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Congestion Management Process Guidebook

Chapter 3 - The CMP within the Regional Transportation Planning Context

3.1 - Collaboration among Stakeholders

Collaboration and coordination among a wide range of stakeholders - MPO planners, State DOT planning and operations staff, transit agencies, local governments, toll authorities, university transportation centers, and the private sector - is an important foundation for an effective CMP. Within the metropolitan transportation planning process, these partners can work together to develop regional objectives for congestion management, define performance measures, share and analyze data, and identify potential strategies.

Transportation agencies in the region may collectively have both the data and analysis capabilities to fully understand and address system congestion. As noted earlier, many different organizations currently collect data, and these data can be utilized within the CMP. The MPO provides a forum for consideration of this technical information as well as potential strategies to address congestion. Many MPOs have used this role to create committees and working groups to address various aspects of CMP in very successful ways.

Congestion management strategies also benefit from a broad partnership in their design and implementation. Congested corridors that span several jurisdictions require a collaborative approach to the identification of appropriate strategies. Spot improvements such as bottlenecks can be addressed relatively quickly with collaborative support. This provides a win-win situation for individual stakeholders when resources are pooled to reach a common goal. Collaboration and the short-term implementation of solutions create support for the CMP by demonstrating its value.

Case Study: Collaborative Approach to the CMP at the Capital Area MPO (CAMPO)

A central feature of the CMP at CAMPO in Austin, Texas is the extensive use of working groups and committees to support all aspects of the process. This collaborative approach allows the pooling of resources; elimination of conflicting plans, projects, and goals; and establishment of buy-in from all partners.

For example, the Bottleneck Committee was established to identify, evaluate, and prioritize actions needed to address individual bottleneck locations. This committee has representatives from local governments and functional areas within TXDOT as well as the MPO staff who meet on a regular basis to address each location. In addition to developing strategies to address the congested areas, the members ensure that individual jurisdictions are not working at cross purposes on the same issue. This provides a consistent perspective across the region and promotes the most efficient use of resources. In this group, TxDOT provides the technical resources to support data collected by CAMPO and others. The working relationship also encourages local governments to participate in the funding of identified improvements.

Other committees and working groups include the Congestion Management/Intelligent Transportation System Working Group, the Austin-Area Incident Management for Highways (AIMHigh) Team, and the Managed Lanes Working Group.

3.2 - Livability and Multimodal Considerations in the CMP

Livability Principles

  1. Provide more transportation choices. Develop safe, reliable and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.
  2. Promote equitable, affordable housing. Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races and ethnicities to increase mobility and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation.
  3. Enhance economic competitiveness. Improve economic competitiveness through reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities, services and other basic needs by workers as well as expanded business access to markets.
  4. Support existing communities. Target federal funding toward existing communities - through such strategies as transit-oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling - to increase community revitalization, improve the efficiency of public works investments, and safeguard rural landscapes.
  5. Coordinate policies and leverage investment. Align federal policies and funding to remove barriers to collaboration, leverage funding and increase the accountability and effectiveness of all levels of government to plan for future growth, including making smart energy choices such as locally generated renewable energy.
  6. Value communities and neighborhoods. Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods - rural, urban, or suburban.

Source: Partnership for Sustainable Communities. http://www.dot.gov/livability/101

While the transportation planning process involves developing transportation investments and policies to support community quality of life, there has recently been renewed attention placed on the role of transportation in supporting community livability. The concept of livability was given greater focus through the six livability principles established by the Sustainable Communities Partnership between the U.S. DOT, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (see text box on next page).

Traffic congestion and limited travel choices can adversely affect community well-being. Residents’ quality of life is diminished when congestion impedes reliable and timely access to employment, education, and recreational opportunities, and as congestion steals time away from families, increases fossil fuel consumption and air pollution, and increases travel costs.

Many congestion management strategies that may be identified in the CMP help to support livable communities. For instance, increasing transit, bicycling, and walking options provides more transportation choices, which can decrease household transportation costs, reduce dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote public health. Strategies to better manage and operate the transportation system can enhance economic competitiveness by increasing reliable travel times for workers and freight shipments and reducing fuel consumption. Coordinated land use and transportation planning can help to not only manage congestion but also to support healthy, safe, and walkable neighborhoods. Consequently, the CMP can play an important role in advancing community livability.

Traditionally, many CMP efforts focused simply on identifying areas with heavy vehicle traffic congestion and implementing solutions such as intersection improvements and bottleneck relief projects to alleviate vehicle congestion. Using the CMP to support livability involves a more holistic approach, accounting for congestion management in the context of multiple goals, including economic vitality, safety, multimodal choices, and the environment. Moreover, by placing attention on demand management and operations strategies, the CMP can help to preserve existing infrastructure, support existing communities, and improve multimodal travel choices. Characteristics of a CMP that supports livability may include the following:

Case Study: Land Use Analysis at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA)

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the MPO for the Los Angeles area, uses the information from the CMPs developed by county agencies to develop its regional CMP documentation. According to the LACMTA CMP:

"The CMP Land Use Analysis Program ensures that local jurisdictions consider the regional transportation impacts that may result from major development projects through the local land use approval process. While cities and the county routinely examine and mitigate impacts to transportation services and facilities within their jurisdictions, this commitment often does not extend to the regional transportation system…

Through local jurisdictions' existing environmental impact review process (i.e., the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process), the Land Use Analysis Program provides jurisdictions with the opportunity to plan ahead to reduce travel demand and mitigate regional transportation impacts of new development projects.

Local jurisdictions have the lead authority for determining the level of project mitigation required and for ensuring that mitigation measures are reasonably related to the impact. Within that context, the CEQA process provides local jurisdictions with the opportunity to incorporate traffic mitigation measures that are multi-modal, and that encourage the use of alternative transportation modes."

Source: LACMTA, Draft 2010 Congestion Management Program for Los Angeles County, http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/cmp/images/Final_Draft
_2010.pdf

The Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) in Albany, New York is an example of an MPO with a strong emphasis on livability in its MTP and CMP. CDTC has found through public outreach, including surveys, that the public wants more multimodal options, more vibrant urban centers, and more livable communities. The MTP calls for a strong livability agenda—land use planning, urban reinvestment, transportation choices and community values—and the region’s focus on livability has placed a strong emphasis on management and operations (M&O) strategies as a key approach for congestion management. M&O is seen as supportive of livability goals because it minimizes the construction of new pavement and addresses travel time reliability, of which the latter has been identified as the most important congestion issue for travelers. A central feature of the CMP is the recognition that while reducing traffic congestion is important, it is not the preeminent goal of transportation planning in the region. Objectives of reducing traffic congestion need to be balanced with multiple planning objectives.21

Several MPOs have incorporated land use and sustainable development strategies into their MTPs, and consider land use as one strategy to reduce vehicle travel and congestion. For example, both the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC) in Lansing, Michigan and the Columbia Area Transportation Study (COATS) in Columbia, South Carolina call for land use strategies to be the first considered when deciding how to address regional congestion. TCRPC’s land use strategy is focused around the adopted "wise growth" scenario from their Regional Growth: Choices for Our Future project, which was incorporated into their 2035 MTP. Analysis conducted at the time of the Regional Growth project found that the "wise growth" strategy of focused growth in existing centers would reduce congested lane miles to half what would otherwise occur if current growth trends continued. The MPO has an adopted policy to review all proposed uses of federal funds and their priorities on the basis of the regional land use vision of Wise Growth.22 COATS’ CMP has five hierarchical levels of congestion mitigation strategies, arranged from most to least cost-effective and efficient. Land use is the first level, and therefore seen as the most effective/efficient, while adding capacity is seen as the most cost prohibitive and intrusive. COATS does not as explicitly link its CMP land use strategies to the regional growth management efforts, but its CMP is embedded in the MTP where regional growth strategies are also addressed.23 In California, state statutes require that counties develop Congestion Management Plans, which generally feed into regional CMP documentation—see text box for a discussion of the land use analysis conducted by Los Angeles County as part of its CMP.

Multimodal considerations are an important aspect of livability within the CMP. Congestion management does not apply only to highway transportation. Transit systems are subject to congestion and have a unique set of measures and potential congestion mitigation strategies. In areas where public transportation represents a large share of the transportation system, the CMP may contain specific performance measures focused on transit. The CMP may also serve as an important source of data and supporting documentation for major projects seeking funding through the FTA New Starts program.

Even in regions where public transportation is limited, transit may still be important to consider as a strategy in the CMP. Moreover, in regions with limited transit, the role of bicycle and pedestrian improvements, ridesharing, and other demand management strategies may be particularly important to consider as viable multimodal congestion management strategies.

3.3 - Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) Capacity-Adding Projects and the Role of Demand Management and Operations Strategies

Adding capacity in the form of highway widening and the construction of new highway facilities is considered the strategy of last resort by many MPOs. There are several reasons cited for this, including land preservation/discouragement of sprawl, promotion of alternative transportation modes, and cost considerations (allowing multiple low-cost improvements rather than fewer high-cost improvements). As a general policy, these MPOs attempt to solve congestion problems using all other reasonable and appropriate strategies before resorting to capacity expansion.

In TMAs that are designated as non-attainment or maintenance areas for ozone or carbon monoxide federal regulations require certification that any project resulting in a significant increase in SOV carrying capacity (with the exception of safety improvements and bottleneck elimination projects) be identified or addressed through the CMP. In these areas, the CMP must provide an appropriate analysis of reasonable travel demand reduction and operational management strategies. Figure 4 outlines the process followed by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) in justifying the need for SOV projects.

Additionally, the identified need for additional SOV capacity does not obviate the need for operational and demand management improvements to address congestion. In TMAs that are designated as non-attainment or maintenance areas for ozone or carbon monoxide, federal regulations require that in cases where additional SOV capacity is warranted, the CMP must identify all reasonable strategies to manage the SOV facility safely and effectively, and identify travel demand reduction and operational management strategies appropriate for the corridor. At the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), for example, major capacity adding projects are required to identify supplemental congestion management strategies that will be implemented in conjunction with the expansion. DVRPC tracks all TIP projects for their compliance with these requirements, and works with project managers to identify appropriate supplemental strategies.24

Case Study: SOV Projects at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC)

The following are two examples of the types of supplemental strategies that DVRPC requires on SOV-capacity-adding projects:

US 322 Widening

This project will widen US 322 for approximately six miles from US 1 to I-95. The project will consist of widening the current road from two to four lanes and reconstructing the roadway and shoulders. Supplemental commitments for these corridor improvements include a Park and Ride lot and transit stop enhancements. Bike lanes and sidewalks will be included in the design of the project. This project will also tie in the new traffic signals to Concord Township's closed-loop system.

I-95/Pennsylvania Turnpike Interchange

This project will provide a direct interchange between I-95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276), widen I-95 from two lanes to three lanes between PA 413 and US 1, and widen the turnpike from two lanes to three between US 1 and US 13. The project will eliminate two existing toll booth locations and install a new toll booth immediately west of the new interchange. The new interchange will result in a revised routing of I-95 in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

This project will remove significant truck traffic from local roads. Supplemental commitments include a new Park and Ride lot with freight inspection capacity in the vicinity of the new interchange, improvements to parking at the Levittown and Croydon R7 train stations, and Express E-Z Pass lanes at the new toll booth. Additional ITS improvements are included in the project.

Source: DVRPC, 2009 Congestion Management Process Supplemental Projects Status Memorandum

One issue that has been noted at some MPOs is that sometimes TIP projects are identified by outside sources, and are not specifically derived from the MPO’s long-range plan or CMP. The long-range plan and CMP must then be revisited and updated (if necessary) to ensure consistency. It is important for the MPO to have a procedure in place to handle this type of situation when it arises, and to ensure that all TIP projects are in compliance with the CMP. It is also helpful for MPOs to define "safety" and "bottleneck" projects up-front so there is less confusion about which projects may be exempt from the requirement for SOV analysis.

Figure 4: SOV Project Justification Process from North Central Texas Council of Governments

SOV Project Justification Process from North Central Texas Council of Governments. Click for more information.

Source: NCTCOG, Congestion Management Process Document, 2007, http://www.nctcog.org/

3.4 - Linkage to NEPA and the Project Development Process

As project concepts are advanced to project development and environmental review, the CMP offers an opportunity to link planning and NEPA. Linking planning and NEPA - often called Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) - represents an approach to transportation decision making that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the planning stage and carries them through project development, design, and construction. This, in turn, can lead to a seamless decision-making process that minimizes duplication of effort, promotes environmental stewardship, and reduces delays in project implementation. For more information on PEL, see: http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/integ/index.asp

The NEPA process generally requires a greater level of detail than information used in metropolitan transportation planning, and this gap in scale can create a disconnect between these two processes. Consequently, linking planning and the project development process requires the MPO staff to clearly document data, analysis, and decisions so that these can be effectively used in the NEPA process. A CMP structured to focus on data, analysis, and performance measures is supportive of this linkage.

For instance, data collected within the CMP can demonstrate both the need for the improvement as well as the potential for success of various strategies. Data may also support the use of operational improvements as a way to improve the existing facility or to avoid and/or mitigate environmental impacts for capacity-adding projects. Congestion management strategies used in conjunction with a selected alternative can support the community’s preferences, allowing the community to commit to actions that support its preferred alternative.

There are several key ways in which the CMP can inform and streamline the NEPA process. Some uses include:

In several regions, the CMP has been used to support definition of a project’s purpose and need and identification of alternatives within NEPA studies. For example:

While there historically has been a gap between planning and NEPA, some MPOs have tried to make an explicit connection between the CMP and NEPA. For instance, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, notes in its CMP documentation that once the lead agency has completed a draft corridor/NEPA study and has endorsed its recommendations, the NCTCOG’s Regional Transportation Council must endorse the recommendations, including CMP strategies. The recommendations of the corridor/NEPA study must be the same as the recommendations in the MTP for the subject corridor, and if differences exist and the RTC endorses the results of the study, the MTP is modified to reflect the results. Moreover, operations and travel demand reduction strategies identified in the corridor/NEPA study are seen as commitments at the program and project levels. Program-level commitments are inventoried in the CMP, included in the MTP, and future resources are designated for their implementation. Project-level commitments are also inventoried in the CMP, detailing the type of strategy, implementation responsibilities and schedules, and expected costs. These projects are monitored so they can be added to the regional TIP at the appropriate time with respect to facility implementation.28

3.5 - Documentation of the CMP

Documentation of the CMP provides information to the many audiences within a region. Decision-makers are provided key information on which to base future decisions. Partnering agencies can evaluate the effectiveness of various strategies to inform future needs. The public is informed as to how the MPO is addressing all aspects of congestion. Documentation also informs related processes within transportation decision making such as environmental review and permitting.

There are two primary documentation needs for the CMP as part of the metropolitan planning process: to support the MTP and the TIP.

The MTP should contain sufficient information on the CMP to inform both decision-makers and the public on the process. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits of the CMP as well as its integrated place within the overall planning process.

When TIP projects are prioritized and funded it is important that documentation of supporting information is available to decision-makers. Commitments from local jurisdictions or other transportation agencies in the form of funding or in-kind services may impact the scheduling/ prioritization of individual improvements. Documentation will help realize the full benefit of the CMP and the associated collaborative efforts by providing a broad awareness of its potential impact.

There are many ways of documenting the CMP, associated data, and evaluation results based on the target audience. Examples include:


21 See case study of Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) CMP developed as companion to this guidebook, http://plan4operations.dot.gov/congestion.htm

22 Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, "Congestion Management System for the Tri-County Region, 2004, http://www.tri-co.org

23 Columbia Area Transportation Study, "Chapter 8 - Congestion Management" in Midlands Tomorrow 2035 LRTP, 2008, http://www.centralmidlands.org

24 DVRPC, "Overview of the CMP," 2009, www.dvrpc.org/CongestionManagement

25 Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, "Mobility Matters Project: Purpose and Need, Draft," November 2008, http://www.i65-us31mobilitymatters.com/

26 Metro, "Los Angeles Eastside Corridor Final SEIS/SEIR: Purpose and Need," 2002, http://www.metro.net/projects/eastside/

27 Brown County Planning Commission, "Environmental Impact Statement for Transportation Improvements in the Southern Portion of the Green Bay Metropolitan Area: Alternatives Identification, Retention, and Elimination Report, Draft," February 2010, http://www.co.brown.wi.us/ - The Green Bay MPO CMP is still in draft form and has not yet been adopted by the MPO’s policy board. The MPO is not currently a TMA, but has developed a CMP in anticipation of potentially being designated in the near future.

28 North Central Texas Council of Governments, Congestion Management Process Document, 2007, http://www.nctcog.org/

Updated: 03/27/2013
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