&&O goals, objectives, and strategies, but this can be structured in different ways. Typically, the MTP may contain a section on M&&O goals, objectives, and strategies. However, M&&O does not need to be discussed in a stand-alone section of the document.
The resulting M&&O aspects of the MTP will:
- Be performance-focused, rather than solely project-focused;
- Address non-recurring congestion, in addition to recurring;
- Identify regionally important M&&O strategies that are applied in the region, regardless of funding source;
- Include strategies addressing both short-term and long-term system performance.
The results of this entire process will be seen in improved regional transportation system performance and less urban congestion.
5.2 On-Going Monitoring and Evaluation
Incorporating operations objectives in the MTP can provide better information to customers and stakeholders on the progress being made toward desired goals and objectives, and can therefore, serve to make long-range plans more "real" to the public. Performance measures in the MTP can then be used by the MPO to report regularly on the performance of the metropolitan transportation system (e.g., an annual performance report).
Periodic performance reports provide an excellent mechanism to make M&O more relevant to everyday experience. A number of MPOs, transit operators and State DOTs use performance reports to inform decisionmakers about the trends in system performance.
Such reports inform transportation planning in a number of ways:
- One, they provide a realistic view of system performance improvements achievable through management and operations investments.
- Second, they provide operations managers with guideposts and goals that provide some measure of how operations programs are contributing to the long-term goals of the system.
- Third, they support policy that is realistic about system constraints and that supports the role of management and operations in maintaining acceptable transportation performance.
Agencies that report performance measures in a quarterly or annual performance report encourage a sustained communications link between planning and operations staffs. There are many cases where a particular activity or project requires temporary coordination or exchange between planners and operators, but sustaining such communication is critical for changing the everyday perspective of these departments to routinely consider operations tools within the planning process. Routine, sustained, performance reporting is therefore, particularly valuable.
Examples of Performance Reports:
The Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), the MPO for the Albuquerque metropolitan area, demonstrates the region's transportation system performance through traffic flow maps, a list of the top 25 most congested intersections, and an annual publication called Local Motion. This performance information is available to the public on MRCOG's website and is intended to educate the public, the staff of local governments, and elected officials. Local Motion summarizes continuously collected traffic count data on freeways, arterials, and collector streets. Every three years, Local Motion includes a report card for the area's transportation system to assist in developing the long-range Metropolitan Transportation Plan. The report card rates the system based on criteria that relate to management and operations such as emergency vehicle response time, congestion levels, and miles of roadway with ITS coverage. Additionally, the traffic flow maps depict the annual average weekday traffic volumes. As a result of these performance reports, transportation officials and the public are able to evaluate the success of existing programs and target future projects accordingly.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), the MPO for the Dallas-Fort Worth region, used data on system performance to develop an annual performance report to the MPO board. The performance report presented a forthright statement to local officials about the significant transportation, air quality, and funding constraints facing the region. The performance report helped local officials appreciate the important place of M&O strategies in the regional transportation vision.
Measurement of performance in terms of incident-based delay also yielded other positive impacts in the planning process in the Dallas-Fort Worth Region. Although many regions that struggle with air quality issues do not consider the delay (and associated pollution) caused by incidents when estimating vehicle emissions, NCTCOG measured the contribution of incident delay to regional emissions. As a result, the MPO was about to take credit in its air quality conformity analysis for emissions reductions resulting from a successful incident response program.
5.3 Overall Benefits
Not only will the regional transportation system see direct benefits through improved performance and less urban congestion, but broader benefits will be realized through a transportation planning process that is objectives-driven and performance-based. Specifically, an MPO may also expect additional benefits and results, such as:
- Clearer links between the MTP and the TIP, which often includes short-term projects focused on operations. A MTP may identify funding sources that can be set aside for projects that will be selected in more short-range planning analyses to address congestion and reliability issues.
- Stronger links between transportation planning and the NEPA process - An objectives-driven, performance-based planning process offers potential to strengthen the project development process and review of transportation projects. Specifically:
- By clearly articulating regional goals and objectives, this can help to ensure that infrastructure projects in the MTP have a clearly identified purpose and need.
- Moreover, since the approach places increased attention on M&&O strategies, it will inherently involve stronger consideration of TSM alternatives to projects.
- By considering M&&O strategies in connection with infrastructure projects, this may help to shape project decisions as the project moves from planning through project development and design. For instance, as part of any new highway expansion, M&&O strategies such as transportation pricing, development of high-occupancy vehicle lanes, or flexible design to accommodate concurrent flows of traffic can be put forward and incorporated into the proposed project alternatives.
- Improved ability to meet customer needs in the short-run and long-run, rather than just focusing on long-term needs.
- Improved ability to meet a range of regional goals, as M&&O strategies help to address safety, security, mobility, recurring and nonrecurring congestion, and other issues.