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Metropolitan Planning Organizations' Long-range Transportation Plans:

Best Practices in Sustainability, Equity, and Climate Change

Principal Investigator(s): Tonya Sanders Thach PhD, Celeste Chavis PhD, Glenn Robinson PhD

Project Partners: Morgan State University, Baltimore Metropolitan Transportation Council

Research Project Funding: $111,991

Project Start and End Date: Oct 1st, 2023 – September 30st, 2024

Project Description: The long-range transportation (LRT) planning process seeks to align an agency’s transportation investment priorities over the next 20 years with the region’s vision and goals which increasingly includes sustainable transportation, climate change and equity targets. Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are regional transportation agencies responsible for the integrated LRT of multiple independent governmental jurisdictions. This research seeks to compile from progressive MPOs lessons learned in implementing sustainable modes of transportation in their LRT that account for climate change and equity in transportation. Twenty MPOs will be chosen. Ten smaller MPOs with populations more than 50,000, but less than 200,000 and 10 MPOs with populations larger than 200,000. Two authors of each of the 20 LRT plans will be interviewed for a total of 40 interviews, and content analysis will be used to develop key themes around best practices in implementing sustainable transportation, climate change and equity targets; implementation challenges; and overall lessons learned.

In reaction to the Biden Administration’s recent executive orders on equity, fairness and justice, this research will identify best practices and inform policy development and implementation of sustainable and equitable transportation planning that is responsive to climate change at the state, regional, and local levels.

US DOT Priorities: This project fits well within the US DOT Strategic Goals of Equity and Climate and Sustainability, aiming to identify best practices and inform policy development and implementation of sustainable and equitable transportation planning that is responsive to climate change at the state, regional, and local levels. In the same line, this project contributes to CCST’s Focus Area 1: Promoting Climate Culture in All Levels of Transportation Decisions and Focus Area 2: Community-Centered Solutions to Environmental Justice.

Outputs: Best practice case studies in sustainable transportation, equity, and climate change will be developed from this research. Regional MPOs will have access to these case studies to improve the implementation of sustainable, equitable transportation that is responsive to climate change. To this end, a conference presentation at the Maryland American Planning Association’s regional conference, submission of a journal manuscripts in the Journal of American Planning Association (JAPA), read by practitioners, and delivery of a live webinar for continuing education credit with the American Institute of Certified Planners will be venues to share this knowledge. In addition, the research team will produce a final project report, one policy brief, and one CCST Webinar presentation to be shared with the Center’s internal and external partners.

Outcomes/Impacts:  We expect MPOs across the United States begin to implement ideas in the best practice case studies so that sustainable transportation, transportation equity, and reducing the impact of transport on climate change is prioritized in long-range transportation plans. Long-lasting benefits of the project results for future research or practice include assessing how a shift from gas powered vehicles to sustainable transportation modes decreased GHG, increased public health, pedestrian safety, and density around an urban core.

If any of the best practices in sustainable transportation are widely implemented nationally, then in the short term it helps us to reach our Paris Climate Agreement goals of decreasing greenhouse gases by 50-52% by 2030. Longer term, the benefits could be exponential. Adoption of our sustainable transportation modes could be the catalyst to redesign the built environment at a human scale– i.e., the 15-minute city; benefits accrue to individuals and public health by people choosing active transport (i.e., walking, biking) rather than driving short trips; a radical decrease in CO2 emissions in our atmosphere – fewer 100 year storms, global warming slows; and transportation that meets the needs of all users.