One important benefit of the domestic scan was that the scan team and participants at the six sites had the opportunity to share experience and learn from each other. In addition, many examples of good practices were identified and are being used in the six areas in meeting the data and planning assumptions requirements of the conformity process. The scan team has learned that each site has their own unique set of challenges, but all have implemented innovative ideas to make the process more efficient, to improve the quality of planning assumptions and to prepare necessary data inputs to transition into MOBILE6.
Based on the experience and lessons learned at the six sites, the scan team has identified four major conclusions, which offer some ideas and insight for experienced conformity practitioners and newcomers alike. In addition, several scan team members have provided feedback of their experience in participating in the domestic scan as shown in Appendix E.
There are a variety of non-traditional sources of transportation data that can be useful in meeting the latest planning assumptions requirements and emissions modeling needs.
The scan team has learned that many MPOs are exploring new and innovative data sources and forging new partnerships in obtaining up-to-date data. As examples, we heard about the use of employment data, accident data, and coordinated land use and general plan data as being helpful to the conformity process and to ensuring that the most up to date assumptions are being used in the regional emissions analysis. Also, with the imminent transition to MOBILE6, more detailed vehicle fleet data will be required. The identification and use of non-traditional data sources can mitigate the need for, and the expense of, extensive data collection efforts. This can facilitate the conformity process and enables MPOs to use sources of data that may prove useful in other aspects of transportation planning.
Adding structure to the conformity process helps ensure a smooth process where multiple agencies interact to share information and work together to make a conformity determination.
The use of consolidated timelines for transportation and air quality planning are being used to help areas schedule their work efforts in an organized and logical manner so that key deadlines and requirements are all met. Further, the process of jointly developing these timelines enables all parties involved to understand and appreciate the length of time needed to carry-out the many tasks associated with a conformity determination. In addition, standard report formats, standard project information formats, and checklists all help areas to manage the conformity process effectively. Given the complexities of the conformity process, adding structure to help organize the stakeholders has greatly assisted areas in working through the conformity determination in a methodical and timely manner.
A strong State commitment is very helpful to MPOs and rural areas and assists them with vitally needed technical assistance and, in many cases, data needed for the conformity process.
Strong State commitment and leadership has proved to be essential to successfully working through the conformity process and providing the MPOs, especially smaller MPOs and rural areas with needed technical assistance. In addition, State commitment includes providing the necessary resources to collect data, perform modeling and support the needs of MPOs and rural areas in making conformity determinations. We also found that a strong State commitment reinforces the need for transportation and air quality agencies to work together and develop joint ownership of the conformity process.
Institutional coordination and cooperation are needed to successfully navigate the conformity process without missing key deadlines or requirements.
Different agencies have different but complementary roles in the transportation conformity process. Areas that have dedicated time to ensuring all parties know their roles and responsibilities and the importance of deadlines for key products have been very successful in efficiently managing the conformity process. The level of institutional coordination may vary depending on the severity of the air quality problem and on the number of agencies that may be involved. Nevertheless, all areas subject to the conformity process can benefit from strong institutional coordination and collaboration.