Chapter 2 — Process for Developing Charting Progress to 2040
The process for developing Charting Progress to 2040 incorporated a number of new elements that brought more information into the decision-making process, for both the MPO and the public. One new element is an interactive web-based needs-assessment application that can be accessed by all interested parties. In addition, MPO staff enhanced its performance-based planning practice for this LRTP and expanded use of contemporary planning tools, such as scenario planning, to inform policy and other types of decisions. Other new components are incorporating more electronic forms of communication into the MPO's approach to public participation, and heightened collaborative engagement with members of the public, both of which were integral to the LRTP development process and helped guide MPO decision making.
All of these new elements helped shape a fresh approach to programming—setting the MPO on a path that will make it more agile as it responds to performance measurement results, and more adept at charting a course for the transportation network of 2040.
Perhaps the most notable change, however, was moving away from the MPO's past practice of programming expensive capital-expansion projects to ease congestion, and adopting a new approach by funding a larger number of small operations-and-management (O&M)-type projects that support bicycle, pedestrian, and transit in addition to roadway improvements.
This chapter discusses the process and rationale for decision making throughout the LRTP’s development. The outcomes of these decisions, in terms of identifying needs, analyzing scenarios, selecting projects and programs, and finalizing the LRTP, are discussed in subsequent chapters.
Early in the process of developing this LRTP, the MPO revisited its vision statement to focus more sharply on the transportation issues of greatest concern to the MPO and the public for the envisioned future transportation system:
For each of these issues, the MPO identified problems and their associated needs for the transportation network. This allowed the MPO to set goals that, if accomplished, would result in concrete solutions for the identified problems, and help the region achieve its vision by 2040. The MPO established objectives for each goal (see Figure 2.1).
MPO Vision, Goals, and Objectives
Central Vision Statement
The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization envisions a modern transportation system that is safe, uses new technologies, provides equitable access, excellent mobility, and varied transportation options—in support of a sustainable, healthy, livable, and economically vibrant region.
Goals and Objectives
Safety - Transportation by all modes will be safe
System Preservation - Maintain the transportation system
Capacity Management/Mobility - Use existing facility capacity more efficiently and increase healthy transportation capacity
Clean Air Communities - Create an environmentally friendly transportation system
Transportation Equity - Provide comparable transportation access and service quality among communities, regardless of income level or minority population
Economic Vitality - Ensure our transportation network provides a strong foundation for economic vitality
Source: Central Transportation Planning Staff.
Together, the vision, goals, and objectives lay the groundwork for the MPO’s performance-based planning practice, which in turn informs all of the work conducted by the MPO, including evaluating and selecting projects and programs for the LRTP, selecting projects for the TIP, and selecting planning studies for the UPWP. The MPO’s performance-measurement work is discussed in detail in Chapter 6.
During development of the vision, goals, and objectives, the MPO reached out to members of the general public in a variety of ways (see the Public Participation section of this chapter) to seek input; then considered this feedback, which is reflected in the final set of goals.
The second step in developing this LRTP was assessing the region’s transportation needs based on an inventory of its transportation issues. This process allowed the MPO to make decisions about which capital projects, as well as which UPWP planning studies, would best meet the identified needs. The assessment of needs established the baseline against which future projections were compared for this plan. This baseline assessment will also be the foundation for performance-based planning, and will allow the MPO to track trends over time and assess progress toward achieving its goals.
The data for the Needs Assessment were drawn from a variety of sources to document current demographics and existing conditions for the region’s transportation network. Sources included the MPO’s Congestion Management Process (CMP); various Massachusetts Department of Transportation-managed databases, such as the High-Crash Database; the Massachusetts Household Travel Survey; Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) socioeconomic data; the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Program for Mass Transportation (long-range capital plan); the MPO’s transportation equity program; the MPO’s and other transportation studies; and the MPO's regional travel demand model set, which projects future travel demand in the region. See Chapter 3 for a summary of transportation needs identified via the needs-assessment process. For full documentation of the Needs Assessment, as well as an interactive application that provides access to the data, visit the MPO's website at http://www.ctps.org/map/www/apps/lrtpNeedsAssessmentApp/index.html
The MPO made the needs assessment data available to all interested parties via the internet not only to help educate the public and make the planning process more transparent, but also to provide an opportunity for other planners, academics, and the general public to interact with, download, and analyze the data for their own purposes. In addition, being able to access all of the data via the website allows MPO staff to easily update and disseminate this information as new data become available.
The third step in the LRTP planning process was analyzing and deliberating about the transportation investments that the MPO should make between now and 2040 to help achieve its vision. MPO staff used a variety of analytic tools to shed light on the future outcome of different investment strategies in order to provide information for MPO discussions and decision making. For Charting Progress to 2040, staff enlisted a number of new and/or enhanced planning tools and techniques to expand the scope of its traditional analytic methods.
The MPO upgraded its regional travel demand model set and inputs to the model with data from the most recent statewide household travel survey, and data from INRIX, a company that obtains real-time traffic data from drivers’ mobile devices. For analytic purposes, historical INRIX data provides a level of detail that was previously unavailable. Another new vehicle was TREDIS (Transportation Economic Development Impact System), a suite of tools that provides economic impact forecasts, including the effects of changes in the transportation network on the movement of freight via truck in the region.
The MPO will continue to use these tools as it develops its performance-based planning practice. They also would be used to explore key policy questions and to help the MPO understand the trade-offs among various capital investments.
This LRTP represents a revitalized foray into scenario planning; a technique that, on an analytical level, allows stakeholders to compare the relative effects of different possible transportation solutions on variables of interest.
The MPO’s use of scenario planning helped shed light on the relative merits of two different approaches to one of the objectives related to congestion: Using its target funds should the MPO continue to use a congestion reduction approach by investing in major arterials and express highways? Or, should the MPO adopt a capacity management approach by investing in smaller-scale, but more diverse and geographically dispersed, O&M-typeprojects? To answer these questions, staff compared three scenarios to a base-case scenario using both the regional travel demand model set and off-model analyses, focusing for the most part on highway projects:
Because O&M-type projects generally do not increase capacity and cost less than $20 million per project, the MPO is not required to list them individually in the LRTP. Therefore, MPO staff developed a set of four O&M programs, each of which comprised a representative group of low-cost projects of a specific nature. These projects were drawn from the MPO’s Needs Assessment and from the Universe of Projects (described in the Finalizing the LRTP section). For the purposes of this scenario-planning exercise, five investment programs were analyzed, including four programs that include O&M-type projects and one program that includes major capital investment projects:
The Figure 2.2 provides more detail about these programs. Major transit projects are not included in the programs because transit investments are based on recommendations from the MBTA, the regional transit agencies, and MassDOT’s Rail and Transit Division.
The five programs included in the scenarios are described below. The descriptions provide information about how MPO staff estimated costs for types of projects that the program would fund.
To gauge the scenarios’ performance, staff selected a number of indicators that correspond to the MPO’s goals. To measure programs and projects that could have a regional impact, add capacity to the system, or change an attribute of the system—for example, change the amount of delay or capacity, add an alternative travel option, and so forth—staff utilized the MPO’s regional travel demand model set. Staff used off-model sketch-planning techniques to generate performance data for other projects, particularly those that are lower in cost and have smaller footprints
Description: Modernizes existing signals or adds signals to improve safety and mobility. Improvements could also consist of turning lanes, shortened crossing distances for pedestrians, and striping and lighting for bicyclists. Improvements to sidewalks and curb cuts also will enhance accessibility for pedestrians. Updated signal operations will reduce delay and improve transit reliability.
Sample intersections for this program, which were used to estimate project benefits, were drawn from the TIP Universe of Projects, locations identified in past MPO studies, and the LRTP Needs Assessment. These projects were prioritized—first through determining if they are high-crash locations to address the MPO’s safety goal, and then if they are located in high-priority-development, environmental justice, or Title VI areas.
Estimated cost of intersection improvement projects: Average of $2.8 million per intersection
Description: Modernizes roadways to improve safety and mobility for all users. Improvements could consist of continuous sidewalks and bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, and other bicycle facilities, as well as updated signals at intersections along a corridor. Improvements will reduce delay and improve transit reliability. Expanded transportation options and better access to transit will improve mobility for all and encourage mode shift.
Estimated cost of Complete Streets projects: $6 million per mile
Description: Expands the bicycle and pedestrian networks to improve safe access to transit, school, employment centers, and shopping destinations. Could include constructing new, off-road bicycle or multi-use paths, improving bicycle and pedestrian crossings, or building new sidewalks.
Sample bicycle and pedestrian projects for this program were selected using evaluated TIP projects, the MPO’s Bicycle Network Evaluation, and bicycle travel market information from the 2011 Massachusetts Household Survey.
Estimated cost of bicycle and pedestrian projects: Varies (analysis uses available preliminary cost, or average of $2 million per mile)
Description: Includes a combination of the following types of projects:
Description: Modernizes and/or expands major highways and arterials to reduce congestion and improve safety. Projects could include constructing expressway interchanges to eliminate weaving and reduce the likelihood of rollovers, adding travel lanes on expressways, or adding/removing grade separations on major arterials. The LRTP also considers transit (Green Line Extension from College Avenue to Mystic Valley Parkway/Route 16) using highway funds flexed to transit and bridge projects.
Estimated cost per project: Costs were associated with each project based on costs in current or past LRTPs, adjusted to current dollars, or costs from studies that were performed for selected locations, also adjusted to current dollars. Assumes eight interstate bottlenecks and five arterial projects.
Source: Central Transportation Planning Staff.
Again, the scenario planning process done as part of this LRTP development focused mainly on highway projects to help the MPO to determine how it should program its target funds. Transit expansion and state of good repair projects were not included in these scenarios at this time because transit investments are based on recommendations from the MBTA, the regional transit agencies, and MassDOT’s Rail and Transit Division. Low cost transit improvements were included in both scenarios (i.e. park and ride, shuttle services, and community-based transportation). Major transit projects will be addressed as part of MassDOT’s Program for Mass Transportation and the MBTA’s Capital Investment Program and in future scenario planning activities done as part of the MPO’s performance-based planning program.
The results of the scenario analyses (Figure 2.3) show that there are greater benefits associated with the O&M approach than with large-scale infrastructure projects.
Scenario Analyses Results
Source: Central Transportation Planning Staff.
Results of the analysis helped the MPO finalize its goals and objectives and move toward the selection of a set of programs and projects to analyze in order to determine which ones to include in the LRTP. The MPO also adopted the O&M approach to programming in the LRTP. This new policy direction signaled a pivotal change in the MPO’s approach to programming transportation investments. See Appendix A for detail about the scenario-planning process and its results.
The final phase of LRTP development included selecting and analyzing projects and programs to include in the LRTP. The previous steps in the planning process discussed in this chapter laid the groundwork for finalizing the LRTP. Also of critical importance to selecting projects and programs was the MPO's public participation process (discussed in the Public Participation section).
The projects and programs selected for the LRTP were drawn from the Universe of Projects and Programs: a comprehensive list of regional highway and transit projects compiled by MPO staff. Each project is associated with one of the five programs used in scenario planning (see Figure 2.2) or a sixth program — transit. The MPO used the Universe to develop the draft list of projects and programs for public review and the final list to include in this LRTP. The Universe of Projects and Programs includes the following projects that:
The projects in the Universe of Projects and Programs list are sorted by program type, and are cited in Appendix B of this document.
The MPO applied its goals and objectives as criteria in a qualitative evaluation of the major infrastructure and capacity-adding highway projects in the Universe of Projects and Programs that had been sufficiently well-defined to allow for analysis. The assessment of how well projects would address the MPO’s goals and objectives helped the MPO identify priority projects for its major infrastructure program. See Appendix C for project evaluations and documentation on the evaluation process.
Based on its decision to support the programming of more O&M-type projects, the MPO set aside a specific amount of funding for each of its six investment programs: Intersection Improvements, Complete Streets, Bicycle Network and Pedestrian Connections, Community Transportation and Parking, Flex to Transit, and Major Infrastructure. The MPO then allocated funding in the six programs across the five-year time bands within this LRTP (federal fiscal years 2016–20, 2021–25, 2026–30, 2031–35, and 2036–40).
The finance plan is an important part of the LRTP, which is required to be a financially constrained document. While the financial assumptions for this LRTP include an increase in funding during the first five years of this 25-year LRTP, there is less funding available for the remaining 20 years of the LRTP. The previous LRTP allowed for an increase in revenue of three percent per year; the revenue assumption for this LRTP was reduced to one-and-a-half percent per year. Therefore, the MPO needed to scale back its commitments to projects that were included in the previous LRTP. Project cost increases because of applying inflationary factors (four percent per year) also affected funding availability in the later time bands. The MPO’s decision to set aside funding for O&M programs helped the MPO adapt to these funding constraints. See Chapter 4 for detailed information about finances for this LRTP.
The next step in defining the draft list of recommended projects and programs involved balancing two MPO policies. First, the MPO has a policy of maintaining its previous LRTP and TIP programming commitments, which favored funding major infrastructure. Second, as discussed above, during the LRTP development process the MPO adopted the O&M approach to programming, and a new policy of giving priority to low-cost projects. Overall, it is the MPO’s intent to ensure that its goals are advanced through project and program selection.
To understand the balance between these policies, the MPO asked staff to develop two funding alternatives for consideration: one that continues to program all of the projects in Paths to a Sustainable Region (the previous LRTP) in Charting Progress to 2040; and a second alternative that programs approximately half of the MPO's target funds (those over which the MPO has decision-making power) to major infrastructure projects and reserves the rest for O&M programs. These two alternatives were examined and discussed by the MPO over the course of four meetings. The MPO ultimately adopted the second alternative to program half of its target funds to major infrastructure and the other half for O&M programs.
Chapter 5 presents a detailed description of the project selection process, along with a list of the projects and programs selected for this LRTP.
MPO staff performed the following analyses on the MPO’s draft list of recommended projects and programs:
The MPO subsequently adopted the draft list of recommended projects and programs for public review. The MPO received comments from the public and reviewed and responded to them. Charting Progress to 2040 was endorsed by the MPO on July 30, 2015.
In several important ways, the public involvement process for this LRTP was more extensive and effective than any other previously conducted by the MPO. Largely, this was because of the recent update of the Public Participation Plan, which details the MPO’s outreach via its Public Participation Program. The updated plan and program reinforced the MPO's commitment to, respect for, and enthusiasm about the needs and interests of members of the public. The MPO is working to make public participation convenient, inviting, and engaging for everyone. It has stepped up activities to break down barriers for people who have traditionally participated only minimally in the 3C process, such as those with limited English proficiency or disabilities.
Updating the LRTP was the MPO staff’s first opportunity to implement many of the new activities in the Public Participation Program. Public outreach for the LRTP consisted of public meetings, workshops, and forums throughout the year-and-a-half preceding the MPO’s endorsement of the LRTP. Electronic media and web-based tools were important avenues for public outreach and information gathering, and were crucial in expanding the conversation to more people and diverse populations. Translating notices of meetings and other events into several languages and collaborating with MAPC opened doors to new constituencies and set up communication paths that are both comfortable for members of the public and fruitful for generating input to the MPO. In addition, MPO staff continued to use graphics and other visual presentations to communicate information to the public and seek their feedback.
While this LRTP was being developed, staff conducted public outreach through a number of different means for a variety of audiences:
Public notification for that and all other MPO-sponsored events followed the MPO’s standard practice: the invitation to participate was distributed through all MPO media, including the MPOinfo email distribution list, website news flashes, press releases, and Twitter. Notices were translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Invited participants included transportation, environmental, land-use planning agencies, interest groups; state, regional, and municipal officials; transportation equity contacts (which include councils on aging, social service organizations, community-action organizations, and neighborhood groups working in, or supporting, low-income or minority communities); professional and advocacy groups involved in transportation and environmental issues; business organizations; entities involved with the movement of freight; and transit service providers.
Participants in the Focus-Group-Style Open House had the opportunity to provide recommendations about the MPO’s funding allocations among various investment programs.
In keeping with contemporary communication techniques, staff utilized electronic media and other tools to engage the public and solicit their feedback:
Public feedback on the MPO’s vision, goals, and objectives was obtained through the fall forum, subregional outreach meetings, and the online surveys described above, as well as from written comments submitted through the website and via email. Several trends identified from the public feedback were reflected in the final vision, goals, and objectives, such as:
A snapshot of the feedback on the vision, goals, and objectives generated from the first online survey is shown in Figure 2.4. The ranking of the goals makes clear that the public’s top priority is transportation options/healthy modes, as well as safety. It also shows that, overall, the MPO’s vision aligns well with the public’s vision for the future of transportation in the region.
Public Ranking of Goals
(Raw scores in parentheses; a lower score indicates a higher priority.)
Transportation Options/Healthy Modes (132)
Greenhouse Gas (GHG)/Air Pollution/Environment (253)
System Preservation (263)
Transit Equity (265)
Congestion Reduction (267)
Economic Vitality and Freight Movement (317)
When asked the following question:
How well does the MPO’s proposed vision for transportation in the region align with your own vision?
Members of the public on average felt the MPO’s vision match their vision as well (3.9 out of 5).
Source: Central Transportation Planning Staff.
The overwhelming majority of public comments on regional needs were related to transit and non-motorized modes, which is consistent with the public’s prioritization of the transportation options/health modes goal. Many respondents:
See Appendix D for a full summary of comments on regional needs.
At the MAPC winter council meeting, participants at 15 tables completed an exercise in which they had to decide how much funding to allocate to each LRTP program. Overall, the average of the allocations of the “tables” suggests a more balanced allocation of funding for transportation investments than the MPO has practiced (see Figure 2.5). Responses from all the tables:
Average Allocation of Funding for MPO Projects
Source: Central Transportation Planning Staff.
See Appendix D for details on the winter council meeting results and a summary of comments received during the LRTP development process.
In addition, a second online survey, consisting of seven mini-surveys was released between May 15 and July 15, 2015, to collect additional feedback from the public on investment strategies. Respondents were asked their views about transportation needs in the region and where they think funding should be allocated. A summary of the survey results is provided in Appendix D.